Wednesday, January 30, 2019



Acts 15:4-29: 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. 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. - Since these Pharisees had nothing but the Old Testament to guide them they were going on the premise that if a Gentile wanted to be a part of Israel they had to be baptized. They had not spent 40 days having the scriptures revealed to them as had the 12 apostles and that Paul had directly learned from Jesus in Arabia. The Pharisees who insisted on the Gentile believers being circumcised thought that had the word of God on their side....

And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them:

Men and brethren, you 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. And God, who knows the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Spirit, even as He did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying – cleansing their hearts by faith.

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? But we believe that through the grace of the lord Jesus God's anointed one we shall be saved, even as they.

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.

And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon - Peter has declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.

Notice: James refers to what Peter had already told them, but he uses an expression that is of great interest to us, and was indeed the explanation of the present work of grace. “God” he says, “at first did visit the Gentiles to take out a people for His name.” Now this is not the conversion of the Gentiles as predicted in the Old Testament.
The taking out of a people, instead of the conversion of the nations as such, was something very different from what was revealed by the prophets. This spoke of a special election from among the Gentiles and that for a particular purpose.

This is the work that God is doing now. God's present object is not the conversion of the nations but that all men will come the one He has sent His anointed one if they will, but God knows the end from the beginning and has foreseen that only a small number comparatively would actually receive the message of the coming Kingdom of God, and trust and totally commit to Jesus as their lord and savior. - We who are now members of the called-out Assembly of God who are totally committed to God and to his son Jesus are among those elect ones who have been called-out from among the nations!

Note: Ephesians 1: 3-6: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in His anointed one: According as He has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated – marked us out beforehand unto the adoption of children by Jesus His anonted one to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,
To the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He has made us accepted in the beloved - Jesus.

This small company is shown to be in the book of Acts as the Called-out Assembly of God and we read nothing about a called-out Assembly of God in the Old Testament.

But observe how James harmonizes the present work of God in taking out an elect people out from among the nations and he speaks about the prophecies of the conversion of all the nations in the future; i.e. after the return of the lord Jesus when he takes his place on the throne of David at Zion at the end of this age. James quotes from the Septuagint Amos 9:11-12: “After this,” that is, after the present work of God in taking a people out from among the nations is concluded, the Messiah will return again. It will be at that time that the residue of Israel will seek after the Lord and all the Gentiles upon whom His name will be called.

James recognized the great Parenthesis – 2,000 year span of time His dealing with Israel. He showed that the Called-out Assembly of God had been called-out as was to bear witness to the coming Kingdom of God during the parenthesis period of 2,000 years. At the return of the Messiah Jesus at the end of this age all the prophecies connected with Israel's restoration and the salvation of the nations that survive God's wrath will take place. James then says “Know unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.”

Now back to Acts 15:

And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 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: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, says the Lord, who does all these things.

Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.

Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollution of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.

Sunday, January 27, 2019


The Spirit of God’s anointed one

In Ephesians 4:4, Paul refers to the one Spirit that is common to all Christians, saying:

“Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling; One lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4:3-6)

This one Spirit that all Christians partake of is the Spirit of God’s anointed one. “God has sent forth the Spirit of His son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6)

Notice that it is the Spirit of God’s anointed one (God’s Son) that cries “Abba, Father.” Since the attributes of God’s anointed one are revealed through God’s anointed one’s Spirit, and God’s anointed one’s Spirit is in us, then the attributes of God’s anointed one are revealed through us as well. That is why the scriptures also say:

“For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15)

It is the Spirit of God’s Son that cries “Abba, Father,” yet as that Spirit is revealed in us, we also cry “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). In this way, it is God’s anointed one who has the communication with the Father, but we are made partakers of that communication as the Spirit of God’s anointed one is revealed in us.

“For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18) (c.f. Ephesians 3:12)

Since it is the Spirit of God’s anointed one that cries to God through us, then it is in response to that same Spirit that God answers. This does not mean that God’s anointed one is in need of the things that we are in need of when we pray, but it rather means that the Spirit of God’s anointed one is interceding unto God on our behalf (Romans 8:26-27).

“And in like manner the Spirit joins also its help to our weakness; for we do not know what we should pray for as is fitting, but the Spirit itself makes intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26 Darby)

There is a certain sharing and union that occurs between our spirits and God’s anointed one’s when God’s anointed one’s Spirit is revealed in us. God’s anointed one helps us, but it is as if the help that he gives to us does not simply come in the form of advice on how we should do a thing, but it instead comes in the form of God’s anointed one’s own characteristics and attributes being revealed through us. It is like we are needy vessels, and God’s anointed one indwells us by his Spirit so that we can share in all that is his.

God’s anointed one’s Spirit is so intricately joined to the spirit of a Christian that Paul says:

“But he that is joined unto the lord is one spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:16-17) This results in the attributes of God’s anointed one being revealed through the one who is joined unto him, as their own spirits are brought into subjection to the leading of the Spirit of God’s anointed one. Thus, it is God’s anointed one who is revealed in us, and we are vessels through whom he is revealed (i.e. members of his body). This is what Paul referred to when he said:

“I am crucified with God’s anointed one: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but God’s anointed one lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Paul said, “I live; yet not I, but god’s anointed one lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
•God’s anointed one said, “The words I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father Who dwells in me, He does the works” (John 14:10).

Just as we partake of the attributes of God’s anointed one, so also God’s anointed one partakes of the attributes of God. In a similar way that we are “one Spirit” with God’s anointed one, so also God and His anointed one may be said to be “one Spirit” as well.

The Spirit of God proceeds from God, but since it is sent through His anointed one then the Spirit of His anointed one and the Spirit of God are joined. Hence the Spirit that we receive is the Spirit that is of God and of His anointed one.

Note: The Spirit of God’s anointed one could not fill us without being joined to the Spirit of God. It is only by the omnipresent ability of the Spirit of God in His anointed one that the Spirit of His anointed one (which has been united to the Spirit of God) may now indwell us. Hence, while it is true that God’s anointed one sent forth the Spirit that proceeds from the Father (John 15:26), it is also true that “God has sent forth the Spirit of His son.” (Galatians 4:6)

God sent his own Spirit (revealing his own attributes) into His anointed one. The intertwining of the Spirit of God and of His anointed one produces “one Spirit” in the same way that “he that is joined unto the lord is one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17) This “one Spirit” consists of the attributes of God and of His anointed one. The Holy Spirit that we receive is of God originally, but it is also of His anointed one intermediately. The attributes of God are revealed in His anointed one, and the attributes of His anointed one are revealed in us.

“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man God’s anointed one Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5)

God’s anointed one receives the things of God, and we receive the things of God’s anointed one (John 17:22). In this way the things of God that we receive are also of His anointed one, being sent to us through God’s anointed one. This is why Jesus prayed to God for all Christians, saying:

“The glory which You gave me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and You in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” (John 17:22-23)

This understanding also makes perfect sense of God’s anointed one’s statements in John 14–16 as well:

“And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that may abide with you forever.” (John 14:16 KJV)
 “The Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, shall teach you all things.” (John 14:26 KJV)
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, shall testify of me.” (John 15:26)
“[The Comforter] shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father has are mine: therefore I said that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” (John 16:14-15)

The point of this last statement was to show that the things of God have been given to God’s anointed one, and thus the Spirit can reveal the things of God by revealing what is His anointed one’s.

“For God gives not the Spirit by measure unto him (His anointed one). The Father loves the son, and has given all things into his hand.” (John 3:34-35)

It is the Spirit of God, sent in His anointed one’s name, by which both God’s anointed one and God indwells every believer (John 14:23).

The Bible speaks of how a man and a woman will become one flesh (not one spirit or soul), as Jesus said: “He which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they two shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”(Matthew 19:4-6)

So, God’s anointed one says that a man and a woman are no longer two, but one flesh after they are joined. This is not to say that a husband and a wife are no longer distinct from one another, but instead it emphasizes the bond and union that exists between the two.

In a somewhat similar way, the Bible also says: “What? Know you not that he which is joined to a harlot is one body? for he says the two shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the lord is one spirit.”(1 Corinthians 6:16-17)

This is according to the will of God. God’s Spirit operates in each of us as God sees fit. “There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”(1 Corinthians 12:6, 11)

Sunday, January 13, 2019


Everyone who got where he is
had to begin where he was.

Robert Louis Stevenson [1850-1894]

Rethinking the Spiritual Significance of
the Question Posed to Peter in Acts 2:37

As Jesus prepared to ascend back to the Father, where He would send forth the promised outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which had been foretold not only by himself, but also by the prophet Joel (Joel 2:28-32), He gathered his eleven remaining apostles and commissioned them to "be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, Samaria and to the remotest part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The desire of the lord was that the people of Israel, the nation chosen by God, be given, yet again, the opportunity to receive the message of the coiming Kingdom of God, the good news message. Time and again they had rejected this offer of grace; their history was filled with such rejection. Yet, the loving patience of the Father remained steadfast. He desired for none of them to perish, but for all to repent (i.e. make that life transforming turn from darkness to light). The lord Jesus, their promised Messiah, was that Light. "He came to his own, and those who were his own did not receive him" (John 1:11). How this must have grieved the lord, yet he remained patient; he remained hopeful. In his commission, he instructed his apostles to begin with the Jews, the very ones who had rejected him, as they shared the grace of God through the telling of the "Jesus message of the coiming Kingdom of God." The desire of God was that they would turn to Him; indeed, that all men would. He would then extend "glory, honor and peace" unto them, "to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 2:10).

When seeking to understand the New Covenant writings, we far too often fail to factor in this divine imperative: It was to the people of Israel that the Gospel of the coming Kingdom of God was first to be extended by the Spirit-filled ambassadors of God's anointed one Jesus. Yes, all men would be welcome, and all men would be called, but it was to begin with the Jews. Failing to perceive this fact will cause a failure to perceive the true meaning and significance of the early days of the called-out Assembly, and it will lead to some erroneous conclusions and false theology. When you and I examine these early events through "Gentile eyes," rather than from the perspective of the Spirit's operation to effect an initial transformation within the house of Israel, we will err greatly in the understandings we reach. This is seen dramatically, for example, in Acts 2 as we examine the "sermon" of the apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost immediately after the outpouring of the Spirit upon the disciples in the upper room. That proclamation had a very specific audience in mind; it was never intended to be a proclamation for all men everywhere until the end of time. "But Peter, taking his stand with the Eleven, raised his voice and declared to them: 'Men of Judea, and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give heed to my words'" (Acts 2:14). "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through him in your midst, just as you yourselves know..." (vs. 22). He ended this speech by saying: "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both lord and Messiah -- this Jesus whom you crucified" (vs. 36).

The first proclamation from the apostle Peter had nothing to do with Gentiles. He and the others were to go first to the people of Israel, and that is exactly what he did. This message was to the JEWS. Even more specifically: it was to the Jews of that time and that place, many of whom had been the very ones calling for the death of their Messiah. It was a powerful repudiation of their rejection, and it was a call to repentance for that specific denial of what God had graciously done for them in the person and work of His son. The words of Peter lashed them painfully, as the whip had lashed the back of the one they denied. They were pierced to their inner core, as the spear had pierced the side of the one they had denounced. This message would have been lost on the Gentiles; not so with the house of Israel. The arrows of this powerful message were directed right at the heart of these Jewish men and women. "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart" (Acts 2:37a). They were convicted of the enormity of their crime. They had "blown it" big time; they had "screwed up" ... this was not a minor infraction. They had called for, and actively participated in, the murder of their own Messiah! How could there possibly be any hope for them after this? Surely, their doom (individually and as a nation) was assured. God would never forgive this affront to His grace and mercy! Right?! Why would He?! All of this was most assuredly running through their minds as they realized that Jesus was indeed the Messiah ... and they had murdered Him!! In their sense of horror at this revelation they had only one plea to Peter and the other apostles: "Brethren, what shall we do?!" (Acts 2:37b).

We today, as we view this whole passage through "Gentile eyes" (and, too often, also through sectarian eyes), view this question as an appeal of "the lost" on how to "get saved" (i.e., how to get into "the one true called-out Assembly" and thus avoid being cast into the the lake of fire at the White Throne Judgment and destroyed). In fact, many of you who read the above question by these Jews probably felt I misquoted it. After all, we generally ADD a phrase to it: "What shall we do to be saved?" That is NOT what they asked, however. A good many, at this point, may not even have been fully convicted that they were "lost." What they were convicted of, however, was a horrific failure to recognize their Messiah, and even worse: they had called for his execution. Had they as a nation now forever forfeited the blessing of having their Messiah among them? Was this a one time offer, never to be repeated? Their question was: "Men and fellow Jews, what shall we do now?!" (Acts 2:37b, The NT in Modern English, J.B. Phillips). These were Jews appealing to "fellow Jews" for some enlightenment on how to FIX this and facilitate the return, if that was even possible, of their Messiah. It is interesting, and often overlooked, that Peter, in his second sermon to a Jewish audience (he begins it with the words "Men of Israel, ..." -- Acts 3:12, just as he had in the first sermon), assures them that if they would repent, their sins wouldl be wiped away and their God would "send Jesus, the Messiah appointed for you" (Acts 3:20). Yes, there was hope for the Jews who had rejected and killed their Messiah. God had raised him up from the dead, and He was still willing to share the gift of His son with these Jews, if only they would turn to Him. Jesus was still willing to be their Messiah; were they willing to receive him as such? And if they are, are they willing to visibly, publicly manifest - show that conviction and commitment to Him?

James spoke of the necessity for genuine people of faith to reflect that faith in their daily lives. There are many ways to do this, one of which is to recreate through one's own action the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah. If these Jews were now believers in who Jesus was, and what he accomplished for them, then there was a way to make this new relationship (acquired by grace through faith), to which they had turned to embrace, visible. It was a ritual of washing; something the Jews were all familiar with, although now it would be a ritual of washing in the name of, by the power and authority of, Jesus the Messiah. They must, in addition to saying they believe, SHOW that they believe. What better way for a JEW to do this than to be immersed in and raised up from "a watery grave," an action that in a very visible way recreates the very atoning work of the one they rejected, but who they now accept. It is this Peter advises them to do as an evidentiary act of faith and repentance. Faith and repentance occur within the heart and mind of a person, but if they are genuine then they will be evident in our daily walk in the light with him. Immersion is only one of many such manifestations. James, our Lord's brother, tells us that true faith will SHOW itself (James 2:18). Such acts are not done to acquire faith, any more than such evidentiary acts are done to effect repentance. Such acts show the reality already within one's heart. If these "men of Israel," therefore, desire to bring the Messiah, whom they had rejected, into their midst, they must turn in faith from the "perverse generation" (Acts 2:40) of which they were a part, and turn toward the Lord with fullness of faith, commitment and devotion. When this conviction takes hold in their hearts, then God takes hold of them in love and mercy. They are, then, by grace through faith, freed of their blood-guiltiness for taking the life of Jesus, and the Father sends forth both the Spirit and the son into their midst. This is the significance, within this context and to this people, of what is written in Acts 2:38. It was the FIX that would bridge the gap between these "men of Israel" and their Messiah.

We have taken a beautiful "Jesus story" showing the love of God to a rebellious people, and we have reduced that redemptive narrative to a few lifted texts (lifted out of their context to become proof-texts) that we then seek to employ as validation of our sectarian sacraments. In so doing, we have missed the whole point and purpose of this account, forcing it instead to revolve around baptism in water, thus elevating this one act to the level of law for all men for all time. The only thing we reflect by this abuse of the text and context is our own sectarianism and sacramentalism, and our own failure, like the pre-Pentecost Jews, to perceive our savior. The question of the Jews to Peter and the apostles that day was not about how to get into the right congregation, or how to "be saved" from "being cast into the lake of fire at the White Throne Judgement." It was about how they were going to FIX the fact that they had murdered their Messiah, and what they needed to do, both individually and collectively, to have that sin removed, in the hope that the Messiah might return to them. It is this question Peter answered that day.

This is why Peter, in his second sermon (Acts 3), makes no mention at all of baptism in water, even though he is essentially repreaching that first sermon. He points out to the "men of Israel" that although they have murdered the Messiah, such action was nevertheless predetermined by the Lord God. "The things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Messiah should suffer, He has thus fulfilled" (Acts 3:18). He gives the "men of Israel" a word of hope: "Brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also" (vs. 17). This opens the door to a heartfelt repentance based on the enlightenment they had received as to the identity of Jesus. It paved the way for their acceptance by God, for the coming of a refreshing renewed relationship with the Father, and for the return of the Messiah to their midst (although this would be at present in a spiritual indwelling rather than a physical presence). Now we come to the Acts 2:38 parallel in this second sermon: "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Messiah appointed for you" (Acts 3:19-20). Baptism is never mentioned in this passage. It is never even hinted at. Peter certainly would not deny its worth as a manifestation of the reality of one's faith and turning, yet he shows us that this particular act was never meant to be the precise point of one's salvation from the "second death." What is important in this context with these "men of Israel" is that they all must now TURN TOWARD the Messiah, rather than continuing along that crooked path AWAY FROM the Messiah, a path the Jews had traveled far too long.

The people of Israel who heard Peter on these two occasions were indeed called to "salvation," but it was a salvation of another kind. Peter said, "Be saved from this perverse generation!" (Acts 2:40). Peter's focus was on that generation; the one in which these people lived; these descendants of Israelites who, like them, had repeatedly spurned the grace and mercy of God. The word translated "perverse" is the Greek word "skolios," which means "crooked, curved, twisted." From this word comes the medical term "scoliosis," which refers to an abnormal curvature of the spine. We've all heard the Mother Goose nursery rhyme: "There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile, ..." The generation of Jews assembled before Peter that day were "men of Israel" who were walking a twisted path, spiritually speaking, rather than the "straight path" that led to the Light and Life of men. It is in this sense that they were characterized as a "perverse generation." Those Jews on Pentecost who were now aware of the true identity of Jesus needed to get off that "crooked path" upon which the "crooked people" were walking, and they needed to return to the "straight path." That straight path to the Father was Jesus the Messiah. "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6). Peter called them to be "saved" from that blind mass of twisted people walking a twisted path, and turn to the straight path of Jesus. Even Jesus himself characterized the Jews of his day with the same words: "O unbelieving and perverse generation; how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?" (Luke 9:41). Later, Jesus said that he would "be rejected by this generation" (Luke 17:25), which certainly constituted a spiritual perversity. Even Moses spoke of the faithless Israelites thusly: "They have acted corruptly toward Him; to their shame they are no longer His children, but a perverse and crooked generation" (Deuteronomy 32:5). In essence, Peter was telling these "men of Israel" to come out of and be separate from the unbelieving generation of Jews around them. Don't continue to be a part of their unbelief, for unless you extricate yourselves from their midst you will experience the same fate that must befall them for their disbelief. The apostle Paul would later urge the brethren in Philippi to evidence within their own walk the attitude and actions of Jesus the Messiah (Philippians 2:5), "so that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world" (vs. 15).

Peter calls these "men of Israel" to preserve themselves from the perverse disbelievers around them. Paul, quoting from the Old Covenant writings, wrote, "I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate. And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me" (2 Corinthians 6:16-18). What was the SIN of these people that was before their eyes as they appealed to Peter on that Pentecost almost two millennia ago? It was the sin of rejecting, plotting against, mocking and murdering their Messiah. In his second sermon, Peter would graciously state that they did so in ignorance. Nevertheless, they had "missed the mark" of the Messiah about as far as it could be missed. They now sought a way out of the hopelessness they felt by being party to such a godless deed. The way out was simply to turn from that path in genuine faith and begin to walk in the light with the Anointed One of God.

"They were pricked in their heart; stung with remorse at the exceeding wickedness of their crime in the crucifixion; they must have been amazed at the stupid blindness with which they had acted" [H. Leo Boles, A Commentary on Acts of the Apostles, p. 45]. The words of Peter to them that day stung them deeply and fiercely. This particular Greek word is "only used here in the New Testament; the word does not even occur in profane Greek. It was the sharp, painful emotion, the sting, produced by Peter's words. Cicero, speaking of the oratory of Pericles, says that his speech left stings in the minds of his hearers" [Dr. Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 1, p. 455]. These men of Israel were inwardly pricked or stung by the indictment of Peter. Their sin was enormous, for they had not only refused to listen to or follow the teachings of Jesus, they had gone so far as to call for and insist upon his DEATH. "They now believe that Jesus is the anointed one – their Messiah, and they are pierced to the heart with the thought that they have murdered Him. ... The idea of salvation from their sin could scarcely yet have had a place in their minds" [J.W. McGarvey, New Commentary on Acts of Apostles, vol. 1, p. 37]. The concern of these individuals that day was far more focused than "heaven or hell" theology. They had killed the son of God!! What now was going to befall their beloved nation?! How could this possibly be fixed? "What shall we do to escape the penalties which must fall on the nation that has so sinned against light and knowledge; who have had the true Light in their midst, but have comprehended it not, and have crucified the lord of glory?" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 18, p. 90]. For a people whose theology was tied intimately to the land and the nation, this was HUGE! Their sin was against GOD and His son, and they could only assume punishment from above was about to descend upon them with a fury they could not even imagine!! What hope could they now realistically experience when they had crucified the very one who was their hope of a bright future?! "So, with deep anguish they cried out, 'Brothers, what shall we do?!'" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 282].

When all seems hopeless, when darkness seems to overwhelm us, when we can perceive no way out, no ray of hope -- it is then that God's grace, mercy and love shine the brightest! "Incredible as it must appear, Peter told them that there was hope for them even now" [Dr. F.F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts, p. 75]. They thought all was lost, but some divine qualities remained: "Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; and the greatest of these is love" (1 Corinthians 13:13). God's great steadfast love plus our faith in Him results in a HOPE that will never fail us. It abides, as will we, if we embrace by faith His gracious free gift of life. That free gift of grace, however, has a high price: it cost Jesus his life, and it will cost us ours as well. He died for me that I may live for him, both in active service here to his commission, and then forevermore with him in the new heavens and earth. There is nothing I can DO to merit this free gift, but I can resolve to spend my life showing my gratitude for that gift. What was the FIX for the "men of Israel" that day? It was plainly and simply "a complete change of heart, a spiritual right-about-turn" [ibid]. As Peter would later explain, "God made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith" (Acts 15:9). When they were pierced by the word of grace, they believed; a commitment belief that led to a transformational turn in their life-journey. As Peter told the "men of Israel" in his second sermon, "Repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and He will again send you Jesus, your appointed Messiah" (Acts 3:19-20, New Living Translation). Hallelujah, what a Savior!!

Written by Al Maxey and edited by Bruce Lyon

Friday, January 11, 2019

Are we coming close to the end of this age?

The world has changed. Mankind has entered a dark period that few recognize for what it is. Troubles are sweeping the globe with noticeably greater force. Deceit, division, disorder, instability, lawlessness, corruption and conflict of every kind are intensifying. Why?
Millions believe Bible prophecy holds the answer, but do not know how. Do supernatural events signal the “time of the end?” Or do specific conditions already present do this? What did Jesus say? And what did He say would come first in the march of end-time prophecy?
Growing millions are troubled, even terrified, by what is happening almost everywhere. Studies reveal that just over two-thirds in most nations are now feeling much more anxiety and fear. Millions of others pursue pleasure, heads buried in the sand, to help them ignore the growing storm so obviously descending on the world. Two thousand years ago, Jesus God's anointed one foretold why this worldwide pleasure pursuit—as well as the fear and terror that would help drive it. But conditions will soon get much worse—and fast!
What follows are not my ideas. I am only explaining what is revealed plainly in the scriptures.
Jesus was asked in Matthew by his disciples about conditions just before his return to earth. He stated: “And you shall hear of wars and rumor of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places” (vs. 6-7).
Verse 8 calls these terrible trends “the beginning of sorrows.” All of them will grow much worse before Jesus returns. All of them are growing worse now.
Notice that Jesus said “be not troubled” when these events occur. The original Greek means “to wail, clamor, be frightened” (all Greek definitions are from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible).
Mark repeats Jesus’ warning almost verbatim: “You shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, be you not troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet” (13:7).
The list in Mark’s account is similar to Matthew’s, yet it adds “troubles” (vs. 8). This word can mean a “disturbance of water” or “mob sedition.” Think of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Michael, or the tsunami that struck Indonesia. Think of the violent protests in France, Zimbabwe and Venezuela.
Luke—a third gospel—adds the term “commotions” (21:9). The Greek here means “instability or disorder.” Again, this is describing today’s world.
All three accounts mention earthquakes—and there certainly are earthquakes all the time—but that is just one facet of what Jesus meant here. The term is translated from seismos, from which comes seismograph. It means a commotion of the air or ground. This includes a wide range of natural disasters, floods, fires, tornadoes, volcanoes and tsunamis.
These are powerful passages. Very few notice them. And even fewer believe them. Yet God inspired Jesus' prophetic warning to be recorded three times in His Instruction Book!
Get this all-important point. Wars, rumors and commotions—all kinds of instability and disorder—first grow to where they engender terror. Then Christ will return.

An Era of Violence

Headlines scream that the world is rapidly accelerating into this period, which will only grow worse. Terror is the natural result. Fear will come to gnaw at billions of people. But Jesus  small called-out Assembly knows what the future holds—and what to do about it. This is why they believe his instruction to “fear not, little flock!” (Luke 12:32).
Later in Luke 21, Jesus told individuals to carefully watch these conditions: “Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares” (vs. 34). Why? “For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (vs. 35-36). “All these things” includes other horrors Jesus foretold in Luke 21 that are not our subject.
Tensions of every kind are increasing everywhere—particularly in nations of the West. Instability and disorder are most visible in the United States—the world’s most powerful nation ever. In 2016, America elected a new president. He received under half the popular vote but won in the electoral college. For this and other reasons, everyone in a country that was once a beacon of stability and order now feels the sharp, angry division growing daily.
Understand. America faces impossible gridlock that will only grow worse. It will not get better. Just once in American history has such sharp division existed—the Civil War. The pitched battle between the right and left touches people of every background and economic class.
An all-out war in the West on values of every kind is underway. And so is another war by the media on the present U.S. administration. Just the amount of instability and disorder these two things bring is enormous.
Look around the globe. The other conditions Jesus mentioned are everywhere. War includes Israel versus Palestine and Ukraine versus Russia—but it also means relentless drone strikes throughout many nations. There are famines in Yemen and Venezuela. Diseases include Ebola exploding in Africa, HIV surging in Europe, and measles increasing worldwide. Think of how many more headlines could be mentioned here!
When Matthew and Mark say there will be “nation against nation” it is not talking about war, which is already on the list. The Greek here is “ethnos” against “ethnos.” There are constant battles between ethnic groups. The U.S.’s immigration debate is just one example. Also think of the Catalonian uprising in Spain, persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar, the Turks against Kurdish peoples, and so forth.
Add to all of these the earthquakes, volcanoes, fires, cyclones and all other manner of natural disasters.

What This Means for You

Come to grips with the truth of prophecy. Do not miss what is going on all around you. Jesus God's anointed one was right!
In a world wracked with terror and frightening events, recall that Jesus assured His tiny end-time called-out Assembly, “Fear not, little flock,” adding, “…it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). “Little” comes from the Greek word micros. Jesus built a small, micro called-out Assembly—not a large one.
God is bringing a violent wakeup call no one should be able to miss—but sadly most will ignore it. This need not be you. Jesus said you can understand world events and avoid the fear and terror associated with them.