Jew For Jesus

The most renowned ‘Jew for Jesus’ was the apostle Paul – the Holy Spirit-inspired author of the majority of the New Testament. In fact, he was converted by Jesus Himself on the road to Damascus. Ironically, his primary ministry was to the Gentiles.

I bring this up because we’re going to look at some of the book of Hebrews – whose author is anonymous. However, some believe it was penned anonymously by Paul to minister to Jewish audiences without causing any rifts between he and the apostle Peter, who, primarily ministered to the Jews. Other biblical scholars have attributed the authorship of Hebrews to associates of Paul, especially Barnabas or Apollo.

Regardless, Hebrews seems to be written to bolster the faith of Jewish converts to Christ, who had got the erroneous notion that Jesus’ return was supposed to be immediate. Well, 60 years had passed since Jesus’ ascension, and doubts had begun to fester.

WHO IS JESUS?

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds. Heb. 1:1, 2. NKJV

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty, having become superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. Heb. 1:3, 4. ESV

These opening scriptures tell us a lot: we learn that as soon as Jesus was resurrected, the ‘last days’ of the earth commenced. Also, God now speaks through Christ, who, petitioned His Father so that we could have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be able to receive His words.

God tells us that His Son is an exact imprint of Himself – affirming that whatever comes out of the mouth of Jesus is the word of God. We are reminded again that God made the universe through Christ, who holds it all together.

Finally, at the point of Jesus’ resurrection, He received His crown from God, to rule over the earth as the King of kings and Lord of lords – exalted over all things, including the angels…

WHY HOPE IN JESUS?

For this reason we must pay closer attention to what we heard so that we do not drift away from it. For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Heb. 2:1 – 3. NASB

The author is appealing to the Jews’ knowledge of the Old Testament, which demonstrated that every time an angel would appear, its pronunciations invariably came to pass. The Jews are also well aware that the angels testified of the coming of the Messiah.

Continuing, the Holy Spirit-inspired author asks his audience to consider the ‘present-day’ proofs for the veracity of Jesus being that Messiah:

It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to His will. Heb. 2:3, 4. ESV

So, the salvation promise in the Son, was first testified by God and then His Son. It was also testified by the apostles and was visually confirmed through Christ’s Holy Spirit-empowered miracles and spiritual gifts. The author is essentially saying, ‘What more proof do you need?’

WHAT HAD TO HAPPEN BEFORE JESUS COULD FULFILL HIS PURPOSE?

We have seen that in heaven, Jesus is exalted above the angels. In His carnal nature, He was not, because He had to take mortality upon Himself:

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while [by taking on the limitations of humanity], crowned with glory and honor because of His suffering of death, so that by the grace of God [extended to sinners] He might experience death for [the sins of] everyone. For it is fitting for God [that is, an act worthy of His divine nature] that He, for whose sake are all things, in bringing sons to glory, should make the author and founder of their salvation perfect through suffering [bringing to maturity the human experience necessary for Him to be perfectly equipped for His office as High Priest].

Both Jesus who sanctifies and those who are sanctified [that is, spiritually transformed, made holy, and set apart for God’s purpose] are all from one Father; for this reason He is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. Heb. 2:9 – 11. AMP

Angels do not die. Jesus had to be mortal, so that by His sacrifice He could nail our sins to the cross forever. He also subjected Himself to the ‘human experience,’ so that He can compassionately identify with our weaknesses and suffering, while He serves as our High Priest at the right hand of God.

Furthermore, Jesus calls us ‘brothers and sisters,’ acknowledging our connection to His human side, when we accept Him in full faith as Savior with our spiritual side:

Therefore, since [these His] children share in flesh and blood [the physical nature of mankind], He Himself in a similar manner also shared in the same [physical nature, but without sin], so that through [experiencing] death He might make powerless (ineffective, impotent) him who had the power of death – that is, the devil – and [that He] might free all those who though the [haunting] fear of death were held in slavery throughout their lives. Heb. 2:14, 15. AMP

Jesus conquered death for all who follow Him. We will not feel death’s sting and thus need not fear it. Our transition will be immediate and glorious. Until that time, our High Priest can identify with anything that we are going through in this world, (He Himself being a conqueror of all of them) and does not hesitate to send compassionate help and healing our way, for any situation.

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO FAITH

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me…they shall not enter My rest.” Heb. 3:7 – 9 & 11. NKJV

Let us be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Heb. 4:11 – 13. NKJV

The author is referring to the behavior of the Jews during their exodus journey out of Egypt, led by Moses. Those that rebelled against Moses (and so had no faith in God’s word), did not get to enter into His rest (heaven). Similarly, all followers of Christ are called to persist in the belief in, and obedience to, the word of God and to hold tight in faith to God’s promises, which are accomplished through Jesus.

WHAT DOES JESUS DO?

…a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God. Heb. 7:19 ESV

Meaning that Jesus as a High Priest, far exceeds any priesthood that came before – giving us a direct connection to the Father.

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. Heb. 7:22 ESV

A better covenant in that He brings with Him a guaranteed salvation that is not subject to the perfection demanded by the Mosaic Law. And, He’s always with God, acting on our behalf:

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God though Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Heb. 7:25 NKJV

…at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Heb. 9:26 NASB

And, He’s coming back for you!

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sins, but to save those eagerly waiting for him. Heb. 9:27, 28. ESV

Jesus went into the heavenly Most Holy Place (the throne room of God), for you. He rendered His own blood, from His only and final sacrifice, to perfect you forever. It was the moment that Christ decimated the power of sin for all time.

WHAT DO WE DO?

Your part is to confess, repent, accept Christ as your Savior, and walk His walk to the best of your ability. And when you come up short, Jesus has your back.

And until He comes back, it’s up to us to keep the faith:

…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down on the right hand of God. Heb. 12:1, 2. NKJV

Jesus foresaw His joy in connecting with you for all of eternity, and He decided that it was worth paying the price of His crucifixion. Our price, is to endure in faith:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried away with various and strange doctrines. Heb. 13:8 NKJV

DOES THE HOLY SPIRIT MAKE THE CASE FOR JESUS OR WHAT?

Goodnight and God bless.

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What Happened On The Cross: The Book of 1 Corinthians – part 5

This installment is the last of our series on Paul’s letter to the church of Corinth, now known as the Bible book of 1 Corinthians. Let’s dive right in:

…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.

After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to be present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of time. 1 Cor. 15:2 – 8. NKJV

Thus, Paul begins making the case for the first and most important event at the cross: that of Jesus’ salvation death and resurrection – of which there were many witnesses. Indeed, Paul makes that salvation connection next:

…Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.

Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet.

The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. 1 Cor. 15:20 – 26. NKJV

Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him (God) who put all things under Him, (Jesus) that God may be all in all. 1 Cor. 15:28 NKJV

When Christ was transformed at His resurrection into this new God-Man existence, He became His Father’s agent of Man’s resurrection. Jesus is the first fruit of the ‘resurrection harvest’ of humanity, at the end of time. He guaranteed resurrection for God’s children by wiping out the spiritual death, (which ultimately results in physical death as well) brought on us by Adam’s original sin.

That cleansing is only available to those who accept Christ’s invitation for salvation – which frees God’s children from the ravages of time and death. Given that this is so, Paul now attempts to get the Corinthians to clean up their act and prepare themselves for Christ’s return:

Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character.
Awake [from your drunken stupor and return] to sober sense and your right minds, and sin no more. 1 Cor. 15:33, 34. AMP

Paul then tells them how God will make it possible for them to rise from their graves:

The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.

It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body and a spiritual body. And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust, the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man.

…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality…then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor in not in vain in the Lord. 1 Cor. 15:42 – 58. NKJV

Wow! Christ’s work at the cross enables us to be resurrected as both righteous, and transcendent of the Law. We get a new body, made in His image, which never wears out! Our physical sufferings are a forgotten memory, and we stand ready to enter into an eternity of the unimaginable; and it’s all about The Love…

Such a deal! Makes a great case for connecting with our God through Jesus, yes?

(Well, because our message today was a quite a bit shorter than usual, I’m going to insert a short historical segue that will lead us into the Bible book of 2 Corinthians:

The date is approximately 55 A.D. Nero is the present ruler of Rome.

Paul paid a second visit to the church of Corinth which did not work out very well, although we are not given much details about the ‘why.’ He then returned to the city of Ephesus, whereupon Paul sent the Corinthians a ‘tearful’ letter – implied to be one that expressed his disappointment of their spiritual state, as well as his dismay over the manner in which they received him.

Unfortunately, just like Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, this tearful letter was lost as well.

During Paul’s stay in Ephesus, he preached against idolatry – the outcome of which produced a loss of revenue for a certain silversmith who fashioned and sold pagan idols. The silversmith stirred up a the unbelievers to riot against Paul.

Paul left Ephesus and traveled to the region of Macedonia. He wanted to return to Corinth, but he first waited for a report that was to come from his brother in Christ, Titus. Titus sent a good report, informing Paul that the Corinthians were happily waiting for his return.

Paul’s first response was to send a letter to encourage the faithful – a letter we now know as the Bible book of 2 Corinthians.)

Next time…

Good night, and God bless.

The Second Coming of Christ: 1 and 2 Thessalonians

In our last post, Paul Takes Another Trip, we followed the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey. At the end of his trip, Paul stayed eighteen months in the church of Corinth. It was at that time, (~ 50 A.D.) that Paul wrote the letters [with a little help from Silas (also called Silvanus) a prophet and elder of the church in Jerusalem) and Timothy – a Christian acolyte whom Paul was mentoring] that would become the Bible books 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

Paul writes the first letter in response to a report from Timothy; Timothy said that there was confusion in the church of Thessalonica. The congregants were afraid that if they died before Jesus’ return, they would lose their salvation. The church was also concerned about secular persecution that they were experiencing in their region.

Paul begins by commending the church for their exemplary walk in Christ: For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you; in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? 1 Thess. 2:19 NASB

He also reminisces fondly of his prior ministry there, and speaks to his own method of preaching – one that sets a good example for all of us:

But as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, even so we speak not as pleasing men, but God who tests our hearts. 1 Thess. 2:4 NKJV

Paul is telling us that it is only God’s approval of our behavior that ultimately counts; and that approval only comes when we speak the truth (God’s word) and live by it.

He continues by telling the church that he had sent Timothy to them previously, to strengthen them in their faith, so that they may face their trials and tribulations with courage. Then he reminds them of their calling: For you yourselves know that we have been destined for this. 1 Thess. 3:3 ESV

(Jesus told us that we would be hated for following Him. We are the ‘peculiar people’ in the world who have chosen to walk the narrow path – the only path that leads to an eternity of complete love. It’s the path where we walk in love):

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all…so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. 1 Thess. 3:12, 13. NKJV

Paul then reminds them of when he had previously taught them how to walk on that path:

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these things…For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.

Therefore, whoever disregards this, disregards not man, but God, who gives His Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thess. 4:3 – 8. ESV

Now, Paul gives them a few more pointers from God for staying on the love path:

Be at peace among yourselves…admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast to what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thess. 5:13 – 22. ESV

Paul then addresses the main event – bringing clarity to their confusion over the return of Jesus Christ:

Now also we would not have you ignorant, brethren, about those who fall asleep [in death], that you may not grieve [for them] as the rest who have no hope [beyond the grave].

For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him through Jesus those who have fallen asleep [in death]. For this we declare to you by the Lord’s [own] word, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord shall in no way precede [into His presence] or have any advantage over those who have previously fallen asleep [in Him in death]. 1 Thess. 4:13 – 15. AMP

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:16, 17. NKJV

How cool is that? God is letting us know that we don’t need to worry about the followers of Christ who die before He returns – because they will be the first ones that Jesus will rally to Him. Those who are still living when He returns, get to become airborne to join the eternal throng.

Jesus’ ‘second coming,’ the ‘day of the Lord’ will be wondrous for the followers of Christ, but it will be decidedly disastrous for those who have chosen not to:

…the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and Safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains…and they will not escape.

But you brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.

For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith, and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. 1 Thess. 5:2 – 8. NASB

For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should be together with Him. 1 Thess. 5:9, 10. NKJV

He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it. 1 Thess. 5:24 NKJV

Paul, again with some help from Silas and Timothy, sends off the second letter to the church, shortly after the first, because there was a false teacher in their midst who was circulating a counterfeit letter, supposedly from Paul, that said the day of the Lord had already come and gone.

He begins by encouraging them to endure in the face of persecution. Then he tells them that when Jesus returns, it will be a day that cannot be mistaken for any other:

God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. 2 Thess. 1:6 – 10. ESV

Paul is taking about the ‘great sifting.’ That’s the time to be on the side of Jesus.

He then instructs the church not to put any faith into this counterfeit letter in circulation, stressing that indeed the day of the Lord has not come:

Let no one deceive or beguile you in any way, for that day will not come except the apostasy comes first [unless the predicted great falling away of those who have professed to be Christians has come], and the man of lawlessness (sin) is revealed, who is the son of doom (of perdition), who opposes and exalts himself so proudly and insolently against and over all that is called God or that is worshiped, [even to his actually] taking his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God. 2 Thess. 2:3, 4. AMP

What Paul is saying is that there will be unmistakably distinct events that presage the second coming of Christ. One of those will be the revelation of the identity of the lawless one (the Antichrist) – who will be worshiped by most of humanity as he proclaims himself to be God. (This will be revealed in great detail when we visit the last Bible book: The Revelation of Jesus Christ.) However, Paul gives us a few teasers now:

For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work… 2 Thess. 2:7 NKJV (i.e. there is already a force of evil at work in the world.)

And then the lawless one (the antichrist) will be revealed and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of His mouth and bring him to an end by His appearing at His coming. 2 Thess. 2:8 AMP

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they have refused to love the truth and so be saved.

Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thess. 2:9 – 12. ESV

Thus, the Antichrist will be empowered by Satan himself – to be able to work false miracles, bringing him the adulation and worship of a rebellious world. It is then that God will begin the extraction process of those who pandered to themselves – separating them from the children of God. We also see that when Jesus returns, the curtain is coming down for the Antichrist.

Paul then changes focus in his narrative to encourage the church (that would be us) to be steadfast in our faith:

…God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught… 2 Thess. 2:13 – 15. NKJV

(God chose you before you took your first breath.)

Finally, the apostle writes his parting remarks:

Yet the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen [you] and set you on a firm foundation and guard you from the evil [one]. 2 Thess. 3:3 AMP

…do not weary of doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thess. 3:13 – 15 NKJV

God is always on your side. When you stick with Him, the devil hasn’t got a chance against you.

We see too that God is always about practicing love. Even if a brother or sister in Christ backslides, you are to distance yourself from them – not to punish them, but in a loving way that encourages their return to the arms of God through Jesus Christ. It’s always about the love.

If we remain at the side of God, ‘the day of the Lord’ is something that we can look forward to with rapt expectation…

Goodnight and God bless.