Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral virtue, and in your moral virtue,
knowledge ;

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Matthew chapter 24 part 1

In chapter 24, of Matthew, Jesus has just finished with the scribes and the pharisees. He is leaving the temple for the last time before His crucifixion. The disciples were speaking to Him about the temple. In Matt.23:38, Jesus tells the crowd that their house will be left "desolate".

 In verse 24:1, the disciples were having trouble believing what they were hearing. They started to point out the amazing features of Herod's temple. It was such an incredible sight. It was considered the most beautiful building in the world at that time. It's beautiful, glistening white granite walls seemed to glow in the sunlight. The gold trimmed buildings sparkled in the sunlight and were like a heavenly vision in the sunset. It dwarfed every other building in Jerusalem including the royal palace.  Jesus answers them in verse 24:2 He says "truly, not one stone will be left upon another" (some of the stones were 24 feet long, no wonder they had trouble with what He was saying)
I wrote about this in Matthew chapter 22. Jerusalem was besieged by Rome in 70 A.D. The temple was burned. All of the gold melted and ran down between the stones. The Roman soldiers took the temple apart, stone by stone,  to get the gold. "Not one stone was left upon another" Luke 19:43-44, Matt. 24:22.
This gives you an idea of how big the temple was. This wall was part of it's platform.
The wailing wall in Jerusalem is the only thing left of Herod's temple. It wasn't actually part of the temple building. It was part of the west wall and the platform that the temple was built on. I say this because there are Jews that say that the wailing wall is proof that Jesus was a false prophet because it was not torn down. (Josephus says  of the temple ruins, " passers-by would not have even supposed that the place had ever been inhabited")

In verse 24:3, Jesus and the disciples, are sitting on the mount of olives. From this vantage point the temple would have risen from the city in all it's splendor.  It was definitely the focal point of the view from where they were sitting. The verse says that they came to Him privately. They asked Him when these things would take place. When will be the sign your *(according to Eerdmans, presence, or arrival as messiah, or come into your ownership of)coming be? They were still waiting for the kingdom age to come in their lifetimes and for Jesus to usher in His kingdom. They knew He was the messiah. They had been wrong all the other times when they thought that the time had come for Him to set up His kingdom. Now, He starts to speak plainly to them about the things to come.

Matt. 24:4, He says "see to it that no one misleads you".  This statement got their attention and got them ready to listen.

With verse 24:5, we jump off into the great unknown. I have been praying over this, and reading different commentators . I am sorry to say that I am no closer to explaining it than I was before I started the quest to understand it. Many of the commentators do not agree with one another. Other people have taken parts of the information in this chapter, and built whole doctrines around what they believe to be the truths held in this passage. Some of these views require that a person ignore some of the facts presented in other parts of scripture. This has caused many divisions in our faith as believers in Jesus Christ. So, I make it my goal to be very careful with this passage. I will not be giving anyone elses views on this passage in this Blog. (Please read this passage carefully yourselves).
From Matt. 24:5-13, these verses are timeless and span the length from their time to ours easily. (but remember, Jesus IS timeless, just as the heavenly Father God is timeless. They don't have the constraints of time as we do.) (2Pet. 3:8-9) 

Verse 24:5. many have claimed to be Jesus or God.

war junk
Verse 24:6 at the time in history that Jesus spoke these words, war between nations was as common as it is today.

Verse 24:7 we still have famines and earthquakes, as did they.

Verse 24:8 I have spoken to people who point out to me that because of famines and earthquakes, the Lords coming is near, right at the door. But in this verse, the Lord says that these are just the "birth pangs"

Verse 24:9  This verse actually came true for all of the apostles. John was the only one to live to old age. That was because when he was dunked in boiling oil by the order of the Roman emperor Tertullian, John didn't boil. So they sent him to the island of  Patmos where he wrote the scriptures attributed to him. Jesus said this to the apostles but we need to know that He spoke this to His followers in general. Not just His apostles. The Book of Acts contains many  accounts of  Christ's followers who were persecuted.

The persecution continues and increases in some parts of the world. 
We should expect to be persecuted. Jesus said that it would happen. In the west we are lulled into a false sense of security thinking that it could never happen to us. I believe that it can and will. We need to be prepared and prepare our children.

Verse 24:10 Where ever there are people who are being persecuted for their faith, there will be people who will save themselves by  betraying them to the persecutors. The Roman Historian Tacitus (56AD-117AD) recorded that Christians were rounded up because of informants. Then the informants were rounded up and given the same fate as the Christians. This is why I said ,we should be prepared and we should prepare our children.
Verse 24:11-12 He speaks of false prophets and the love of many growing cold. These verses are here to guard us and instruct us.  We need to know our bibles. Knowing the word of God is the only thing that will keep us as the world grows closer to destruction. If we know our bibles, we will never be fooled into thinking that Jesus has returned and is hiding in a Hindu shrine.(just for fun, google "Jesus hiding in a Hindu shrine" and see what you get.)   (Matt.24:26) . Also, if we know our bibles, we will remember that Jesus said in Matt. 22:37 "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. When Jesus speaks of love growing cold , He is speaking of the love that a person has for God. When that love grows cold, naturally the love of His people will also grow cold. We really must endure to the end. (Matt. 24:13)

This next verse, Matt. 24:14, has set many Christians to their life's work. This verse as well as Mark 16:15 and Acts 1:8, have shaped doctrine, given many missionaries their inspiration and has launched whole Church entities whose sole driving mission is evangelism. (As a side note, in the years following the death and resurrection of our Lord, the apostles and early church leaders thought that they had taken the"good news" to the ends of the earth. They had reached the whole world as they knew it.)

We move on now to  verse 24:15. In this verse Jesus speaks of the "abomination of desolation".  I have to put this next set of passages in the simplest terms possible because I have to admit, even after reading some commentaries, God's Word for the Biblically Inept-prophecy edition, and a Blog called "The Watchman", I'm still no closer to telling you what I think. I'm going to try to tell you only what I believe to be true facts.  You need to pray over these passages on your own and trust God for His leading. 
In verse 24:15 Jesus says " when you see the abomination which was spoken of through the prophet Daniel standing in the holy place" (let the reader understand). This  "let the reader understand " according to 
Eerdmans commentaries, may or may not have been actually said by Jesus. In Mark 13:14, this phrase also appears. it is Eerdman's contention that both writers would not have included it in their writings unless Jesus actually said it. What do you think? We need to look at Daniel 9 to decipher what Jesus is talking about here. It is verse  9:27 in Daniel that Jesus is talking about. This verse can be confusing because in approximately 167 B.C. Antiochus  Epiphanies committed what was considered, to many Jews, to be the fulfillment of this prophesy. He slaughtered a pig on the altar of the temple and brought his god, Zues, and stood it in the  temple to be worshiped.  Obviously, Jesus now says that this prophesy was still unfulfilled. 
There are some other important verses to read with Matt. 24:15 and Daniel 9:27, read Rev. 13:5-8 and 2Thess. 2:1-12. The only comment I will make on the subject of the anti-christ, is that  I have read and heard it said that we should be looking for the "spirit of the anti-christ" and that he might not even be a person just a spiritual transition that over takes the world. One of anti- Christian fervor, or a denial of all the things we hold sacred. I personally don't agree with this. I think that Paul's account in 2 Thess. makes it clear that he is indeed a real person. Plus, in Matt. 24:15, after referring to the abomination of desolation spoken of in Daniel, Jesus says "standing in the holy place". In Dan.  12:11 it says "and the abomination is set up". When these verses are combined with what we are told of the beast and his sidekick in Rev. 13, my conclusion is that the antichrist is a man who after defiling the altar "sets up" the image referred to in chapter 13 in the book of Revelation. In Rev. 13:14-15 we find out that the "beast" deceives the people of the earth with signs and wonders and they are convinced to make an image of him. The image or idol is then given the miraculous ability to speak and of course the idol's sole purpose is to require human kind to worship the "beast".I believe that it is this "image of the beast" this speaking idol that is the abomination that is placed in the temple. (the next verse (rev.13:16) is about the "mark" of the beast, but we won't address that)   Jesus was drawing a parallel with what the disciples knew of the abomination of desolation, which, as I said before, was what Antiochus Epiphanies had done to the altar and temple. Antiochus Epiphanies had indeed stood at the holy place and defiled the temple and set up his abomination for worship. I think that Jesus was letting them know that the prophecy spoken of in Daniel had yet to be fulfilled.  That there was  another man to come and do as A.E. had done. Let me know what you think.
On to verses 24:16-22.

In these next verses (Matt.24:16-22), we will be talking about the physical and spiritual aspects of what is written in these verses . Jesus is speaking of events that seem to follow the defiling of the temple. As you all know, there is no temple now. But there are devoted Jews who are working to assemble all of the tools needed to rebuild the temple and reinstate the sacrifices written of in the old testament. (  I say this because the temple will need to be rebuilt for all of this to take place. 
To start these verses, 24:16 is actually the same sentence as verse 15. It is a continuation of the thought that Jesus is conveying. He says "those in Judea, flee to the mountains" . If you look at this map, you will see that Judea is a region which contains Jerusalem. He is calling for the whole region to flee, not just the city. By contrast He is not calling for the whole world to flee, just Judea. I personally feel that this warning is given in direct response to what will be happening in the spiritual world at the time when these things take place. Read Rev. 12:13-17. This is a spiritual picture of what will be happening to the Jews on earth at this time. (of course I'm open to comments) . Jesus tells them in these verses, not to go back to their houses for  anything, not even a coat!! Verse 24:19 is a "woe" Of sympathy and foreboding , The Lord knows how hard it will be for pregnant women and women with nursing infants to flee for their lives with no provisions. 
I find verse 24:20 particularly interesting. He doesn't tell them to pray that these things will not occur. He tells them to pray that the weather might be warm and that the events will not take place on the Sabbath. Jesus knows that there is no turning back from these events.
We will finish Matthew 24 part 1 with these last 2 verses, Matt. 24:21- 22. To me, these two verses are pivotal verses in any Christians spiritual life. Jesus says that there will be days of great suffering that have not been seen since the beginning of the world and never will be seen again. He says, unless those days had been shortened, no flesh (or life) would have been saved, but for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short. I read one commentator who believes that 80% of all life on earth will be killed in those days of "tribulation". Jesus is truly warning us. He is informing us so that we will be ready. He wants us to be serious about knowing Him and knowing His words to us. We can be prepared for what is coming. That is why I write this blog. It is an attempt to help you know God's word and be prepared. (prepared for the future God has ordained and be ready for what ever God is calling you to, and He is calling you to something)
Here are some other scripture references about the "Great Tribulation. "   
Isaiah 13:6-13
Daniel 12:1
Zephaniah 1:14-18

I will finish here for now. I know that this doesn't answer all of your questions about the end times. I hope that you are encouraged to be ready.  Amazing things are coming!

Keep reading your bibles! Pray for remembrance!
I am praying for all of you!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Matthew chapter 23

As a preface to  Matthew chapter 23, we have to remember that Jesus never committed any sin. (2Corinth. 5:21, 1st Pet. 2:21-23)  He never lied or reacted in a way that would prompt an apology. 
I say this because this chapter of Matthew  will easily make us forget who was doing the talking in this passage. We can all relate to the feelings that would prompt us to say the things that Jesus says to the leaders of the Jewish religion on that day. But what we can't relate to is the ability to say those things that Jesus said, and remain sinless. This is one of the most incredible chapters in the bible.

It is very important that you read this chapter on your own. Pray over it and read it again. I know that the Lord has something to teach you (and me) in this chapter. 

As we start this chapter, we are actually reading a continuation from  Matthew 21 and 22. Jesus returned to the temple the morning after the triumphal entry. It is still the day after He drove the money changers from the temple. He has been confronted by the Chief Priests ( Matt.21:23), the Pharisees (Matt. 22:15) and the Saducees (Matt. 22:23). In the first verse of Matt. 23, He is still addressing the same crowd.  His time , since the entry in Jerusalem, had been taken up with personal confrontation from the groups trying to discredit Him in front of the crowd. This crowd of people had been celebrating Him as the Messiah. 

phylactery, on his head (Matt.23:5)
In Matt. 23:1, we are told that He is speaking to everyone. (  He must have had to shout). The verse says that He "spoke to the multitude" meaning, a great many people. He gets everyone's attention with verse  23:2. In verse  23:2, He tells the crowd that the Pharisees and scribes have seated themselves in the place of Moses, and for that reason ,they should do as they are instructed by them. This would have gotten everyone's attention for different reasons. The Pharisees and Scribes would have been shocked by this perceived compliment. The disciples would have been surprised to hear Him tell the people to obey the Pharisees and the Multitude would have been waiting to hear what He had to say next because His message usually was at odds with what the scribes taught. 

Now that He had everyone's attention, He could start to teach all of them.  In Matt. 23:4- 12 , He removes any reason for the people to honor their religious leaders. He discredits the titles that they loved and exposed their hypocrisy . I'm sure that the scribes and Pharisees had dreaded this moment. They had been very worried that the people would be so effected by Jesus that they would stop listening to them. Their worst fears were now coming true. In John 12, we read John's account of the Triumphal Entry.This is the same entrance to Jerusalem as in Matthew 21. Before the entry into Jerusalem , Jesus has dinner at Lazarus's house. The dinner was sometime after  Lazarus had been raised from the dead by Jesus.   In this chapter ( John 12:10),"The Chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also , as well as Jesus ( John12:11) because on account of Lazarus, many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus"
After Jesus entered Jerusalem, at the end of John 12:19 "The Pharisees therefore said to one another, "you see that you are not doing any good; look the whole world has gone after Him"

These verses in John, help us to understand what was happening in Matthew 23.  

Starting in Matt. 23:13, Jesus addresses the scribes and Pharisees directly.  He says " woe to you scribes and Pharisees , you hypocrites. Because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves and you do not allow others who are entering to go in" .  ,  It was clear that the scribes and the pharisees were not going to accept Christ and that they were working to keep any of the ordinary people  from accepting what Jesus had to say. . (This "woe", in their culture was a statement of morning and sorrow, with foreboding)
 In Matt. 23:14-16 More "woes" are pronounced with even stronger language; "you shall receive greater condemnation ", " you make him twice as much as a son of hell as your selves"
The language gets even stronger. In Matt 23:17, He starts the verse by saying they are  "fools" and "blind guides of the blind" (remember, Jesus is not name calling. He is stating facts. He has a godly purpose in all of this). He continues on to teach a valuable lesson about the things that are truly important. In Matt. 23 17-22, He completely inverts the value system that the people had been taught about the sacrifices on the altar in the temple. In Matt. 23:23, He pronounces another "woe" on the Pharisees and scribes and calls them hypocrites again . From 23:23 to the end of the chapter the language gets stronger and stronger. He goes on to call them "blind guides" "white washed tombs full of dead mans bones and all uncleanness"(this was a terrible insult to them. Read Num. 19:12-22).
He calls them serpents, and a "brood of Vipers". (Matt.23:33)
Jesus's words were chosen very carefully.  He doesn't just call them snakes. He calls them a "brood of vipers". Vipers are live birth snakes. He calls them deadly snakes in the process of reproducing live, deadly snakes.
He says "how will you escape the sentence of hell?
He tells them in Matt.23:35 that they will bear the guilt of  all of  the prophets that were slain. That they will be held accountable for all of the righteous blood shed on the earth. He pronounces judgement on their generation and goes on to mourn Jerusalem and what could have been, during His visit to earth. 
 Remember what we said earlier. Jesus wasn't name calling. He wasn't settling a score or trying to punish the Jewish leaders in anyway. 
In John 6:38 Jesus say's, "For I have come down from heaven not to do  My own will, but the will of Him who sent me.
And In John7:16 Jesus says, " My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 
In earlier studies I discussed the fact that we need to pray for an eternal perspective in all things. Isaiah 55:8-9, the Lord says; "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts". I know that I am still unable to understand this fully , but I do know that all that Jesus said and did was done with the eternal perspective of the almighty God. 
What is the will, the desire of God?  Isaiah 45:22  says,"Turn to Me, and be saved all the ends of the earth, for I am God, and there is no other."

The eternal goal of our loving Lord, the only motivation of our wonderful, almighty God,  is to see all men redeemed.  Saved from ourselves. 
I am positive that there were people from the multitude who may have been offended by some of what Jesus said. Surely the Jewish leaders were enraged. His words fanning the flames of hatred which drove them to do what they did. 
But, we have to remember that there were those who were saved that day. People forever changed, saved by the hand of God reaching down and giving them the eternal shove that they needed. Maybe, to see things from an eternal perspective. The Lord is willing to use harsh words that may offend some  in order to save many, a few or even one. His desire is to save.
 I have seen examples of this. When I went to college in So. California in the late 70's, I was a new believer and there was a man, older than my father, who used to stand with his bible open, on a busy street corner loudly proclaiming the need for salvation for all people. At the time, I thought that he was crazy. I thought that he was disgracing the name of Christ by the way he was presenting the Gospel. Sometime later, I met a man who had given his life to Christ because of a man like him. I now know that old man, that dear saint, had made himself a fool for Christ. He had burnt his life and reputation to the ground for sake of the gospel. He was being faithful to the call of Christ on his life. 
(He was NOT, cruel and offensive like the guys that go to the funerals of our service men)

The Lord will do whatever it takes to have the privilege to wipe the tears from our faces .(Isaiah 25:8) Sometimes being " pierced to the heart" is what a person needs to be saved. READ Acts.2:22-37

I like to think that Nicodemus the Pharisee  was saved that day. He had been to see Jesus  that night in John chapter 3. They talked of being born again and it was to him that Jesus himself said "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but  have eternal life". We are told later in John 7:50-52, that Nicodemus tries to get the pharisees to listen to Jesus before He was crucified.
In John 19:38-40, we learn that Nicodemus joined Joseph of Arimathea in caring for the body of Jesus once He was taken down from the cross. He brought the spices to prepare Jesus's body for burial.  The scripture says he brought about 100lbs of costly myrrh  and aloe.
Is it possible that Jesus spoke all that was in Matthew chapter 23 to save 1 person? I believe so.  Although, I truly believe that many were saved that day.

So, to remember this chapter, we will use the beginning of verse 23:23, Woe to you scribes and pharisees...I think this will help us to remember what is in this chapter.
Keep reading your bibles ladies. Our wonderful, awesome Lord, loves you so much. Pray for remembrance, and understanding of what you read. Don't let the world and it's cares rob you of your time with Him and don't give it willingly either. I am praying for all of you!