Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Failed Prophecies of the Watchtower Society (1)

It was requested that I write an article on the failed prophecies of the Watchtower Society and how this is such an effective line of attack against the Jehovah's Witnesses. Indeed, I have found that the Jehovah's Witnesses will gladly discuss all of their doctrinal positions - whether it be their view of Paradise Earth or their position on the nature of Jesus Christ (see my eight lesson series on this issue) - but the fact of the matter is, you will not get very far with them if you focus exclusively on their doctrines and why they're wrong. You see, each and every Jehovah's Witness is bound to the "Watchtower" organization just as Catholics are bound to the Pope and Vatican in Rome. If you really want to have any success with the Jehovah's Witnesses, you have to sever, or at least injure, their blind allegiance to the Watchtower Society, which is the entity that governs all Jehovah's Witnesses.

While there are MANY problems with the Watchtower Society, we're going to focus in this article on their false prophecies. Now, most Jehovah's Witnesses will deny that the Watchtower Society is any kind of prophet or mouthpiece of God. Some simply do not know JW history while others will intentionally try to cover it up or act as if "the past is the past." I've talked to a few Witnesses who even claim that it doesn't matter much anyways since the Watchtower Society is in no way a governing structure.

Let's consider a few quotes...and these are from Jehovah's Witnesses and Watchtower Society publications.
"If the six volumes of 'Scripture Studies' are practically the Bible, topically arranged with Bible proof texts given, we might not improperly name the volumes 'The Bible in an arranged form.' That is to say they are not mere comments on the Bible, but they are practically the Bible itself. Furthermore, not only do we find that people cannot see the divine plan in studying the Bible itself, but we see also that if anyone lays the 'Scripture Studies' aside, even after he has used them, after he has become familiar with them, after he has read them for ten years - if he then lays them aside and ignores them and goes to the Bible alone, though he has understood the Bible for ten years, our experience shows that within two years he goes into darkness. On the other hand, if he had merely read the 'Scripture Studies' with their references and had not read a page of the Bible as such, he would be in the light at the end of two years, because he would have the light of the scriptures." (from Watchtower, Sept. 15, 1910, page 289)
"So let the literature speak for itself. The scholarliness of it, the logical presentation of the Scriptures it sets forth and its faithful adherence to the Bible are things that should impress the reader and that should convince him that this is the Bible truth. Worldly scholarship is not the thing to be required...With these things in mind, we encourage all who seek the Bible truth to see the prime necessity of the possession of the holy spirit on the part of those who are responsible for the material that goes into the publications of our Society. The evidence of the holy spirit in the quality and content of the writings published by the Watch Tower Society should be the thing that satisfies, that convinces, together with a comparison of these things with the inspired word of God, the Holy Scriptures." (Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1959, page 608)
"So, does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of dangers and to declare things to come?...This 'prophet' was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was a small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah's Christian Witnesses." (Watchtower, Apr. 1, 1972, page 197)
During a legal case against the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society in 1940, the question was asked, "Who subsequently became the Editor of the magazine, the main editor of the 'Watchtower' magazine?" The answer was, "Jehovah God." I've got a scanned copy of the transcript, Kings County Clerk's index, No 15845 - year 1940.
"Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely t hey may believe that they can interpret the Bible. For this reason the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah's visible organization in mind." (The Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, page 587)
"The WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY is the greatest corporation in the world, because from the time of its organization until now the Lord has used it as his channel through which to make known the glad tidings to many thousands." (spoken by Judge Rutherford, the leader of the Watchtower organization following the death of the founder, Charles Taze Russell)
These are only the quotes I have on hand and I'm certain that there are many others like it. The point is, the Watchtower Society as an organization has always made the claim that it has prophetic power, that it is a God-ordained corporation, that what it says is FROM God and that one cannot possibly understand the truth without its help.  So an individual JW who is ignorant of its organization's history may deny any blind allegiance to some prophetic, Spirit-filled organization, but these quotes are sufficient to prove the JW wrong! They will squirm when you read these quotes, and they may even grow angry, but if they will listen, this needs to be your next move...

Read to them Deuteronomy 18:21-22:
"And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath NOT spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him."
Also consider reading Jeremiah 23:16; 14:14-16; 29:9; Gal. 1:8 and Revelation 22:18. All of these verses make the same basic point, that if someone claims to be a prophet, or a representative of God, and yet what they say is wrong, or their prophecies fail, then they are a FALSE prophet and worthy of the condemnation of God. Remind the JW of the Watchtower's claims (listed above) and ask them this question: "If I can prove to you that the Watchtower Society has made very specific prophecies that never came to pass and that clearly failed, will you accept that the Watchtower Society is a false prophet?"

At this point, the JW will either leave and ne'er return, or they will sit and listen. Tomorrow, Lord willing, I'll tell you where to go next if the JW remains seated and lets you continue.

Click here to read the 2nd installment in this series.

Friday, January 27, 2012


I realize how difficult it is to study the Bible and ponder spiritual matters with a completely open mind and a clean slate. We all have been raised a certain way, in a certain environment, with unique experiences and circumstances, and all of these things color our perception of God and religion. There are times for ALL of us when we have a difficult time accepting what the scriptures teach - or perhaps we refuse to accept what the scriptures teach - for the simple reason that it poses a threat to OUR status-quo. I've been there, and so have you, whether you realize it or not. We find a system of faith that suits us, we settle in, we accept everything that strengthens our case, and we reject/ignore everything that challenges it.

If you don't believe this, I hope and fervently pray that you'll stop for just a moment, exhale, and be honest with yourself. Think about it. To some extent, we're all this way at least occasionally and the thing is, if you understand it and are cognizant of this ever-present temptation, you can find the truth. But if you shake your head in arrogance and act as if you're immune to the prejudices that afflict us all, as if you've got it all figured out, then let me tell you something...you're in trouble.

Here's the danger...

When you approach God with your mind already made up, you're going to twist everything in the scriptures to fit your paradigm. Rather than humbly subjecting yourself to the Almighty God, you expect God to conform to YOUR standards and expectations. You end up worshiping a god that is far different than the God of the Bible, and you embrace a faith that is far removed from God's inspired word.

In other words, when you put God in a box and say, "This is who I want God to be," you're not really serving God...because, contrary to mainstream thinking, that's not how God operates. He does not change to suit us. Remember, HE is the Creator, the Almighty, the "I AM." We must change to suit Him.

The Bible is filled with examples of individuals who put God in a box.
  • The Hebrews, when they witnessed God's fierce power on Mount Sinai, told Moses that they didn't want to deal with God directly. God scared them! So they requested that Moses speak to them instead (Exodus 20:18-20). Not long after, they made their own god...a golden calf that suited them better. Now they could sing and dance and be happy (Exodus 32).
  • Naaman the Syrian expected a "razzle and dazzle" God that would wipe away his leprosy in some grand display of power...and he was angry when Elijah told him to simply dip seven times in the dirty Jordan River (2 Kings 5:10-12).
  •  An obvious example is Jonah. The prophet Jonah wasn't at all pleased when God wanted to extend mercy to the wicked inhabitants of Nineveh. In fact, "it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry" (Jonah 4:1-2). He wanted to serve a God that was not so merciful or compassionate.
  • James and John, the disciples of Jesus, wanted to "command fire to come down from heaven and consume" the Samaritans who had rejected Jesus, but Jesus rebuked them, saying, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them" (Luke 9:54-56).
  • Like most of the Jews of Jesus' day, the disciples had certain expectations and ideas of who the Christ would be. Their prejudices and false perceptions caused them to be so blind to Christ's true purpose that, despite Jesus' clear warnings that He would be arrested and crucified, they scattered like roaches when it came to pass. Even after His resurrection, they still didn't get it. They asked Jesus, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Ac. 1:6).
  • The polytheistic residents of Athens thought that Paul's description of ONE God who demands obeisance from ALL nations was ridiculous. There were some who showed some interest and wanted to study further, but many "mocked" (read Acts 17:18-32). In other words, Paul's God was too narrow and too demanding, and He didn't fit their paradigm.
  • And then, of course, there are the Gentiles of old who "exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator" (Rom. 1:25).
We could literally look at dozens of other biblical examples, but the point is clear: we cannot put God in a box. All of these people made that very mistake. They expected God to act a certain way and to be a certain way, and when God didn't fit their paradigm, they got angry and rebelled. Thankfully, some of them did humble themselves and change.

We cannot approach God with our jaws set and our minds already made up. It is vital that we forfeit our will and embrace God as He is.
"Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' Or shall your handiwork say, 'He has no hands'?" (Isaiah 45:9).
"He has made the earth by His power, He has established the world by His wisdom, and has stretched out the heavens at His discretion. When He utters His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens: and He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth. He makes lightning for the rain, He brings the wind out of His treasuries...O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jer. 10:12-13, 23).
"For I am the Lord, I do not change..." (Malachi 3:6).
You have a choice. I have a choice. Either we can try to set aside our prejudices and be open-minded toward and accepting of God as He is, and His will as it is, or we can keep God in a box. But by keeping God in a box, we are no longer serving THE God, but a god (little "g").

You may not want to believe that God loves ALL of humanity and sent Jesus to die for ALL the world (John 3:16). You may not want to believe that God gives the most vile sinner the same hope of salvation that He has given you...that if they repent (Luke 13:3) and embrace God's will, they are just as much a saint of God as you are! That may make you feel uncomfortable. Too bad. Accept it or stop claiming to love and serve the God of the Bible.

On the other hand, you may not want to believe that God is Just, that He has wrath, that there is such a thing as sin and hell and punishment. You may choose to embrace the tenets of "universalism" - this notion that ALL will be saved no matter what. That's fine. That's your prerogative. But that's not the God of the Bible...and stop pretending that it is.

You may want to believe in a God that requires minimal devotion. A little church here, a little prayer there and God will accept you. On the contrary, Jesus says, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Mt. 16:24). We're told to do all things by the authority of Christ (Col. 3:17), and to be "crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20).

I could go on, but do you get the point? Don't approach God with the attitude, "Hey, God, this is who I want you to be; take it or leave it." Heed the words of James:
"God rejects the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded" (James 4:6-8).
Let go of your stubborn will.


Answering the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part 8)

I'm about to wrap up this series of articles, whether it's today with "Part 8" or at some point in the very near future. To read the entire series, click here and follow the links through the series.

Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 4:16,
"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."
Paul indicates that Jesus, during what we call His "final return," will descend "with the voice of an archangel." The Jehovah's Witnesses use this to prove that the voice is Jesus' own, making Him an archangel. After all, if He was God, Paul would have said that Jesus would descend "with the voice of God," right?

But notice that other noises will accompany Jesus' return. There will be a "shout" as well as the "trumpet of God." So how will this work? Will Jesus shout first, then call out with His angelic voice, and finally blow God's trumpet? Will that be the sequence? Should this be our conclusion? What will be the difference between Jesus' shout and "the voice of an archangel?" Hmmm.

I would answer by saying that it's unnecessary to assume that Jesus Himself will be the source of all three sounds. In other words, Paul simply writes that Jesus will return with these sounds - that these sounds will accompany His return.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, the point is made that Jesus will "be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels." Isn't it more reasonable to conclude that "the voice of an archangel" is actually the voice of one of these angels - rather than to conclude that Jesus is an angel (when that is never taught in scripture)?

Even the trumpet blast, so to speak, will likely be "blown" by an angel, or angels. In Matthew 24:31, even though Jesus was talking about the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, He stated that "He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet." And in Revelation 9:14, we see yet another angel with a trumpet.

Again, all I'm saying is that it's unnecessary to conclude, based on 1 Thessalonians 4:16 that Jesus is an angel simply because He will return "with the voice of an archangel." All this means is that when Jesus returns, angels and archangels (at least one) will be with Him. A trumpet will be blown. There will be a shout. It will be a loud and unmistakeable event.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Adverse Circumstances & Faith

There's no hiding the fact that people of faith often struggle with adverse circumstances - circumstances that are difficult, so difficult, in fact, that we question God and are even tempted to abandon our faith. After all, if God's not going to help us, if He's not going to answer our prayers, if life is THIS HARD with faith, why should I even make the effort to serve Him?

In other words, we often allow our circumstances to determine our faith. If we're facing a lot of hardship, we might stand strong for a little while...but soon our resolve weakens and we begin to blame or question God. We become focused, not on God, but on our suffering and we give into the doubts and anger that Satan plants in our heads.

However, instead of allowing our circumstances to determine our faith, we need to allow our faith to determine our circumstances...and when the circumstances are beyond our control, we need to remain focused on what we can control...our faith in God.

Sometimes, we can control our circumstances. After all, we make decisions that have rewards or consequences. When we treat people poorly, our lives are naturally going to be filled with a greater degree of conflict. The book of Proverbs is filled with these kinds of warnings (10:12, 19; 11:2, 13; 14:16, 29; 15:1, etc). We must allow our faith to determine how we talk to others, speak to others, speak about others, think about others, treat others, and so on. That we can control. The same is true with the company we choose (Prov. 12:26). If we make immoral decisions such as to have sexual relations outside of marriage, there are consequences (Prov. 5:3-5), but if we work to maintain a strong marriage, there are rewards (5:15-20). Again, these are things we can control. If we live by faith and pattern our lives after the word of God, our circumstances will improve, generally speaking.

But there are certain things that are out of our control. We cannot keep loved ones from dying. We cannot keep the economy going strong. We cannot control what others choose to do to us. We cannot necessarily control our health (no matter how hard you try, you WILL sometimes get sick). We can't control the weather. We can't control...well, you get the point, don't you?

When the circumstances are outside of our control, we must focus on the only thing we can control - our reaction. Rather than blaming God or abandoning our faith, rather than growing bitter and angry, we need to turn to God and seek His help - true - but in the end, no matter what happens, we need to trust the Lord.

King David dealt with a lot of hardship (some of which came about because of poor decisions on his part), but he was still a man of tremendous faith who had a very tender conscience. There were times when David sought answers from God...and even when he was confused.
"Why do you stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?" (Ps. 10:1)
"How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will You hide your face from me? (Ps. 13:1)
"My God, My God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from the words of my groaning?" (Ps. 22:1)
But in each case, despite David's questions and struggles, and despite his adverse circumstances, he never stopped trusting God. David always laid aside the confusion and reminded himself of what He knew beyond a shadow of a doubt: no matter what is happening, God is in control and He is Mighty! Each of the above psalms begin with David's distress, but they end with praise.
"But You have seen, for You observe trouble and grief...The Lord is King forever and ever..." (Ps. 10:14, 16).
"But I have trusted in Your mercy; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because He has dealt bountifully with me" (Ps. 13:5-6).
"My praise shall be of You in the great assembly..." (Ps. 22:25).
When the circumstances are beyond our control, all we can control is how we react, and like David, we must react by focusing, not on our circumstances, not on our suffering, not on our pain, but on God, and our faith in Him!

God has blessed us so much more than we deserve. Even if you doubt that, God's gift of Jesus Christ and the salvation that we can have through His sacrifice and resurrection is enough for any of us to be blessed more than we deserve. Things may not always happen as we expect them to. We may have questions and doubts from time to time, but let's not forget that God is the Creator and Sustainer.

Do not allow what you can't control to distract you from what you CAN.

Answering the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part 7)

Click here to follow this series of articles from the beginning. If this is a subject that interests you, you will find some great arguments that will prepare you for your next encounter with the Jehovah's Witnesses.

In this article, I want to address one of the most controversial verses in the debate over whether or not Jesus Christ is divine - John 1:1. Of course, the verse is not controversial at all among most Christians, but in any debate or conversation with Jehovah's Witnesses, the simple is made complicated...as always.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
Lest there be any confusion, the "Word" is Jesus Christ.
"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."
We generally refer to Jesus as the "Son of God," but it's worth noting that Jesus is the Son of God only in regards to His virgin birth; He was conceived in the womb by the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:32, 35). In the Old Testament, Jesus is only referred to as the "Son" in prophecy. In fact, Jesus wasn't Jesus in the Old Testament; that name was given to Him upon His birth, and it represented His purpose in coming to earth, to be the Savior of the world (Mt. 1:21). The reason I point this out is because the JWs will often use the expression "Son of God" to prove that Jesus is a created being, born of God in the beginning. However, the expression is not about Jesus' origins in the beginning, but His origins as a human - He existed prior to the virgin birth as "the Word."

But the main point here is that Jesus - the Word - was/is God according to John 1:1. He was with God in the beginning and He was God. So He and the Father are distinct, and yet both are said to be divine.

Here's where the verse is made controversial. The Jehovah's Witnesses, in their "New World Translation" of the Bible, have added a word to the verse. Instead of saying "the Word was God," their version says, "the Word was a god." They'll argue that the term "god" refers to "a mighty one" and thereby limit Jesus to being an archangel, rather than divine.

The problem is that there is NO justification for the insertion of "a" in John 1:1. Moreover, in John 20:28, the disciple Thomas said to Jesus, "My Lord and my God." If Jesus was just "a mighty one," why didn't He rebuke Thomas for calling Him "God" (theos)? So a deeper study of scripture confirms that the traditional interpretation of John 1:1 is correct - Jesus is not a God, He is God!

Click here to read the next installment in this series.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Answering the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part 6)

Most of us have had the Jehovah's Witnesses knock on our door before, and considering their relentless devotion to door-to-door evangelism, we will certainly have more encounters with them in the future. In this series of articles, my goal is to offer simple explanations and arguments regarding one of the most glaring errors of the Watchtower Society - their rejection of the deity of Christ. This article is "Part 6" in this series. If this subject interests you, I encourage you to go all the way back to the beginning, to Part 1. There are links at the end of each article that will take you to the next article in the series.

In an effort to prove that Jesus is not on par with the Father in terms of divine nature, the Jehovah's Witnesses will sometimes point to certain verses in the New Testament that seem to show Jesus as being lesser than the Father, or under the Father's authority.

For example, consider Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 11:3...
"But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God."
The JWs argue that because "the head of Christ is God," Jesus must not be divine! After all, if Jesus and the Father were equally divine, then this statement in 1 Corinthians 11:3 would be nonsensical. Obviously, God is greater than Jesus because God is a deity and Jesus is merely a created being. This is the argument made here and in many other places where Jesus is placed beneath the Father by the inspired authors of scripture.

So how do we answer this argument? It really is quite simple. In fact, if the JW turns to any verse where Jesus is placed beneath the Father, just turn them here to 1 Corinthians 11:3. The entire point can be answered here in this one verse, I believe. How so? Keep reading...

Is a woman any less human than a man?

Based on how the JWs use verses such as 1 Corinthians 11:3 to redefine the nature of Jesus, they are forced to also redefine the nature of woman. After all, a woman is beneath man in the same sense that Christ is beneath God. Just as man is the head of the woman, so also is the Father the head of Christ. Therefore, if this language demands that we strip Jesus of His divinity, then to be consistent we must also strip woman of her humanity.

So where does that leave women? What are they? Some kind of mutant? Oh, I know! Aliens! Are they on par with animals? Or maybe...if Jesus is less than the Father in that He (Jesus) is an angel, then maybe we ought to conclude that woman are angels. Hmmm. My wife might like that. Although that can't be true in light of Hebrews 2:7 because mankind is actually "a little lower than the angels."

Of course, I'm being a little absurd here. Couldn't you tell?

The fact is, in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul is not saying that women are less human than men or that Jesus is less divine than the Father. That's not the point. The apostle is addressing the issue of role distinction. Women and men are equally human, but they have different roles. Likewise, Jesus and the Father are equally divine and yet they, too, have different roles. Consider Philippians 2:5-8...
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross."
Jesus is equal to God and share's all of God's attributes (vs. 6; Heb. 1:3), and yet He embraced a role of submission to the Father, the greatest illustration of that submission being the cross!

Yes, there were many times during Jesus' life when He emphasized His subjection and obedience to the Father, where He stated that the Father was greater than Him (Jn. 14:28), etc. - but again, this point says NOTHING about His divine nature. As we learn in 1 Corinthians 11:3, there can be a hierarchy in which the various members have completely different roles, and yet they share the same nature. Case in point: men and women.

So put it to the JWs when they raise this objection. Ask them to explain what women are if they're not human. Seriously...what are they?

Click here to read the next article in this series.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Answering the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part 5)

If this topic interests you, please note that I have written four articles prior to this one in which I have addressed the Jehovah's Witnesses misconceptions of the identity of Christ. Click here to access the first article in this series.

As I have pointed out in the previous four articles, the Jehovah's Witnesses do not agree with mainstream Christianity that Jesus is a member of the so-called "Trinity" (Father-Son-Holy Spirit), that He is divine and eternal in His existence. Instead, they believe that Jesus is a created being, an archangel to be specific. In this matter, the Jehovah's Witnesses are absolutely wrong, and they are wrong NOT because their belief is different, but because it is unscriptural.

In this article, I want to focus on the issue of divine forgiveness. The Bible is clear that we as humans must forgive those who have wronged us.
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Mt. 6:14-15).
"Then Peter came to Him and said, 'Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven'" (Mt. 18:21-22).
"...bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do" (Col. 3:13).
The fact is, there will be times when you need the forgiveness of others, and there will be times when you will need to do the forgiving. We all make mistakes, offend others, are careless in our use of words, negligent in our obligations to one another, etc - and in all of this, we need to be accepting of the role of human forgiveness.

However, there is a sense in which we as humans CANNOT forgive. You see, every one of us has at some point committed sin against God (Rom. 3:23) which means that we have all severed our relationship with God and abandoned our innocence before Him. The only way to be reunited with God in fellowship is to be forgiven, and because it is God that we have wronged, it is God that must offer the forgiveness. We must seek that forgiveness from God alone and accept it on HIS terms!
"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Other verses could be cited, but the point is, only God can offer forgiveness of sins and restore us to Himself. That is a privilege held only by the deity - by God! In other words, a sinner cannot come to me and expect me to forgive his/her sins so that they can be restored to God (contrary to what the Catholics believe). No clergyman or Christian has the right to perform this divine function!

With all of this in mind, let's turn to Mark 2:4-11...
"And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, 'Sons, your sins are forgiven you.' And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 'Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?' But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, 'Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins - He said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.'"
You see, Jesus forgave this man's sins! It's not that this paralytic had offended Jesus and was seeking His forgiveness as one person might seek forgiveness from another. This man was a sinner! And Jesus forgave him. How did the scribes react? They knew what Jesus had done, and in their minds (not realizing that Jesus was the Son of God), he had committed the ultimate act of blasphemy! In other words, they reacted to Jesus the way we might react to a Catholic priest today who offers forgiveness - it disturbed them deeply because they knew that only God had that right!

If the Jehovah's Witnesses are right in saying that Jesus is just a created being and an angel, they have a problem here in Mark 2; the JWs would have to agree with the scribes and argue that Jesus committed blasphemy. Of course, they are not willing to say that, but isn't that the natural consequence of their doctrine? By rebelling against the truth of the scriptures in one area, they have backed themselves into a corner here, and now are forcing the scriptures to conflict with one another.

Or, we can accept that Jesus is indeed divine, that He DID have the authority to forgive sins.

Keep this argument in mind the next time the Witnesses come knocking.

Click here to read the next installment in this series.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Answering the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part 4)

Click here to start at the beginning of this series on the Jehovah's Witnesses. Again, this series is devoted to addressing the Jehovah's Witnesses' misconceptions concerning the identity of Christ. They view Jesus as an archangel, not as a member of the Godhead.

The Jehovah's Witnesses interpret the phrase "Son of God" (as it relates to Jesus) to mean that Jesus is merely a created being, an angel, and not a true member of the Godhead. However, much to the chagrin of the JW's, the phrase actually proves His deity.

We understand that in a sense, all of us are children/offspring of God because He made us in His own image (Acts 17:28). There is also a sense in which the expression "children of God" is limited to the saints (Rom. 8:17; 1 John 3:1). Even if we are more specific in talking about "sons" of God, the Bible uses such language in reference to angels (Job 1:6), to "peacemakers" (Mt. 5:9) and to all saints (Rom. 8:14).

However, when Jesus identified Himself as the "Son of God" and when He referred to God as His Father, it meant something different. Notice two examples where this is the case:
"But Jesus answered them, 'My Father has been working until now, and I have been working. Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God. Then Jesus answered and said to them, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner...Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live'" (John 5:17-19, 25). 
"Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered Him, saying, 'Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?' The Jews answered Him, saying, 'For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a man, make Yourself God.' Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your law, I said, you are gods? If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'" (John 10:31-36).
In both of these passages, it's clear that when Jesus identified Himself as the Son of God, it was an expression of His "divine nature," that He was "equal with God." In other words, Jesus wasn't a son/child of God in the same sense that we are children of God; He was the "Son of God" in the sense that He possessed the seed of the Father and the attributes and characteristics of the Godhead. Likewise, we all ought to strive to be one with the Father (Jn. 17:20-21), but when Jesus said, "I and My Father are one," it meant something more...something deeper. The Jews of Jesus' day understood that and thus wanted to stone Jesus for the cause of blasphemy.

Now why does the expression "Son of God" have special meaning when used in reference to Christ? Although we've already answered this in part, I'd like to give it a little more attention here. For further clarity, let's read Hebrews 1:1-3:
"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; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high."
Jesus Christ, as the SON of God possessed the brightness of God's glory and the express image of God's person. The phrase "express image" literally means "exact likeness." So according to the inspired record, Jesus is a duplicate of God, which is why Paul could correctly write that He (Jesus) possessed the "fulness of the Godhead" (Col. 2:9). I like what Adam Clark's commentary says about this phrase in Hebrews 1:3...
"The character or impression of his hypostasis or substance. It is supposed that these words expound the former; image expounding brightness, and person or substance, glory. The hypostasis of God is that which is essential to him as God; and the character or image is that by which all the likeness of the original becomes manifest, and is a perfect fac-simile of the whole. It is a metaphor taken from sealing; the die or seal leaving the full impression of its every part on the wax to which it is applied.
From these words it is evident,
1. That the apostle states Jesus Christ to be of the same essence with the Father, as the απαυγασμα, or proceeding splendor, must be the same with the αυγασμα, or inherent splendor. 
2. That Christ, though proceeding from the Father, is of the same essence; for if one αυγη, or splendor, produce another αυγη, or splendor, the produced splendor must be of the same essence with that which produces it.
3. That although Christ is thus of the same essence with the Father, yet he is a distinct person from the Father; as the splendor of the sun, though of the same essence, is distinct from the sun itself, though each is essential to the other; as the αυγασμα, or inherent splendor, cannot subsist without its απαυγασμα, or proceeding splendor, nor the proceeding splendor subsist without the inherent splendor from which it proceeds.
4. That Christ is eternal with the Father, as the proceeding splendor must necessarily be coexistent with the inherent splendor. If the one, therefore, be uncreated, the other is uncreated; if the one be eternal, the other is eternal."
In conclusion, the Jehovah's Witnesses are absolutely incorrect in using the expression "Son of God" to disprove Jesus' deity. The fact is, according to a thorough study of scripture, it actually proves Jesus' divine nature. Had Jesus NOT possessed full divinity, it would indeed have been blasphemous for Him to identify Himself as the "Son of God," and the Jews would have been right in stoning Him for it.

Click here to read the next installment in this series.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Answering the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part 3)

Click here to start at the beginning of this series on the Jehovah's Witnesses. Again, this series is devoted to addressing the Jehovah's Witnesses' misconceptions concerning the identity of Christ. They view Jesus as an archangel, not as a member of the Godhead.

In an attempt to prove that Jesus is a created being (thereby disproving His divinity), the JW's often turn to Colossians 1:15 where the inspired apostle Paul says, "He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." The argument is easy to see - Jesus was the first of God's creations, putting Him on par with angels, not God. However, with a simple consideration of context and biblical language, this argument is easily answered.

The point is this: the term "firstborn" in scripture does not necessarily mean "the first one born" (literally). Oftentimes, it simply is meant to emphasize preeminence and position. Notice how the very context of Colossians 1:15 bears this out:
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fulness should dwell" (Col. 1:15-19).
What does it mean that Jesus was the firstborn? It's not that He was the first being "born" or created by God, but that He has preeminence over ALL things. Jesus is the "beginning" of creation; the word beginning is from the Greek word arche which means, "a commencement, or (concrete) chief (in various applications of order, time, place or rank): - beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate, power, principality, principle, rule" (STRONG'S, #G746). Jesus is the "chief" in "rank," or the POWER-SOURCE and originator of all creation.

Psalm 89:27 says of Christ, "Also I will make Him My firstborn, the HIGHEST of the kings of the earth." It's not that Jesus was the first created being, but that He has preeminence. Along these same lines, in Genesis 49:3, Jacob said to Reuben, "Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of power..."

I know that some of this is confusing, and that's because we are not accustomed to this kind of language. We don't necessarily give preference to our firstborn children but try to treat them all equally. But during biblical times, especially in the Old Testament, it was customary to give the firstborn a "double portion" (Deut. 21:15-17). Just read the story of Jacob and Esau and you will see how special it was to be the firstborn son - it meant superiority, preeminence, position, etc.

This is why God said of the nation of Israel, "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord: Israel is My son, My firstborn." The nation of Israel was by no means the first nation to come into existence, and yet Israel was chosen by God and was preeminent among the nations, making it "God's firstborn." So the term doesn't need to be applied literally; it can absolutely be used to represent POSITION; this is the manner in which it is used in Colossians 1:15.

In closing, the book of Colossians proves Jesus' deity. Earlier, we read 1:19 which says that Jesus possessed all "fulness." In Colossians 2:9, this is clarified: "For in Him (Jesus) dwells ALL the fulness of the Godhead bodily." The term Godhead literally means divinity; Jesus possessed (and still possesses) every element of divinity and "godhood."

Keep these things in mind when studying with the Jehovah's Witnesses...

Click here to read the next installment in this series.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Answering the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part 2)

If you're interested in reading "Part 1" in this series, click here.

The Jehovah's Witnesses are adamant that the name "Jehovah" can only rightly be applied to the Father, for in their theology, only the Father is divine - Jesus is just an "archangel" and the Holy Spirit "the active force" of God. This is an area where you can take advantage of their ignorance of the scriptures, and a great way to get them to see (the honest ones, at least) that the Watchtower Society has a system of theology that, rather than being logical and coherent, looks more like a tangled mess.

If you're studying with a JW, kick-start the line of questioning by asking them if they believe that the title of "Jehovah" can be applied to Jesus. When they respond in the negative, ask them why. They will likely respond by telling you that Jehovah is an expression of the tetragramatton (YHWH) and that it is the personal name of God Himself...and Jesus is not divine.

This is where you might turn their attention to Isaiah 8:13-14...
"The LORD (tetragramatton, YHWH) of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem."
Here's the point: the title of Jehovah is applied to one that would be "a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense." Then turn their attention to 1 Peter 2:8 where Jesus Christ is identified as being the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. In other words, Jesus is the stone of stumbling and rock of offense...and thus the title of Jehovah, according to Isaiah, belongs to Jesus Christ as well as the Father. Jesus, then, according to their own definition and application of Jehovah, is divine.

Of course, there are many other places where this point can be made. In Isaiah 40:3, we're told: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD (tetragramatton, YHWH); make straight in the desert a highway for our God.'" Who was the one crying in the wilderness? Was it not John the Baptist, according to Matthew 3:3? Wasn't it John's mission to prepare the way for Jesus, to be that voice in the wilderness announcing the coming Savior and King? If so (and the JW will have to answer in the affirmative), the title of Jehovah is once again applied to Jesus. John the Baptist prepared the way for Jehovah, or Jesus.

Do a search of the tetragramatton in scripture and you will find many other similar cases, where it is applied in prophecy to the coming Savior, Jesus Christ. Emphasize these verses and comparisons to the JW, but don't forget to first of all hand them the shovel and let them dig their own grave, so to speak; pin them down on the concept of Jehovah and to whom it is applied. Then get into the above scriptures. If the JW is honest, they will be forced to admit, whether outwardly or inwardly, that Jesus is worthy of the personal name of God.

Click here to read the next installment in this series of articles.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Answering the Jehovah's Witnesses (Part 1)

Today, I will begin a series of short articles addressing the manner in which the Jehovah's Witnesses misconstrue the identity of Jesus Christ. For those who may not know, the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW's) do not believe that Jesus was/is divine. Instead, they view Him as an archangel. In this series of articles, I'll not only address many of their arguments, but will raise arguments of my own that you might employ in your dealings with them.

Our focus in this article will be on Revelation 19:9-10. Carefully notice this exchange which took place between an angel and the apostle John:
"Then he (the angel) said to me (John), 'Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!' And he said to me, 'These are the true sayings of God.' And I fell down at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, 'See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy"
When John bowed down to worship this mighty angel, the angel rebuked him, commanding him to direct his worship to God. Jesus Himself said to Satan in Matthew 4:10, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'" And so, we can safely conclude that the only being worthy of our worship is God, for He is divine. No angel or man or woman or child or creature is worthy of our worship and it would be wrong to offer such.

And yet, isn't it interesting that Jesus received worship on many occasions?
"And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him..." (Mt. 2:11).
"And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him..." (Mt. 8:2).
"While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him..." (Mt. 9:18).
"Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, 'Truly, You are the Son of God" (Mt. 14:33).
"And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, 'Rejoice!' So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him" (Mt. 28:9, also verse 17).
 These are only a few of the many examples we could consider. Now, here's the question: if the only being worthy of our worship is God, and yet Jesus received worship as a mere angel, wouldn't that make Him a false Christ? This is what the Jehovah's Witnesses must accept; they must contend that Jesus was WRONG in accepting all of this worship. If He was merely an angel, then He must have been a fallen angel for receiving worship that was only to be given to God!

Or...or we can accept what the scriptures teach, that Jesus was/is divine! What do you think?

Click here to read "Part 2" in this series of articles.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why Did the Savior Come to Earth? (Part 3)

Click here to read Part 1 in this series.
Click here to read Part 2 in this series.

On one hand, the scriptures teach that Jesus, the Savior, came to earth to redeem the nation of Israel, to rise up as King, and to establish a mighty kingdom that would have roots in Jerusalem but would extend to all the earth. On the other hand, we are also told that the Messiah would be rejected by the people, cursed, scourged, and crucified as the Lamb of God. Jesus Himself seemed to be confused, for He taught the concept of a kingdom that would be established in the first century while simultaneously teaching the inevitability of suffering and persecution...even foretelling His own death.

In the first article in this series, we emphasized the "on one hand" and then in the last article (Part 2), we turned our attention to the "on the other hand." I concluded the second article with the following probing question: do these two concepts contradict. They seem to, don't they? But as I pointed out then, they actually do not contradict in any way, shape or form; rather, we can easily harmonize the ideas of Jesus as King and Jesus as the Lamb of God. In this article, I'd like to explain that.

In order to achieve harmony, we have to understand something about the kingdom of the Messiah. The kingdom that was prophesied in the Old Testament, and the kingdom that Jesus said was "at hand" then in the early part of the first century, was not the kind of kingdom to which we as earthly residents are accustomed. What I mean is that it was not an earthly kingdom in the likeness of Rome or Britain with a physical throne and territorial domain that is conquered by the threat and/or use of brute force. Rather, Jesus' kingdom was spiritual in nature, with its throne, not on earth, but in heaven, and with territory that was defined, not by geographic regions, but by the souls of men and women, conquered by the "two-edged sword," the word of God and gospel of Christ! And let it be known here at the outset: this kingdom WAS established.

Again, this is the mistake that the early Jews made, and that many denominational folks make today. They assume that the kingdom of David's descendent, Jesus (the messianic kingdom) was a physical kingdom, like that of David...only greater and farther-reaching. Obviously, Jesus didn't establish this kind of kingdom, and so it is assumed that Jesus failed and therefore will have to return a second time to "get it right."

While passages like Psalm 2 and Zechariah 14 speak of a messianic kingdom, the language must be interpreted spiritually...and the reason that we are to interpret it spiritually is because a careful and thorough study of the whole Bible mandates a spiritual interpretation.

For example, in Jeremiah 22: 24, 30, notice what is written about the royal line of David:
"'As I live,' says the Lord, 'though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off'...Thus says the Lord: 'Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days; for none of his descendents shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah."
Coniah is the "Jehoiachin" of 2 Kings 24. He was the second-to-last king to rule in Jerusalem over the southern kingdom of Judah, and he was - as were ALL the kings of Judah - a descendent of the royal line of David. Coniah was taken as a prisoner to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem. The only other man to rule after Coniah was Zedekiah, and Zedekiah was Coniah's uncle, not his son. So in other words (and this is what Jeremiah is saying in Jeremiah 22), genealogically speaking, Coniah was the LAST one in the line of David that would reign physically in Jerusalem. If that's the case (and it is, obviously), Jesus, being a descendent of David, could not possibly reign as King in Jerusalem. And yet, He would become King of Israel. Notice what is said a few verses later, in Jeremiah 23:5-6:
"'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord, that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS."
 So, let's get this straight. Coniah was the last one in the davidic line that would reign as King in Jerusalem...and yet there would be another in the davidic line - Jesus- that WOULD reign as King.

Don't worry, we'll make sense of this in just a moment...

In Daniel 2, we find Daniel's interpretation of the dream of the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. The king dreamt of an image that consisted of four parts: a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and fourthly, legs of iron and clay (vs. 32-33). In the dream, a stone "cut out without hands" came and struck this image, forming a "great mountain" that "filled the earth" (vs. 35). What did all of this mean? That's what the king wanted to know, and Daniel was there to provide an answer. In short, the four different parts of the image represented four kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar (Babylon) was the head of gold (vs. 38). Daniel goes on...

"...But after you (Babylon) shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything..." (vs. 39-40).
So we find a succession of four kingdoms, the first being Babylon.

Now turn to Daniel 7, to what we call Daniel's "vision of the Ancient of Days." In the beginning of the chapter, we learn that four earthly kingdoms are symbolically represented by four different animals: a lion, a bear, a leopard, and then a "fourth beast" that was "dreadful and terrible" with "ten horns" (vs. 7). You can compare the structure of Daniel 7:1-6 to what we just read in Daniel 2. In fact, here in Daniel 7, these four beasts are plainly said to represent kings, or more specifically, kingdoms (Dan. 7:17, 23).

We've already established that the first kingdom was the Babylonian empire. According to Daniel 5:28-31, the second kingdom in this line was the Medo-Persian empire. Daniel 8:20-22 indicates that the Grecian empire is the third kingdom in this line. The fourth kingdom, although not specifically named in Daniel, was the great Roman empire. History confirms all of this, that these four kingdoms existed in this order.

In both Daniel 2 and Daniel 7, the point is made that during the existence of the FOURTH kingdom (Rome), God would set up a kingdom.
"And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth...(and then Daniel's interpretation of the stone)...And in the days of these kings (the kings of the fourth kingdom, Rome) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (Dan. 2:35, 44).
 "I watched then because of the sound of the pompous words which the horn (one of the kings of the fourth kingdom, see vs.8) was speaking; I watched till the beast was slain, and its body destroyed and given to the burning flame. And for the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. I was watching in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came TO the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. THEN to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed" (Dan. 7:11-14).
 And so both Daniel 2 and Daniel 7 present the same timelines and the same basic facts. Four kingdoms would exist: first, the Babylonian; second, the Persian; third, the Grecian; fourth, the Roman. The Roman kingdom was going to consist of a line of kings (the Caesars, obviously). But what is most significant is that during the days of the Roman kingdom, the "Son of Man" would establish an everlasting kingdom.

BUT NOTICE - and this is CRITICAL - the point at which the kingdom would be established according to divine prophecy. The plan was NOT for Jesus to come to earth and establish Himself as King in Jerusalem on earth. Again, Jeremiah has already told us that Coniah was the last davidic king to do that. Instead, Jesus' kingdom would be established specifically when He went "TO" the Father. In other words, Jesus' reign as King would begin, not when He came FROM the Father to earth, but when He left the earth and went back to the Father. His throne would be in heaven, not Jerusalem.

And so the apostle Peter was correct when he said the following to the Jews on the day of Pentecost (just ten days after Christ's ascension):
"Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sword an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on His throne...Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear" (Ac. 2:29-30, 33).
 The kingdom of Christ WAS established according to prophesy during the days of the Roman kingdom; Jesus became king, not in the physical sense, but in the spiritual sense. His kingdom was NOT like the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece or Rome - there was no earthly throne or dominion. The kingdom of Messiah, rather than begin prevented by the Messiah's crucifixion, was established spiritually BECAUSE of the crucifixion and ultimately the resurrection and ascension. This is what Jeremiah and Daniel prophesied, what Isaiah prophesied, what Peter taught, and what Jesus Himself taught...
"Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, 'Are you the King of the Jews?' Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world...'" (John 18:33, 36).
Folks, Jesus didn't come to earth to set up a physical kingdom, and then, because He was rejected, have to resort to "Plan B" (i.e. the cross). Jesus came TO be rejected, to be crucified, and to establish a SPIRITUAL kingdom that would have worldwide dominion.

And it does. The kingdom of Christ consists of all the saved of every nation who bow before the great King of kings, Jesus Christ who reigns from heaven at the right hand of the Father. So Paul was right when he told the Colossians that they had already been transferred INTO the kingdom (Col. 1:13). John was right when he identified himself and those to whom he was writing as members of the kingdom (Rev. 1:9). And Paul again was right in 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 when he wrote that Jesus was and is reigning NOW...and will reign until the end, when He returns to gather the citizens of the kingdom (on earth) that we might go to spend eternity with Him in the heavenly kingdom.

Those who argue that Jesus came to establish a physical kingdom are wrong, and those who teach a FUTURE messianic kingdom on earth are equally wrong. These verses and points leave no room for doubt.

I know that there are still some questions that you might have. If so, comment below. I look forward to the exchange. NOTE: I recently preached a sermon on Isaiah 11, a chapter that has a lot of relevance to this discussion. Click here and then scroll down until you see the sermon title; stream it from the website or download and listen at your leisure.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Why Did the Savior Come to Earth? (Part 2)

Click here to read "Part 1" of this series.

As was explained in yesterday's article, there are many religious people who contend that Jesus came to earth for the purpose of establishing a physical kingdom but failed. Rather than embrace their King, the Jews rejected Him and He was consequently crucified between two thieves. God worked it out, however, and the possibility of spiritual salvation was extended to all men, Jews and Gentiles alike, through the precious blood of the Christ. However, even though Jesus failed the first time, it is argued that He will one day return to earth to set up His "millennial kingdom," and this time, there will be no stopping Him. Again, this is what many in the denominational world believe.

This doctrine is interesting and entertaining, and like a juggernaut, when embraced, it leads to other ideas and doctrines until eventually one's entire paradigm towards the scriptures is changed. But we cannot accept a teaching on the basis that it's entertaining, nor can we adopt a position simply because it's the "official position" of the church we attend, or the way we were raised, etc. Like the noble Bereans of Acts 17:11, we need to be open-minded and honest enough to be critical of the status-quo, and to change when necessary.

The fact is, Jesus came to earth, not to set up a physical kingdom, but to be the "Lamb of God" and to die on the cross that we might be saved. In other words, the sacrifice of Christ was not "Plan B." It was THE plan from the very beginning and it was fulfilled perfectly. The evidence for what I'm saying here is overwhelming and leaves no room for doubt.

Yes, there are a number of Old Testament prophecies that foretold a King that would not only establish a kingdom (beginning in Jerusalem), but would bring about the glorification of Israel - and I'll come back and explain all this later - but the Old Testament is equally clear that Jesus would fill the role, not only of King, but of Savior. As Savior, He would suffer and die for our sins.

In Psalm 22:1, David wrote, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" Of course, Jesus repeated these very words on the cross, thereby proving that it was known that Jesus would suffer. By reading the rest of Psalm 22, this fact is confirmed. The same insulting words that were hurled at Jesus as He suffered were prophesied in verse eight. Later in the psalm, we find these words: "For dogs have surrounded Me; the congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. They divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots." These words did not have application to David in any way, at least not that I'm aware of. And so it was known ahead of time not only that the Messiah and King would die, but that He would die by means of crucifixion and that the Roman soldiers would cast lots for His clothes.

Another great example is Isaiah 53. The entire chapter relays in exact detail the purpose of Christ's coming to earth - His mission, His objective, His purpose was to suffer and die as the ultimate sin-sacrifice. Go ahead, just read the entire chapter. Jesus would be despised and rejected (vs. 3), would bear our griefs and sorrows (vs. 4), would be wounded and afflicted for our sins, not His own (vs. 5-6), would be led as "a lamb to the slaughter" (vs. 7), would die and be buried (vs. 9) - and all of this would happen in keeping with God's plan to offer His Son as the sin-sacrifice that we as the guilty ones might achieve true and complete redemption and fellowship with Him (vs. 10). The plan was not for Israel to embrace the Messiah, but for them to reject Him...and they did, according to plan. We could look at a number of other prophesies such as this, but the fact that God intended for Jesus to suffer and be rejected is irrefutable. The plan was not for Him to be embraced, to rise up as King and to restore Israel to its former glory, but to be rejected, crucified, and yet through it all to rise victorious over sin...and to enable us, through His blood, to do the same.

It's clear that this very concept carried over into the New Testament, that certain folks, including Jesus, were cognizant of these facts.

The angel told Mary that she would bring forth a Son and He would "save His people from their sins" (Mt. 1:210. Sin is a spiritual problem requiring a spiritual solution. Sin couldn't be conquered by physical warfare or the establishment of a physical kingdom; a sacrifice had to be made. John  understood this when, by inspiration, he cried out upon seeing Jesus, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). In the Hebrew vernacular, the term "lamb" had sacrificial implications. John didn't greet Jesus as the mighty King who would lead Israel to victory over Rome, but as the humble sacrifice that would Himself conquer sin.

Jesus Himself taught a gospel that included warnings of suffering and persecution. In fact, suffering and persecution would go hand-in-hand with inheriting the kingdom (Mt. 5:10-11). Some of the most powerful evidence of the thesis of this article are the numerous conversations that Jesus had with His apostles in which He plainly articulated the suffering and death that awaited Him...
"From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day" (Mt. 16:21). Ironically, just a few verses later, in the same conversation, Jesus said, "Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom" (vs. 28).
"You know that after two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified" (Mt. 26:2).
"Indeed, Elijah is coming first and restores all things. And how is it written concerning the Son of Man, that He must suffer many things and be treated with contempt" (Mk. 9:12).
"Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day" (Luke 24:46).
 From the very beginning of His ministry, Jesus knew the fate that awaited Him. He knew the prophesies,  that He would be betrayed, scourged and crucified - and He viewed these horrendous acts not as signs of failure, but as proofs of victory...victory because that's why He came. There is simply not a shred of evidence anywhere in the four gospels that Jesus had any intentions on setting up a physical kingdom on earth; it was always about Calvary. Always!

We've considered a handful of the prophesies made BEFORE the time of Christ, and we've considered a few of the things that were said DURING the time of Christ. Now, let's consider some of the things written AFTER the time of Christ.
"Him (Jesus), being delivered by the determined purpose AND FOREKNOWLEDGE of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death" (Ac. 2:23).
"For truly against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done" (Ac. 4:27-28).
"...knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you..." (1 Pet. 1:18-20).
 Can't you see that EVERYTHING in the Bible confirms that Jesus' purpose in coming to earth was NOT to set up a physical kingdom, but to die on the cross as the sacrificial lamb of God for the sins of the world. He didn't fail. He didn't fall short. He didn't have to resort to a "Plan B." God's redemptive plan was fulfilled perfectly in ALL that occurred.

Now...someone might respond to all of this by pointing out an apparent contradiction between yesterday's article and this article. On one hand, the scriptures indicate that Jesus came to establish a kingdom, that He identified Himself as King and promised to glorify Israel, that Zion would be exalted once more. And yet we've also seen that Jesus came, not to set up a physical kingdom, or to lead the Israelites to victory over Rome, but to be rejected, betrayed and crucified. Is this a contradiction?

In short, the answer is "No!" But the detailed explanation of how these two points harmonize will have to wait until tomorrow...

Click here to read Part 3 (the next installment) in this series.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Why Did the Savior Come to Earth?

I suppose it's universally accepted among those who identify themselves as Christians that Jesus Christ came to earth where He lived for over 30 years as the Son of Man and ultimately died on the cross at Calvary. But what is NOT universally agreed upon by the membership of "Christendom" is the purpose of Jesus' life on earth. Why did He come here to live among us? Sure, He preached and performed miracles and traveled all over the land of Israel inspiring some and enraging others - we can ALL agree that His life consisted of these different activities - but what was the "end game," the objective, the intended conclusion?

Many believe that Jesus came to set up a physical kingdom on earth, that the original intention of His life was to return the nation of Israel to its former glory, to reign Himself as King in Jerusalem. Of course, this is also what the Jews of Jesus' day expected from the Messiah; they anticipated a davidic King that would overthrow Roman rule and restore Israel's independence and glory. The scriptures are clear that this is what the majority of the Jews assumed...

After Jesus was born, wise men came from the east saying, "Where is He who has been born KING of the Jews?" (Mt. 2:1-2). It is interesting to note that when King Herod heard this, he was "troubled" (Mt. 2:3). Obviously, he interpreted the title of "king" (in reference to Jesus) in the physical sense; a child had been born that would one day threaten Herod's position as king. Perhaps the wise men also had this assumption.

There was an occasion during His ministry when His followers, after witnessing the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, wanted to take matters into their own hands. John 6:15 says, "Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone." These actions were not unreasonable, especially in light of the fact that the focal point of Jesus' teachings was "Repent, for the KINGDOM of heaven is at hand!"

Later, the mother of John and James came to Jesus and made the following request: "Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom" (Mt. 20:21). There is no doubt that this woman (as well as James and John) viewed Jesus' impending kingdom as a physical one.

In Matthew 21, we find the so-called "triumphal entry" of Jesus into Jerusalem. How was He received? As a King (Mt. 21:4-9)! There is no doubt that when these people hailed Jesus as King that they were anxiously awaiting the day that He would drive the Roman empire into the ground and Israel, not Rome, would be supreme once more.

And then, of course, during His trial, certain Jews "began to accuse Him, saying, 'We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King" (Lk. 23:2). Pilate responded to this charge, turning to Jesus and asking, "Are You the King of the Jews?" to which Jesus plainly replied, "It is as you say" (Lk. 23:3). Just as Herod viewed Jesus as a threat to his position, others perceived Jesus' kingdom as a threat to Rome and Caesar.

Finally, even after His death, burial and resurrection, His own disciples asked Him, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" (Acts 1:6). You'd think the disciples would have learned by this point, but apparently, they, like all the other Jews at that time, viewed the impending kingdom as a physical one, based in Jerusalem.

Many religious folks today have the same concept in mind, and again, this is not completely unreasonable. Not only did Jesus devote much of His ministry to preparing people for the "kingdom of heaven," but He accepted the title of King. Furthermore, many of the Old Testament prophecies foretold a king, a kingdom and the glorification of Israel and Zion. God promised David that His kingdom would be established forever (2 Sam. 7:16). Psalm 2, a "messianic psalm," prophesied a King, the "begotten Son of God," that would be established in Zion (Ps. 2:6-7). Then, just read Zechariah 14! "Behold, the day of the Lord is coming...And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives...and in that day it shall be that living waters flow from Jerusalem...and the Lord shall be King over all the earth" (Zech. 14:1, 4, 8-9). These are only a few of the many verses that prophesied a King that would establish Himself in Zion, would bring glory to Israel, and reign over all the earth! So again, it was not unreasonable for the Jews of Jesus' day to anticipate a physical kingdom, nor is it unreasonable today for certain folks to have this concept in mind.

Having said that, we all know that Jesus did NOT set up a physical kingdom on earth. Instead, He was betrayed by one of His own disciples, arrested, put on trial, beaten, bloodied, tortured, mocked, spat upon and executed in the most gruesome and shameful way, naked and nailed to a splintery cross on Calvary.

Here's the question...

...did Jesus fail?

Some would answer, "Yes!" They would contend that Jesus' purpose was to win over the Jews, become their King, overthrow Rome (and all other worldly kingdoms for that matter), and reign from Jerusalem. That was the plan all along. But...well, it just didn't work out. The Jews rejected their Messiah and consequently Jesus suffered a cruel death on the cross. But it's okay, they say, because God used the death of Christ to bring salvation to mankind and set up the church as an afterthought...."Plan B," if you will.

Is this true? Did Jesus fail?

While some say, "Yes," I say...and let me be clear...I say, "NO!" Jesus did not fail. He absolutely succeeded in every way. Jesus fulfilled His purpose and He became King JUST AS GOD INTENDED!

I'll explain what I mean in another article tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Click here to read "Part 2" of this series...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Misplaced Blame (Josh. 7)

Most of the time, when we turn to the early chapters of Joshua, it is the account of the famous "Battle of Jericho" in Joshua 6 that is studied. A story of equal value, I believe, is found in the next chapter: the story not only of the sin of Achan, but of Joshua's leadership in the conflict with Ai.

When Israel conquered Jericho, Joshua told them, "And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it" (Joshua 6:18). Despite the clarity of these instructions, one man, Achan, transgressed and brought a curse upon the whole camp of Israel. "But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi...took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel" (Josh. 7:1). We could stop here and talk about the dangers of disobedience, or how one sin is sufficient to incur God's wrath, but it's Joshua, not Achan, that is the focus of this article.

Beginning in Joshua 7:2, we find that immediately following their victory at Jericho, Joshua began to gather "intelligence" on Ai, the city next in line to be conquered and burned to the ground by Israel. Notice that Joshua did not consult the Lord about the plan regarding Ai, nor did he receive any commands or instructions from the Lord as he did concerning the crossing of the Jordan and the conquering of Jericho. Instead, Joshua acted presumptuously by ordering an attack on Ai. Had Joshua consulted the Lord, or had he waited for the Lord to give him instructions, he would have realized that the camp was cursed due to Achan's sin. However, he knew not of Achan's sin and presumed that the Lord would bless Israel with yet another victory.

So what happened?

"...about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water" (vs. 4-5).

This wasn't what Joshua expected! He expected an easy victory, not a shameful retreat! What on earth was God thinking...letting them lose the battle; this would lead to all sorts of problems! It would bolster the confidence of the nations of Canaan, sending the signal that Israel could be defeated, and furthermore, it would shatter the faith of the people of Israel and make it that much harder for Joshua to lead them effectively.

We learn in verses 6-9 that "Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face...and Joshua said, 'Alas, Lord god, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all - to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?" In other words, Joshua blamed God for their defeat.

But it wasn't God's fault...

It was Joshua's fault!

God was perturbed by Joshua's words and attitude. He told Joshua, "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face?" (vs. 10) and then He proceeded to inform Joshua that the camp was cursed and therefore did not have God's blessing (vs. 11-12). Only when they removed the "accursed thing" from among them would God's blessings be restored (vs. 13).

This is a perfect example of misplaced blame.

Joshua himself had issued the command to Israel, that if anyone took any of the accursed things of Jericho that the ENTIRE camp would be cursed (Josh 6:18). And following the victory at Jericho, he didn't check to make sure that the command had been obeyed. But even then, had he simply inquired of God before presumptuously attacking Ai, this "curse" would have been brought to his attention and 36 men wouldn't have died in vain.

Was it God's fault? No, it was Joshua's...or at least, he was partly to blame, as the appointed leader of Israel. So he should have blamed himself, not God!

The lesson here is a powerful one, for many people today refuse to learn from Joshua's mistake. God has given us His law, and He has carefully explained to us the blessings of obedience as well as the consequences, both temporal and eternal, of disobedience. And yet God is blamed when people face the consequences for their own disobedience.

There are those who pay no attention to the rules of "Christian living" found in God's word. Instead of heeding the advice of Proverbs, and humbly putting into practice all the rules of the New Testament (that govern relationships, finances, thoughts, morality, etc), they choose to live how THEY want to live...and then they get upset when their life falls apart. "God, why would YOU allow this to happen to me???" Instead of taking responsibility for their actions and humbly seeking God's forgiveness and salvation, they blame God.

Then there are those who ignore God's teachings regarding the church and salvation. Instead of diligently seeking authority for all that they do, they act presumptuously. They presume that denominationalism is  right, and so they participate in it by joining a denominational church. They presume that instrumental music in worship is acceptable, that churches can build fellowship halls and gymnasiums, that the collection can be taken up anytime (not just on Sundays), etc, etc, etc. Like Joshua, they fail to consult God as to whether or not these things are right; they don't turn to the Bible for authority....they just do what they want to do and assume that God will bless them. I dare say that there will be some folks on the day of Judgement that will, like Joshua, be mighty upset with God...who will blame God when they should be blaming themselves!

The lesson? Do what God says and you'll be blessed. Consult God. Don't act presumptuously.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Nearer to Salvation

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore, let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12).

Have you ever known someone that simply hated mornings? When you go in to wake them up, they pull the blankets over their head and tell you to “go away.” They’ll hit the snooze button on their alarm clock a half-dozen times before finally rolling out of bed, and even then, you better leave them alone because they are g-r-u-m-p-y, GRUMPY! There are some people that, if left alone, would sleep in till lunchtime every day.

According to Romans 13:11-12, there are people like this on a spiritual level. They may be called “Christians,” but instead of getting to work, they continue to hit the snooze button. After all, it’s nice and warm under the covers—it’s hard to get up, push through the drowsiness and commit to such a labor-intensive day.

Paul urged these slumbering saints to “awake” for “the day is at hand.” The sun was poking over the eastern horizon, and they needed to get up and get ready so that they could put in a full day’s work in the vineyard of the Lord!

But what’s the motivation for getting up and going to work, or in this case, to BATTLE? Why should we get out of bed? Why should I step out into the light when the darkness is so comfortable and the covers so warm?

Here’s the motivation: “our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.” For the worker, Mondays are hard because you’ve got the whole work-week ahead of you. Thursdays and Fridays, on the other hand, are much, much easier because it’s almost payday and the weekend is fast-approaching.

Here in 2012, we are a year closer to inheriting the salvation that God has promised to the Faithful! Our salvation is nearer, and it grows ever nearer as time passes by. So awake out of sleep and put on the armor of light. Labor in God’s vineyard with passion and diligence, knowing that payday is coming!

Are you ready?