ETERNAL LIFE vs. EVERLASTING PUNISHMENT BILLIONS DON’T BELIEVE

Within our civilization this day there exist but one truth only known to those chosen and called out of this world; because if they were of this world as over seven billion others, they would be misled and deceived being words from Revelation 12:9 over two billion Christians don’t believe; did words just read seem as foolishness? Any spiritual truth unknown to natural minds cannot be taken seriously, and at 61 with over 25 years private studies, just as all, I have had plenty of deception; however, when we become as a living sacrifice, put no truth in man, and look to our Father always for direction — our mind becomes transformed to the point where we no longer take interest in worldly ways, or materialist possession being as other gods to billions. How many Christians really study to show themselves approved? How many realize the many flaws in all versions of the Bible? How about misleading translations? How many Christians actually make self sacrifice to help others in need? How many Christians think they are sheep while being goats through dead faith? How many Christians really want truth never taught in the religions of man? How many Christians are so devoted, that they will pray for direction, and then begin spending all of their spare time seeking spiritual knowledge? I only ask because that has been my only life for almost ten years — yet have not one brother, sister, or shepherd that has shown any care whatsoever for a brother in need — even though loving others through more than words has been commanded.

Our Father has mercy on only those He chooses as written in Romans 9:18

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The two possible outcomes of one’s life in the minds of most Christians are “eternal life” and “everlasting punishment.”  Most denominations teach that “eternal life” will be spent in heaven.   Conversely, most think that unbelievers will go to hell, a place of fire and brimstone where sinners, along with Satan and the fallen angels, will be punished for eternity.  Some Christians believe that sinners will be annihilated in the fires of hell, never again to exist.

These general conclusions about eternal life and everlasting punishment can be clearly seen when examining the statements of belief proclaimed by various Christian denominations:

The punishments of sin in the world to come, are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell fire forever. . . .  God does not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the covenant of works; but of his mere love and mercy delivers his elect out of it, and brings them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the covenant of grace. . . .  They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is the Savior only of his body the church. (Evangelical Presbyterian Church-Westminster Larger Catechism)

The Son of God . . . will return to judge the living and the dead, bringing his people (with glorious, resurrected bodies) into eternal life, and consigning the wicked to eternal punishment. (Orthodox Presbyterian Church-What We Believe)

The Lord Jesus Christ has commanded the preaching of the gospel to all nations.  It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the gospel of Christ. . . .  Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness.  The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment.  The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord. (The Baptist Faith and Message)

The unrighteous will be consigned to the everlasting punishment prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25-41, 46; Revelation 20;10).  The righteous, in their resurrected and glorified bodies, will receive their reward and dwell forever with the Lord (Philippians 3:20-21; II Corinthians 5:10; I Thessalonians 4:13-18). (North American Baptist Conference Statement of Beliefs)

We believe in the personal and visible return of the Lord Jesus Christ to earth and the establishment of His kingdom.  We believe in the resurrection of the body, the final judgment, the eternal felicity of the righteous, and the endless suffering of the wicked. (Baptist General Conference Affirmation of Faith)

We believe that glorious and everlasting life is assured to all who savingly believe in, and obediently follow, Jesus Christ our Lord; and that the finally impenitent shall suffer eternally in hell. (Church of the Nazarene-Articles of Faith)

We believe all men stand under the righteous judgment of Jesus Christ, both now and in the last day.   We believe in the resurrection of the dead; the righteous to life eternal and the wicked to endless condemnation. (The Confession of Faith of The Evangelical United Brethren Church)

WE BELIEVE…in The Blessed Hope – When Jesus Raptures His Church Prior to His Return to Earth (the second coming).  At this future moment in time all believers who have died will rise from their graves and will meet the Lord in the air, and Christians who are alive will be caught up with them, to be with the Lord forever.
WE BELIEVE…A Final Judgment Will Take Place for those who have rejected Christ.  They will be judged for their sin and consigned to eternal punishment in a punishing lake of fire. (Assemblies of God USA-Fundamental Truths)

We also believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust (Daniel 12:2; John 5:28, 29; Revelation 20:12, 13); and that the just shall be raised incorruptible and shall be changed and made like unto Christ’s own glorious body. (I Corinthians 15:52; Philippians 3:20, 21).  The unjust shall be resurrected also, but unto everlasting damnation and punishment. (Revelation 20:14-15). (Church of Christ Holiness U.S.A.-Statement of Beliefs)

The inheritance of believers is salvation and eternal life in Christ as children of God in communion with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Hell is the separation and alienation from God chosen by incorrigible sinners. (Statement of Beliefs of the Worldwide Church of God)

There are many other denominations, and certainly they do not all profess the same doctrines.  But this sample of beliefs clearly shows that most Christian sects have concluded that God is going to cause those who embrace Jesus and his sacrifice to live forever, but that He will eternally torture and/or destroy those who don’t have the blood of Christ to cover their sins.

The majority of believers are confident that they understand exactly what the Bible reveals regarding heaven and hell.  But is the common belief what the Scriptures truly teach about the fate of people in the afterlife?  To determine what the Bible really has to say about eternal life and everlasting punishment, we will closely examine both of these concepts in this article.  The Bible teaches something much different than what most people currently believe.

Let’s start by looking at a couple of passages found in Matthew’s Gospel:

MATTHEW 18:8 “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.  It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting [aionion] fire.  9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you.  It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell [gehennan] fire.” (NKJV)

MATTHEW 25:41 “Then he will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting [aionion] fire prepared for the devil and his angels:  42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  44 Then they also will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  46 And these will go away into everlasting [aionion] punishment, but the righteous into eternal [aionion] life.” (NKJV)

Most people picture hell as a place of torment where sinners will be tortured in “everlasting fire,” while the saints enjoy eternal bliss in heaven.  But is this really what the Bible teaches?

The KEY to comprehending the biblical truth about “eternal life” and “everlasting punishment” is a proper understanding of the words translated “everlasting” and “eternal” in the Scriptures.  In the New Testament, these words are translated from various forms of the Greek word aionios.  This adjective is derived from the Greek noun aion, which is generally translated “ever,” “forever,” “evermore,” or “eternity” in the New Testament.  However, aion is also translated “world” and “age” in several places.  To fully understand the biblical teaching on “eternal life” and “eternal punishment,” we must first comprehend what the words aionios and aion truly mean.

Dr. Marvin Vincent, a noted New Testament scholar, wrote the following regarding the words aion, aionios, and their variations:

Αιων, transliterated aeon, is a period of time of longer or shorter duration, having a beginning and an end, and complete in itself.  Aristotle (περι ουρανου, i.9, 15) says:  “The period which includes the whole time of each one’s life is called the aeon of each one.”  Hence, it often means the life of a man, as in Homer, where one’s life (αιων) is said to leave him or consume away (Il. v. 685; Od. v. 160).  It is not, however, limited to human life; it signifies any period in the course of events, as the period or age before Christ; the period of the millennium; the mythological period before the beginnings of history.  The word has not a “stationary and mechanical value” (De Quincey).  It does not mean a period of a fixed length for all cases.  There are as many aeons as entities, the respective durations of which are fixed by the normal conditions of the several entities.  There is one aeon of a human life, another of the life of a nation, another of a crow’s life, another of an oak’s life.  The length of the aeon depends on the subject to which it is attached.

It is sometimes translated world; world representing a period or a series of periods of time.  See Matt. xii.32; xiii.40, 49; L. i.70; 1 Cor. i.20; ii.6; Eph. i.21.  Similarly οι αιωνες the worlds, the universe, the aggregate of the ages or periods, and their contents which are included in the duration of the world.  1 Cor. ii.7; x.11; Heb. i.2; ix.26; xi.3.

The word always carries the notion of time, and not of eternity.  It always means a period of time.  Otherwise it would be impossible to account for the plural, or for such qualifying expressions as this age, or the age to comeIt does not mean something endless or everlasting. . . .  The adjective αιωνιος in like manner carries the idea of time.  Neither the noun nor the adjective, in themselves, carry the sense of endless or everlasting. (pp. 58-59, vol. IV, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament)

As Dr. Vincent explains, these words do not convey the concept of “eternity” or “endlessness” as we understand it.  He is not the only one to hold this position; several other Greek scholars and writers have overcome theological tradition and recognized this also.  The following information on the use, meaning, and origin of the word aionios comes from Greek language experts James H. Milligan and George Moulton:

Without pronouncing any opinion on the special meaning which theologians have found for this word, we must note that outside the NT, in the vernacular as in the classical Greek . . . it never loses the sense of perpetuus . . .

In the Sanskrit ayu and its Zend equivalent the idea of life, and especially long life, predominates.  So with the Germanic cognates (Gothic aiws).  The word . . . is a primitive inheritance from Indo-Germanic days, when it may have meant “long life” or “old age” . . .  In general, the word depicts that of which the horizon is not in view . . . (p. 16, Vocabulary of the Greek Testament)

Milligan and Moulton clearly state that, in contradiction to the “special meaning” which theologians seem to have found for aionios in the New Testament, in both common and classical Greek this word simply refers to an unspecified, but finite, period of time.

The classical Greek writings confirm the historical meaning of aion, as an 1875 study by John Wesley Hanson conclusively demonstrates:

. . . Ezra S. Goodwin patiently and candidly traced this word through the Classics, finding the noun frequently in nearly all the writers, but not meeting the adjective until Plato, its inventor, used it.  He states, as the result of his protracted and exhaustive examination from the beginning down to Plato, “We have the whole evidence of seven Greek writers, extending through about six centuries, down to the age of Plato, who make use of Aion, in common with other words; and no one of them EVER employs it in the sense of eternity.”

When the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek by the Seventy [Jewish translators of the Septuagint], the word aion had been in common use for many centuries.  It is preposterous to say that the Seventy would render the Hebrew olam by the Greek aion and give to the latter (1) a different meaning from that of the former, or (2) a different meaning from aion in the current Greek literature.  It is self-evident, then, that Aion in the Old Testament means exactly what Olam means, and also what Aion means in the Greek classics.  Indefinite duration is the sense of olam, and it is equally clear that aion has a similar signification. . . .

Aionios is found in none of the ancient classics . . .  Finding it in Plato, Mr. Goodwin thinks that Plato coined it, and it had not come into general use, for even Socrates, the teacher of Plato, does not use it.  Aidios is the classic word for endless duration.

. . . To say that Plato, the inventor of the word, has used the adjective to mean eternal, when neither he nor any of his predecessors ever used the noun to denote eternity, would be to charge one of the wisest of men with etymological stupidity. (ch. III, The Greek Word Aion–Aionios, Translated Everlasting–Eternal in the Holy Bible)

As the quotations above show, the idea of “eternity” or “endlessness” was not conveyed by these related Greek words until theologians assigned such meanings to them many centuries after the New Testament was written.  Once we understand that aion denotes an indefinite “age” or “ages,” and that aionios means “age-lasting,” we can begin to see how the doctrine of “everlasting” punishment has been misunderstood.

As mentioned by Hanson, the Greek word aion is the equivalent of the Hebrew word ‘olam.  This word, or a variation of it, appears 439 times in the Hebrew Scriptures.  ‘Olam is a form of the root word ‘alam, which literally means “to hide.”  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says this about ‘olam:

Probably derived from ‘alam I, “to hide,” thus pointing to what is hidden in the distant future or the distant past. . . .  The LXX generally translates ‘olam by aion which has essentially the same range of meaning.  That neither the Hebrew nor the Greek word in itself contains the idea of endlessness is shown both by the fact that they sometimes refer to events or conditions that occurred at a definite point in the past, and also by the fact that sometimes it is thought desirable to repeat the word, not merely saying “forever,” but “forever and ever.”  Both words came to be used to refer to a long age or period . . . (pp. 672, 673, vol. II)

A good example of determining the meaning of ‘olam by context is found in Jonah 2:6.  This Scripture shows that ‘olam sometimes indicates a period of time with both a known beginning and an end:

JONAH 2:6 I went down to the moorings of the mountains; the earth with its bars closed behind me forever [le’olam]; yet You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD, my God. (NKJV)

Jonah, speaking of his time in the belly of the great fish, states that it lasted “forever” (Heb. le’olam).  However, we know from the Scriptures that his ordeal actually lasted for only three days and three nights (Jon. 1:17; Matt. 12:40).  Jonah’s case is important in understanding the true meaning of ‘olam.  Shut away in complete darkness inside the great fish, Jonah would have had no means of judging the passing of time.

As mentioned earlier, the Hebrew noun ‘olam is derived from the verb ‘alam, which means “to hide,” “keep secret,” or “obscure.”  Included in each occurrence of the verb is the idea of hiddenness, of inability or unwillingness to perceive or disclose something.  This underlying idea is probably best expressed in English by the term ‘obscurity’.  In Jonah’s case, ‘olam was a definite period of time lasting for only three days and three nights, but the idea of obscurity is obvious in the context.

Let’s look at a couple of other instances of ‘olam from the Torah:

EXODUS 29:9 “And you shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and put the hats on them. The priesthood shall be theirs for a perpetual [‘olam] statute.  So you shall consecrate Aaron and his sons. (NKJV)

According to the New Testament, Yeshua has replaced Aaron and his sons as our High Priest (Heb. 4:14; 6:20; 8:1).  Therefore, this statute was not “perpetual” as we understand the word in English, but rather it lasted for a long, indefinite time (from the time of Moses until the ascension of Yeshua after his resurrection).

DEUTERONOMY 23:3 “An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter the assembly of the LORD; even to the tenth generation none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the LORD forever [‘olam], (NKJV)

Ammonites and Moabites were not allowed to enter the assembly of the LORD “forever,” an ambiguous period of time which is here defined as “ten generations.”  Clearly the Scriptures demonstrate that ‘olam does not mean the same as the English words “eternal” or “forever.”

Bearing this in mind, we may readily anticipate that when ‘olam is applied to time, some element of concealment, obscurity, or indefiniteness will be present.  One need read only a few of the more than four hundred occurrences to realize that this is so.

Though we could spend significant time looking at more of those verses, let’s proceed instead to the New Testament and examine the Greek equivalent aion and its variations.  The Scriptures we will review below plainly show the true meaning of this word:

MATTHEW 13:37 He answered and said to them:  “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one.  39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age [aionos], and the reapers are the angels.  40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age [aionos]. (NKJV)

MATTHEW 13:49 “So it will be at the end of the age [aionos].  The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, (NKJV)

MATTHEW 24:3 Now as he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be?  And what will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age [aionos]?” (NKJV)

LUKE 20:34 And Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age [aionos] marry and are given in marriage.  35 But those who are counted worthy to attain that age [aionos], and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.” (NKJV)

I CORINTHIANS 2:6 However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age [aionos], nor of the rulers of this age [aionos], who are coming to nothing.  7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages [aionon] for our glory, 8 which none of the rulers of this age [aionos] knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (NKJV)

II CORINTHIANS 4:4 Whose minds the god of this age [aionos] has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. (NKJV)

GALATIANS 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil age [aionos], according to the will of our God and Father, (NKJV)

EPHESIANS 1:20 Which He worked in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age [aioni] but also in that which is to come. (NKJV)

EPHESIANS 2:1 You were dead in your transgressions and sins 2 in which you once lived following the age [aiona] of this world [kosmou], following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient. (NAB)

EPHESIANS 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age [aionos], against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (NKJV)

I TIMOTHY 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present age [aioni] not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. (NKJV)

TITUS 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age [aioni], (NKJV)

HEBREWS 9:26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages [aionon], he has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (NKJV)

The Scriptures we have just reviewed conclusively prove that the Greek word aion and all its variations mean an “age” or “ages.”  Although an “age” can deviate in length, it is a finite period of time.  It does NOT mean “endlessness.”

Now let’s look at some Scriptures that have not been accurately understood because of a mistranslation of these related Greek words:

JOHN 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself.”  33 This he said, signifying by what death he would die.  34 The people answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever [eis ton aiona]; and how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’?  Who is this Son of Man?” (NKJV)

Yeshua was speaking here to Jews who had just heard a voice from God responding to him (John 12:28). Because of his resurrection of Lazarus and his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the donkey colt (Matt. 21:1-10; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-38), many of these people truly believed that Yeshua was the prophesied Messiah.  Yet when he referenced his being “lifted up,” the Jews understood that Yeshua was speaking of his impending death on the cross.  They replied to his statement by asking a question:  How could the Messiah die before fully accomplishing his mission?

This leads us to a very important question:  What was the 1st-century Jewish expectation of the Messiah and his kingdom?  The answer to this question is vital to understanding the biblical concepts of “eternal life” and “everlasting punishment.”

The millennial prophecy of Isaiah clearly shows the conditions these Jews expected to have when Messiah came:

ISAIAH 2:1 The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.  2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.  3 Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.”  For out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.  4 He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.  5 O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the LORD. (NKJV)

There were several 1st-century Jewish theories about the nature and activities of the Messiah.  The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) states:

The whole Jewish literature agrees on only one feature of the Messiah:  he will be a political ruler and national hero.  His saving power requires that he deliver Israel from its oppressors and restore the authority of the law. (p. 333, vol. 3, “Messiah”)

The Messiah was expected to be the king sent by God to restore the national fortunes of Israel.   In the 1st century, it was believed that he would throw off the shackles of Roman rule and make Israel the foremost nation in the world once again.  He would rule over the entire earth from Jerusalem for the period of the golden age we now call “the Millennium,” with the Mosaic Law serving as the basis for his government.

Because of the 70 weeks prophecy of Daniel, many religious Jews at the time of Yeshua were expecting the appearance of the Messiah (the “Anointed” one).  In his writings, Josephus gives historical details about self-proclaimed and popularly-embraced “messiahs” who arose during the 1st century.  These included:  [1] Judas of Sepphoris, son of Hezekiah the “brigand chief”; [2] Simon of Perea, a former royal servant; [3] Athronges the shepherd of Judea; [4] Judas the Galilean (mentioned in Acts 5.37); [5] Menahem, (grand)son of Judas the Galilean; [6] John of Gischala, son of Levi; and [7] Simon bar Giora of Gerasa.  The fact that so many “messiahs” arose during this era substantiates the theory that many 1st-century Jews were expecting the prophesied Messiah during this period of time.

This eagerly anticipated Messianic age was foremost on the minds of the Jews Yeshua spoke to in Jerusalem just before that pivotal Passover in 30 CE.  With this view in mind, let’s now go back to John 12:34 and look more closely at the Greek phrase eis ton aiona, rendered as the one English word “forever.”  Properly, this phrase should be translated “into the age.”  Let’s substitute the literal translation and see if the meaning of the passage is changed:

JOHN 12:32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to myself.”  33 This he said, signifying by what death he would die.  34 The people answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah remains into the age [eis ton aiona]; and how can you say, ‘The Son of Man must be lifted up’?  Who is this Son of Man?” (literal)

The Jews’ question “who is this Son of Man” was based on their understanding of the Messianic “Son of Man” spoken of by Daniel (Dan. 7:13) in “the Law” (here used to denote the entire Tanakh):

DANIEL 7:13 “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.  14 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.” (NKJV)

The Jews’ question to Yeshua wasn’t “who is THE Son of Man?” but rather “who is THIS Son of Man” you are portraying?  They couldn’t picture their expected Messiah in the context Yeshua was presenting.  In their view of the Scriptures, the Jews thought that the Messiah would establish God’s kingdom soon after his appearance.  Then he would usher in the Messianic age spoken of in numerous Old Testament prophecies and remain as king over Israel throughout this age.  Because of their understanding of who the Messiah was and what he would do, they couldn’t conceive of the Messiah dying before the Messianic age was completed.  They believed that when the Messiah came, he would remain “into the age.”

We can clearly see from the Gospels that there was a Messianic expectation at the time of Yeshua (cf. Matt. 2:4; 26:63; Mark 14:61; Luke 3:15; Luke 22:67; John 1:19-20, 41; 4:29, 42; 6:69; 7:26-31, 40-42; 10:24; 11:27).  The Jews were anxiously waiting for the Messiah and the golden age (aion) that he was to bring.

Now we need to examine the concept of “eternal life” as it is used in the New Testament, because it is intricately tied to the Jewish concept of the Messianic age (and also the concept of “hell”).

Does eternal life really mean what we’ve been taught all our lives?  Were Jews in the 1st century waiting for the Messiah to come so they could live forever?  Or were they instead waiting for King Messiah to come so that they could live in the Messianic age, when Israel would be free and Jerusalem would be the capital of the world?

Unlike most Christians, Jews did NOT expect being in the kingdom of God to mean that they would be whisked away to heaven.  They understood the prophets to teach that this divine kingdom would be here on earth, and their desire was to live in this kingdom under the Messianic king God would raise up.

A Pharisee Yeshua was dining with one Sabbath made a statement that shows the mindset and expectation of many religious Jews in the 1st century:

LUKE 14:12 Then he also said to him who invited him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid.  13 But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind.  14 And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”  15 Now when one of those who sat at the table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” (NKJV)

As this passage shows, the Pharisee expected his existence in the “kingdom of God” (a title understood to refer to the coming Messianic kingdom) to be physical.  Spirit beings in heaven do not need to “eat bread,” but human beings on earth certainly do.  The Pharisee’s expectation of “eternal life” was that he would live until the prophesied Messianic kingdom arrived or that he would be resurrected (with all the “just”) to physically live in that kingdom.

Dr. Vincent says this about “eternal life” as it is spoken of in the New Testament:

Ζωη αιωνιος eternal life, which occurs 42 times in the N.T., but not in LXX, is not endless life, but life pertaining to a certain age or aeon, or continuing during that aeon.  I repeat, life may be endless.  The life in union with Christ is endless, but the fact is not expressed by αιωνιος . . . (p. 60, vol. IV, Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament)

Eternal life, as understood by devout Jews in the 1st century who were awaiting the Messiah, was simply life during the age that the Messianic king would rule.  With this understanding, let’s look at some of the Scriptural mentions of “eternal life” to see what was really being spoken of:

MATTHEW 19:16 Now behold, one came and said to him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life [zoen aionion]?”  17 So he said to him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but One, that is, God.  But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  18 He said to him, “Which ones?”  Jesus said, ” ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”  20 The young man said to him, “All these things I have kept from my youth.  What do I still lack?”  21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect [teleios], go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”  22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (NKJV)

Because of tradition, most Christians believe that this Jewish ruler came to Yeshua desiring to know how to live “forever.”  But would that hope or concept have been something that a 1st-century Jew would have held?  For clarification, let’s look at a literal translation of verse 16:

MATTHEW 19:16 Now behold, one came and said to him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have age-lasting life [zoen aionion]?” (literal)

Rendered literally, we see that the man was inquiring about what he had to do to live during the age of King Messiah’s rule over Israel and the world.  He was not asking how he might live for all eternity.

Yeshua’s response clearly delineates the requirements for entrance into the “kingdom of heaven” (also called the “kingdom of God”-v. 24).  Notice that his first reply was that the man should keep God’s commandments.  When the ruler asked which commandments Yeshua was referring to, he left no doubt by listing five of the ten commandments given to the Israelites at Mount Sinai.  As Yeshua himself noted (Matt. 19:19), these commandments can be summed up as the second great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14; Jam. 2:8).

The ruler replied that he had kept the Law since he was a child, and wanted to know if he still lacked anything.  In Mark’s parallel account, we are told that after this question Yeshua looked at him and “loved him” (Mark 10:21).  He went on to state that the man still lacked one thing which would make him “perfect.”  The Greek word teleios is better translated “complete” or “mature.”  The thing that would have completed the ruler and made him worthy to live in the kingdom of God would have been for him to forsake his riches and follow Yeshua.  Unfortunately, he was unable to do that because he placed more value on his wealth in the present age than he did on his status in the coming Messianic age.

By his statement in verse 23, we see that Yeshua equates “eternal life” with entering the coming the kingdom of God.  This kingdom is also called the “kingdom of heaven” because it will be sanctioned by God who dwells in heaven.  But it will be an earthly kingdom, as the prophecy cited earlier from Isaiah plainly shows (Isa. 2:1-4; cf. Mic. 4:1-3).  The book of Revelation tells us that this kingdom will last for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:4).

It is interesting and enlightening to see the reaction of Yeshua’s disciples to his statements about a rich man’s chances of getting into the kingdom of God:

MATTHEW 19:25 When his disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved [sothenai]?”  26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  27 Then Peter answered and said to him, “See, we have left all and followed you.  Therefore what shall we have?”  28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (NKJV)

Yeshua’s disciples were astounded by his pronouncement and reacted by questioning who could possibly be “saved” given such stringent requirements.  In verse 25, “saved” is a translation of the Greek word sothenai (a form of the root verb sozo).  Regarding the physical sense of this word, Friberg’s Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (ALGNT) states that it means:

Save, preserve from harm, rescue; (1) of natural dangers and afflictions; (a) in relation to acute physical danger deliver, save, rescue (AC 27.20); (b) in relation to a stressful and threatening situation save, bring out safely (JN 12.27); (c) in relation to sickness and disease heal, cure, restore to health (MT 9.21).

Staying in context, the disciples’ question obviously referenced PHYSICAL salvation resulting in rescue from Roman subjugation and life during the Messianic age.  Essentially, they questioned how anyone could do the things necessary to deserve to live in the coming kingdom of heaven.

Yeshua replied that it is impossible to do these things without help from God.  But he then went on to outline the position of these disciples in the “regeneration” or “restoration” of Israel.  Yeshua stated that the disciples would be ruling under him as judges over the twelve tribes of Israel.  The term “judging” here is used in the sense that it had in the Old Testament, when judges ruled over Israel (Jdg. 2:16-19).

A review of some other verses where zoen aionion (“eternal life”) is mentioned in the New Testament will help to see what the common Jewish expectation of this “life” was:

LUKE 18:28 Then Peter said, “See, we have left all and followed you.”  29 So he said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who shall not receive many times more in this present time, and in the age [aioni] to come age-lasting life [zoen aionion].” (literal)

Yeshua’s promise to Peter and the other disciples was that they would be blessed with numerous spiritual family members in the present age to replace parents, siblings, wives, or children they had left behind.  Additionally, he stated that they would live in the Messianic age to come, which is synonymous with the “kingdom of God.”

JOHN 5:39 “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have age-lasting life [zoen aionion]; and these are they which testify of me.” (literal)

Here Yeshua was speaking to the Jewish Pharisees, who were renowned for their study of Scripture.  He was pointing out the irony of them rejecting him, when it was the very same Scriptures they studied that spoke of his coming.  The expectation of these Pharisees was that they would be found worthy to live in the age of the Messiah’s rule because of their diligence in the Scriptures.

Those pious Jews who died before the Messiah’s 1,000-year reign expected to be resurrected to live in his kingdom, as Martha’s conversation with Yeshua about her brother Lazarus plainly shows:

JOHN 11:23 Yeshua said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”  25 Yeshua said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live.  26 And whoever lives and believes in me shall not die, into the age [eis ton aiona].  Do you believe this?”  27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (literal)

Yeshua spoke about being resurrected to “age-lasting life” in his discourse about being the “bread from heaven”:

JOHN 6:47 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in me now has age-lasting life [zoen aionion].  48 I am the bread of life.  49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead.  50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die.  51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live into the age [eis ton aiona]; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”  52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  53 Then Yeshua said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood now has age-lasting life [zoen aionion], and I will raise him up at the last day. . . .  58 This is the bread which came down from heaven — not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead.  He who eats this bread will live into the age [eis ton aiona].” (literal)

This passage is generally misunderstood because of poor translation.  Here Yeshua compares the manna eaten by the Israelites as they wandered in the desert to himself, the true bread from heaven.  The forefathers of the Jews Yeshua was addressing had perished in the wilderness because of disbelief and disobedience; they never made it into the Promised Land.  However, Yeshua states that if they ate (figuratively) of him, they would not suffer a similar fate, but instead would live “into the age” of the Messiah’s reign.  They would enter that future “Promised Land” and not suffer the same fate as their ancestors.  Even physical death would not bar their entry into the Messianic kingdom, because Yeshua vowed that he would raise them up from the dead “at the last day.”

JOHN 12:25 “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for age-lasting life [zoen aionion]. (literal)

Here we see another example of the true meaning of zoen aionion.  Yeshua contrasts the present world system with that which will exist during the Messianic age.  His implication is that the one who values those things associated with his coming kingdom above the things of the present world will be blessed to live in the kingdom of God.

In his final prayer to the Father before his trial and crucifixion, Yeshua actually specified what “eternal life” would mean:

JOHN 17:1 Yeshua spoke these words, lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said:  “Father, the hour has come.  Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given him authority over all flesh, that he should give age-lasting life [zoen aionion] to as many as You have given him.  3 And this is age-lasting life [zoen aionion], that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua the Messiah whom You have sent. (literal)

Yeshua stated clearly here that zoen aionion (“eternal life”) was knowing him and the only true God, the Father.  His definition in John 17:3 fits perfectly with the prophet Jeremiah’s description of those who will live during the Messianic age:

JEREMIAH 31:34 “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD.  For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” (NKJV)

Yeshua stated that knowing him and the Father was “eternal life.”  Jeremiah was told that all who lived in the Messianic kingdom would know God, from the least to the greatest.  It will be a time when the knowledge of God will fill the earth, just as the waters cover the seas (Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14).  Clearly, zoen aionion (“eternal life”) in the New Testament, when understood properly, refers to life during the Millennial rule of the Messiah on the earth.

As Dr. Vincent stated in the quote above, this does NOT preclude some who are raised to live in that kingdom from having “everlasting life” as we commonly understand it.  The apostle Paul plainly speaks of mortal believers putting on a spiritual body which will never again be subject to decay or death:

I CORINTHIANS 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.  51 Behold, I tell you a mystery:  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written:  “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (NKJV)

Those changed to spirit at the coming of Messiah will inherit the kingdom of God (v. 50) along with Yeshua (Rom. 8:17).  However, there will be many more Israelites resurrected to physical life who will simply inhabit the kingdom of God.  Those resurrected to mortality once again are spoken of in the “valley of dry bones” prophecy given to Ezekiel:

EZEKIEL 37:1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and He led me out in the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the center of the plain, which was now filled with bones.  2 He made me walk among them in every direction so that I saw how many they were on the surface of the plain.  How dry they were!  3 He asked me:  Son of man, can these bones come to life?  “Lord GOD,” I answered, “You alone know that.”  4 Then He said to me:  Prophesy over these bones, and say to them:  Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!  5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones:  See!  I will bring spirit into you, that you may come to life.  6 I will put sinews upon you, make flesh grow over you, cover you with skin, and put spirit in you so that you may come to life and know that I am the LORD.  7 I prophesied as I had been told, and even as I was prophesying I heard a noise; it was a rattling as the bones came together, bone joining bone.  8 I saw the sinews and the flesh come upon them, and the skin cover them, but there was no spirit in them.  9 Then He said to me:  Prophesy to the spirit, prophesy, son of man, and say to the spirit:  Thus says the Lord GOD:  From the four winds come, O spirit, and breathe into these slain that they may come to life.  10 I prophesied as He told me, and the spirit came into them; they came alive and stood upright, a vast army.  11 Then He said to me: Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.  They have been saying, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is lost, and we are cut off.”  12 Therefore, prophesy and say to them:  Thus says the Lord GOD: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel.  13 Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people!  14 I will put My Spirit in you that you may live, and I will settle you upon your land; thus you shall know that I am the LORD.  I have promised, and I will do it, says the LORD. (NAB)

This prophecy shows that myriads of long-dead Israelites will be resurrected to PHYSICAL life at the time of Yeshua’s return.  This is the resurrection of the just and the unjust spoken of in both the Old Testament (Dan. 12:2) and the New Testament (Acts 24:15):

DANIEL 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life [lechayey ‘olam], some to shame and everlasting contempt [ledire’on ‘olam]. (NKJV)

ACTS 24:14 [Paul said] “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.  15 I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust.” (NKJV)

Both the spiritual and physical inhabitants of Jerusalem during the Messianic age are shown in a prophecy from Isaiah:

ISAIAH 30:18 Therefore the LORD will wait, that He may be gracious to you; and therefore He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you.  For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him.  19 For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; you shall weep no more.  He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it, He will answer you.  20 And though the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers will not be moved into a corner anymore, but your eyes shall see your teachers.  21 Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the Way, walk in it,” whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left. (NKJV)

In this prophecy of the Millennial kingdom of God, we see that those who are raised as immortal spirit beings will teach the Law to those who are still mortal.  Even before these mortal Israelites can get off track, they will be corrected and instructed in “the Way” (cf. Acts 9:2; 18:25-26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22) of “truth” (II Pet. 2:2) and “righteousness” (II Pet. 2:21).

As shown above, a proper understanding of the Greek noun aion and the related adjective aionios is one of the most important keys to grasping God’s plan as revealed in the Bible.  The expectation of 1st-century Jews waiting for the appearance of the Messiah wasn’t what we today understand as “everlasting life.”  Instead, these believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob hoped to attain “age-lasting life.”  They wanted to live during the glorious time period of the Messiah’s rule prophesied in the Old Testament.  They wanted to be subjects of the kingdom of God and live to see Israel once again become the preeminent power in the world, just as it had been during the days of King David and King Solomon.

Now that we’ve properly identified the 1st-century Jewish expectation of “eternal life,” let’s turn our focus to “eternal punishment.”  How would Jews in the 1st century have understood the concept of “hell”?

There are three Greek root words in the New Testament that are translated “hell” in the Authorized Version (KJV).  These are geenna (appears 12 times), hades (appears 11 times), and tartaroo (appears once, in II Pet. 2:4).  Unfortunately, this has led to considerable confusion on the topic.  Let’s review the biblical usage of each word in an attempt to determine what the Bible really says about “hell.”

Most modern English translations simply transliterate hades (which literally means “unseen place”) instead of translating it “hell.”  The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology says this about the origin of Hades:

hades occurs in Homer (in the form of Aides) as the proper name of the god of the underworld (Il., 15, 188), while in the rest of Gk. literature it stands for the underworld as the abode of the dead who lead a shadowy existence in it (cf. Hesiod, Theog. 455; Homer, Od. 4, 834).  After Homer it can mean the grave, death.  Only gradually did the Gks. also attach to the concept the ideas of → reward and → punishment. . . .

In the LXX hades occurs more than 100 times, in the majority of instances to translate Heb. she’ol, the underworld which receives all the dead.  It is a land of darkness, in which God is not remembered . . .

. . . In the NT there is no description of ideas about the beyond . . .  There is no doctrine of the beyond or any geography of the beyond.  This is in sharp contrast to certain Rab. Jewish and also Christian writings down to Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Perhaps, however, it was the very silence of the NT about the details of the beyond and of the temporary state which excited the curiosity of the pseudo-pious and led to dissatisfaction with placing one’s hope in Christ alone.  The idea that the statements of scripture have to be enlarged upon by human imagination indicates a lack of faith.  A contributory factor here is the substitution of the Gk. doctrine of the immortality of the soul in place of the NT doctrine of the resurrection of the dead (1 Cor. 15).  This comes about in unreflective Christianity which fails to ask whether the belief is grounded in the NT or in pagan Gk. thought. (pp. 206, 208, vol. 2, “Hell”)

“Hades” in the New Testament most frequently simply refers to the grave (Matt. 11:23; 16:18; Luke 10:15; Acts 2:27, 31; I Cor. 15:55; Rev. 1:18).  At times, it is used as a personification for the grave (Rev. 6:8; 20:13-14).  Once, it is used in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man (Luke 16:23).  Regarding this occurrence of Hades, ISBE states:

The parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31) should not be used as a definitive statement about the afterlife, since parables were told to illustrate a point, not to give a systematic account of any doctrine.  Thus Jesus intended not to describe Hades, but to warn his listeners about their hardheartedness. . . . (p. 592, vol. 2, “Hades”)

Next, let’s look in II Peter 2:4 at the only occurrence of a variation of the Greek verb tartaroo:

II PETER 2:4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell [tartarosas] and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; (NKJV)

Here, Peter references a Greek myth about the fate of the Titans, a family of giant gods descended from Uranus (heaven) and Gaea (earth).  The most famous of the Titans was Cronus, who led the Titans in their war against Zeus and the Olympian gods.  After being defeated by Zeus, the Titans were imprisoned in a section of the underworld called Tartarus, which was said to be located below Hades.

The apostle Peter uses tartarosas, a verbal form of the proper noun Tartarus, to explain the fate of some of the fallen angels.  He states that for their sins, these angels had been tartarosas, which ALGNT says literally means to “hurl into Tartarus.”  Tartarus is also known in the Bible as “the Abyss” (cf. Luke 8:31; Rev. 9:1, 2, 11; 11:7; 17:8; 20:1, 3).  This is the place where some of the fallen angels are kept chained in darkness, awaiting “the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).  The Bible strongly implies that only fallen angels and demons are currently restrained there.

Lastly, let’s examine geenna, the Greek word most commonly translated as “hell” in English.  Geenna is often associated with “fire” when it is used (Matt. 5:22; 18:9; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Jam. 3:6).

The derivation of geenna is extremely important to understanding its meaning.  Geenna is a transliteration of the Hebrew גי הנם (gey-“valley” and Hinnom-“lamentation”).  Gehenna (the Latin form of the name) refers to an actual place: the Valley of Hinnom (Jos. 15:8; 18:16; Neh. 11:30), also called the Valley of the Son of Hinnom (Jos. 15:8; 18:16; II Kings 23:10; II Chr. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31-32; 19:2, 6; 32:35).

This valley, which lies to the south of Jerusalem, had a sordid reputation.  It eventually became the Israelite place of worship for Molech (Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; I Kings 11:7; II Kings 23:10; Jer. 32:35), an Ammonite god.  A central focus of Molech worship was human sacrifice; specifically, the offering of children in fire.  This place was also known as “Tophet” (II Kings 23:10; Isa. 30:33; Jer. 7:31-32; 19:6, 11-14).  TWOT has this to say about Tophet:

The name “Tophet” referred to a place in the Valley of the Son(s) of Hinnom (2 Kings 23:10; Jer 7:31ff; Jer 19:6) where children were burned to death as an offering to pagan deities.  More specifically, it was a “high place” (Jer 7:32), an open-air shrine, located most probably at a point outside the southern end of Jerusalem where the Hinnom Valley meets the Kidron Valley in the vicinity of Akeldama, the “Field of Blood” (Acts 1:19). . . .  Jeremiah’s reference to the “valley of the dead bodies and the ashes” (Jer 31:40) perhaps relates to the horrible practice of child sacrifice at Tophet. . . .  The place itself was probably a deep, wide pit containing a bonfire of blazing wood (Isa 30:33) into which the hapless children were thrown.  From the abbreviated name “Valley of Hinnom” (see especially Josh 15:8; Josh 18:16), Hebrew ge-hinnom, so infamous that it could also be called simply “the Valley” (Jer 2:23), came Gehenna, Greek geenna . . .

Child sacrifice among the ancient Israelites, though presumably infrequent, was nevertheless common enough to warrant its absolute prohibition in the Mosaic laws (Lev 18:21; Deut 18:10).  In spite of the Lord’s stern warnings, both Ahaz (2 Chr 28:3) and Manasseh (2 Kings 21:6) burned their sons as offerings. . . .

Understandably, Jeremiah inveighed against the abominable practice of child sacrifice at Tophet in the Hinnom Valley and predicted divine judgment on those involved in perpetrating it (Jer 7:31-34; Jer 19:1-15).  His contemporary, good King Josiah, defiled Tophet so that no one could ever practice the rite there again (2 Kings 23:10). (p. 979, vol. II, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament)

After their return from the Babylonian exile, the Jews turned the Valley of Hinnom into the city dump.  Garbage and everything else deemed unclean (including the bodies of dead animals and executed criminals) was incinerated there.  For that reason, a fire was kept burning constantly in the Valley of Hinnom.  Even though it was no longer used for evil worship, the waste and acrid smoke there made it a dreary place.

Interestingly, the transliteration geenna NEVER appears in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint.  Where this place is mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, it is translated into Greek by the phrases “pharaggos Onom” and “napes Onnam.”  This indicates that geenna didn’t come into common usage until sometime after 250 BCE, at the earliest.

Keeping in mind that Gehenna is a specific place, let’s look at all the times it appears in the New Testament.  We’ll start with three related passages of Scripture that are pivotal to understanding the 1st century Jewish conception of “hell”:

MATTHEW 5:29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell [geennan].  30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell [geennan]. (NKJV)

MATTHEW 18:8 “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you.  It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting [aionion] fire.  9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you.  It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell [geennan] fire.” (NKJV)

MARK 9:43 “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell [geennan], into the fire that shall never be quenched — 44 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’  45 And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.  It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell [geennan], into the fire that shall never be quenched — 46 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’  47 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell [geennan] fire — 48 where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ ” (NKJV)

It’s important to note that in the parallel passages from Matthew 18 and Mark 9, Yeshua equates “entering into life” with “entering the kingdom of God.”  Clearly he’s speaking of “age-lasting life” during the Millennial kingdom.

In all three of these passages, Yeshua uses hyperbole to make his point about the seriousness of sin.  He wasn’t advocating the literal removal of body parts; rather, he was highlighting the severe consequences of habitually breaking God’s Law.  Lawlessness is the biblical definition of sin (I John 3:4).  According to Yeshua, a lawless life will lead to being cast into the fires of Gehenna.

Mark’s version of Yeshua’s exhortation to avoid sin (Mark 9:43-48) is the most telling of all the usages of geenna, because it adds a detail not found in the parallel accounts in Matthew.  Three times, Yeshua specifically ties the concept of punishment in “hell” with worms that don’t die and fire that isn’t quenched.  These statements are a quote from Isaiah 66:24, the final verse of an Old Testament prophecy about the coming kingdom of God.  Let’s examine the entire prophecy to see the context for Yeshua’s mention of Gehenna:

ISAIAH 66:15 For behold, the LORD will come with fire and with His chariots, like a whirlwind, to render His anger with fury, and His rebuke with flames of fire.  16 For by fire and by His sword the LORD will judge all flesh; and the slain of the LORD shall be many.  17 “Those who sanctify themselves and purify themselves, to go to the gardens after an idol in the midst, eating swine’s flesh and the abomination and the mouse, shall be consumed together,” says the LORD.  18 “For I know their works and their thoughts.  It shall be that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory.  19 I will set a sign among them; and those among them who escape I will send to the nations: to Tarshish and Pul and Lud, who draw the bow, and Tubal and Javan, to the coastlands afar off who have not heard My fame nor seen My glory.  And they shall declare My glory among the Gentiles.  20 Then they shall bring all your brethren for an offering to the LORD out of all nations, on horses and in chariots and in litters, on mules and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem,” says the LORD, “as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the LORD.  21 And I will also take some of them for priests and Levites,” says the LORD.  22 “For as the new heavens and the new earth which I will make shall remain before Me,” says the LORD, “so shall your descendants and your name remain.  23 And it shall come to pass that from one New Moon to another, and from one Sabbath to another, all flesh shall come to worship before Me,” says the LORD.  24 “And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me.  For their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched.  They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” (NKJV)

A key principle in understanding the Bible is allowing it to interpret itself.  To accurately understand what “hell” truly is, we must evaluate Yeshua’s use of geenna in the CONTEXT of Isaiah’s prophecy.  This prophecy, the final one in the book of Isaiah, describes for us the return of the Lord Yeshua from heaven.  In it, Isaiah speaks of the Messiah’s wrath against those who oppose God and defy His commands.  He tells us that Israelites scattered all over the world will be repatriated to the Holy Land by those nations where they then dwell.  Isaiah prophesies that from Sabbath to Sabbath, and at the start of every new month, ALL FLESH will worship before the Messiah.

One of the factors motivating such worship will be the public display of the dead bodies of law-breakers before those worshipers who come to Jerusalem.  As is clear from this prophecy, once again the Valley of Hinnom on the southern end of Jerusalem will become a garbage dump where unclean and despised things will be cast.  The final verse of the prophecy speaks of the dead bodies of those transgressors that will be thrown into Gehenna.  Their corpses will be fed upon by worms and burned by fire.  It is this detail regarding those who are cast into the Valley of Hinnom that Yeshua included in his statement on the dangers of sin (Mark 9:44, 46, 48).

“Their worm” is a reference to the many worms which will be found there feasting on the dead bodies.  These worms “do not die” in the sense that they never “finish” or “complete” their task (aiding in the decomposition of the corpses).  It does NOT mean that these worms are immortal, as some might imagine from the English.  Figuratively speaking, there will be “no finish” for the worms in Gehenna.  Similarly, the reference to the fire not being quenched simply means that the fires in the Valley of Hinnom will not be put out before they accomplish their task of burning up those cast there.

Clearly, Yeshua’s mention of Gehenna was a warning that all those who wished to live in the coming kingdom of God should avoid sin.  Otherwise, they would find themselves judged unworthy of this reward, and instead would receive the wages of their sin, which is death (Rom. 6:23).

In Matthew 7, Yeshua spoke of those who, at the time of their judgment, would be expecting to be rewarded with “eternal life” in the kingdom of God because of their perceived service to him:

MATTHEW 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.  22 Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?’  23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!’ ” (NKJV)

This statement by Yeshua is a warning to all those who seek to enter the millennial kingdom of God.  It is not enough to talk the talk; one is also required to walk the walk.  As the Scriptures plainly state, it is NOT the hearers of the Law that will be justified in the sight of God, but rather the doers of the Law (Luke 8:21; Rom. 2:13; Jam. 1:22-25).  All those who fail to do what the Law requires will find themselves cast into Gehenna.

There is another prophecy in the book of Isaiah that speaks of the return of Yeshua and the part to be played by the Valley of Hinnom:

ISAIAH 30:25 There will be on every high mountain and on every high hill rivers and streams of waters, in the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.  26 Moreover the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day that the LORD binds up the bruise of His people and heals the stroke of their wound.  27 Behold, the Name of the LORD comes from afar, burning with His anger, and His burden is heavy; His lips are full of indignation, and His tongue like a devouring fire.  28 His breath is like an overflowing stream, which reaches up to the neck, to sift the nations with the sieve of futility; and there shall be a bridle in the jaws of the people, causing them to err.  29 You shall have a song as in the night when a holy festival is kept, and gladness of heart as when one goes with a flute, to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the Mighty One of Israel.  30 The LORD will cause His glorious voice to be heard, and show the descent of His arm, with the indignation of His anger and the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, tempest, and hailstones.  31 For through the voice of the LORD Assyria will be beaten down, as He strikes with the rod.  32 And in every place where the staff of punishment passes, which the LORD lays on him, it will be with tambourines and harps; and in battles of brandishing He will fight with it.  33 For Tophet was established of old, yes, for the king it is prepared.  He has made it deep and large; its pyre is fire with much wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of brimstone, kindles it. (NKJV)

The “Name of the LORD” is used here as a title for the Messiah (cf. Isa. 60:9; Jer. 3:17; etc.).  We see once again that the Scriptures speak of a great slaughter of God’s enemies that will occur at the return of Yeshua.  At the same time, salvation will come to all of Israel.  The final verse of the prophecy tells us that Tophet (i.e., Gehenna) has been prepared for “the king” (Matt. 25:41) and that the “breath of YHVH” will kindle it.

Parallel Scriptures show that this “king” is the coming Antichrist.  He will be slain by “the breath of the Lord’s mouth” (II The. 2:8) in the “lake of fire” (Rev. 19:20).  The “lake of fire” mentioned in Revelation appears to be a reference to the fires that will burn outside the city of Jerusalem in the Valley of Hinnom during the Millennium (and also outside the New Jerusalem after the Millennium ends).

The next two usages of geenna we’ll examine in the NT are often used to “prove” that Gehenna is a place of everlasting punishment:

MATTHEW 10:28 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.  But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell [geenne].” (NKJV)

LUKE 12:4 “And I say to you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.  5 But I will show you whom you should fear:   Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell [geennan]; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (NKJV)

In the Bible, the “soul” is the combination of the physical body and the human spirit.  The soul is the whole person; their flesh, character, personality, disposition, nature, etc.  The Scriptures plainly tell us that man does not HAVE a soul, man IS a soul:

GENESIS 2:7 Then the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living SOUL [nephesh]. (JPS)

Yeshua’s point in Matthew 10:28 and Luke 12:4-5 is easily understood if a person recognizes the distinction between the body and the soul.  The Messiah cautioned his listeners to fear the One who could not only kill the physical body, but also destroy the soul.  God can (and will) resurrect the righteous so that they may live in the Messianic kingdom.  Therefore, the righteous have no reason to fear death; they have the sure promise of God that they will be raised to life once again.

Not so for the wicked, however.  Yeshua warned the lawless that disobedience would mean they would not be qualified to live in the coming Messianic age.  Instead, they would at that time suffer the fate of those who transgress against God (Isa. 66:24).  They would be put to death during the Millennium and would not be allowed to live during that marvelous age of peace and justice.  Their bodies would be cast into Gehenna as a witness to all regarding the penalty for disobedience.

Now let’s look at another occurrence of geenna in the New Testament:

MATTHEW 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’  22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.  And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council.  But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell [geennan] fire.” (NKJV)

In this passage of Scripture, Yeshua magnifies the Law (Isa. 42:21) and shows the true spiritual intent of the command against murder (Exo. 20:13; Deu. 5:17).  He states that one who discounts the worth of a brother and is angry with him for no reason has broken the spirit of the Law and is in danger of being punished for murder by being executed (Exo. 21:12; Lev. 24:17) and having their body thrown into the fires burning in the Valley of Hinnom.  Consequently, they would lose their opportunity at “eternal life” during the Messianic age.

In his stinging rebuke of the hypocritical Pharisees, Yeshua twice mentioned Gehenna:

MATTHEW 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell [geennes] as yourselves.” (NKJV)

MATTHEW 23:33 “Serpents, brood of vipers!  How can you escape the condemnation of hell [geennes]?” (NKJV)

The Pharisees thought that their diligent study of the Tanakh would ensure them a place in the coming kingdom of God (John 5:39).  Therefore, Yeshua’s claim that they would instead merit being cast into Gehenna must have shocked and outraged them.

In the final New Testament occurrence of geenna, James speaks to the “twelve tribes scattered abroad” (Jam. 1:1) about the difficulty mankind has in controlling their words:

JAMES 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.  The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell [geennes]. (NKJV)

James’ point here is that one who does not control his tongue will be led into sin by the things idly said (Matt. 12:36).  According to James, this will ultimately cause a person who is not careful with their words to be cast into the fires of Gehenna.

We’ve now examined all occurrences of geenna in the New Testament.  In each case, the implication of the usage is that suffering age-lasting (“everlasting”) punishment by being physically killed and burned up in Gehenna is the OPPOSITE of enjoying age-lasting (“eternal”) life in the 1,000-year kingdom of God here on earth.  The practical effect of being consigned to Gehenna means death and missing out on the golden age of the Messiah’s rule, a time when “nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isa. 2:4).  No other conclusion is supported by the original text or the context.

Now let’s look at a few related passages that speak of reward and punishment in the age to come.  We’ll start by revisiting Yeshua’s comments on the judgment he will bring when he comes to reign over the world from Jerusalem:

MATTHEW 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory.  32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.  33 And he will set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.  34 Then the King will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:  35 for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you took me in; 36 I was naked and you clothed me; I was sick and you visited me; I was in prison and you came to me.’  37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  38 When did we see you a stranger and take you in, or naked and clothe you?  39 Or when did we see you sick, or in prison, and come to you?’  40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of THESE my brethren, you did it to me.’  41 Then he will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting [aionion] fire prepared for the devil and his angels:  42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; 43 I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  44 Then they also will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’  45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of THESE, you did not do it to me.’  46 And these will go away into age-lasting punishment [kolasin aionion], but the righteous into age-lasting life [zoen aionion].” (literal)

This passage says something quite different than what most people understand. First, notice that it is “all the nations” that are gathered before King Messiah as he sits on his throne (v. 32).  Next, he separates the people from these nations into two groups:  sheep on the right, goats on the left.  What is the criteria for this division?  The prior treatment of Yeshua’s brethren (vv. 40, 45).  Yeshua here is speaking as the “Son of Man.”  Based on the context of this passage, his brethren are all those standing before him; in other words, all of humanity.

The apostle Paul spoke of this same judgment criteria in his letter to the Romans:

ROMANS 2:11 For there is no partiality with God.  12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.  14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. (NASU)

Paul here states that those who do not have the Law will be judged by Messiah Yeshua based on whether they did what the Law requires.  And what does the Law require?  To love your neighbor as yourself.  Those who because of their conscience show love to their neighbors will be rewarded by life in the kingdom of God, even though they may not have known the Law or the true God.

However, those who selfishly seek their own fulfillment to the detriment of their neighbor will be found unworthy to live in the Millennium.  They will suffer capital punishment and have their bodies desecrated and burned in the Valley of Hinnom.   Yet this “everlasting punishment” (kolasin aionion) will not last FOREVER, but rather only for the age of Yeshua’s rule.

Finally, when discussing “eternal punishment,” the topic of the “unpardonable sin” is usually raised.  The “unpardonable sin” is a reference to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  This sin is mentioned in Mark’s Gospel:

MARK 3:28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never [eis ton aiona] has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal [aioniou] condemnation” — 30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.” (NKJV)

On the surface, this Scripture appears to say, in a very straightforward manner, that there is no forgiveness for blaspheming the Holy Spirit.  However, an accurate English translation of the underlying Greek text and comparison to the parallel account in Matthew 12:31-32 significantly changes the meaning of this passage:

MARK 3:28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit does not have forgiveness into the age [eis ton aiona], but is subject to age-lasting [aioniou] condemnation” — 30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.” (literal)

MATTHEW 12:31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.  32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age [aioni] or in the one to come.” (literal)

As the literal translation of Mark 3:28-30 shows, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven “into the age,” and those who blaspheme God’s Spirit will be subject to “age-lasting condemnation.”   Matthew’s account fully supports this, stating that those who speak against the Holy Spirit won’t have forgiveness in the current AGE (before the establishment of the kingdom of God on earth) or in the AGE TO COME (when Yeshua reigns from Zion).  However, the prospect for forgiveness after this time period is not addressed.  The implication of specifying the two time periods where forgiveness won’t be possible is that, after this time passes, forgiveness may become available.

Conclusion

In the New Testament, “eternal life” refers specifically to life during the AGE of the Messiah’s rule over the nations of the earth.  While the saints will experience this life as immortal spirit beings after being resurrected at the return of Yeshua, many others will live “eternal life” in the kingdom of God as mortal human beings.  “Everlasting punishment” in “hell” is the opposite of “eternal life.”  Biblically, it refers to a person being executed for breaking the Law during the Millennial rule of Christ and the subsequent disposal of their body in the official garbage dump of the kingdom, the Valley of Hinnom (located south of Jerusalem).  The common beliefs about living “eternal life” in heaven or suffering “everlasting punishment” in hell are myths built on speculation and tradition, NOT Scripture.

Bryan T. Huie                                                                                                                                       Revised: August 14, 2014

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble  offers a good choice [200] being many individual reads on various subjects concerning the major mess America and our entire world civilization is truly in; and includes worldwide misled Christianity according to the Bible.

https://ttimesoftrouble.wordpress.com/

timesoftroubles@gmail.com

THE MYSTERY OF YEHOVAH: THOSE PREDESTINED-WHY HUMAN SUFFERING-AND SALVATION FOR ALL


Note that all the categories and tags I use are deeply covered when any with open minds seeking spiritual truth from not of this world investigates my links at the end of this informative article, and shares what all need to know.

Who can see all things? Who feels they know all required? Who feels secure? How many know that absolutely nothing about them being thoughts, ways, actions, and hearts intent can be hid from Yehovah Elohim?

Excellent read on God’s sacred name unknown to most; https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble/ZOXmRb/the-true-pronunciation-of-the-sacred-name

And that includes this world of false brethren, sisters, shepherds, evangelist, singers, Bible study teachers, and every religious title on this earth being believers that talk their Christian talk, but never walk their commanded walk while living as lovers of themselves accompanied with extreme selfishness I have experienced this entire past decade; and all reasons why have been spiritually made known for any being drawn by the words in John 6:44, and all that you shall read in this lengthy writing on truth for these end times.

Welcome to Christian love and obedience within a deceived and misled human race.

What is Yehovah really trying to accomplish here on earth?  This is a question that religious men and women have pondered since the dawn of creation.  Paul tells us that the mystery of Yehovah Elohim was hidden throughout all the ages and generations from the time of creation until the appearance of the Messiah.  After his first coming, however, the heavenly Father revealed this mystery to His saints (Col. 1:26).  Yet how well do those who profess to have accepted Yeshua the Messiah really understand Yehovah Elohim mysterious plan?

Most Christian denominations believe that they have a good grasp of the mystery of YHVH the Father.  They think He is saving those who, of their own free will, accept the sacrifice of His son Yeshua.  Conversely, they believe that Elohim will condemn and eternally punish those who do not accept that sacrifice (either because of conscious rejection or ignorance).

Under that basic premise, most of Christianity has implicitly decided that Yehovah is going to end up saving just a minority of humanity, since even the most optimistic assessment can only conclude that most people throughout history have NOT accepted the saving sacrifice of Yeshua.  Yet does this understanding agree with what Elohim says He will do in His Word?  In this writing we will examine what the Bible truly teaches about this misunderstood mystery of YHVH God that even now so few really comprehend.

In order to lay out the mystery of our creator, we must first understand some things about Yehovah that the Father reveals of Himself through telling us quite a bit about Himself and His abilities in the Bible.

Yehovah Elohim the Father – Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent

These three impressive sounding words describe God’s presence, knowledge, and power, which are concepts found often in the Scriptures.  We will examine each in turn:

OMNIPRESENCE

The term “omnipresent” refers to the ability to be present everywhere at the same time.  The Scriptures tell us that God the Father, through His Holy Spirit, maintains a presence in all of His creation:

Note that most all Bible versions have done away with Yehovah and Yeshua being their proper personal names — and through these links below, much can be learned for the reason why.

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble/ZOXmRb/the-true-pronunciation-of-the-sacred-name

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble/NnWnPv/authority-of-the-bible-as-written-autographs

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble/gv1vr3/flaws-in-all-translations-of-the-bible

PSALM 139:7 Where shall I go from Your Spirit?  Or where shall I flee from Your presence?  8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there!  If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!  9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.  11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You. (ESV)

JEREMIAH 23:23 “Am I only a God nearby,” declares the LORD, “and not a God far away?  24Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” declares the LORD.  “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD. (NIV)

PROVERBS 5:21 For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and He examines all his paths. (NIV)

PROVERBS 15:3 The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. (ESV)

OMNISCIENCE

To be “omniscient” means that one has total and complete knowledge of all things.  What does the Bible tell us about God the Father’s knowledge?

ISAIAH 46:9 Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me.  10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.  I say:  My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. (NIV)

ISAIAH 48:3 I foretold the former things long ago, my mouth announced them and I made them known; then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass. (NIV)

ISAIAH 42:9 Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (ESV)

PSALM 139:1 For the director of music. Of David.  A psalm.  O LORD, You have searched me and You know me.  2 You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar.  3 You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways.  4 Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O LORD.  5 You hem me in — behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me.  6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. (NIV)

LUKE 12:6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?  Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.  7 Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.  Do not be afraid.  You are worth more than many sparrows.” (NAB)

MATTHEW 24:30 “Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.  31 And he will send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. . . .  36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (NKJV)

These Scriptures show that God knows all things, and that He often foretells the future to us through His prophets.  But we are told even more here; God does not just make known future events, but He actively works to carry out His plan.  It’s not simply a case of the heavenly Father being able to see the future.  God specifically tells us that He takes action to make prophesied events occur.

OMNIPOTENCE

The term “omnipotence” means having power over all things.  Let’s see what the Scriptures tell us about God the Father’s power:

ISAIAH 44:24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone,” (NASU)

JEREMIAH 10:12 But God made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding. (NIV)

JEREMIAH 27:5 “With My great power and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please.” (NIV)

JEREMIAH 32:17 Ah Lord GOD!  It is You who made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm!  Nothing is too hard for You. (NRSV)

JEREMIAH 51:15 “He made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding.” (NIV)

ISAIAH 40:25 “Who will you compare Me to, or who is My equal?” asks the Holy One.  26 Look up and see:  Who created these?  He brings out the starry host by number; He calls all of them by name.  Because of His great power and strength, not one of them is missing. (CSB)

JOB 36:22 See, God is beyond reach in His power; who governs like Him? (JPS Tanakh)

God’s power is so great that He created the entire vast universe using it.  The power of God is also manifested in His ability to design a plan and ensure that it is carried out to achieve His will and purpose:

ISAIAH 14:24 The LORD of hosts has sworn:  As I have designed, so shall it be; and as I have planned, so shall it come to pass: (NRSV)

ISAIAH 14:27 The LORD of hosts has planned; who can thwart Him?  His hand is stretched out; who can turn it back? (NAB)

ISAIAH 43:13 “Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand;I act and who can reverse it?” (NASU)

ISAIAH 46:10 I foretell the end from the beginning, and from the start, things that had not occurred.  I say: My plan shall be fulfilled; I will do all I have purposed. (JPS Tanakh)

LAMENTATIONS 3:37 Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? (NIV)

II CHRONICLES 20:6 [King Jehoshaphat] said: “O LORD, God of our fathers, are You not the God who is in heaven?  You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations.  Power and might are in Your hand, and no one can withstand You.” (NIV)

Yehovah’s power is such that whatever He has decided to do, that is what will be done.  YHVH tells us that He has designed a plan that will be implemented because no one (not man nor angel) has the power to thwart or withstand His purpose.

If YHVH truly is all powerful, and if He has a definite plan for mankind, then nothing happens outside the scope of that plan.  Logically this means that He is the author of everything that happens, both good and bad.  Numerous Scriptures confirm this to be the case:

ISAIAH 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness:  I make peace, and create evil:  I the LORD do all these things. (RWB)

LAMENTATIONS 3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come? (NIV)

ECCLESIASTES 7:13 Consider what God has done:  Who can straighten what He has made crooked?  14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider:  God has made the one as well as the other.  Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. (NIV)

DEUTERONOMY 32:39 “See now that I, I am He, and there is no God besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life.  I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.” (NASU)

I SAMUEL 2:6 The LORD both kills and gives life; He brings down to the grave and raises up. (NET)

JOB 5:18 For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal. (NIV)

HOSEA 6:1 “Come, let us return to the LORD.  He has torn us to pieces but He will heal us; He has injured us but He will bind up our wounds.” (NIV)

Because He is all powerful, Elohim is the source of everything that happens, both good and bad.  The Scriptures show that He is the One who wounds and kills, in addition to being the One who heals and makes alive.  As the Almighty Creator and Supreme Power in the entire universe should, God the Father takes complete responsibility for all things in this world, evil as well as good.

Yet very few believe Elohim when He claims to be the source of evil.  They refuse to accept the very words of Elohim recorded in the Bible and instead prefer to believe in a different Elohim being there are many Elohim meaning God’s, thus choosing one of their own devising.  The Elohim of most Christians isn’t the source of the evil in the world.  Instead, they believe Elohim simply allows His creation to choose evil because He has given them the free will to do so.

Many cite the first half of Habakkuk 1:13 in support of their contention that YHVH, far from being the creator of evil, cannot even so much as look upon it:

HABAKKUK 1:13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. . . . (NIV)

“There!  The Bible says it, so I believe it!” proclaim those who hold this view.  But if this is really the point the prophet is making here, then he is contradicting the scriptural wisdom of King Solomon (Pro. 15:3).  Since the Messiah told us that the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:35), let’s look at the context of the entire first chapter of Habakkuk to understand what he is really saying about God.

Habakkuk 1:2-4 records the prophet’s cries to YHVH regarding the sin and violence that were rampant within Judah during the reign of the latter kings.  In Habakkuk 1:5-11, God reveals to him that He is going to raise up the Babylonians against Judah to punish them for their sins.  This in turn causes Habakkuk to wonder why God would use a people more violent and wicked than Judah to punish His chosen ones:

HABAKKUK 1:12 Are You not from eternity, Yahweh my God?  My Holy One, You will not die. LORD, You appointed them to execute judgment; my Rock, You destined them to punish us.  13 Your eyes are too pure to look on evil, and You cannot tolerate wrongdoing.  So why do You tolerate those who are treacherous?  Why are You silent while one who is wicked swallows up one who is more righteous than himself?  14 You have made mankind like the fish of the sea, like marine creatures that have no ruler.  15 The Chaldeans pull them all up with a hook, catch them in their dragnet, and gather them in their fishing net; that is why they are glad and rejoice.  16 That is why they sacrifice to their dragnet and burn incense to their fishing net, for by these things their portion is rich and their food plentiful.  17 Will they therefore empty their net and continually slaughter nations without mercy? (CSB)

In reality, we see that the words of Habakkuk about YHVH prove the exact opposite point from what most understand from the first half of verse 13.  Even though Judah’s sins were grievous, Habakkuk was appalled at God’s solution after He showed him how He was going to deal with them.  Habakkuk wondered how YHVH could choose the treacherous, vicious, arrogant Babylonians (i.e., Chaldeans) to punish His people.  Although he realized that the Jews needed to be corrected, Habakkuk could not understand YHVH’s choice of people to serve as His instrument of punishment.  So Habakkuk’s point really was, “YHVH, I know You hate evil, yet You are going to choose a people even more wicked than we are to punish us.  WHY?”

YHVH has and continues to make use of various (and often evil) proxies to carry out His will.  The Heavenly Father uses fallen angels such as Satan (Job 1:6-12; 2:1-7) and the unnamed spirit who enticed King Ahab to his death through deception (I Kings 22:19-23; II Chr. 18:18-22), pagan prophets such as Balaam (Num. 22:5-24:25), and despotic men such as Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 25:9; 27:6; 43:10) and Persian king Cyrus (Isa. 44:28; 45:1-4; II Chr. 36:22:23; Ezra 1:1-4) to accomplish His will.  Despite what men and nations plot in their own minds to do, it is the will of God that is ultimately done:

PSALM 33:10 The LORD foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples.  11 But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations. (NIV)

Because YHVH is using His creation to complete His plan, it is often incorrectly assumed that the Father is simply doing His best to rescue a plan gone horribly wrong.  For instance, many believe that a powerful angel now called Satan (the Hebrew word for “adversary”) rebelled and became the archenemy of YHVH at some point in the distant past.  They believe that this Adversary almost succeeded in derailing YHVH’s plan to bring many human sons into His family (Luke 3:38) by tempting Adam and Eve into disobeying YHVH Elohim.

However (as this line of thought goes), the heavenly Father was able to salvage His plan for humanity by sending His Son Yeshua to the earth to provide a means for humanity to be forgiven and saved from the sin and death that entered the world through Adam’s choice (Rom. 5:12).  It appears that although the devil and his angels will ultimately be defeated, first they will succeed in dragging down most of humanity into the fiery pit of hell with them (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 14:9-11; 20:10).

Yet this imaginary scenario is absolutely contradicted by the Scriptures, which show that the sacrifice of Yeshua for sin was part of Yehovah the Father’s plan from the very beginning:

1 PETER 1:18 You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish.  20 He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. (NRSV)

REVELATION 13:8 All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast — all whose names have not been written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world. (NIV)

II TIMOTHY 1:8 . . . God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace, which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, (ESV)

ACTS 2:22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words:  Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know — 23 this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles.” (NET)

ISAIAH 53:10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. (NIV)

YHVH did NOT have to improvise because the attack of Satan disrupted His original plan.  The Messiah’s sacrifice for mankind’s salvation was not a revision or addition to the Heavenly Father’s initial blueprint.  It was the focal point of the plan of Elohim even BEFORE the creation.

To believe that YHVH had to change or modify His plan in any respect is to believe that it was initially imperfect.  How could an omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent God have designed a flawed plan that required revision to make it work?  The simple answer is that a perfect God would not, indeed could not, have drafted an imperfect plan.  Consequently, the design we now see unfolding must be EXACTLY what YHVH intended from the very beginning!

Is “All” Too Lofty A Goal For YHVH?

If taken at face value, the Bible convincingly shows that YHVH the Father is all powerful and that He fully intends to bring His plan to a successful conclusion, despite the best efforts of those in the physical and spiritual realms.  Therefore, what we see taking place in the world cannot be YHVH scrambling to make the best of a bad situation, but rather YHVH’s original plan unfolding.  But, as strange as it seems when viewed logically in the light of Scripture, this obvious conclusion that YHVH the Father is in total control of all things is not acknowledged by most who profess to worship Him.

The reason most have concluded that YHVH is NOT in absolute control is because they have accepted the idea that He has given His creation “free will.”  Even if the Eternal Father wants to save all of mankind (I Tim. 2:4), many believe that He can’t because they have been taught that YHVH God will not force anyone to be saved against their will.  Effectively, the common belief is that YHVH has ceded His sovereignty to His creation.  Therefore, the creation will determine the outcome of the divine plan, not Yehovah Himself.

The Father may not want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9), but according to the prevailing view, YHVH will NOT get what He desires.  Because it is thought that He has given man the “free will” to choose life or death, some will choose NOT to be saved.  In this warped scenario, the choices of mortal men are allowed to override the outcome desired by the immortal YHVH Elohim.

Yet does this understanding square with what the Bible says?  Let’s see what the Scriptures teach about YHVH’s plan for ALL mankind:

JOHN 12:32 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw [helkuso] ALL people to myself.” (NRSV)

In this statement, Messiah Yeshua gives us a glimpse into what YHVH planned to accomplish through the sacrifice of His Son.  It’s clear from the next verse (John 12:33) that the phrase “lifted up” was a reference to Yeshua’s impending crucifixion.  The Messiah plainly understood that his sacrificial death was a necessary part of YHVH’s plan which would eventually lead to ALL mankind accepting him as their Lord (“Master”).  Paul expands on the words of Yeshua to confirm the end result of his atoning death:

PHILIPPIANS 2:8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross!  9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY knee will bow — in heaven and on earth and under the earth — 11 and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (NET)

Yeshua’s ability to put aside his own desires and do the will of the Father resulted in YHVH exalting him above all things except Himself (I Cor. 15:27).  In the end, the entire creation will bow to Yeshua and confess that he is Lord.  This outcome will bring glory to YHVH the Father, because it will signal the successful completion of this phase of His plan.

TITUS 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of ALL men, (RSV)

Paul tells Titus that YHVH’s unmerited favor, which was manifested in the appearance of Messiah Yeshua, will ultimately lead to the salvation of all mankind.

I TIMOTHY 2:3 . . . God our Saviour, 4 who will have ALL men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (DRA)

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul states that YHVH will have all of humanity come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved.  He doesn’t say how or when this will happen, but it is communicated as a certainty.  Because this statement is so definitive, many modern translations try to water it down by rendering it as “YHVH, who desires all men to be saved.”  The implication of translating it this way is that YHVH really does WANT to save everyone, but for some reason He won’t be able to accomplish that goal.

Since we have already seen from the Scriptures that YHVH’s will and purpose cannot be thwarted, this slight change in rendering does nothing to invalidate the underlying sentiment of Paul’s statement.  If the omnipotent YHVH truly desires all men to be saved, there is nothing in this universe that can stop that outcome from happening.  Therefore, we are left to decide whether we believe YHVH is powerful enough to accomplish His will.  Unfortunately, many have believed Satan’s deception that He ultimately will not be able to achieve this desire.

I CORINTHIANS 15:22 For just as in Adam ALL die, so also in Christ ALL will be made alive.  23 But each in his own order . . . (CSB)

ROMANS 5:18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for ALL, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for ALL. (NRSV)

We know that everyone since Adam has died because of sin (Rom. 5:12).  The only human never to have sinned was Yeshua the Messiah (II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; I John 3:5), and sin still caused his death because he had to die for the sins of the world (I John 2:2).  So when Paul contrasts the death that was brought by Adam with the life that will be brought by Messiah, he has to be talking about the entirety of humanity.  “All” humans have been condemned to death because of Adam’s disobedience; for Paul’s comparison to be true, the same “all” must eventually be justified and made alive by Messiah’s act of righteousness.

II PETER 3:9 The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some people think of slowness; on the contrary, He is patient with you; for it is not His purpose that anyone should be destroyed, but that EVERYONE should turn from his sins. (CJB)

If it truly is NOT YHVH’s purpose to destroy anyone, but rather to see all mankind repent, how can anyone or anything prevent that from happening?  As we are told in the Scriptures, the purpose within YHVH‘s heart will stand firm forever (Psa. 33:11) and His plan will be fulfilled (Isa. 46:10).

I TIMOTHY 4:10 . . . We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of ALL men, and especially of those who believe. (NIV)

Paul received his insights into the mystery of YHVH by revelation from the glorified Messiah himself (Gal. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:3).  He probably understood what Elohim was accomplishing better than anyone else, before or since.  Throughout his letters, Paul casually drops theological bombshells regarding universal salvation.  Here in his first letter to Timothy, he plainly states that Elohim will save all mankind, starting specifically with believers in Yeshua the Messiah.  Once Paul’s universalist view is recognized for what it truly is, it’s interesting to note how often he states or alludes to the salvation of all mankind in his letters.

Is Our Destiny Preordained By God?

Another controversial matter that Paul addresses in several places is the topic of predestination.  In fact, his letter to the Ephesian congregation contains a considerable exposition on this concept and how it ties in to universalism:

EPHESIANS 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, 6 to the praise of His glorious grace, with which He has blessed us in the Beloved. (ESV)

Paul gets right to the heart of his message quickly.  In verse 4, he tells the believers in Ephesus that Elohim the Father “chose us” (each believer) to be blessed in Messiah Yeshua “before the foundation of the world.”  Many claim that this choosing refers to the church as a whole, and not to every individual believer.  This view, however, is based more on the natural human aversion to the concept of predestination than on the actual teaching of Paul.

In verse 5, Paul tells the Ephesians that in love Elohim predestined believers for adoption as His sons through Messiah Yeshua.  He did this “according to the pleasure of His will,” as the New English Translation renders the final part of verse 5.  In other words, the heavenly Father did this because it’s what He wanted to do.  It’s the way Yehovah Elohim wrongly known as God decided to achieve His goal of ultimately bringing all mankind into His family.

As Paul explains elsewhere, God does not choose us because of anything we have done or will do in the future (II Tim. 1:9; Rom. 9:11).  Instead, each of us was chosen because God the Father showed us favor.  The Greek root word translated “grace” in verse 6 is charis.  Although it is usually rendered “grace” in the New Testament, it literally means to bestow undeserved “favor” on someone.  YHVH predestined each one who is called and chosen in this age to the exclusion of all others.  When He did this before time as we know it began, He was showing us unmerited favor, as Paul told Timothy:

II TIMOTHY 1:8 . . . God, 9 who has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (NIV)

Paul’s comments elevating YHVH’s grace above our works must be viewed in the light of his understanding of predestination.  Paul never denigrated YHVH’s Law (Rom. 7:16; Gal. 3:21) or a believer’s observance of it (Rom. 3:31; I Cor. 7:19).  Rather, he showed that YHVH’s calling does not depend on man’s desire or effort, but solely on the Father’s mercy (Rom. 9:16).  Yeshua himself stated this to the Jews of his day:

JOHN 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws [helkuse]him.  And I will raise him up on the last day.” (ESV)

JOHN 6:63 “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh is no help.  The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and life, 64 yet some among you do not trust.”  (For Yeshua knew from the outset which ones would not trust him, also which one would betray him.)  65 “This,” he said, “is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has made it possible for him.” (CJB)

Those who truly come to the Messiah do not simply decide for themselves one day to do so.  If we believe the words of Yeshua, only those YHVH specifically “draws” come to him.  The word translated “draws” in John 6:44 is from the Greek root helko.  Here is what Bauer, Gingrich, Arndt, and Danker (BGAD) have to say about the literal meaning of this word:

To move an object from one area to another in a pulling motion, draw, with implication that the object being moved is incapable of propelling itself or in the case of pers[ons] is unwilling to do so voluntarily, in either case with implication of exertion on the part of the mover. (Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd edition)

Interestingly, helkuso (a form of the same Greek root word found in John 6:44) is used in Yeshua’s statement that his sacrificial death would eventually “draw” all people to Him (John 12:32).  Again, the implication is that these people will not come voluntarily, but will come because of the action of YHVH Elohim.

EPHESIANS 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, 8 which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight 9 making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ 10 as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite ALL things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. (ESV)

Paul plainly tells us here that the mystery of YHVH’s will is that He is uniting all things in heaven and earth to Himself through His Son, Yeshua.  Every facet of the Father’s plan is aimed at achieving the goal of reconciling all things back to Himself, as Paul also stated in his second letter to the Corinthians:

II CORINTHIANS 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christand gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. (NIV)

YHVH’s goal is for us to develop His godly character and become spiritually complete; He wants His children to “grow up” to become just like Him (Matt. 5:48).  The way we become like Him is through the work of His Holy Spirit in us during the process of reconciliation.  YHVH is NOT working with everyone at this time; instead, He is only calling a few in this age (John 6:44) who were predestined before the beginning of time to fulfill God’s purpose:

EPHESIANS 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.  13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (ESV)

In the 2nd chapter of Ephesians, Paul specifically states that our predestined salvation is not based on our works.  Rather, the favor Yehovah shows us is a gift:

EPHESIANS 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — bygrace you have been saved — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  8 For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (ESV)

Our salvation does not give us cause to boast.  We are YHVH’s handiwork, His creation.  He has made us what we are; the good works we do were preordained before the beginning of time.  Therefore, we can take no credit for doing them.  We earn NONE of the good things YHVH does for us; they are a divine gift:

JAMES 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (ESV)

In his letter to Titus, Paul reiterates that our good works (which he urges believers to maintain) do not save us:

TITUS 3:4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by Hisgrace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works.  These things are good and profitable to men. (NKJV)

Continuing in his letter to the Ephesians, Paul spells out how the mystery of God applied to those Gentiles in Ephesus:

EPHESIANS 3:1 This is the reason that I Paul am a prisoner for Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles — 2 for surely you have already heard of the commission of God’s grace that was given me for you, 3 and how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I wrote above in a few words, 4 a reading of which will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ.  5 In former generations this mystery was not made known to humankind, as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit:  6 that is, the Gentiles have become fellow heirs, members of the same body, and sharers in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (ESV)

Paul was a very learned man, having studied extensively at the feet of Gamaliel the Elder (Acts 22:3; cf. 5:34), one of the brightest Jewish sages of his day.  However, he takes no credit for having figured out for himself the mystery of Elohim.  Instead, Paul clearly states that this mystery (which had been hidden from all former generations) was made known to him by revelation from the Messiah Yeshua (Acts 26:15-18; Gal. 1:11-12).  This mystery was that just as the remnant of YHVH’s chosen people (the Jews) were destined for salvation, so were the rest of the people from all the nations (“the Gentiles”).

Paul addresses this universal salvation of all mankind in his letter to the Roman assembly:

ROMANS 11:25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:  A partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”  28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake.  But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers.  29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.  30 For just as you were at one time disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so they too have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may now receive mercy.  32 For God has consigned [sunekleisen] ALL to disobedience, that he may have mercy on ALL.  33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!  34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counselor?”  35 “Or who has given a gift to Him that he might be repaid?”  36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be glory forever.  Amen. (ESV)

In this chapter, Paul addresses how the salvation of all Israel will be achieved.  He clearly states that the unbelieving Jews, those who don’t accept Yeshua because YHVH Himself blinded them (Rom. 11:7-10), are still loved by Him.  But he goes on to show that the salvation of all Israel is not the final goal of YHVH’s plan.  In verse 32 he uses a form of the Greek root word sugkleio (which literally means to “hem in,” “enclose” or “imprison”) to describe what YHVH has done to all men.

Specifically, Paul tells us that YHVH has imprisoned ALL mankind (both Jew and Gentile) in disobedience – less those predestined and drawn out of this world as written in John 15:19.

Why would YHVH do this?  Paul tells us the reason is so that in the end He might have mercy on all.  This aspect of YHVH’s plan is so awesome to Paul that he launches into a praise of YHVH’s unsearchable and unknowable ways, which are beyond man’s ability to understand.  To paraphrase Paul, everything is FROM YHVH, THROUGH YHVH, and TO YHVH.  As humans, we can take credit for nothing.

EPHESIANS 3:7 Of this gospel I have become a servant according to the gift of God’s gracethat was given me by the working of His power.  8 Although I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given to me to bring to the Gentiles the news of the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in Godwho created all things; 10 so that through the church the wisdom of God in its rich variety might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose that He has carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, 12 in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him. (ESV)

Here Paul says that even though he is the least of those whom YHVH has called (cf. I Tim. 1:13; I Cor. 15:9), through the gift of YHVH’s favor he was chosen to bring this good news about the mystery of Elohim to the people of the nations.  This is according to YHVH’s age-lasting purpose, which is being accomplished through the Lord Yeshua the Messiah.

EPHESIANS 3:18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  20 Now to Him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen. (NRSV)

Paul realized that YHVH’s mysterious plan was very hard for man to grasp.  Here he prays that YHVH would help the saints understand the fullness (“breadth, length, height and depth”) of His plan.  He finishes this section of his letter by stating that the power of Yehovah Elohim (i.e., the Holy Spirit) working within us is able to accomplish much more than we can request or even understand.

Paul also speaks of predestination in his letter to the Romans:

ROMANS 8:28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.  29 For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  30 And those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified. (ESV)

Messiah Yeshua is the focal point of the Father’s plan, the firstborn of many sons of God to come.  Paul here states that for those who love God, everything that happens eventually works out for their benefit.  YHVH predestined those who are being called by Him to be justified in Messiah.  Those He justified by the Messiah’s sacrifice will also be glorified and used to further His plan.

When the topic of predestination is understood properly, we have to realize that nothing happens apart from YHVH’s plan Even though we occasionally go through painful trials, these are ultimately for our good and will help us to reach spiritual maturity, as James explains:

JAMES 1:2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. (CSB)

In the 9th chapter of Romans, Paul used the example of Jacob and Esau to illustrate how YHVH has predestined those He calls:

ROMANS 9:10 And even more to the point is the case of Rivkah; for both her children were conceived in a single act with Yitz’chak, our father; 11 and before they were born, before they had done anything at all, either good or bad (so that God’s plan might remain a matter of His sovereign choice, not dependent on what they did, but on God, who does the calling), 12 it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”  13 This accords with where it is written, “Ya’akov I loved, but Esav I hated.” (CJB)

As a good illustration of YHVH’s predestination, Paul cites the example of Jacob and Esau.  He tells us that before their birth, before they had done anything (good or bad), YHVH Elohim decided to use Jacob in His plan, but to reject Esau.  Paul clearly states that the choice YHVH made was based on Him being the supreme ruler of the universe, not on anything Jacob or Esau did.  Some try and make this Scripture mean that Yehovah foresaw what each of the twins WOULD do later in their lives and then chose Jacob over Esau based on that foreknowledge.  But that interpretation specifically denies the point Paul is making here about Elohim’s absolute authority, not foreknowledge, being the basis for the selection.

Human nature causes most people confronted with this scenario to assert that YHVH was unfair to Esau.  Paul anticipated this objection and addressed it next:

ROMANS 9:14 What then shall we say?  Is God unjust?  Not at all!  15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”  16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.  17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh:  “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display My power in you and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  18 Therefore God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden. (NIV)

No, YHVH is not unjust, according to Paul.  The reason is because YHVH’s plan is not based on what a man wants or what a man does, but rather on YHVH’s mercy.  YHVH used Pharaoh for a specific purpose, so that the whole world might understand His awesome power.  YHVH had mercy on the children of Israel, but He hardened Pharaoh’s heart, bringing destruction upon the land of Egypt.  All of these events were orchestrated by YHVH the Father to further His plan and purpose for mankind.

Again, Paul expects that what he has just said will elicit hostile questions from his readers.  “If YHVH hardens my heart and makes me stand in opposition to His will (just as He did with Pharaoh), why does He still punish me?  How am I truly to blame?  Who can withstand YHVH’s purpose?”

ROMANS 9:19 One of you will say to me:  “Then why does God still blame us?  For who resists His will?”  20 But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?  “Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did You make me like this?'”  21 Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?  22 What if God, choosing to show His wrath and make His power known, bore with great patience the objects of His wrath — prepared for destruction?  23 What if He did this to make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy, whom He prepared in advance for glory — 24 even us, whom He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? (NIV)

Paul answers these questions simply.  Since YHVH the Father is the Creator and Ruler of the universe, He can do as He pleases.  Those created have no right to ask the Creator why they are made a certain way.  He shows that YHVH, the Master Potter, has created some vessels for holy use and some for common use (cf. II Tim. 2:20-21).  Paul goes on to state that the common vessels will be broken during the process of YHVH’s plan being carried out to show the holy vessels the riches of God’s glory.

Paul’s response regarding YHVH’s process for accomplishing His plan closely mirrors the Father’s words to Job, when he questioned YHVH Elohim following the occurrence of a series of tragedies in his life.  YHVH allowed Satan to test Job by destroying his children, his material goods (Job 1:13-19), and his health (Job 2:7).  Being a righteous man, Job did not understand why God was putting him through such pain and suffering.

After repeatedly professing his innocence and asking YHVH to prove that He was justified in causing his suffering, YHVH finally answered Job with a series of questions designed to illustrate His magnificence and power (Job 38:1-41:34).  Delineating His awesome acts of creation, YHVH caused Job to see that His power and authority gave the heavenly Father the right to do as He pleased in his life:

JOB 42:1 Then Job answered the Lord:  2 “I know that You can do all things and that no plan of Yours can be ruined.  3 You asked, ‘Who is this that made My purpose unclear by saying things that are not true?’  Surely I spoke of things I did not understand; I talked of things too wonderful for me to know.  4 You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak.  I will ask you questions, and you must answer Me.’  5 My ears had heard of You before, but now my eyes have seen You.  6 So now I hate myself; I will change my heart and life.  I will sit in the dust and ashes.” (NCV)

If we accept the biblical position that YHVH does have the right to make some human vessels for honor and some for destruction, the question then becomes:  “Will those broken vessels of wrath be cast away forever by God after their use, or will the Master Potter reshape them into holy vessels at some future point?”  By recognizing the scriptural doctrine of universal salvation, we can see that YHVH has committed to eventually remake those common vessels into holy vessels.

PHILIPPIANS 2:12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. (NIV)

Paul tells us that we are to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”  However, he goes on to show that it really isn’t us who does the work, but YHVH.  It is the heavenly Father who causes us to “will” (want to do something) and to “act” on those desires.  This is according to His purpose, which ultimately is for our good.

Paul clearly teaches predestination.  What Calvin, Luther, and others who recognized this teaching missed was that Paul also taught universal salvation.  They did not understand the timing aspect of Paul’s teaching.  Yes, some were predestined to be saved in this age.  However, this did not mean that the rest who are not saved in this age are forever lost.  God will save all mankind, but He will do so in the way and at the time He decides.  Each person will be saved when it is his or her time (I Cor. 15:22).

Predestination – Does the Rest of the Bible Support Paul’s Teaching?

There are very few today who accept the doctrine of predestination.  Most steadfastly assert that humanity has free will, and that YHVH does not limit the will of man, but allows him to exercise that will even to the point that it overrides His own.  But what do the rest of the Scriptures have to say about YHVH’s will and the fulfillment of His purpose?  Let’s examine some passages from the Old Testament to see if this teaching was a new innovation by Paul, or if it had its roots in the Hebrew Scriptures:

JEREMIAH 10:23 You know, O LORD, that man is not master of his way; man’s course is not within his choice, nor is it for him to direct his step. (NAB)

This is a very straightforward and direct statement from Jeremiah.  He clearly states that man does not control his destiny, does not choose his own path or direct his own steps.  The clear implication is that it is Yehovah Elohim who does these things.

PROVERBS 16:9 In his mind a man plans his course, but the LORD directs his steps. (NAB)

The Artscroll Tanach Series is a set of Jewish commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures from talmudic, midrashic, and rabbinic sources.  Here is what the commentary on Proverbs says about this proverb and its companion statement from Jeremiah:

Like many other verses in Scripture, this verse teaches that man is not in control of his own destiny.  He can only make plans; the ultimate outcome, however, is in the hands of Hashem.  The prophet Jeremiah also proclaims that (Jeremiah 10:23) . . . a man’s path is not his own.  Accordingly, we must learn to place our trust in Hashem and fervently pray that He set us on the path of success so that we may see our plans reach fruition (Meiri). (p. 301, vol. 2,Mishlei / Proverbs)

Similar comments are found elsewhere in the psalms of David, as well as in the proverbs of Solomon:

PSALM 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be. (NIV)

PSALM 37:23 The steps of a man are established by the LORD, and He delights in his way. (NASU)

PROVERBS 20:24 Man’s steps are ordained by the LORD, how then can man understand his way? (NASU)

The Artscroll Tanach Series commentary on Proverbs ties together the theme of these final two verses:

This oft-quoted verse (similar to Psalms 37:23 . . . By Hashem are a man’s footsteps established) expresses the limited extent of our ability to understand Divine Providence.  Man is a puppet in the hands of Hashem and as such often has no comprehension of the circumstances of his mortal existence.  But this itself can be a source of encouragement, for we trust that whatever our condition, Hashem has our best interests at heart. (p. 408, vol. 2,Mishlei / Proverbs)

Notice how similar this rabbinic view is to that of the apostle Paul, who stated that YHVH causes everything that happens to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called in accordance with His purpose (Rom. 8:28).

PROVERBS 19:21 The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will be established. (NRSV)

PROVERBS 16:1 A man may arrange his thoughts, but what he says depends on the LORD. (JPS Tanakh)

These two related statements from Solomon indicate that the mind of a man does have some ability to formulate independent thoughts and schemes.  However, when it comes to actions and spoken words to express those thoughts, man is dependent upon YHVH.  There is no such thing as “chance” or “luck”; YHVH ELOHIM is in control of all things:

PROVERBS 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (CSB)

Numerous stories from the Old Testament show the hand of YHVH in planning and carrying out His will through the actions of men.  Let’s look at some of them to see how YHVH guided events to fulfill His purpose.

JOSEPH

First, let’s look at the story of Joseph, the favorite son of Jacob by his beloved wife Rachel.  Because of the special treatment that Joseph received from Jacob, the rest of his brothers hated him (Gen. 37:3-4).  Eventually, this hatred caused them to plot to kill Joseph.  Reuben, the oldest son of Jacob, was able to keep the other brothers from slaying him.  However, they did sell Joseph into slavery and deceive his father into believing that he had been killed by a wild animal.

Joseph ended up as a slave in Egypt, but YHVH was with him in everything that he did.  Thirteen years after being betrayed by his brothers, while Joseph was being held unjustly in prison, YHVH gave Pharaoh a prophetic dream that he did not understand.  But YHVH also gave Joseph the ability to accurately interpret that dream for the ruler of Egypt of the famine that He was about to send upon the land (Gen. 41:25, 28).  Because of the wisdom and discernment that Joseph displayed in regard to the dream, Pharaoh elevated him to the second highest position in all the land.  He also placed him in charge of the effort to prepare the land for the famine that was coming after seven years.

When the prophesied famine struck, Jacob heard that there was food in Egypt.  He sent his 10 oldest sons down from Canaan to Egypt to purchase grain.  Joseph immediately knew them when they arrived, but they did not recognize him.  After testing his brothers to see if their hearts had changed since their earlier actions against him, Joseph revealed himself to them.  In doing so, he stated that everything that had happened to him was predestined by God:

GENESIS 45:4 And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.”  So they came near.  Then he said:  “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.  5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.  6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting.  7 And God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  8 So now it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.” (NKJV)

Joseph realized that everything he had suffered was part of the plan of YHVH.  Therefore, he didn’t hold his brothers liable for what happened to him, but rather understood that YHVH the Father was responsible.  This realization was what allowed Joseph to forgive his brothers for their plot against him:

GENESIS 50:18 His brothers then came and threw themselves down before him.  “We are your slaves,” they said.  19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” (NIV)

Although his brothers acted against him out of hatred (motivated in large part by divinely-inspired events such as his dreams), Joseph did not hold them accountable for their actions.  He forgave them because he realized that YHVH accomplished His will through them.  In this, we see that Joseph was a type of the Messiah, who also forgave his brothers the Jews for their persecution and crucifixion of him (Luke 23:34).

The Jews of Yeshua’s day did what they did because YHVH blinded them to His plan (John 12:37-40; Rom. 11:7-10), in order for His atoning sacrifice for mankind to be successfully offered:

ACTS 3:13 “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus.  You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.  14 You disowned the holy and righteous one and asked that a murderer be released to you.  15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.  We are witnesses of this.  16 By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong.  It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see.  17 Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.  18 But this is how God fulfilled what He had foretold through all the prophets, saying that His Christ would suffer.” (NIV)

I CORINTHIANS 2:7 But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8 the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; (NASU)

By understanding that YHVH ELOHIM is ultimately responsible for all things, it is possible to see why YHVH commanded us to forgive those who oppose, oppress and attack us:

MATTHEW 5:44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (NKJV)

To really forgive our enemies, it helps for us to recognize that YHVH’s blinding has caused them to be against us.  They are “vessels of wrath” which YHVH is using to make known to us “the riches of His glory” (Rom. 9:22-23).  This realization of YHVH’s sovereignty and His control of events was why Joseph could truly forgive his brothers of their transgression against him.

PHARAOH

The story of the Pharaoh of the Exodus is of great benefit in understanding how YHVH brings events to pass in order to fulfill His will.  As quoted earlier from the 9th chapter of Romans, Paul clearly stated that YHVH hardened Pharaoh’s heart in order for Him to prove something to the world (Rom. 9:17-18).  Let’s start the story with YEHOVAH’s words to Abram 430 years prior to the Exodus:

GENESIS 15:13 Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years.  14 But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions.” (ESV)

This prophecy from YHVH to Abram specifies an exact time period – 400 years.  According to the cantillation signs in the Hebrew text of Genesis 15:13, the phrase “400 years” refers back to the words, “your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs.”  The years of Abraham’s offspring being strangers in a strange land began with the birth of Isaac, NOT with the Egyptian enslavement.  Therefore the text ought to be understood as follows:  “Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs . . . 400 years.”  It was 400 years from the date of Isaac’s birth until the Exodus, and 430 years (Exo. 12:40-41; Gal. 3:17) from the time of YHVH’s covenant with Abram.

Notice that ELOHIM pronounced a very specific time period for these very specific events.  YHVH didn’t just allow them to happen or foresee them happening.  He directly acted to cause them to happen at a precise point in time.  In his commentary on the Exodus, the Jewish sage Rashi wrote that the covenant of the pieces (Gen. 15:13), the angelic announcement of Isaac’s birth (Gen. 18:10), his actual birth (Gen. 21:2), and the Exodus from Egypt (Exo. 12:41) all took place on exactly “the selfsame day” on the Hebrew calendar:

On the fifteenth of Nisan the ministering angels came to Abraham to announce (it) to him, and on the fifteenth of Nisan Isaac was born, and on the fifteenth of Nisan there was decreed the decree “between the pieces.” (p. 121, vol. II, The Pentateuch and Rashi’s Commentary)

Clearly, the fact that all these events occurred on the same date was not coincidence, but part of the design of YHVH’s plan.  For that plan to be fulfilled precisely as YHVH desired, Pharaoh had to do exactly as YHVH intended.  When Moses first received instructions from the Angel of YHVH from the burning bush, a brief outline of the events that would occur during the Exodus was given to him:

EXODUS 3:16 “Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ‘  18 And they will listen to your voice, and you and the elders of Israel shall go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us; and now, please let us go a three days’ journey into the wilderness, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.’  19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless compelled by a mighty hand.  20 So I will stretch out My hand and strike Egypt with all the wonders that I will do in it; after that he will let you go.  21 And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, 22 but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing.  You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters.  So you shall plunder the Egyptians.” (ESV)

YHVH ELOHIM later added some additional details about the reaction of Pharaoh to the miracles ELOHIM would grant Moses to perform:

EXODUS 4:21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power.  But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.  22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is My firstborn son, 23 and I say to you, “Let My son go that he may serve Me.”  If you refuse to let him go, behold, I will kill your firstborn son.’ ” (CJB)

Here we see the first mention of YHVH hardening the heart of Pharaoh.  For the will of God to be carried out according to His plan in this matter, all 10 plagues (culminating with the death of the firstborn) had to occur.  By hardening his heart, YHVH ensured that Pharaoh didn’t abandon his rebellion before YHVH ELOHIM accomplished His objectives.  He specifically tells Moses His plan shortly thereafter:

EXODUS 7:1 And the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.  2 You shall speak all that I command you, and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land.  3 But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply My signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, 4 Pharaoh will not listen to you.  Then I will lay My hand on Egypt and bring My hosts, My people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great acts of judgment.  5 The Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them.” (ESV)

The first time we specifically see it stated that YHVH hardened Pharaoh’s heart is after the 6th plague of boils:

EXODUS 9:11 The magicians could not stand before Moses because of the boils, for the boils were on the magicians as well as on all the Egyptians.  12 And the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not listen to them, just as the LORD had spoken to Moses. (NASU)

After hardening his heart to ensure that the punishment would continue, YHVH then threatened Pharaoh and Egypt with another horrible plague:

EXODUS 9:13 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says:  Let My people go, so that they may worship Me, 14 or this time I will send the full force of My plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like Me in all the earth.  15 For by now I could have stretched out My hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth.  16 But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you My power and that My name might be proclaimed in all the earth.  17 You still set yourself against My people and will not let them go.  18 Therefore, at this time tomorrow I will send the worst hailstorm that has ever fallen on Egypt, from the day it was founded till now.’ ” (NIV)

YHVH clearly stated through Moses that He had raised up Pharaoh for the very purpose of revealing His power and glorifying His name through him.  Could Pharaoh have stopped the plagues by giving in to YHVH’s demand to let His people go?  No, we see from the very words of God that this was not an option.  YHVH’s plan required that all 10 plagues be poured out on Egypt, and nothing (not even Pharaoh himself) could have been allowed to stop that from happening.  YHVH the Father clearly and unambiguously states this fact over and over in the Exodus narrative:

EXODUS 10:1 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these miraculous signs of Mine among them 2 that you may tell your children and grandchildren how I dealt harshly with the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, and that you may know that I am the LORD.” (NIV)

Again, after the 8th plague of locusts, Pharaoh seemed ready to give in (Exo. 10:16-17).  However, we see that YHVH once more intervened and hardened the heart of Pharaoh to stop him from accepting Moses’ demands:

EXODUS 10:20 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the Israelites go. (CSB)

Likewise, after the 9th plague of darkness, Pharaoh was ready to acquiesce to Moses’ request (Exo. 10:24).  But once again, YHVH did not allow him to do so:

EXODUS 10:27 But the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he would not let them go. (JPS)

In Exodus chapter 11, Moses told Pharaoh of the 10th and final plague that would fall upon Egypt:  the death of the firstborn.  Hot with anger at Pharaoh’s refusal to let the Israelites go, Moses left Pharaoh’s presence:

EXODUS 11:9 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pharaoh will not listen to you, that My wonders may be multiplied in the land of Egypt.”  10 Moses and Aaron did all these wonders before Pharaoh, and the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go out of his land. (ESV)

Did Pharaoh have free will in this incident?  A literal reading and acceptance of the biblical account at face value shows that the intervention of YHVH was what caused Pharaoh to reject the requested release of the Israelites numerous times.  YHVH’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was the reason that the Egyptian firstborn died, and the reason that the Passover sacrifice was ultimately required.

Clearly this episode was NOT primarily about getting His people freed from slavery.  Rather it was about establishing a literal salvation from Egypt for the Israelite firstborn that would symbolize the later salvation the spiritual firstborn would have through the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah, our Passover (I Cor. 5:7).  The original was necessary to foreshadow the future.  Consequently, YHVH made sure that Pharaoh reacted in such a way that allowed that first Passover to occur as He had planned.

Now, back to the question Paul raised in Romans chapter 9:  Was YHVH unjust to punish Pharaoh after causing him to rebel against Him?  Paul initially deflected this question by saying that the created have no right to question what the Creator does (Rom. 9:19-21).

However, the apostle to the Gentiles then went on to explain that YHVH is using most in this age simply as “vessels of wrath” (Rom. 9:22) in the process of showing mercy to His “assembly of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23).  Through these spiritual firstborn, YHVH will eventually have mercy on all (Rom. 11:30-31).

SENNACHERIB

For another example of predestination in the Tanakh, let’s look at the story of Sennacherib, the king of Assyria.  Sennacherib came against Jerusalem during the reign of Jewish king Hezekiah.  His envoy proclaimed to the Jews that they should not look to King Hezekiah or to YHVH their ELOHIM to save them.  After putting on sackcloth, King Hezekiah sent Eliakim, Shebna, and the senior priests to the prophet Isaiah for God’s input on the matter.  Here is the message from YHVH that Isaiah sent back to the king:

ISAIAH 37:21 Then Isaiah son of Amoz sent a message to Hezekiah:  “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says:  Because you have prayed to Me concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria, 22 this is the word the LORD has spoken against him:  “The Virgin Daughter of Zion despises and mocks you.  The Daughter of Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee.  23 Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed?  Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride?  Against the Holy One of Israel!  24 By your messengers you have heaped insults on the Lord.  And you have said, ‘With my many chariots I have ascended the heights of the mountains, the utmost heights of Lebanon.  I have cut down its tallest cedars, the choicest of its pines.  I have reached its remotest heights, the finest of its forests.  25 I have dug wells in foreign lands and drunk the water there.  With the soles of my feet I have dried up all the streams of Egypt.’  26 Have you not heard?  Long ago I ordained it.  In days of old I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you have turned fortified cities into piles of stone.  27 Their people, drained of power, are dismayed and put to shame.  They are like plants in the field, like tender green shoots, like grass sprouting on the roof, scorched before it grows up.  28 But I know where you stay and when you come and go and how you rage against Me.  29 Because you rage against Me and because your insolence has reached My ears, I will put My hook in your nose and My bit in your mouth, and I will make you return by the way you came.” (NIV)

Through Isaiah, YHVH told Hezekiah that He had long ago planned that which was then happening.  YHVH clearly stated that He had predestined and raised up Sennacherib and He had given him his victories over the nations he had conquered.  To punish his impudence, pride, and lack of recognition of YHVH’s hand in his successes, YHVH told King Hezekiah that He would drag Sennacherib back to Assyria in shame.

That very night, YHVH fulfilled His word regarding King Sennacherib:

II KINGS 19:35 And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians.  And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.  36 Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh.  37 And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, Adrammelech and Sharezer, his sons, struck him down with the sword and escaped into the land of Ararat.  And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place. (ESV)

Clearly portrayed in this story is the fact that YHVH alone is sovereign and that He organizes the rise and fall of world leaders which includes Trump, and all before him not only in America, but leaders worldwide. (cf. Jer. 27:5 below).

NEBUCHADNEZZAR

In the prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, YHVH shows that Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was His servant, used to accomplish His divine will.  In addition, YHVH stated that the Babylonian kingdom would continue under Nebuchadnezzar, his son (Nabonidus), and his grandson (Belshazzar).  It was under the rule of Belshazzar that YHVH would raise up Cyrus the Persian to conquer Babylon:

JEREMIAH 25:9 “I will summon all the peoples of the north and My servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the LORD, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations.  I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin.” (NIV)

JEREMIAH 27:5 “It is I who by My great power and My outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to Me.  6 Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him.  7 All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes.  Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.  8 But if any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the LORD, until I have consumed it by his hand.  9 So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your fortune-tellers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon.’  10 For it is a lie that they are prophesying to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land, and I will drive you out, and you will perish.  11 But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the LORD.” (ESV)

EZEKIEL 29:18 “Son of man, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made his army labor hard against Tyre.  Every head was made bald, and every shoulder was rubbed bare, yet neither he nor his army got anything from Tyre to pay for the labor that he had performed against her.  19 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD:  Behold, I will give the land of Egypt to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he shall carry off its wealth and despoil it and plunder it; and it shall be the wages for his army.  20 I have given him the land of Egypt as his payment for which he labored, because they worked for Me, declares the Lord GOD. (ESV)

JEREMIAH 43:10 “Then say to them, ‘This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says:  I will send for My servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will set his throne over these stones I have buried here; he will spread his royal canopy above them.  11 He will come and attack Egypt, bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword.  12 He will set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt; he will burn their temples and take their gods captive.  As a shepherd wraps his garment around him, so will he wrap Egypt around himself and depart from there unscathed.  13 There in the temple of the sun in Egypt he will demolish the sacred pillars and will burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt.’ ” (NIV)

YHVH gave Nebuchadnezzar victory and used him to afflict those nations He purposed to punish.  This Babylonian king was predestined by YHVH ELOHIM to accomplish His purpose during a critical period of Judah’s history.

CYRUS

Pharaoh, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar were not the only ancient rulers used by YHVH to further His divine plan.  The Persian king Cyrus was specifically named by YHVH through the prophet Isaiah as one who would be given victory by YHVH and then be used to fulfill His will:

ISAIAH 44:28 “It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd!  And he will perform all My desire.’  And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’ ” (NASU)

ISAIAH 45:1 “Thus says the LORD to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held — to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut:  2 ‘I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron.  3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.  4 For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.  5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me.  I will gird you, though you have not known Me, 6 that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me.  I am the LORD, and there is no other;’ ” (NKJV)

EZRA 1:1 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 2 Thus says Cyrus king of Persia:  All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me.  And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. (NKJV)

Yehovah Elohim raised up Cyrus for the express purpose of bringing about the downfall of Babylon and allowing His people, the Jews, to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple there.  Cyrus was predestined to accomplish a specific task for Almighty Yehovah, and the Eternal Father ensured that he successfully completed His purpose.

JEREMIAH

The prophet Jeremiah is one of several people mentioned in the Scriptures who was known by YHVH before they were born:

JEREMIAH 1:4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”  6 “Ah, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.”  7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a child.’  You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.” (NIV)

According to the very words of YHVH, Jeremiah did not have the free will to do anything other than what He told him to do.

Who I am and my calling not of my own decision:

https://ttimesoftrouble.wordpress.com/2017/02/08/what-compelled-me-to-write-message-for-this-entire-human-race/

Now let’s move on to the New Testament to see others, both good and bad, who were predestined to fulfill God’s purpose:

JOHN THE BAPTIST

The story of John the Baptist is generally well known to most Christians.  The words of the angel Gabriel to his priestly father, Zechariah, plainly show that John was predestined from before his birth to be the prophesied messenger announcing the first appearance of the Messiah:

LUKE 1:13 But the angel said to him:  “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John.  14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.  He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.  16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.  17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous — to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (NIV)

John was a relative of Yeshua due to his mother Elizabeth being kin to Mary (Luke 1:36).  He had no say in how his life would turn out.  John was selected by YHVH before his birth and tasked with a particular mission (the preaching of repentance in preparation for the kingdom of God) that ended with his death at the hands of Herod Antipas.  From before his conception until his death, John’s path was charted by Yehovah Elohim.

THE BLIND MAN AT THE TEMPLE

JOHN 9:1 As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  2 And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  3 Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (ESV)

According to the words of the Messiah himself, this man had been born blind in order for Yeshua to bring praise to YHVH’s name by giving him sight.  This man’s entire life, including the years of suffering he experienced due to his blindness, was a prelude to Yeshua’s miraculous healing.  He was predestined for just that moment and just that miracle, so Yeshua could glorify YHVH through him.

JUDAS ISCARIOT

The eternal fate of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of the Messiah, has long been debated in the Christian world.  However, what does not appear to be debatable is whether or not Judas acted of his own free will when he betrayed Yeshua.  The Scriptures clearly indicate that Judas was preordained to be a traitor to Yeshua’s cause, leading to his crucifixion:

JOHN 6:64 “But there are some of you who do not believe.”  For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray him. (NKJV)

JOHN 17:12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (ESV)

ACTS 1:16 “Friends, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit through David foretold concerning Judas, who became a guide for those who arrested Jesus— 17 for he was numbered among us and was allotted his share in this ministry.” (NRSV)

GENTILES IN ANTIOCH IN PISIDIA

Are there some who are destined by the Eternal Father to be in the millennial kingdom of YHVH?

ACTS 13:44 On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.  45 When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.  46 Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly:  “We had to speak the word of God to you first.  Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles.  47 For this is what the Lord has commanded us:  ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”  48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. (NIV)

Clearly, the Scriptures teach that those Gentiles in Antioch in Pisidia who believed the preaching of Paul and Barnabas were preordained by YHVH to enjoy age-lasting life during the millennial reign of Messiah Yeshua.

PAUL THE APOSTLE

After his conversion, Paul understood YHVH had predestined him from the time that he was born for the work of taking the gospel to the Gentiles:

GALATIANS 1:15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by His grace, was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, (NIV)

Paul knew that this preordained responsibility was not due to anything he had personally done.  Rather, it was that Elohim showed him unmerited favor (“grace”) in calling him.  Paul’s letters indicate that he fully realized just how personally unworthy he was for the task that God assigned him:

I CORINTHIANS 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (NASU)

EPHESIANS 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, (ESV)

Paul was the most prolific writer in the New Testament regarding the doctrine of predestination.  Having been personally instructed by the glorified Messiah, he understood YHVH’s plan.  Paul knew Elohim had charted out the path of his life, and that he was destined to run the race on the course God had laid out for him:

ACTS 20:22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there.  23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.  24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (NIV)

HEBREWS 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (NIV)

At the end of his life, Paul recognized that he had successfully completed the race YHVH had set before him to run:

II TIMOTHY 4:6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure.  7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that Day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)

At the end of his life, after he had successfully completed that which YHVH had assigned him to do, Paul realized that he would be one of the few chosen from among the many that YHVH calls (Matt. 20:16; 22:14).  He understood that because he had faithfully carried out YHVH’s will, he would be rewarded with a place in the coming kingdom of God.

The “many are called but few are chosen” principle is YHVH’s counterbalance to an understanding of predestination.  Even Paul, who was aware that God had predestined him to take the gospel to the Gentiles, did not know for sure if he would finish his race successfully (I Cor. 9:24-27).  YHVH only chooses a few from among the many that He calls in order to conceal from those who are now called their immediate fate.  If He didn’t do this, being called by YHVH during this age could be absolutely equated with qualifying for a position as a priest/king in the coming Messianic kingdom.  Since YHVH doesn’t want His saints to be complacent, the “many called/few chosen” formula is a way to introduce uncertainty into the equation.

More about those predestined:

https://ttimesoftrouble.wordpress.com/2016/12/26/amazingly-precise/

Is YHVH Responsible for Man’s Suffering?

“OK,” some will say, “there appears to be biblical evidence that some people are predestined by Elohim for certain things.  But surely that can’t mean that He involves Himself in the lives of every single human being on the planet, can it?”

Well, let’s see what the Messiah has to say about the extent of God’s control over the physical world in the fulfillment of His divine will:

MATTHEW 10:29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.  30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (NIV)

If not one single sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of Yehovah the Father, how much control do you think He exercises over mankind?  We don’t have to wonder, because the Messiah clearly tells us that WE are much more important to YHVH than many sparrows.  If He has numbered the very hairs of our heads, does YHVH care enough about us to be intricately involved in our everyday lives?  The scriptural and logical answer is “Yes.”

Most cannot fathom the idea that ELOHIM has preordained the destinies of billions of people.  Despite numerous Scriptures to the contrary, the concept of free will is so deeply ingrained in the religious beliefs of most that they cannot accept that Yehovah Elohim has predestined the lives (and ultimately, the salvation) of all mankind.

Many will object that YHVH cannot be in charge of every detail of each person’s life, because if He was, then He would be directly  responsible for all human suffering and pain on the earth.  Most cannot accept that YHVH would cause the horrific misery that is evident in this world.  Therefore, they rationalize that God doesn’t specifically cause what happens, but rather He simply allows it to occur because He has given His sentient creatures free will, and many of them have chosen to do evil.

Unfortunately, this rationalization doesn’t let YHVH off the hook.  If He truly is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent, He has the presence, knowledge, and power to stop the suffering that happens.  To have that power and not make use of it to end human misery means YHVH is complicit in the suffering.  Either way it is viewed, YHVH bears responsibility for the suffering that humanity endures.

If YHVH is powerful enough to stop all suffering (and the Scriptures assert that He is), then why does YHVH ELOHIM not end it?  Could it be because this suffering ultimately serves YHVH’s purpose of bringing many sons into His family?

ROMANS 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.  20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the One who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.  22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  24 For in this hope we were saved.  But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what he already has?  25 But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. (NIV)

Paul states that YHVH subjected His creation to frustration and decay, but that He will liberate it from these impediments when His children are revealed.  While Paul doesn’t go into the details, he clearly conveys a certainty that the present sufferings of humanity will pale in comparison to the glory that will be manifested in mankind when this portion of Yehovah’s plan is completed.

The prophet Isaiah quotes a promise from YHVH that all the pain and suffering of this present world will one day be forgotten when He creates a new heavens and a new earth:

ISAIAH 65:17 “Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.  The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind.” (NIV)

Even the Messiah was required to suffer while he was on this earth.  This wasn’t suffering simply for the sake of suffering, but rather suffering with a purpose and goal.  This suffering contributed to Yeshua becoming complete, as the author of Hebrews tells us twice:

HEBREWS 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.  10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. (NIV)

HEBREWS 5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.  8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.  9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, (ESV)

If the Messiah had to suffer in order to learn obedience and be made “perfect” or “complete,” why should we expect anything different?  Is a slave greater than his master?  No, the best we should expect is to be like our Master (Matt. 10:24-25).  Since the Father decreed that our Master Yeshua had to suffer in order to be perfected, we too should expect YHVH the Father to put us through trials and tribulations in order for us to reach spiritual maturity and attain godly character (Jam. 1:2-4).

The primary difference between Yeshua and us is that he had a preexistent relationship with YHVH the heavenly Father and fully understood Elohim’s will and what was expected of him.  We, unfortunately, do not always know Elohim’s will for us.  We can only determine it by studying the Scriptures, developing a relationship with YHVH through regular prayer, and asking Him to reveal His will to us through His Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

The Scriptures portray YHVH the Father as being omnipotent.  Because of His incomparable power, there is nothing that YHVH cannot achieve.  Since He created and sustains all things through His Holy Spirit, no being within Yehovah’s creation is able to thwart His plan or purpose.  Several times, Elohim states in the Scriptures that His will is to eventually save all mankind.  His chosen vessel for accomplishing this salvation is His son Yeshua the Messiah.

Per His plan, YHVH has called many people now to worship Him.  However, from those many called, only a few will be chosen to be saved (Matt. 20:16; 22:14) in this age.  YHVH’s purpose in saving those few now is so that they can in turn help save others later.  Most are destined to be used by ELOHIM at this time to extend His mercy to those few.  YHVH’s plan calls for using most people in this age to show His wrath and to make His power and glory known to those on whom He is having mercy (Rom. 9:22-23).  Seeing and recognizing YHVH’s wrath and power causes those He has called and chosen to fear Him.  According to the Scriptures, the fear of YHVH leads to obedience, which brings us wisdom (Job 28:28; Psa. 111:10; Pro. 9:10; 15:33), knowledge (Pro. 1:17; 2:5), and life (Pro. 10:27; 14:27; 19:23; 22:4).

YEHOVAH ELOHIM planned in exquisite detail how to bring many sons into His family before He created the universe.  Unfortunately, as the apostle Paul stated, YHVH’s decrees are unfathomable and His ways incomprehensible to most of mankind (Rom. 11:33).  He has blinded the majority so that they cannot understand His plan or how it is being accomplished.  Even among believers, what YHVH is doing is not well understood.  However, when all is said and done, it will be recognized by everyone that YHVH alone is responsible for the salvation of humanity.  No one will be able to boast that they played any part in their own salvation.  It is by Yehovah’s grace alone, not our works, that our Father will bring us into His divine family.  In this way, Elohim the Father will receive all the praise and glory from His children for His merciful act of salvation.

Source http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm

Who I am – My Purpose

https://ttimesoftrouble.wordpress.com/about/

https://ttimesoftrouble.wordpress.com/

https://ttimesoftrouble.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/539/  My Efforts for Spiritual Knowledge

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble offers a good choice being many [over 240] individual reads on various subjects concerning the major mess America and our entire world civilization is truly in; and includes worldwide misled Christianity according to the Bible which has left billions not spiritually prepared for what is soon to become the worst timesoftrouble ever on this planet.

 

IN GALATIANS – WAS PAUL TEACHING AGAINST THE LAW?

Timesoftrouble says;

When any individual has been diligently seeking truth through many years while becoming as a living sacrifice [decade of lacking basic needs] through faith: all to be found is total division, disobedience, and plenty pride being fuel for this world of misled Christianity; therefore when our precious and true Father reveals truth, such as law through the word being Yeshua along with those inspired becoming no longer of this world via their calling in John 15:18-21 — Their key being “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” in Proverbs 9:10 has been supplied.  What follow is 43 pages of excellent truth, and links at the end sharing what Christianity worldwide does not fully teach; and especially the commandment based on loving others in Matthew 22:37-40. Want to please our Father? How much? Enough to actually obey His Book of Instruction rather than lead from your natural human spirit which sees only truth being as foolishness? (1 Corinthians 2) What about Matthew 25:31-46? Are you a sheep or goat? Foolish question? If we cannot examine ourselves, how can we see what Yehovah sees within our heart having no actions based on His law of love?

GALATIANS – WAS PAUL TEACHING AGAINST THE LAW?

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Paul’s letter to the Galatians is the Scripture most often used to try and prove that YHVH‘s Law has been done away.  Many theologians cite passages from Galatians to establish that the so-called “Mosaic Law” (i.e., Torah) given at Mount Sinai has no validity for “new covenant” believers.  But is this position correct?  Did Yeshua remove the Law that God gave the Israelites at Sinai and replace it with a different law?

The key to understanding anything in the Bible is an awareness of the CONTEXT of the Scripture you’re reading.  Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is no exception.  We have to remember that this text is a letter that Paul wrote to try and correct a problem that was occurring in Galatia.  However, we only have ONE side of the discussion.  We don’t know what questions or statements Paul had received from the Galatians.  In effect, reading this letter is like listening to a telephone conversation we’re not directly involved with.  We can’t hear what the other party is saying, so we have to try and determine what was said through the answers given by the one we can hear.

To fully grasp what Paul is saying in this pivotal New Testament epistle, we must become aware of the specific problems that had arisen in Galatia.  We must also try to discern who was causing those problems.  Our goal in this article is to compare Paul’s comments to the Galatians with teachings that existed in 1st-century Judaism.  By doing this, we will attempt to identify the group of “Judaizers” who were disturbing Paul’s converts in Galatia.  In the process, we will look extensively at some of the documents uncovered during the 20th century in the Dead Sea scrolls found at Qumran.

Now let’s begin our journey through the book of Galatians with Paul’s introduction and greeting to the Galatians:

GALATIANS 1:1 Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead), 2 and all the brethren who are with me, to the churches of Galatia:  3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen. (NKJV)

After his short greeting, Paul quickly launches into the problem occurring in Galatia:

GALATIANS 1:6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.  8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (NKJV)

Some person or group was attempting to deceive the Galatians with a “different gospel.”  At this point in his letter, we don’t yet know what this other gospel (“good news”) is that Paul refers to here.  As we delve more deeply into his epistle, Paul will give us some vital clues about how the good news proclaimed by Messiah had been perverted.  To emphasize the depth of his displeasure at this development, Paul pronounces a double curse on the person(s) attempting to convert the Galatians to this heretical religious view.

GALATIANS 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.  11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.  12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. (NKJV)

Here Paul emphasizes the divine nature of his teaching.  He claims that Yeshua the Messiah himself revealed the truth to him.  This claim is designed to differentiate the gospel that Paul initially brought to the Galatians from the gospel they later accepted.

GALATIANS 1:13 For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it.  14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for thetraditions of my fathers. (NKJV)

In the Second Temple period, Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Qumran sectarians, Nazarenes, etc. all considered themselves to be Jews.  Judaism is a useful term insofar as it indicates that one worships the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  However, the different Jewish sects differed widely in belief and practice in the 1st century.

We know from the New Testament that Paul was a member of the sect of the Pharisees (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Phi. 3:5).  The “traditions of the fathers” he mentions in verse 14 is a reference to the Oral Law of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees (and later their successors, rabbinic Judaism) believed that Moses was given oral laws as well as the written Law while on Mount Sinai for 40 days.  According to Jewish tradition, these oral laws were handed down through the generations from father to son to explain how the written Law was to be kept.  Many of these oral laws were later recorded by the rabbis in the Mishnah and the Talmud.

Paul does not just mention the “traditions of the fathers” in passing here.  His comment is intended to set up what he will write to the Galatians later in his letter about the teachings of the “false brethren.”

GALATIANS 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (NKJV)

Unlike many who would have sought human validation for the supernatural instruction he had just received, Paul did not go to Jerusalem to consult with the disciples who had been with Yeshua.  Instead, he went to Arabia and then Damascus for a total of three years (v. 18).

GALATIANS 1:18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days.  19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.  20 (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.)  21 Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.  22 And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ.  23 But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.”  24 And they glorified God in me. (NKJV)

At the end of chapter 1, Paul speaks of his trip to Jerusalem three years after his experience on the road to Damsacus.  While there, he conferred with the apostle Peter for 15 days.

GALATIANS 2:1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me.  2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.  3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. (NKJV)

Paul tells of another trip he took to Jerusalem 14 years after his conversion, this time accompanied by Barnabas (Acts 11:30; 12:25) and Titus.  He states that he was told to go “by revelation.”  The purpose of his trip was to confirm that he was preaching the same message to the Gentiles that the original apostles were preaching to the Jews.

Paul’s statement regarding Titus not being compelled to be circumcised (v. 3) is another clue regarding the problems that had arisen in Galatia.  Indications from the text are that coerced circumcision was one of the primary false teachings being brought to the Galatians.

The different Jewish sects taught different meanings for circumcision.  Despite the common misconception of most Christians, Paul was not opposed to circumcision per se.  In fact, he required circumcision of his co-worker Timothy (Acts 16:1-4), and he stated that “the sign of circumcision” is “a seal of the righteousness of the faith” (Rom. 4:11).  But Paul’s adversaries in Galatia wanted circumcision not to be simply a sign that showed faith, but rather part of the method through which righteousness was attained.

GALATIANS 2:4 But because of false believers secretly brought in, who slipped in to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might enslave us – 5 we did not submit to them even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you. (NRSV)

Verses 4 and 5 seem somewhat out of place because these verses are an inset equating the “false brethren” bothering the Galatians with other false believers the apostle Paul had met during his ministry.  They are mentioned at this point in Paul’s letter because their actions and attitudes were the opposite of those Paul visited while in Jerusalem.  Paul’s contrast between Titus not being required to be circumcised by the apostles when they visited Jerusalem (v. 3) and the mention of “false brethren” (v. 4) shows that forced circumcision based on the teaching of the “false brethren” was one of the central issues Paul was concerned about in Galatia.

GALATIANS 2:6 But from those who seemed to be something – whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man – for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me.  7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.  10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do. (NKJV)

After the two inset verses, Paul continues discussing his trip to Jerusalem.  He shows that Peter was the leader of the apostles who had been with Yeshua.  This passage is designed to show the Galatians that Paul was preaching the same good news to the Gentiles that the original apostles led by Peter were preaching to the Jews.

In the next story Paul relates about Peter, he sets up his main point against the false brethren in Galatia:

GALATIANS 2:11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision.  13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. (NKJV)

Apparently Peter later made a reciprocal visit to Paul at Antioch.  Initially, he ate meals with the Gentile converts there.  But when some Jewish men sent by James showed up later, he discontinued eating with the Gentiles.

The reason Peter ceased eating with the Gentiles when the Jewish men from Jerusalem arrived was due to requirements found in the Oral Law.  The eating Paul speaks of here had nothing to do with unclean food.  Peter himself confirms this tenet of the Oral Law in his visit to Cornelius:

ACTS 10:28 He said to them:  “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him.  But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.” (NIV)

This prohibition is NOT found in the Torah, but rather was part of the Oral Law.  According to strict Jewish tradition, it was not permitted to eat with an uncircumcised Gentile even if he worshiped the God of Israel and served clean food.  This was because it was automatically assumed that the house was ritually unclean, and that the Gentiles in it were also unclean.  According to the Oral Law, this uncleanness would make the Jew entering into the house unclean also.

The tradition of separating from the Gentiles to maintain ritual purity was contrary to the truth of the Gospel.  There is no law in theTorah which forbids Israelites from eating with Gentiles.  Paul’s commission was to preach the good news to as many Gentiles as were willing to hear it.  Jews refusing to eat with Gentile believers would have made this task very difficult, if not impossible.

GALATIANS 2:14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew [Ioudaios], live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews [Ioudaikos], why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews[Ioudaizein]?” (NKJV)

Paul called Peter’s hand on this practice in front of all the Jews, including those from Jerusalem, because he knew Peter’s true feelings on this issue.  Paul’s words to Peter are hard for us to understand today, as Peter himself later commented about many of Paul’s writings (2 Pet. 3:16).  However, a careful analysis of them will reveal the true point that Paul was making to Peter.

In the New Testament, the word “Jew” (from the Greek root word Ioudaios) has basically three meanings.  It either refers to (1) one who is descended from the House of Judah, (2) someone from the land of Judea, or (3) someone who practiced the religion of Israel.  At times, these designations overlapped.

In Paul’s case, his rebuke of Peter was designed to call attention to the hypocrisy he showed when the religious Jews arrived from Judea.  Paul chastised Peter for trying to adhere to ritual purity customs based on the Oral Law which were kept by the strict Jews in Judea.  However, these traditions were not normally required of the Gentile brethren outside of Judea.  A Jewish evangelist who followed these traditional customs while in other nations would have had a tough time converting the Gentiles.

Below is a literal translation of verse 14 that better illustrates Paul’s point:

GALATIANS 2:14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew [Ioudaios], live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Judeans [Ioudaikos], why do you compel Gentiles to live as Judeans[Ioudaizein]?” (literal)

Paul asked Peter a simple but biting question:  “Peter, although you are a Jew, while dwelling among the Gentiles you don’t normally seek to be ritually pure like the Jews in Judea.  So why are you now trying to force the Gentiles to adhere to the purity traditions just as if they were in Judea?”  Paul said Peter did not normally follow the oral tradition that he was advocating by his actions, and that made him a hypocrite.

In the context of Paul’s argument, to “live as Jews,” or “Judeans” was synonymous with following the oral customs regarding contact with Gentiles that those in Judea followed in order to be ritually clean.  The issue here was not compliance with the written Law, but remaining ritually pure according to the Oral Law so they could visit the Temple.  The Judeans from Jerusalem were apparently concerned about maintaining their ritual purity (even though they could become ritually clean again before returning to Jerusalem).  Peter, who was not adhering to those customs when he first arrived in Antioch, returned to the stricter Judean practice of maintaining ritual purity when the Jews from Jerusalem arrived.  His hypocrisy was evident to Paul because he knew that Peter did not believe the Oral Law’s ritual purity requirements regarding eating with Gentiles were valid (Acts 10:28).

Paul’s use of the example of Peter here in his letter was intended to lead in to the problem of the “false gospel” being promoted in Galatia by his opponents.  It is within Paul’s next statement that we see the crux of the problem in Galatia first addressed by Paul:

GALATIANS 2:15 “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law [ergon nomou] but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law [ergon nomou]; for by the works of the law [ergon nomou] no flesh shall be justified. (NKJV)

Here we are introduced to the phrase “works of the law” for the first time in the letter to the Galatians.  This phrase has been the foundation for much Christian doctrine and theological understanding.  Most Christians believe that “works of the law” is a reference to observing the Law of Moses.  They interpret Paul’s words here to mean that obedience to the Torah is no longer required.  In fact, some take Paul’s statement to mean that obedience to the Law demonstrates a lack of faith.

However, this interpretation is unjustified based on Paul’s prior comments to Peter.  Peter was NOT following the Law of Moses when he separated himself from the Gentiles.  Rather, he was adhering to traditions found in the Oral Law.  Could it be that Paul’s use of the phrase “works of the law” was intended to refer to something other than the Law of Moses?

Due to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, new light has been shed on the heresy that Paul was combating in Galatia.  In the fourth cave excavated at Qumran, a manuscript named Miqsat Ma’ase haTorah (4QMMT) was found.  It was only translated and released to the public in 1994.

In the November/December 1994 issue of Biblical Archaeological Review, scholar Martin Abegg commented on the importance of this document to understanding Paul’s letter to the Galatians:

MMT . . . stands for Miqsat Ma’ase Ha-Torah, which Strugnell and Qimron translate “Some Precepts of the Torah.”  This translation unfortunately obscures MMT’s relationship to Paul’s letters.

In this case, miqsat does not mean simply “some.”  The same word is used in Genesis 47:2, where Joseph presents five of his brothers to Pharaoh.  Here the word could be understood to mean the most important of the brothers or perhaps the choice or select.  In other words, when the word is used in MMT, it does not refer just to some random laws; these laws are important to the writer.  A similar understanding of the meaning of the word can be gleaned from its use in the Talmud.  Thus we might translate the word more accurately as “some important” or “pertinent.”

More significant for our purposes, however, are the other two words, ma’ase ha-torah.  Strugnell and Qimron translate this phrase as “precepts of Torah,” while Lawrence Schiffman offers “legal rulings of Torah.”  These translations are accurate enough, but they nonetheless cloud the Paul connection.

A few minutes with a concordance of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, leaves little doubt that the Greek equivalent of ma’ase ha-torah is likely ergon nomou.  Ergon nomou is commonly translated in English versions of the New Testament as “works of the law.”  This well-known Pauline phrase is found in Romans 3:20,28 and in Galatians 2:16; 3:2,5,10.

. . . Ma’ase ha-torah is equivalent to what we know in English from Paul’s letters as “works of the law.”  This Dead Sea Scroll and Paul use the very same phrase.  The connection is emphasized by the fact that this phrase appears nowhere in rabbinic literature of the first and second centuries A.D.—only in Paul and in MMT. (pp. 52-53, “Paul, ‘Works of the Law,’ and MMT,”Biblical Archaeological Review, November/December 1994)

This ancient document is of great importance in understanding the heresy that Paul was combating at Galatia.  As we will see by another of Paul’s statements later (Gal. 4:10), the evidence is overwhelming that his opponents there were adherents to some of the same doctrines that those in Qumran held.

Several books have addressed this particular Dead Sea Scroll since it was first published.  In a more recent work, Abegg speaks further about the significance of 4QMMT (which he calls A Sectarian Manifesto):

In all of antiquity, only the Manifesto and Paul’s Letters to the Galatians and Romans discuss the connection between works and righteousness.  For that reason alone this writing is of immense interest and importance.  But the Manifesto has additional significance.  While the sectarian documents found in the caves at Qumran fairly bristle with legal discussions on a variety of issues, only this work, commonly known as 4QMMT (an acronym from the Hebrew words meaning “some of the works of the Law”), directly challenges the position of another religious group.

. . . The Manifesto presents a well-reasoned argument couched in a homily, complete with applications, illustrations, and exhortations.  Following a thesis statement that identifies the central problem—the impure are being allowed to mix with the pure (the profane with the holy)—the author lists some two dozen examples to prove his point . . . The addressee (and secondarily, the reader) is then encouraged to follow the author:  separate from those who practice such things. . . . (p. 358, Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation)

Abegg’s translation of the 4QMMT author’s concluding statements shows that the Qumran sectarians were advocating obedience to their particular interpretation of the Tanakh:

[Indeed,] we [have written] to you so that you might understand the book of Moses, the book[s of the Pr]ophets, and Davi[d] . . . (p. 363, Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation)

Here is Abegg’s translation of the final exhortation found in 4QMMT:

Now, we have written to you some of the works of the Law, those which we determined would be beneficial for you and your people, because we have seen [that] you possess insight and knowledge of the Law.  Understand all these things and beseech Him to set your counsel straight and so keep you away from evil thoughts and the counsel of Belial.  Then you shall rejoice at the end time when you find the essence of our words to be true.  And it will be reckoned to you as righteousness, in that you have done what is right and good before Him, to your own benefit and to that of Israel. (p. 364, Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation)

Abegg succinctly summarizes the author’s intention for a reader of 4QMMT:

. . . The final exhortation presses home the author’s true point:  to be accounted righteous, one must obey the Law as interpreted in the Manifesto.

This final exhortation is of great importance for a fuller understanding of statements the apostle Paul makes about works and righteousness in his Letter to the Galatians.  The author of the Manifesto, probably thinking of Psalm 106:30-31 (where the works of Phinehas were “reckoned to him as righteousness”), is engaged, as it were, in a rhetorical duel with the ideas of the apostle.  Paul appeals to Genesis 15:6 to show that it was the faith of Abraham that was “reckoned to him as righteousness” (Gal. 3:6) and goes on to state categorically that “by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal. 2:16).  Probably the “false brethren” (Gal. 2:4) that Paul opposed held a doctrine on justification much like that of the present writing (i.e., 4QMMT). (p. 359, Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation)

In his essay “The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Historical Jesus,” James H. Charlesworth speaks of the emphasis the Qumran Essenes placed on purity:

As we know from an unpublished letter (“Some of the Precepts of the Torah”) . . . the Qumran group held to rules for purification that differed from other Jews (4QMMT).  The Qumranic penal code, which included the death penalty, was closely aligned with the rules for purity.  In terms of the concept of purity Jesus was categorically different from the Essenes. (p. 25, Jesus And The Dead Sea Scrolls)

It was the issue of ritual purity as defined by the Oral Law that caused Peter to separate from Gentiles in Antioch.  The relationship between the cause for Peter’s hypocrisy and the “different gospel” being brought to Galatia by the “false brethren” is why Paul chose to use the story of Peter to launch his attack on his opponents there.  Regarding the nature of the teachings found at Qumran, Charlesworth writes:

. . . The Essenes originated as a separate group because of their interpretation of legal issues (4QMMT).  Many of the Dead Sea Scrolls are legalistic . . . (p. 32, Jesus And The Dead Sea Scrolls)

The Essenes at Qumran were a subgroup of the majority of Essenes:

. . . The Essenes of Josephus cannot be simply equated with the Qumranites.  The history of the Qumranites is long, covering three centuries, and there is considerable development at Qumran.  Likewise the lifestyle of the “Qumran Essenes” would be more strict than those living, for example, in Jerusalem.  There were at least two distinct types of Essenes in Palestine. (p. 42, Jesus And The Dead Sea Scrolls)

As these quotations show, the teaching brought to Galatia by the sectarians went far above and beyond the requirements of the written Torah.

GALATIANS 2:17 “If, while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselves are sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin?  Absolutely not!  18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, I prove that I am a lawbreaker. (NIV)

Now Paul, in an effort to head off any counter argument that he was opposed to obeying the written Law of Moses, goes on the offensive against lawlessness (I John 3:4).  He states that justification through the sacrifice of the Messiah does not give us license to sin.

GALATIANS 2:19 For I through the Law died to the Law that I might live to God.  20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (NKJV)

The penalty for sin is death, as Paul states in his epistle to the Romans (Rom. 6:23).  Therefore, those who have broken any of God’s laws are under this penalty (cf. Jam. 2:10).  Because of this requirement of the Law, Paul had to die.  But instead of physically dying, Paul was able to substitute the Messiah’s sacrificial death for his own.  However, in order not to become a lawbreaker again after having been cleansed of his sins, Paul had to subject his will to that of Messiah Yeshua.  He had to become a living sacrifice, living his life in obedience to God instead of obeying his own fleshly lusts.

GALATIANS 2:21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died in vain.” (NKJV)

Here Paul finishes his opening remarks and establishes the premise for his attack on the teachings of the “false brethren” in Galatia that follows in chapter 3.  Paul’s position is that legalistic observance of the Law (whether according to the sectarians’ “Works of the Law,” the Oral Law of the Pharisees, etc.) for the purpose of establishing one’s own righteousness is worthless in the sight of God.

In his letter to the Galatians, Paul contrasts the two ways for gaining righteousness:  (1) Legalistic obedience to the Law versus (2) obedience to the Law due to faith in the Messiah.  To understand Paul’s comments about the Law in Galatians, we must realize his position about the PURPOSE of the Law.  He speaks of this extensively in his letter to the Romans:

ROMANS 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says it speaks to those who are under the Law [hupo nomon], so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole worldmay be held accountable to God.  20 For by works of the law [ergon nomou] no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the Law comes knowledge of sin.  21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it – 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  For there is no distinction:  23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (ESV)

Taken in context, Paul’s words here show his true understanding of the purpose of the Law.  The Law was intended to show the conduct God expected from mankind.  Any deviation from that specified conduct was sin.  As the apostle John tells us explicitly in the New Testament, “sin is lawlessness” (I John 3:4).

The Law speaks to those who are “under the Law” (Gr. hupo nomon).  Here this phrase refers to the judging function of the Law.  Paul is speaking of those who, because they have sinned, are under the PENALTY for breaking the Law (Rom. 6:14-15; Gal. 3:23; 5:18).  This penalty is DEATH (Rom. 6:23).  Lest anyone think that only the Jews are subject to this judgment, Paul tells us that through the Law the whole world will be held accountable to God (Rom. 3:19).

ROMANS 3:28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law[ergon nomou]. (NASU)

By “works of the law” (legalistic observance of the Law to gain God’s favor), no one will be justified in God’s sight.  The reason why this is so is because “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23).  However, God has provided a way for our justification other than through perfect observance of the Law.  That way is through FAITH, by accepting the sacrifice of Messiah Yeshua (Rom. 3:20, 28).

ROMANS 3:31 Do we then overthrow [katargoumen] the Law BY THIS FAITH?  By no means[me genoito]!  On the contrary, we uphold [histomen] the Law. (ESV)

Finally, to ensure that the Romans did not misundertand his stance on the Law, Paul summed up the relationship of faith to the Law.  Paul first asks if our FAITH overthrows (Gr. katargoumen – “nullifies,” “makes void,” “destroys”) the Law.  Answering his own rhetorical question, Paul emphatically states “NO WAY!” using a strong negative Greek phrase (me genoito).  Paul finishes by stating that instead of our faith nullifying the Law, it should motivate us to uphold (Gr. histomen – “establish,” “make valid,” “confirm”) the Law.  It’s amazing that anyone could misconstrue the plain meaning of these words.  But unfortunately, most of the Christian world has done just that.

Later in the book of Romans, Paul speaks about HOW the Jews who did not accept Yeshua as the Messiah had gotten off track:

ROMANS 9:30 What shall we say then?  That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith; 31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the the law of righteousness.  32 Why?  Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law [ergon nomou].  For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. (NKJV)

Refusing to accept God’s grace and the imputed righteousness provided by the sacrifice of His Son, the Jews had sought to establish their own righteousness through scrupulous keeping of the Law.  In Romans 10, Paul continued his explanation of this Jewish error:

ROMANS 10:1 Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.  2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.  4 For Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (NKJV)

Too many read that the “Messiah is the end of the Law” without acknowledging the remainder of Paul’s statement.  Messiah was NOT the end of the Law; he was only the end of the Law as a means of righteousness for those who had FAITH in his atoning sacrifice.

Did this shift in the way righteousness was obtained mean that the Law was no longer valid?  No, as Paul himself states elsewhere (Rom. 3:31; Gal. 3:21).  Paul was simply showing that the MOTIVATION for keeping the Law changed when one through faith accepted the Messiah’s sacrifice.

Paul speaks in his letter to the Philippians about the differences between the “righteousness of the Law” and the righteousness obtained through faith:

PHILIPPIANS 3:4 Though I also might have confidence in the flesh.  If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:  5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the Law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless.  7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; (NKJV)

Paul shows here that, according to his legalistic observance of the Law before his conversion, he was considered righteous and blameless.  However, this righteousness was based on Paul’s fleshly ability to conform to the Law.  The righteousness which is from God through faith in Yeshua is based on the power of the Holy Spirit to enable a person to be obedient.  As we shall see later, Paul speaks of this allegorically in Galatians 4:22-31.

Armed with this view of Paul’s understanding of the Law’s purpose, let’s now examine his specific comments about the Law in Galatians 3:

GALATIANS 3:1 O foolish Galatians!  Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?  2 This only I want to learn from you:  Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law [ergon nomou], or by the hearing of faith? (NKJV)

Now Paul begins to attack the premise underlying the sectarian teaching in earnest.  He asks the Galatians if keeping the Torahperfectly (or in this case, according to the sectarians’ “Works of the Law”) was what had initially allowed them to receive God’s Spirit, or whether it was hearing the gospel he had proclaimed and believing it in faith.  Clearly, his implication is that they were first accounted righteous through faithful acceptance of Yeshua’s sacrifice, not by legalistic observance of the Law.

GALATIANS 3:3 Are you so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?  4 Have you suffered so many things in vain – if indeed it was in vain?  5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law [ergon nomou], or by the hearing of faith? – (NKJV)

Here Paul reemphasizes his previous point:  It was through faith that the Galatians had obtained the Spirit, not through perfect observance of the Torah such as that encouraged by the sectarians.

GALATIANS 3:6 Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.  8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”  9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (NKJV)

Many think that Paul here (quoting in v. 6 from Genesis 15:6) is stating that all one has to do is believe in faith, and that faith somehow substitutes for keeping the commandments of God.  But let’s examine the example of Abraham more closely.  The Bible clearly shows that his faith led to obedience, as Hebrews 11 (the “faith chapter”) records:

HEBREWS 11:8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going. (NKJV)

HEBREWS 11:17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, (NKJV)

The author of Hebrews clearly shows that Abraham’s faith was confirmed by his OBEDIENCE to God. Faith is not a substitute for obedience.  True faith leads to obedience, because the one who obeys believes that God “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6).  This is affirmed in God’s confirmation to Isaac of the promises made to Abraham:

GENESIS 26:2 Then the LORD appeared to him [Isaac] and said:  “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land of which I shall tell you.  3 Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your descendants I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father.  4 And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5 because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws.” (NKJV)

Paul’s statement in verse 6, when understood properly, perfectly compliments the words of James regarding Abraham’s faith:

JAMES 2:21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?  22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, andby works faith was made perfect?  23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”  And he was called the friend of God.  24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (NKJV)

These Scriptures do not contradict each other; Paul and James were making the same point regarding Abraham’s faith.  But Abraham’s faithful obedience and the Galatian’s legalistic obedience were two different things.  The former showed faith in God’s imputed righteousness, while the latter indicated reliance on one’s own actions and abilities to become righteous.

GALATIANS 3:10 For as many as are of the works of the law [ergon nomou] are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the Book of the Law, to do them.” (NKJV)

When the Galatians began to seek their own righteousness by observing the Torah according to the sectarians’ “Works of the Law,” they had ceased depending on the sacrifice of the Messiah to make them righteous.  At that point, in order to remain righteous, they had to keep the Law perfectly.  This is the reason for Paul’s warning here.  He wanted to make them understand that their choice had left them no room for error.

GALATIANS 3:11 But that no one is justified by the Law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”  12 Yet the Law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.” (NKJV)

What did Paul mean by his declaration that “the Law is not of faith”?  Many take this to mean that observance of the Law is not required after the death and resurrection of Messiah.  Some go so far as to say that those who seek to do what God has commanded are under a curse.  That certainly was not Paul’s view.  To him, observing the “works of the law” represented a legalistic mindset that sought to earn righteousness.  Paul is not disparaging the Law itself, but rather the attitude represented by the sectarian teachings that had come to Galatia.

To better understand Paul’s comments about the relationship of God’s commandments to a believer, let’s examine a scenario put forth by the Messiah himself:

LUKE 17:7 “And which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and sit down to eat’?  8 But will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink’?  9 Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him?  I think not.  10 So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants.  We have done what was our duty to do.’ ” (NKJV)

According to Yeshua, doing what God has commanded is not optional; it is our duty as His people.  Those who anticipate earning a reward for obeying God’s commandments will be disappointed.  As his example clearly shows, obedience to the Law is expected of believers; it is a prerequisite to being considered a true follower of Yeshua the Messiah (Matt. 7:21-23).

GALATIANS 3:13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (NKJV)

Here Paul quotes from the Torah regarding the penalty for a capital crime under the Mosaic Law:

DEUTERONOMY 21:22 “If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God. (NKJV)

Paul told the Romans that by committing sin, one earns the death penalty (Rom. 6:23).  James stated that even if a person kept the majority of the Law and just stumbled in one point of it, he was guilty of breaking it all (Jam. 2:10).  Therefore, rather than the commonly held assumption that “the curse of the Law” is having to obey the Law, we see that “the curse of the Law” is the DEATH PENALTY required for not obeying the Law.

By living a sinless life (II Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15), Yeshua was not under this death penalty.  But even though he was not subject to the “curse of the Law,” Yeshua gave his life to redeem those who were under that judgment.  Faithful acceptance of his sacrifice will save us from the “curse of the Law,” which is God’s wrath against unrepentant sinners:

ROMANS 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  9 Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (NKJV)

To further make his point, Paul next addresses the covenant God made with Abraham:

GALATIANS 3:15 Brethren, I speak in the manner of men:  Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it.  16 Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made.  He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.  17 And this I say, that the Law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.  18 For if the inheritance is of the Law, it is no longer of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise. (NKJV)

Now Paul goes into the promises and blessings given to Abraham.  God gave Abraham the promise of a multitude of descendants, but He also promised him one SPECIFIC descendant:

GENESIS 22:18 “In your seed [zar’akha] all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (NKJV)

The Hebrew word zar’akha (root word zera, “seed”) is singular (as is the Greek word spermati used in the Septuagint).  This verse is the source of Paul’s reference to ONE seed, the Messiah.  Although Abraham certainly has a multitude of physical descendants, he has even more “offspring” through the work being performed by the Messiah.

Paul’s point here is that legalistic obedience to the Law, which came 430 years after God made the promises to Abraham, does not nullify God’s covenant with Abraham.  This covenant promises God’s salvation to all mankind through the work of the Messiah.  However, this salvation does not negate the importance of obedience.  The promises were given to Abraham based on his faithfulobedience.  Abraham BELIEVED what God told him, and he DID what God said.  This included obeying God’s laws, statutes and commandments, as God told Isaac (Gen. 26:5).

But here is the most important point:  Abraham believed FIRST, and then OBEYED.  The sectarian approach was just the opposite of Abraham’s actions.  They required perfect obedience to the Law FIRST as a qualification for the promised inheritance.  In their view, faith was not the primary reason for observing the Law; ensuring one’s place as an inheritor of the promises of Abraham was.

GALATIANS 3:19 Why then the Law?  It was added because of transgressions, until the Offspring would come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained through angels by a mediator. (NRSV)

To correctly understand this verse, we must remember Paul’s position on the Law.  It was not a tool to enable righteousness, but rather a way to know what God expects of us.  Paul addresses this point more fully in verse 21.

The mediator mentioned in verse 19 is Moses, who stood between the people of Israel and Israel’s ‘elohim, the preincarnate Messiah.  Paul mentions this to set up his next point:

GALATIANS 3:20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one. (NKJV)

The covenant between ‘elohim and Abraham had no mediator; ‘elohim and Abraham spoke face to face.  Here Paul is again emphasizing the preeminence of God’s covenant with Abraham over the covenant made with Abraham’s descendants at Mount Sinai.

GALATIANS 3:21 Is the Law then against the promises of God?  Certainly not [me genoito]!  For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the Law. (NKJV)

Paul, realizing that some might take his previous comments to be AGAINST the Law, now seeks to dispel any such notion in verse 21.  He states without reservation that the Law is not, in any way, contrary to God’s promises to Abraham.  In the last part of the verse, Paul equates LIFE with RIGHTEOUSNESS (and by implication, DEATH with UNRIGHTEOUSNESS / SIN).  He goes so far as to say that if it were possible for ANY law to give life, then the Law given through Moses would have been the one to do so.  But it could not, because that was not the function of the Law.

Why could the Law not provide life?

GALATIANS 3:22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. (NKJV)

The Law could not provide life because of the flawed nature of human beings, not because of some defect in the Law:

ROMANS 8:3 What the Law could not do because of the weakness of human nature, God did, sending His own Son in the same human nature as any sinner to be a sacrifice for sin, and condemning sin in that human nature. (NJB)

Going back to Paul’s understanding of the PURPOSE of the Law discussed earlier, we see he recognized that it provided a guide for conduct and penalties for disobedience.  But because of the sin nature of mankind, the Law was not a means for achieving righteousness.  Paul tells us that all have broken the Law (cf. Rom. 3:9, 23).  Therefore, all have incurred the resulting penalty, which is DEATH.

GALATIANS 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the Law [hupo nomon], imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed.  24 So then, the Law was our guardian[paidagogos] until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.  25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian [paidagogon], (ESV)

Paul’s point here is generally misunderstood because of a wrong view of the function of the paidagogos in ancient Greek society.  This Greek word, translated “guardian” above, is translated “schoolmaster” and “tutor” in some versions.  However, the key to comprehending Paul’s point is to truly understand the responsibilities of the paidagogos.  Here is what the Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature states about the function of a paidagogos:

. . . Orig[inally] ‘boy-leader’, the man, usu[ally] a slave (Plut., Mor. 4ab), whose duty it was to conduct a boy or youth (Plut., Mor. 439f) to and from school and to superintend his conduct gener[ally]; he was not a ‘teacher’ . . . When the young man became of age, the [paidagogos] was no longer needed . . .

As you can see from the definition above, Paul is NOT referring to the Law as a teacher.  Instead, he is again speaking of the judgment function of the Law.  The context indicates that the Law functioned as a guardian for those convicted of sin.  Since all have sinned (Gal. 3:22), this was all of humanity.

When forgiveness came through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Yeshua, we were no longer subject to the guardianship of the Law; we were no longer under its penalty for disobedience.  Faith leads us to spiritual maturity; just as a boy no longer needed a guardian to superintend his conduct after he came of age, we no longer need the Law as the guardian of our conduct after we come to faith in Messiah.  However, this does not mean that the Law’s role as God’s standard of right conduct has been voided.

GALATIANS 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (NKJV)

This passage is often used to try and show that no physical or racial differences should exist within the body of Messiah.  That was not Paul’s point.  He gives us three pairs:  (1) Jew/Greek; (2) slave/free; and (3) male/female.  Obviously differences still existed between all these groups in Paul’s day.  Instead, Paul was saying that each has equal access to Yah‘s salvation.  As children of God, each is an heir, along with Messiah, of the promises made to Abraham.

GALATIANS 4:1 My point is this:  heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; 2 but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father.  3 So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world [ta stoicheia tou kosmou]. (NRSV)

Paul states his point using the analogy of human children.  Even though we are children of God, until we come to spiritual maturity, we are no better than slaves.  Just as the Galatians were under the judgment of the Law until they accepted the Messiah’s sacrifice, Paul says that they were subject to “the elemental spirits of the world” (Gr. ta stoicheia tou kosmou).  Regarding the meaning of this Greek phrase, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology states:

In the case of Gal. 4:3, 9 and Col. 2:8, 20 it is a disputed question whether or not thestoicheia tou kosmou, the “elements of the world”, are angels, demons, gods . . . Most commentators hold this to be the case . . . (p. 452, vol. 2)

In his Jewish New Testament Commentary, David Stern agrees with this understanding of ta stoicheia tou kosmou in Galatians.  He writes:

Elemental spirits of the universe . . . both Jews and Gentiles, were slaves to them.  Gentiles served these demonic spirits as gods.  Jews, though knowing the one true God, were sometimes led astray by demonic spirits . . .” (p. 556)

Paul’s point here is the same thing that he stated in his letter to the Ephesians:

EPHESIANS 6:12 For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, withthe powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (NAB)

As Paul states a little further on in his letter to the Galatians (Gal. 4:8-9), it is these evil spiritual forces that lead a person from faithful obedience into legalistic observance of the Law.

GALATIANS 4:4 But when the time had fully come [to pleroma tou chronou], God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under Law [hupo nomon], 5 to redeem those under Law [hupo nomon], that we might receive the full rights of sons. (NIV)

When “the fullness of the time” (to pleroma tou chronou) had come, when it was the exact moment planned out before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8), Paul tells us that God sent His divine Son to this earth as a human being.  This was done to provide a way for mankind to overcome the “curse of the Law” and become fellow heirs of God with Messiah (Rom. 8:17).

GALATIANS 4:6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”  7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (NKJV)

Through the Holy Spirit, God had provided the Galatians with the very mind of Messiah (Phi. 2:5).  Having been released from the penalty for breaking the Law, they had become heirs of God instead of slaves to sin (Rom. 6:16).

GALATIANS 4:8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods; (RSV)

The “elemental spirits” Paul referred to earlier (Gal. 4:3) were the false gods the Galatians had ignorantly worshiped before their conversion.  As Paul clearly explained in his first letter to the Corinthian church, idol worship is actually the worship of demons (I Cor. 10:19-20).

GALATIANS 4:9 Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits?  How can you want to be enslaved to them again? (NRSV)

The “weak and worthless elemental spirits” which had shackled the Galatians in sin prior to their conversion were evil spirits (i.e., fallen angels and demons”).  Paul now equates the doctrines being taught by the sectarians with the pagan demon worship the Galatians had previously abandoned.  The comparison between paganism and the (legalistic) observance of the Law must have shocked the Galatians, who undoubtedly thought that they were growing spiritually rather than regressing.

The next verse has been widely misunderstood.  Yet in regard to identifying Paul’s opponents, it is one of the most important verses in the letter to the Galatians:

GALATIANS 4:10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. (NKJV)

The long-standing position of traditional Christian scholars is that Paul is criticizing the Galatians here for keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days given to Israel in the Torah.  However, this position requires the assumption that Paul equates the observance of God’s Holy Days with slavery to/worship of evil spirit beings.

This view ignores Paul’s command to the Corinthians to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread (I Cor. 5:8), as well as his background and training as a Torah-observant Pharisee.  In fact, it implies that Paul held the Gnostic position that the god of the Old Testament was an evil angelic being (“demiurge”).

Clearly, the sectarians proselytizing at Galatia were trying to get the congregation to observe some type of Jewish “days and months and seasons and years.”  But were these the same “days and months and seasons and years” that normative Judaism kept?

If you remember from our earlier discussion, Paul’s use of the phrase “Works of the Law” indicates that he was speaking specifically against beliefs held by the Qumran Essene sectarians, as defined in 4QMMT.  According to Martin Abegg, another Qumran document (4Q327) was connected to 4QMMT:

4Q327 . . . plots the Sabbaths and festivals for one complete solar year . . . This is one of the few calendars that designates the extrabiblical Festival of Oil, which fell on the twenty-second day of the sixth month.  The structure of the work makes it likely that two more extrabiblical festivals were originally listed as well:  the Wine Festival and the Festival of Wood Offering. . . .

Some scholars believe that 4Q327 was not actually a separate and distinct work.  They argue that instead it originally attached to the beginning of one copy of A Sectarian Manifesto (text 84).  In favor of this suggestion is the handwriting:  the same scribe wrote both 4Q327 and the copy of the Manifesto. . . . (p. 319, Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation)

As shown by 4Q327, another core belief of the Qumran Essene group was their calendar.  It was a solar calendar consisting of 364 days per year which included the Essene version of God’s commanded Holy Days (Lev. 23), as well as extrabiblical observances.  Here is a copy of this calendar:


 

ESSENE SOLAR CALENDAR BASED ON 4Q327

1st Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab 2nd Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab 3rd Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab
1 2 3 4 1 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
5 6 7 8 9 10 11 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
26 27 28 29 30 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 29 30 31
4th Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab 5th Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab 6th Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab
1 2 3 4 1 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
5 6 7 8 9 10 11 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
26 27 28 29 30 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 29 30 31
7th Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab 8th Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab 9th Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab
1 2 3 4 1 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
5 6 7 8 9 10 11 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
26 27 28 29 30 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 29 30 31
10th Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab 11th Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab 12th Month Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sab
1 2 3 4 1 2 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
5 6 7 8 9 10 11 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
19 20 21 22 23 24 25 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
26 27 28 29 30 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 29 30 31

 

OBSERVANCE ESSENE CALENDAR PHARISAIC CALENDAR
Day of Remembrance (start of month) every month, 1st day when New Moon sighted
Sacred New Year Wed, 1st month, 1st day 1 Nisan (1st month)
1st Day of Passover Feast Wed, 1st month, 15th day 15 Nisan
7th Day of Passover Feast Tue, 1st month, 21st day 21 Nisan
First Fruits of Barley (Wave Sheaf) Sun, 1st month, 26th day 16 Nisan
First Fruits of Wheat (Shavu’ot) Sun, 3rd month, 15th day 5, 6, or 7 Sivan (3rd month)
First Fruits of Wine Sun, 5th month, 3rd day Not observed
Feast of the Wood Offering Mon, 6th month, 2nd day 15 Av (5th month)
First Fruits of Oil Sun, 6th month, 22nd day Not observed
Feast of Trumpets (Rosh Hashanah) Wed, 7th month, 1st day 1 Tishri (7th month)
Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) Fri, 7th month, 10th day 10 Tishri
1st Day of Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) Wed, 7th month, 15th day 15 Tishri
8th Day after Tabernacles (Shemini Atzeret) Wed, 7th month, 22th day 22 Tishri

 


A recent article in the Biblical Archaeological Review gives us some specific information about this calendar and how it differed from the calendar used by the majority of Jews:

Even the Essene calendar was different.  The Temple authorities maintained a lunar calendar; the Essenes followed a solar calendar, which consisted of exactly 52 weeks per year, that is, 364 days.  According to this calendar, festivals always fell on the same day of the week.  Thus, Rosh Hashanah (the Feast of Trumpets), Passover and the first day of Sukkot (the Feast of Tabernacles) always occurred on a Wednesday.  The Essenes considered the solar calendar used by the Hasmoneans in the Temple, tied as it was to a 354-day lunar calendar, to be adulterated with Babylonian elements.  For example, the names of the months – Nisan, Shevet, Adar, Tishri – were Babylonian.  The difference in calendars created a terrible discrepancy in holiday observance, with the Temple authorities and the Essenes celebrating festivals on different days.  This naturally created a sharp rift between the two groups. (p. 64, “Jerusalem’s Essene Gateway,” Biblical Archaeological Review, May/June 1997)

The Essene calendar was a rival to the traditional Jewish calendar endorsed by the Pharisees.  Paul, trained as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Phi. 3:5), would have followed the traditional calendar sanctioned by the Temple authorities.  Yeshua himself endorsed this calendar indirectly (Matt. 23:1-3).

The Essene calendar (and consequently, their new year) always began on a Wednesday because the sun, moon, and stars were created on this day (Gen. 1:14-19).  The first of the month was called “A Day of Remembrance”; however, the Essene months generally didnot start with a new moon.  The Qumran sectarians, following the Essene calendar, had substituted different feast days and different months for the true calendar observed by the majority of Jews.  Because of the seasonal drift caused by the structure of their calendar, the Essene seasons were also off.  Finally, as another document from Qumran (4Q319, “Calendar of the Heavenly Signs”) shows, the Essenes had a different system of sabbatical and Jubilee years.

It is easy to understand why Paul would have viewed this calendar and its different holy “days,” “months” which did not start on the new moon, out-of-sync “seasons,” and variant sabbatical “years” as demonically inspired.  These “days and months and seasons and years” were just as much satanic counterfeits as the pagan observances the Galatians had kept before their conversion.

GALATIANS 4:11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.  12 Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you.  You have not injured me at all.  13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first.  14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.  15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed?  For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.  16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? (NKJV)

Here Paul shows his exasperation with the Galatians’ acceptance of the Essene heresy.  He recounts how he originally came to Galatia and how he was overwhelmingly accepted by them.  Now, he asks, had he become their enemy by pointing out their errors to them?

GALATIANS 4:17 Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good.  What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may be zealous for them.  18 It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always and not just when I am with you.  19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, 20 how I wish I could be with you now and change my tone, because I am perplexed about you! (NIV)

Paul continues his chiding of the Galatians.  He tells the Galatian congregation that the sectarians desire was to win them for themselves and separate them from Paul and the truth he had brought.

GALATIANS 4:21 Tell me, you who want to be under Law [hupo nomon], do you not listen to the Law? (NASU)

Paul uses the term “Law” in two different ways in this verse.  First, “under Law” refers to legalistic observance of the Law for the purpose of establishing one’s own righteousness.  As Paul stated earlier (Gal. 3:10), this attitude subjects a person to the “curse of the Law” (i.e., “death”) if it is not kept perfectly.

The second usage of “Law” by Paul specifically refers to the book of Genesis.  Here he introduces the allegorical story of Hagar/Ishmael and Sarah/Isaac:

GALATIANS 4:22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons:  the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman.  23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic.  For these are the two covenants:  the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar – 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children – 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. (NKJV)

In this parable, Paul uses Hagar and her son Ishmael to symbolically represent the covenant made at Mount Sinai.  Conversely, Sarah and her son Isaac represent the new covenant promised to Israel and Judah (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 8:10).  This also must have stunned the Galatians, who surely thought that their zeal to observe some “Works of the Law” would ensure that they were counted as righteous, just like their father Abraham.

To fully understand Paul’s point with this comparison, let’s examine the difference between the two covenants:

EXODUS 24:12 The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and commands I have written for their instruction.” (NIV)

JEREMIAH 31:33 “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD.  “I will put My Law in their minds and write it on their hearts.  I will be their God, and they will be My people.” (NIV)

The Law implemented at the first covenant was written on stone, but the Law of the new covenant will be written on the hearts of the people.  The prophet Ezekiel also highlights the contrast between the first covenant and that “new covenant” which would come:

EZEKIEL 36:26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.  28 Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God. (NKJV)

Most misunderstand why there is a need for a “new” covenant.  The Law was NOT the problem!  Remember, Paul earlier told the Galatians that if any law could have given life, the Law of Moses would have given it (Gal. 3:21).  Yes, there was something wrong with the first covenant, but it wasn’t the Law, as the author of Hebrews states:

HEBREWS 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.  8 Because finding fault with them, He says:  “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah – 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.” (NKJV)

The problem with the covenant made at Mount Sinai was not the Law; it was the PEOPLE.  They could not keep the covenant because human nature made them weak through their flesh:

ROMANS 8:3 For what the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, (NKJV)

The Law governing the first covenant was written on tablets of stone and obedience depended upon the flesh.  But due to human nature, the Israelites were weak; they couldn’t keep the covenant.  Under the promised new covenant, the Law is to be written on the hearts of the Israelites, and it is to be kept through the power of God’s Spirit.

In Paul’s analogy, Hagar and Ishmael represent the efforts of the flesh.  God had promised Abram that he would have a physical son who would be his heir (Gen. 15:1-5).  But although Abram believed God (Gen. 15:6), his wife Sarai decided to help in the fulfillment of the divine promise.  Considering her barrenness and advancing age, Sarai convinced Abram to take her Egyptian maid, Hagar, as a secondary wife for the purpose of bearing him the promised child (Gen. 16:1-2).

Abram did have a son by Hagar (Gen. 16:15); he was named Ishmael (“God hears”).  But Ishmael was NOT the son God had promised Abram.  Ishmael was born by the will and efforts of the flesh, not by the power of God’s Spirit.

GALATIANS 4:27 For it is written:  “Rejoice, O barren, You who do not bear!  Break forth and shout, you who are not in labor!  For the desolate has many more children than she who has a husband.”  28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.  29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.  30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say?  “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.”  31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free. (NKJV)

Soon after the birth of Ishmael, God reiterated the promise to Abram (“exalted father”) and changed his name to Abraham (“father of a multitude”), telling him that He would make him the father of many nations (Gen. 17:4-5).  When Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah (then 90 years old) bore him the son of promise, Isaac, through divine intervention (Gen. 21:1-7).  It was through this son that God intended to fulfill His promises to Abraham.

On the day Isaac was weaned, Abraham made a great feast for him (Gen. 21:8).  Probably because of jealousy, Ishmael mocked Isaac and scoffed at him (Gen. 21:9).  Sarah saw Ishmael making fun of her son and insisted that Abraham send him and his mother away (Gen. 21:10).  Abraham didn’t want to do this, but God told him to listen to Sarah, because it was Isaac that was the son of promise (Gen. 21:11-12).

Using the backdrop of Ishmael and Isaac, we are able to see Paul’s point with this allegory.  Paul is not disparaging the Law, because as we saw earlier, the Law is a part of both the first covenant and the new covenant.  Rather, Paul is again contrasting those who seek to keep the Law through the efforts of the flesh (legalism) and those who seek to observe the Law by the Spirit (faith).

GALATIANS 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (NKJV)

In this chapter, Paul focuses on the freedom believers have in Messiah.  But he begins by speaking of the opposite of freedom.  The “yoke of bondage” referenced here by Paul is the enslavement to the “elemental spirits of the world” he had mentioned earlier (Gal. 4:3, 9).

In the context of the Galatian problem, this slavery was typified by LEGALISTIC observance of the Law as a means of establishing one’s own righteousness.  When viewed properly, the letter to the Galatians shows that Paul did NOT consider the Law itself a “yoke of bondage.”

GALATIANS 5:2 Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.  3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole Law. (NKJV)

Once again, we see that the false brethren troubling the Galatians were seeking to have them circumcised.  Circumcision itself was not the principal issue.  The meaning being assigned to circumcision was what Paul opposed.  This ritual was being promoted by the sectarians for the purpose of making the Galatians righteous.

Paul reiterates that once they began depending on their own fleshly ability to keep the Law, the Galatians would have to keep ALL the Law perfectly to be considered righteous.  The sacrifice of Messiah would be of no further benefit to them because they had ceased depending on his blood to cleanse them of sin.

GALATIANS 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by Law; you have fallen from grace. (NKJV)

Because “all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), justification CANNOT come through the flesh.  It only comes through God’s grace, which leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and faith in the sacrifice of the Messiah (Rom. 3:24-26).

However, the sectarians had nullified God’s grace, which had provided a way for the Galatians to be justified through Yeshua’s sacrifice.  In its place, they had brought them a doctrine of legalism, teaching them that through the efforts of their flesh, they could achieve righteousness by the Law.  Of course, Paul knew this effort was ultimately doomed to fail.

GALATIANS 5:5 For we through the Spirit eagerly WAIT for the hope of righteousness by faith. (NKJV)

Again, Paul highlights the true way to righteousness – faith in the sacrifice of Yeshua.  Notice, Paul stated that believers were eagerly WAITING for the hope of righteousness by faith.  Apparently, they had not YET attained that righteousness.

GALATIANS 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, butfaith working through love. (NKJV)

Paul states that it is only “faith working through love” that brings this righteousness.  As Paul told the Romans, physical circumcision ALONE does not make a person righteous:

ROMANS 2:25 For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the Law, but if you break the Law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision.  26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?  27 Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the Law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the Law. (ESV)

Paul told the Romans that when the physically circumcised break the Law, they become spiritually uncircumcised.  Conversely, one who is physically uncircumcised will be considered spiritually circumcised if he obeys the Law.  Whether physically circumcised or not, “faith working through love” inspires one to be obedient to God, as the apostle John shows:

I JOHN 5:3 This is love for God:  to obey His commands.  And His commands are not burdensome, (NIV)

“Faith working through love” does not nullify the Law.  Instead, it motivates one to obedience in order to fulfill the two greatest commandments:

MATTHEW 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  37 Jesus said to him, ” ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  38 This is the first and great commandment.  39 And the second is like it:  ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV)

Here, Yeshua breaks the 10 Commandments given at Mount Sinai down into two groups:  (1) those that show us how to love God (Exo. 20:1-11), and (2) those that show us how to love our neighbor as ourself (Exo. 20:12-17).  According to Yeshua, these two principles form the basis for everything written in the Old Testament.

GALATIANS 5:7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?  8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.  9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.  10 I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.  11 But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted?  Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.  12 I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves. (NASU)

Here, Paul wonders who it was that had come to Galatia and gotten them off course.  He states that these sectarians certainly were not from God.  Paul compares them with yeast, which, even in minute amounts, will eventually work its way throughout an entire lump of dough and leaven it.  He allows his exasperation with the Galatians to show through again, stating that he wished those teaching righteousness by circumcision would go the whole way and emasculate themselves.

Paul’s statement in verse 11 shows that he no longer believed or taught that righteousness comes by circumcision (in contrast to the sectarians).  He now taught that righteousness came through the sacrifice of Yeshua the Messiah on the cross.  This teaching was a stumbling block to most Jews and foolishness to most Greeks (I Cor. 1:23).

GALATIANS 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.  14 For all the Law is fulfilled in one word, even in this:  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (NKJV)

The Galatians had been called to be free through Messiah.  But this liberty was a freedom from their slavery to sin (John 8:34-36).  In Romans, Paul states that those freed from sin must become God’s slaves (Rom. 6:22).  Love is the summation of God’s Law, because God is love (I John 4:8).

In a passage that deals with the same topic, James the brother of Yeshua speaks of the “Law of liberty”:

JAMES 2:8 If you really fulfill the Royal Law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the Law as transgressors.  10 For whoever shall keep the whole Law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.  11 For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.”  Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law.  12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the Law of liberty. (NKJV)

James references the “Royal Law according to the Scripture” and then cites two commands from that Law:  “Do not commit adultery” (Exo. 20:14) and “Do not murder” (Exo. 20:13).  Clearly, the Law he is referring to is that which was given to Moses and the Israelites on Mount Sinai.  James states that it is this “Royal Law” from Scripture that sums up the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).  Although speaking to believers, James stated that they should refrain from transgression of this Law because they would be judged by it if they broke it.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul also defines love of one’s neighbor:

ROMANS 13:8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the Law.  9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the Law. (NKJV)

Is the “love” spoken of here by Paul simply an emotional feeling?  No.  This scriptural love begins with concrete actions such as NOT committing adultery with your neighbor’s wife (Exo. 20:14), NOT murdering him (Exo. 20:13), NOT stealing from him (Exo. 20:15), NOT bearing false witness against him (Exo. 20:16), and NOT coveting his possessions (Exo. 20:17).  Paul also includes the other commandments from the Law dealing with human relationships in his definition of love of neighbor.  Far from doing away with these commandments, Paul told the Romans that obedience to them was “love.”

In the words of Paul and James, we are not seeing some new doctrine or teaching.  The Messiah himself defined obedience to the Law as “love of neighbor”:

MATTHEW 19:16 Now behold, one came and said to him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”  17 So he said to him, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but One, that is, God.  But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  18 He said to him, “Which ones?”  Jesus said, ” ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” (NKJV)

Yeshua told the ruler who came to him that these commandments showed love to his neighbor.  But he went even further, stating that obedience to these commandments was necessary for eternal life.

The Law shows us how God expects us to love Him (Exo. 20:1-11; cf. Matt. 22:37-38; Mark 12:28-30), and also how we are to love our neighbor as ourself (Exo. 20:12-17; cf. Matt. 22:39-40; Mark 12:31).

However, the apostle John tells us that obedience to the two great commandments does not progress as one would normally expect.  It must begin with the second, not the first:

I JOHN 4:20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. (NKJV)

It’s ironic that we cannot fulfill the greatest commandment (love of God) until we are first able to keep the second commandment (love of neighbor).

GALATIANS 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (NKJV)

Apparently, the legalistic teaching of the sectarians had caused friction in the Galatian congregation.  Paul contrasts this attitude with love, which is the true motivation for keeping the Law.

GALATIANS 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.  17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.  18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law [hupo nomon]. (ESV)

Why is one led by the Spirit not under the Law?  Because those who walk by the Spirit do NOT live to satisfy the desires of the flesh, but are slaves to God.  Therefore, they will not be subject to the judgment of the Law.  Paul speaks of this extensively in Romans 8:

ROMANS 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.  7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the Law of God, nor indeed can be.  8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you.  Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (NKJV)

The Spirit of God is the key to being able to keep the Law in an attitude of love.  The flesh seeks its own way, which leads to death.  But the Holy Spirit helps us to rise above our flawed human nature and live our lives in obedience to God.

Paul next defines the works of the flesh in his epistle to the Galatians:

GALATIANS 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are:  adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NKJV)

This is not a detailed, comprehensive list of sin.  Instead, Paul provides a broad synopsis of the weaknesses of our carnal nature and the areas where men fall short of God’s perfect standard of love.

GALATIANS 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control.  Against such there is no law.  24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (NKJV)

After listing the bad fruit produced by man’s imperfect carnal nature, Paul lists the good fruit produced by God’s Spirit dwelling in a believer.  There are no commands in the Law against these attitudes and actions, and those who are truly following the Messiah will have quit practicing the “works of the flesh” listed in verses 19-21.

GALATIANS 5:25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.  26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (NKJV)

Now Paul finishes this line of thought with an exhortation to the Galatian believers to allow God’s Spirit to enable them to exhibit the “fruits of the Spirit.”  Apparently, the fruit produced by the sectarian doctrine was noticably bad.  It seems to have brought out conceit, anger, and envy among the congregation.

GALATIANS 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.  2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (NIV)

Paul here asks that, instead of a legalistic approach to Law-keeping, the Galatians practice forgiving and helping one found to be engaged in sin.  However, he also warns them not to be enticed into the sinner’s error themselves.

Many believe Paul teaches that the Law of God given to Moses at Mount Sinai has been abolished and replaced with the “law of Christ” for new covenant believers.  We’ve already seen that Messiah upheld the 10 Commandments and summarized them as the two great commandments.

Yeshua does speak of “my commandments” (John 14:15, 21; 15:10) and “my words” (John 12:47-48; 14:24; 15:7).  But were these commandments or words from Yeshua NEW?  Let’s look to see if the Messiah’s own statements support the theory that he instituted a new law:

JOHN 12:44 Then Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in me, believes not in me but in Him who sent me.  45 And he who sees me sees Him who sent me.  46 I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness.  47 And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  48 He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.  49 For I have not spoken on my own authority; but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say and what I should speak.  50 And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told me, so I speak.” (NKJV)

JOHN 14:23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.  24 He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” (NKJV)

When taken at face value, Yeshua’s words make it quite clear that he did not come to abolish the Law and replace it with some new legal code.  In fact, he explicitly states that was NOT his goal in the Sermon on the Mount:

MATTHEW 5:17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (NASU)

The Law of Christ is not a new law instituted to replace the Law given to Israel at Mount Sinai.  It is the same Law, expanded from a purely physical perspective to the spiritual level (i.e., Matt. 5:21-30).

GALATIANS 6:3 For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.  4 But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.  5 For each one shall bear his own load. (NKJV)

Here, Paul suggests that each of the Galatians examine “his own work” to ensure that they remain in the will of God.  Paul emphasizes each person’s personal responsibility and, consequently, each one’s liability.

GALATIANS 6:6 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches.  7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.  9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.  10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (NKJV)

In this passage, Paul gives the Galatian congregation an exhortation to do good and to physically provide for those who teach them the truth.  But he also gives them a warning to sow according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh.

GALATIANS 6:11 See with what large letters I have written to you with my own hand!  12 As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.  13 For not even those who are circumcised keep the Law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. (NKJV)

Paul, who generally seems to have dictated his letters by the hand of another, personally wrote the end of his letter to the Galatians in his own handwriting.  Here Paul claims that the sectarians compelling the Galatians to be circumcised were doing so to avoid persecution and to tout their accomplishment.  Apparently, the rest of the Essenes would not have accepted the Galatians as sons of Abraham until they were physically circumcised.  In a “no nonsense” fashion, Paul states that even those sectarians who were pushing for legalistic observance of the Law by having them circumcised didn’t keep the Law perfectly (Rom. 3:23; Gal. 3:22).

GALATIANS 6:14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.  16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.  17 From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.  18 Brethren, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Amen. (NKJV)

Paul places his blessing on those who are a new creation through the Messiah.  This includes the Jews as well as the Gentiles grafted into “the Israel of God” (Rom. 11:17-24).  He concludes his letter with a reminder of what he had suffered to preach the good news of Yeshua the Messiah.

Conclusion

Paul’s letter to the Galatians has long been considered to show that the Law of Moses was invalidated and abolished by the Messiah.  However, a reevaluation of that premise in light of new information found in the Dead Sea Scrolls indicates that the traditional Christian understanding of Paul’s message is incorrect.  Instead, we now see that Paul was combating a form of legalisticTorah observance in Galatia that focused on keeping the Law by the strength of the flesh rather than by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.  Paul’s letter sought to put the Galatians back on the right path in the face of an extensive 1st-century sectarian heresy.

Bryan T. Huie
July 16, 2004

Revised: January 5, 2014
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A Well-Worn Bible Reveals What Dust Collectors Hide

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Nothing on this earth through human beings is by accident; thus all known, planned, and predestined for specific individuals having a purpose – or do you think as all worldly existing in their unknown ways of darkness lacking True Light?

The first section of all you shall read are words by writer Casandra as a loving sister in Christ – along with my comments in bold.

It has been said that a bible falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t. I like that. The well-worn pages of a bible tell a beautiful story. Every wrinkle marks a spot where someone came to meet God. The notes written in the margin are reminders of lessons learned, questions asked, and surrender given. In a few places, you might find smeared ink where tear drops have fallen, battles have been fought, and sins have been forgiven. The cracked, worn binding of a Bible reveals strength that has been unleashed in prayer as the words of God have breathed life into a soul.

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The Bible is more than a book. God breathed and His heart took shape in the form of words on paper. His Word is a window into who He is, how He loves us, and what He is doing in us. It is a mirror by which we can see our own hearts. It shows us the truth about who we are, why we need Him, and who we can be in Him. It is a light that shows us where to go, who to trust, and how to be filled with joy.

Many believers can write beautiful words through their own spirit as uplifting, positive, hope filled, and very pleasing to read, even though YHVHs spirit is completely absent because of their many unknown iniquities which have separated them from YHVH, and that is because there has always been many Gods just as Satan being the God of this misled world all unknowingly believe and follow through uncountable different ways; after all, is not he the father of lies?

In opening our Bibles, we receive an amazing gift. Each word echoes with the voice of God. Every book points to Jesus. Every verse reveals His plan, His purposes, and His passion for you. Every time you open your Bible you meet God. You come into His presence and have the chance for a fresh start, new beginning, radical transformation, or quiet grace.

If every time a Christian opened their Bible, or dust collector, what gift, what echo, or what voice could they possibly receive or hear through being separated? How many Christians obey loving others as they love themselves? How many accept self sacrifice to help another in need? How many prove all things through spiritual research? How many do things commanded rather than what their own mind leads? Through these past nine years, even with hundreds of thousands of views through my now 15 free websites, I have yet to find just one true Christian brother, sister, shepherd, or anyone for some help on a regular basis, and just a little help like an old box of misc unused whatever, or some original Kraft dinners that to me would be as a good meal and blessing; yet our world of Christians all claiming love, saved, born again, forgiven, or whatever are actually living in very dead faith because of their own zeroed actions. Mathews 4:4, James 2:14-17, Hebrews 11:6  

God gives us a stunning promise about what will happen when we allow Him to unleash the power of His Word in our lives. “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:10-11

Do you want to flourish? Do you want to be fruitful? Fill yourself with the words of God. His Word will not return to Him without fulfilling His deepest desire in you. Opening His Word makes it possible for Him to achieve His purpose in your life. His purpose is transformation. He wants to fill you with Jesus.

Opening His word ten thousand times, or every day for a hundred years will accomplish absolutely zilch when the instruction within is not followed; therefore whatever read or spoken through any directed by their own spirit such as all the greatest loved TV preachers and EVANGELISTS WORLDWIDE HAVING MANY MILLIONS OF FOLLOWERS — actually becomes as worthless dust in the wind.

My Jesus Resolution today is to open my Bible and meet God in its pages. Today I am not going to read just to check it off my list or quiet the guilt-o-meter. I am going to still my spirit and listen for the voice of God. I am going to let my heart beat in anticipation of being with the One who loves me beyond measure. I am going to let the richness of His Word feed my deepest hunger. I am going to let the living waters of His presence fill the deep crevices of my soul. And if my Bible looks well-loved, it will just be a reflection of a heart that has taken a journey of joy.

What saddens me greatly is just how few even have a guilt-o-meter, and if any do, their relief is only words with nothing more to quiet it – while still totally ignoring their dust book of instruction revealing them as the goats in Matthew 25:31-46, rather than sheep hearing their Lord Yeshua.

Because I do have well over two decades seeking, my Bible is well-worn through over 25 years of use – while never being a church member or associated since 1995.

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The words read by Casandra at the start of this writing, being an author, speaker, and lover of God and Christ are very uplifting, moving, heartfelt, and joyful because all she writes seems as straight-up pure promise requiring zero efforts, sacrifice, or obedience, while bringing great delight; and truth is, that is what all Christianity really want to hear from other believers, priests, pastors, ministers, bishops, laymen, and prophets being filled with love towards YHVH almighty and our Lord Yeshua in the same way — but sadly, only through words with nothing added, as I have witnessed and experienced since the end of 2006; therefore any words spoken or written being the opposite of what all worldly Christian speakers lead their followers to believe – which is completely lacking and misleading regarding their hopes, dreams, and desire of being close to Yehovah and Yeshua – are shunned, ignored, not liked, not listened to, and not believed while hating or despising whomever delivers them – even though scripture being 31,102 verses, depending on which Bible version is a message, instruction, and warning directly to Israel being Christianity scattered worldwide according to the Bible through scripture few really understand; and that is because of what has been written below in Revelation 12:9 that none believe.

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Want more biblical knowledge from a man not of this world according to the scripture not understood in John 15:18-21? https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble/RJP16w/how-christians-lacking-spiritual-knowledge-hate-god   

Where is all the joy she and this world of Christian believers speak about? Now for me and my wife, tears have been plenty, and the battles between flesh and spirit are nonstop; however . . .

“The prophets tell lies. The priests will not do what they were chosen to do, and my people love it this way! But what will you people do when your punishment comes? Jeremiah 5:31

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Has this world of Christianity been told to come out of all the church buildings of man where Satan dwells? Do Christians even know that all the rough, unsmooth, non uplifting and negative scripture is speaking to them as if being a mirror to the words?

Have believers been made aware that salvation for all mankind, which Yeshua accomplished through being crucified, only becomes eternal through being obedient as stated in Hebrews chapter 5:8-9? And that obedience will come when this world is being judged.

Isaiah 003

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Few and the Many

In Isaiah 26:9 is what lies ahead for all on this earth, and verse 20 speaks of the few with verse 21 being the many of this world. Read the 16 verses in Psalms 91 which discuses the two kinds of people.

Most importantly is how our entire race has been deceived, totally misled, conned, beguiled, lied to, tricked, and even paying unbiblical tithes along with many additional offerings which rarely go where people have been told, but rather line many crooked pockets just as world governments, charities, and Good Will as Wal-Mart selling massive amounts of product obtained for free, and that’s good will, rather than helping those in need? — and all spoken my brothers and sisters includes the over two billion Christians everywhere on this earth – or is Revelation 12:9 only a godly lies not including Christians?

If and when pulpits talk about world deception, wolves in sheep’s clothing, etc, — they really have no idea whatsoever that they are talking about themselves, because if they did – their error would be revealed to the congregation they teach, repentance would follow, and proper lead through much self sacrifice through becoming doers of the word would occur, rather than hearers only deceiving themselves. James 1:22-25

Would you like over 200 pages of rough read from scripture on this world of preacher teachers, churches, Satan, and congregations?

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble/ljD9ZQ/vital-untaught-truth-in-all-religions-worldwide

When is the last time any religious title of all Christian denominations very sternly told their believers these following words from Isaiah 54:7-8 and 59:2?

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So what exactly is iniquity, and why should Christians be concerned?

In Psalm 32:5, the psalmist says, “I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” In this one verse, “sin,” “iniquity,” and “transgression” are all mentioned. Basically, the three words communicate the same idea: evil and lawlessness, as defined by God (see 1 John 3:4). However, upon closer examination, each word also carries a slightly different meaning.

The word sin and its cognates are used 786 times in the New International Version of the Bible. Sin means “to miss the mark.” It can refer to doing something against God or against a person (Exodus 10:16), doing the opposite of what is right (Galatians 5:17), doing something that will have negative results (Proverbs 24:33–34), and failing to do something you know is right (James 4:17). In the Old Testament, God even instituted sacrifices for unintentional sins (Numbers 15:27). Sin is the general term for anything that “falls short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Sin leads to a downward progression that, without the restoring power of the Holy Spirit, we all tend toward. The sin nature is present in every human being born since the Fall of Adam (Genesis 3:6–7; Romans 5:12). If left unchecked, continual sin leads to a “reprobate mind,” spoken of in Romans 1:24. Our sin nature causes us to gravitate naturally toward selfishness, envy, and pride, even when we are trying to do good. The apostle Paul alluded to his propensity to sin when he wrote, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:18).

The sin nature leads to trespassing. A trespasser is someone who crosses a line or climbs a fence that he should not cross or climb. A trespass may be intentional or unintentional. Trespass can also mean “to fall away after being close beside.” Peter trespassed when he denied Yeshua (Luke 22:34, 56–62). We all “cross the line” in thought, word, or attitude many times a day and should be quick to forgive others who do the same (Matthew 6:15).

Transgression refers to presumptuous sin. It means “to choose to intentionally disobey; willful trespassing.” Samson intentionally broke his Nazirite vow by touching a dead lion (Numbers 6:1–5; Judges 14:8–9) and allowing his hair to be cut (Judges 16:17); in doing so he was committing a transgression. David was referring to this kind of sin when he wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1). When we knowingly run a stop sign, tell a lie, or blatantly disregard an authority through disobeying Yehovah instruction, we are transgressing.

In the Old Testament of the 11 words translated “iniquity,” by far the most common and important is `awon (about 215 times). Etymologically, it is customary to explain it as meaning literally “crookedness,” “perverseness,” i.e. evil regarded as that which is not straight or upright, moral distortion (from `iwwah, “to bend,” “make crooked,” “pervert”). Driver, however (following Lagarde), maintains that two roots, distinct in Arabic, have been confused in Hebrew, one equals “to bend,” “pervert” (as above), and the other equals “to err,” “go astray”; that `awon is derived from the latter, and consequently expresses the idea of error, deviation from the right path, rather than that of perversion (Driver, Notes on Sam, 135 note) Whichever etymology is adopted, in actual usage it has three meanings which almost imperceptibly pass into each other:

(1) iniquity,

(2) guilt of iniquity,

(3) punishment of iniquity.

For any true and genuine believer, the only way for our path in this life must come from our creator – so when we only look to YHVH just as our Head Yeshua, His truth is set before us, IF, we seek his truth through our dedication of study; and to actually study and show ourselves approved takes so much time that worldly ways simply become as obsolete or done away with because our mind has become set on things above as written in Colossians 3:1-4 – Because only then shall all of these verses below become as greatly needed and required spiritual education when read.

Primarily, it denotes “not an action, but the character of an action” (Oehler), and is so distinguished from “sin” (chaTTa’th). Hence, we have the expression “the iniquity of my sin” (Psalms 32:5). “ I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the Lord [continually unfolding the past till all is told]—then You [instantly] forgave me the guilt and iniquity of my sin. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

And while you are thinking about that – think on this world of deception having over two billion Christians filled with so much iniquity, that they don’t even know they have been made crooked and off the path of righteousness through disobedience to Yehovah; so how can they confess what sin, such as pagan Christmas billions take part in – yet is not even known as being iniquity?? And in truth, do any Christians ever really confess their daily sins to our Father that He already knows? 

What about all Christians living by the Torah, laws, and feasts having no pagan holidays? All any need to do is ask themselves what they have ever really sacrificed to help others in need – and they have their answer as in YHVH knows all things; therefore shall reward them equally during world chaos, famine, drought; in plain English – whatever you have done for others shall be returned in the same measure – so spare a crumb, get a crumb, give what you can according to your heart, and what is possible – and our Father will show you His mercy during the coming perilous times.

Psalms 33 001 Psalms 33:17-22

 “For though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, yet your iniquity and guilt are still [upon you; you are] spotted, dirty, and stained before Me, says the Lord. (Jeremiah 2:22)

Do any of today’s shepherds worldwide tell their congregation how and why Yehovah God views them all as spotted, dirty, and stained?

From “guilt” it again passes into the meaning of “punishment of guilt,” just as Latin piaculum may denote both guilt and its punishment. The transition is all the easier in Hebrew because of the Hebrew sense of the intimate relation of sin and suffering, e.g. Genesis 4:13, “My punishment is greater than I can bear”; which is obviously to be preferred to King James Version margin, the Revised Version, margin “Mine iniquity is greater than can be forgiven,” for Cain is not so much expressing sorrow for his sin, as complaining of the severity of his punishment; compare 2 Kings 7:9 (the Revised Version (British and American) “punishment,” the Revised Version margin “iniquity”); Isaiah 5:18 (where for “iniquity” we might have “punishment of iniquity,” as in Leviticus 26:41,43, etc.); Isaiah 40:2 (“iniquity,” the Revised Version margin “punishment”). The phrase “bear iniquity” is a standing expression for bearing its consequences, i.e. its penalty; generally of the sinner bearing the results of his own iniquity (Leviticus 17:16; 20:17,19; Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 44:10, etc.), but sometimes of one bearing the iniquity of another vicariously, and so taking it away (e.g. Ezekiel 4:4; 18:19 f). Of special interest in the latter sense are the sufferings of the Servant of Yahweh, who shall “bear the iniquities” of the people (Isaiah 53:11; compare Isaiah 53:6).

Other words frequently translated “iniquity” are:

‘awen, literally, “worthlessness,” “vanity,” hence, “naughtiness,” “mischief” (47 times in the King James Version, especially in the phrase “workers of iniquity,” Job 4:8; Psalms 5:5; 6:8; Proverbs 10:29, etc.); `awel and `awlah, literally, “perverseness” (Deuteronomy 32:4; Job 6:29 the King James Version, etc.).

In the New Testament “iniquity” stands for anomia equals properly, “the condition of one without law,” “lawlessness” (so translated in 1John 3:4, elsewhere “iniquity,” e.g. Matthew 7:23), a word which frequently stood for `awon in the Septuagint; and adikia, literally, “unrighteousness” (e.g. Luke 13:27).

Who am I to speak a real truth this world of Christianity wants not?

Did Job choose the way he suffered? How the early years of about Joseph? Daniel in prison and the lion’s den? What about Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and the fiery furnace? Did Peter and other men of YHVH expect their ways of death? Did Jeremiah want to be let down into a dungeon with mire and left to die? Did Paul want a life with many thorns including false brethren, being stoned and left for dead? What about Ezekiel surrounded by scorpions being prophecy describing this world of Israelite’s who know not their own identity?

Deuteronomy 001Deuteronomy 31:29

What about the signs of the times, and the coming punishment upon this entire world of disobedient, prideful, and very selfish and blinded Christians described in the 66 verses of Lamentations 3?

Ezekiel 7 003Ezekiel 7:4-8

What I know for sure without question or doubt is the indescribable world chaos being en route, and almost upon our entire human race as the beginning of our end under the yoke of pathetic human rule bringing 3 1/2 years affliction, wrath, and suffering followed by 3 1/2 years of great tribulation being the worst timesoftrouble since the creation of humanity; and with this spiritual understanding I am becoming prepared for my journey as one of the 144,000 that I will be a part of. . .

https://ttimesoftrouble.wordpress.com/2016/08/13/the-two-witnesses-of-revelation/

Read well the above link, and then ask yourself, will you also have part in the greatest position that a Christian could ever again gain as becoming a part of YHVHs eternal government? Do you want the hard walk of living on faith, being hated and casting plagues upon a rebellious mankind, and then your own death and resurrection? What I also know is this earthly life has never done me good in 61 years – so the difficult times lying ahead for me bring my only joy because I know where my final end shall be . . .

100_31751 Samuel 2:8

Why did I leave America at the end of 2006 on a one way ticket to the Philippines with just over one thousand dollars to start a new life with absolutely zero income? Because sin dwells in us all, why was Job, Jeremiah, Paul and all who suffered drawn for YHVHs use?

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble/OzPBmQ/what-compelled-me-to-author-my-first-book-message-for-this-entire-human-race

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble  offers a good choice being many individual reads on various subjects concerning the major mess America and our entire world civilization is truly in; and includes worldwide mislead Christianity according to the Bible.

 

 

 

DOES GODS GRACE NULLIFY HIS LAW?

As a believer, how many times have you been confused about law? Know this: If any lack the addiction, desire, want and need for truth directly from YHVH through some of His prepared believers for use at the beginning of the end times, and through these perilous chaotic times which lie ahead for all humanity — they will shun unwanted truth. But those called and chosen for a special purpose, such as being part of the 144,000, will change their ways by seeking to please our Father through sacrifice, obedience, and the desire written in their heart where our Father reads to know us well rather than lips being so good at words with nothing more.

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The grace of God and its relationship to His Law is one of the most misunderstood topics in the Bible. Many Christians today have been taught and firmly believe that God’s grace is the opposite of the Law. They believe that God’s grace alone is enough for a believer. In fact, some so-called “ministers” go so far as to state that anyone who seeks to obey God’s Law has rejected the salvation found in the Messiah. In this warped view of Christianity, obedience to the Law is attacked and declared to be “legalism.”

How did this sad, unscriptural state of affairs come about? Many cite the epistles of Paul when addressing this topic, using his writings to justify nullifying the Law. Here are some of the “proof texts” commonly used to support the idea that obedience to the Law is no longer required (or even forbidden) for believers in Messiah:

EPHESIANS 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (NKJV)

ROMANS 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under Law but under grace. (NKJV)

ROMANS 7:6 But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter. (NASU)

GALATIANS 2:21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the Law, then Christ died for no purpose. (ESV)

GALATIANS 3:10 All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the Law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” 12 The Law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (NIV)

GALATIANS 3:23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the Law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the Law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (ESV)

GALATIANS 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by Law; you have fallen from grace. (NKJV)

On the surface, the passages above seem to teach that those who have received God’s grace don’t need to (in fact, should NOT) keep the Law. But did Paul truly believe and teach that God’s grace trumped the Law and made it invalid? Many have taken these comments from Paul to mean just that. To these “Antinomians” (Greek anti-“against,” nomos-“law”), God’s grace, as manifested in the sacrifice of Messiah, is like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card in the game Monopoly. They believe they can teach and practice disobedience to God’s Law in this present age (Matt. 5:19) and still be justified (“reckoned as righteous”) at the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10; II Cor. 5:10).

Some, however, cannot reconcile these verses with other Scriptures that show obedience to God’s Law is a necessary part of a believer’s life. As a result, they have taken the extreme position of rejecting the writings of Paul altogether. These “Anti-Paulinians” conclude that Paul wasn’t a true apostle of the Messiah Yeshua. Therefore, they believe his epistles should not be considered Scripture and his teachings should be discarded.

In this article, we are going to look at the proper relationship between the Law of God and His grace. In the process, we’ll examine the words of Paul to see what he was really saying about this vital topic.

Since the “grace only” doctrine is derived from the writings of Paul, let’s start with the comments of the apostle Peter on that topic:

II PETER 3:15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. (ESV)

First, we must notice in verse 16 that Peter acknowledges that Paul’s writings are on a par with “the other Scriptures.” Peter clearly considered Paul’s epistles to be inspired and authoritative. But he also plainly warns believers that Paul’s writings were “hard to understand” and that some people were twisting what Paul had said “to their own destruction.” He concludes with a warning to believers not to be fooled into making the same errors as the LAWLESS people who had misused Paul’s teachings. Even in the days of the early church, it seems that some who called themselves Christians were using Paul’s epistles to do away with God’s Law.

Before we can do an accurate analysis of what the Scriptures teach on this topic, we have to define some of the terms we’ll be using. These include (1) grace, (2) justification, (3) lasciviousness, (4) lawlessness and (5) legalism.

  1. GRACE – In the New Testament, the Greek word generally translated “grace” is charis. The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG) gives the following definitions for charis:
  2. a winning quality or attractiveness that invites a favorable reaction, graciousness, attractiveness, charm, winsomeness. . . 2. a beneficent disposition toward someone, favor, grace, gracious care/help, goodwill . . . 3. practical application of goodwill, (a sign of) favor, gracious deed/gift, benefaction . . . 4. exceptional effect produced by generosity, favor. . . . 5. response to generosity or beneficence, thanks, gratitude . . .

As you can see, this word has several related meanings. But when referring to God’s grace given to sinning humans, it is defined as God’s benevolent attitude toward mankind. This attitude results in favor being granted by God to man. God’s grace is wholly undeserved by mankind; it has not been (and cannot be) earned.

  1. JUSTIFICATION – This English word comes from the Greek nouns dikaioma and dikaiosis. Additionally the verbal forms, “justify,” “justifies,” and “justified” all come from the related verb dikaioo.

There is a subtle difference of meaning between dikaioma and dikaiosis. According to BDAG, dikaioma refers to “a regulation relating to just or right action, regulation, requirement, commandment” and “an action that meets expectations as to what is right or just, righteous deed . . .” Implicit within this word is the concept of being made right with God by keeping His commandments.

Friberg’s Analytical Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (ALGNT) states that dikaiosis means “strictly, an act of making right or just; hence justification, acquittal, vindication (RO 4.25) . . . righteous act that sets free and gives life (RO 5.18).” So we see that the first of these words refers to being made righteous by our own acts, while the second means to receive imputed righteousness by being acquitted of our transgressions.

  1. LASCIVIOUSNESS – This archaic English word, also translated “lewdness” and “licentiousness” in modern translations, comes from the Greek noun aselgeia. ALGNT states that this word means “as living without any moral restraint licentiousness, sensuality, lustful indulgence (2C 12.21); especially as indecent and outrageous sexual behavior debauchery, indecency, flagrant immorality (RO 13.13).”
  2. LAWLESSNESSAnomia is the Greek word underlying “lawlessness.” Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Thayer) says that anomia is “properly, the condition of one without law – either because ignorant of it, or because violating it. . . . contempt and violation of law, iniquity, wickedness” (p. 48).

I John 3:4 defines SIN as lawlessness; therefore, sin is biblically defined as the violation of God’s Law. Those who break God’s Law because of their contempt for its value to a believer are practicing lawlessness (Matt. 7:23; 13:41). In II Corinthians 6:14, Paul rhetorically asks “what fellowship has RIGHTEOUSNESS (Gr. dikaiosune) with LAWLESSNESS (anomia)?” The implied answer is NONE.

  1. LEGALISM – This final term is not found in the Bible. The Webster Comprehensive Dictionary, Encyclopedic Edition gives two theological definitions for legalism: “The doctrine of salvation by works, as distinguished from that by grace,” and “the tendency to observe the letter rather than the spirit of the law” (p. 728, vol. 1).

Scripturally speaking, the first of these definitions best fits what will be addressed in this article. However, in practice “legalism” has become the principal term of choice for “grace only” advocates to describe the belief that obeying the Law of God is required of believers. It is frequently redefined by those who use it, but “legalism” is generally meant to slander, disparage, and cast doubt upon the beliefs so labeled. Due to the negative connotation of the word, those tagged as “legalists” are immediately put on the defensive regarding their beliefs.

All of these terms are important in understanding what the Bible truly teaches about the grace of God and its relationship to the Law. But before we delve extensively into the Scriptures on this matter, I want to use an analogy to illustrate the folly of the “grace only” position regarding grace versus Law.

Let’s assume that we have a man who was caught selling sensitive information to a foreign government. He was legally tried and convicted of treason against the United States. Even though the man realized he had made a terrible mistake and was sorry for what he had done, the severity of the crime required a death sentence be given to him based on the laws of the United States. This prisoner is on death row awaiting execution. But in a spirit of forgiveness and grace (unmerited favor), the President of the United States grants the man a full and unconditional pardon and has him released from prison.

Does this pardon received by the prisoner now nullify the legal code of the United States? Would the man be able to break any and all US laws with impunity after his release? Would he be able to quit paying income tax to the IRS, traffic in illegal drugs, distribute child pornography, or even murder another US citizen, without having to worry about the consequences of his actions?

Just using human reasoning, it’s easy to see that the pardoned man would NOT be free to break the laws of the United States after his pardon. In fact, it’s reasonable to expect that the man would be so thankful for his undeserved reprieve from death that he would become a model, law-abiding citizen. How do you think the man would react to someone who advocated that he actively set out to disobey US law? I imagine that he would reject such advice, and have nothing to do with the one giving it.

Through His grace, God has provided a way for us to be pardoned from the death sentence we’ve earned by breaking His Law. Why, then, would someone assume that this pardon negates the Law of God? Why would someone repay the unmerited favor shown to them by God with a rebellious disregard for His commandments? Why would someone think that an eternal, unchanging God would contradict Himself by requiring believers to disobey His own Law in order to maintain His divine favor?

First, let’s address the “grace only” proof texts cited at the beginning of this article. In his writings, Paul states that all mankind has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:9, 23; 5:12; Gal. 3:22). James tells us that breaking any one law makes us guilty of the whole Law (Jam. 2:10). Therefore, we cannot be saved by our works, because our works are imperfect. We are in need of God’s grace for our salvation. This is the context of Paul’s statement found in Ephesians 2:

EPHESIANS 2:8 For by grace [chariti] you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. (NKJV)

In our previous analogy, the man convicted of treason could never be declared innocent based on his own actions. Even if he never broke another law in his life, his prior transgression would forever brand him as a criminal. He could never be JUSTIFIED or made right by his own power or actions after committing his crime. It is in this light that we should view Paul’s statements regarding justification in Galatians 2:

GALATIANS 2:21 I do not nullify the grace [charin] of God; for if justification [dikaiosune] comes through the Law, then Christ died for nothing. (NRSV)

The Greek noun dikaiosune, translated “justification” in this verse, is closely related to dikaioma. Some translations alternately render this word as “righteousness.” ALGNT defines dikaiosune as “(1) righteousness, uprightness, generally denoting the characteristics of δικιος (righteous, just) (MT 5.6); (2) legally justice, uprightness, righteousness (PH 3.6); (3) as an attribute of God righteousness, integrity (RO 3.5); (4) of the right behavior that God requires of persons righteousness, good behavior, uprightness (MT 5.20), opposite αδικια (unrighteousness, wrongdoing); (5) in Pauline thought of the divine action by which God puts a person right with himself and which then becomes a dynamic power in the believer’s life making right(eous); state of having been made righteous (RO 1.17).” In this Scripture, it literally means to be “justified” or “righteous” in the sight of God.

If one can eventually keep the Law good enough to override prior sins, then the sacrifice of Yeshua was needless. But just as the convicted man can never afterward keep the Law perfectly enough to erase his conviction, we cannot remove our prior sins by subsequently keeping God’s Law. Forgiveness requires faithfully accepting the sacrifice of the Messiah for the removal of our sins.

Paul’s point in Galatians 2:21 is that those who think that they can earn their salvation by Law-keeping are effectively nullifying God’s grace. Does this mean that keeping God’s Law is wrong? By no means! It all boils down to the REASON for keeping the Law. There is no scriptural condemnation of those who obey God’s Law in order to emulate the Messiah’s example and honor their heavenly Father. But those who do so as a means of accumulating enough brownie points with God to be saved are misguided and in error, as Paul points out.

Now let’s examine another passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatians dealing with justification:

GALATIANS 3:10 For all who rely on works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified [dikaioutai] before God by the Law, for “The righteous [dikaios] shall live by faith.” 12 But the Law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us-for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”- (NIV)

Paul speaks of those “who rely on the works of the Law” being “under a curse” (v. 10). His implication is that some of the people in Galatia were relying on keeping the Law to be justified before God. The “curse of the Law” (v. 13) is not the Law itself, but rather the penalty for disobedience to that Law (i.e., death). To avoid the curse of death, one had to keep the Law perfectly (v. 12). But since Paul understood that the whole world had transgressed the Law, he recognized that no one could be justified in the sight of God by keeping the Law. It was only through Christ’s sacrificial death on the wooden stake that the curse brought about by Law-breaking could pass from us, that we might be made right with God.

GALATIANS 5:4 You who are trying to be justified [dikaiousthe] by Law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace [charitos]. (NIV)

When one begins to think that they can be justified in God’s sight by Law-keeping, they have in fact separated themselves from the Messiah. Again, Paul is not disparaging the Law here. He is simply finding fault with the Galatians’ motives for keeping it. It is possible for someone to do the RIGHT thing for the WRONG reason.

You might have noticed that I initially skipped the verses where Paul speaks about believers not being “under the Law.” This phrase (Gr. hupo nomon) is used by Paul ten times in eight verses, and he uses it in slightly different ways, depending on the point he’s trying to make.

The first way Paul uses this phrase is to designate those who have been given God’s Law, i.e., the Jews. An example of this usage is found in 1 Corinthians 9:

I CORINTHIANS 9:20 And to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law [hupo nomon], as under the Law [hupo nomon], that I might win those who are under the Law [hupo nomon]; 21 to those who are without Law, as without Law (not being without Law toward God, but under Law [ennomos] toward Christ), that I might win those who are without Law; (NKJV)

In this passage, we see that Paul differentiates between Jews who had been given the Law and were under its requirements, and Gentiles who did not have the Law. The Greek word translated “under Law” in verse 21 is ennomos, an adjective that ALGNT defines as “strictly within law; hence lawful, legal, according to law (AC 19.39); as a personal characteristic committed to law, obedient to law (1C 9.21)”. Paul essentially said here that even when interacting with the Gentiles who didn’t know or have the Law, he was still obedient to the Law for Messiah’s sake.

So in Paul’s writings, being “under the Law” can refer to those who had received the Law and were required to keep it (I Cor. 9:20; Gal. 4:4-5, 21). However, Paul also uses the phrase hupo nomon to refer specifically to being subject to the PENALTY for disobedience to the Law (i.e., death). This usage can clearly be seen in Romans 6:

ROMANS 6:11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness [dikaiosunes]. 14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under Law [hupo nomon], but under grace [charin]. 15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under Law [hupo nomon] but under grace [charin]? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey– whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness [dikaiosunen]? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (NIV)

Paul states that believers are “not under Law but under grace” (v. 14). By this, he means that they are not under the death penalty for sin imposed by the Law. Instead, they have been given life by God’s grace. But Paul goes on to state that this grace does NOT allow them to continue in sin (v. 15). To continue sinning, Paul states, would lead them back to death (v. 16). However, Paul says that obedience leads to righteousness (v. 16). Although he states that the Roman believers used to be slaves to sin (v. 17), their obedience to the teaching brought to them has freed them from sin. Now they are to be slaves to righteousness (v. 18).

By definition, a slave has to work for his master. When sin was their master, the Romans had to serve it by indulging the lusts of the flesh. Now that they had been saved from the punishment required for their Law-breaking, Paul expected them to serve their new master, righteousness. This master required that they be obedient to the Law.

GALATIANS 3:21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a Law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the Law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the Law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the Law was our guardian [paidagogos] until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian [paidagogon], 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (ESV)

Paul starts this passage of Scripture by stating that the Law is NOT opposed to the promises of God. In fact, he extols the value of the Law, stating that if any Law would have been able to give life, it would have been God’s Law. But his implied point is that life CANNOT be gained through the Law (any law).

This passage by Paul is generally misunderstood because of wrong understanding of the function of the paidagogos in ancient society. This Greek word, translated “guardian” above, is translated “schoolmaster” and “tutor” in some versions. However, the key to understanding Paul’s point is to truly understand the role of the paidagogos. Here is what BDAG states about the function of a paidagogos:

. . . Orig[inally] ‘boy-leader’, the man, usu[ally] a slave (Plut., Mor. 4ab), whose duty it was to conduct a boy or youth (Plut., Mor. 439f) to and from school and to superintend his conduct gener[ally]; he was not a ‘teacher’ . . . When the young man became of age, the [paidagogos] was no longer needed . . .

As you can see from the definition above, Paul is NOT speaking of the Law as a teacher. Instead, the context indicates that the Law functioned as a guardian for those convicted of sin (which was all mankind-Rom. 5:12). When forgiveness came through faith in the sacrifice of Yeshua, we were no longer under the guardianship of the Law; we were no longer under its penalty for disobedience. This does not mean that the Law’s function as God’s standard of right conduct has been voided.

Paul addresses the Law and the way to true righteousness in the 5th chapter of Romans:

ROMANS 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the Law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no Law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification [dikaioma]. 17 If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace [charitos] and the free gift of righteousness [dikaiosunes] reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness [dikaiomatos] leads to justification [dikaiosin] and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous [dikaioi]. 20 Now the Law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace [charis] abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace [charis] also might reign through righteousness [dikaiosunes] leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (ESV)

In his own particular way, Paul shows in this passage of Scripture that God’s Law has existed since at least the time of Adam. He begins by saying that sin entered the world when Adam disobeyed God’s command not to eat of the tree of knowledge. Because of this disobedience, Paul tells us, death came to all men, because all who lived after Adam sinned also.

To emphasize that God’s Law has always existed, Paul tells us that sin is not counted when no law is present. If the Law had not existed from the time of Adam to Moses, then God could not legitimately inflict the penalty for sin on mankind. However, by telling us that death reigned during this time period because all sinned, Paul is showing that the Law DID exist, and that the penalty for breaking it was enforced. The Law is not relative, but is an eternal standard of righteous conduct.

BDAG says that in Romans 5:16, dikaioma is used as an equivalent to dikaiosis “to clear someone of a violation.” This demonstrates that Paul considered Messiah’s obedience to God to have been transferred to believers, acquitting them in the sight of God and making them righteous.

Because God does not change (Mal. 3:6), He will not nullify or set aside His Law. Disobedience to the Law has to be punished. Paul tells us that the wages of SIN is death (Rom. 6:23). All men are sinners and have fallen short of the perfect standard of God’s Law (Rom. 3:23). But since it is God’s nature to be gracious, He allows a way for sinful mankind to escape the death penalty required by the Law.

However, God’s grace is not something that can be earned. Through Yeshua, God justifies (“acquits”) the ungodly sinner who accepts his sacrifice on the cross (Rom. 8:32-34). The Father does this because of His grace (“favor”) toward mankind.

Earlier in the letter to the Romans, Paul defines the function of the Law:

ROMANS 3:19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it says to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the Law is the knowledge of sin. (NKJV)

Here, Paul shows that the Law is not for justification, but rather for us to know right from wrong. Incidentally, Paul shows here that the Law is not just for the Jews, but for all mankind. Notice that it’s not just Jews that become guilty by breaking the Law, but “all the world.”

Paul explains how living by the Spirit removes one from the penalty of Law-breaking in the 5th chapter of Galatians:

GALATIANS 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (NKJV)

There is no law against the fruits of the Spirit; these actions fulfill God’s Law. However, if one does the works of the flesh, they have sinned and will come under the penalty of the Law. Paul clearly states that those who sin in such a manner will NOT inherit the kingdom of God.

God’s grace doesn’t nullify the Law, but rather it voids the penalty we deserve for breaking the Law:

TITUS 3:4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified [dikaiothentes] by His grace [chariti] we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men. (NKJV)

Paul here encourages Titus to teach believers that, because of the grace God had shown them through Messiah, they should be sure to do good works. What were those “good works”? Paul tells us in his first letter to the Corinthians:

I CORINTHIANS 7:19 Circumcision means nothing, and uncircumcision means nothing; what matters is keeping God’s commandments. (NAB)

Now that we’ve examined what the Scriptures really teach about God’s grace, let’s see some of the problems that arose in the early church due to misusing the concept of grace. We’ll start in the epistle of Jude:

JUDE 3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness [aselgeian] and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. (NKJV)

Jude clearly shows that there were so-called “Christians” in the 1st century who were already perverting God’s grace, claiming that it allowed them to live an immoral lifestyle. These people were practicing “laciviousness” (aselgeia) disguised as liberty from the Law.

In his ensuing comments, Jude makes the character and fate of these people very clear. He calls them “dreamers” in verse 8, because they promoted false teachings they had dreamed up. These dreamers defile their flesh because they reject the authority of God’s Law in their lives. Jude tells us in verse 13 that “the blackness of darkness” (cf. Matt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30) is their reward “in the age” (Gr. eis aiona).

In his letter to Titus, Paul speaks of those believers who, by their works, show themselves to actually be “unbelievers”:

TITUS 1:15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. 16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. (NKJV)

Yeshua also spoke of those who proclaimed themselves to be his followers, but didn’t keep God’s Law:

MATTHEW 7:15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?’ 23 “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness [anomian]!’ ” (NKJV)

The parable of the wheat and tares speaks of this very situation:

MATTHEW 13:24 He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weed among the wheat and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'” (ESV)

Yeshua afterward explained the meaning of this parable to his disciples:

MATTHEW 13:36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness [anomian], 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (NKJV)

Yeshua likens these false, Law-breaking Christians to tares growing among his wheat crop. Faussett’s Bible Dictionary has this to say about the nature of tares:

. . . Mt. 13:24-30. Zizanion, Arabic, zowan, Hebrew zowniyn; zan means “nausea.” Not our vetch, but darnel; at first impossible to distinguish from wheat or barley, until the wheat’s ear is developed, when the thin fruitless ear of the darnel is detected. Its root too so intertwines with that of the wheat that the farmer cannot separate them, without plucking up both, “till the time of harvest.” The seed is like wheat, but smaller and black, and when mixed with wheat flour causes dizziness, intoxication, and paralysis; Lolium temulentum, bearded darnel, the only deleterious grain among all the numerous grasses. . . . (“Tares”)

Although tares look like wheat at first, the fruit of tares is “bad.” Yeshua tells us that one of the primary spiritual fruits of tares is “lawlessness.” One of the first acts that Yeshua will initiate when his kingdom is established is the removal of these spiritual tares.

Conclusion

God’s grace and His Law are two sides of the same coin. The Law defines our expected behavior, and God’s grace provides forgiveness when we don’t live up to that standard. Grace doesn’t nullify the Law, it compliments it. Clearly, those who think they can be part of God’s people without obedience to His Law are deceived. Yeshua himself stated this clearly:

MATTHEW 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (NKJV)

Bryan T. Huie
June 14, 2003

http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm?page_name=Grace-Law

Revised: April 18, 2009

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble  offers a good choice being many individual reads on various subjects concerning the major mess America and our entire world civilization is truly in; and includes worldwide mislead Christianity according to the Bible.

THE TWO WITNESSES OF REVELATION

Concerning all believers in YHVH and Yeshua upon this earth; and even Jews that don’t believe in who they had crucified — what follows is one of the most important reads being a part of the future of our misled human race; and as you can see by the image below, I am no newbie – yet have not one genuine brother or sister on this earth living by the words of who they all claim to love. “None, no, not one pleases our Father. Psalms 14:2-3 KJV

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In the 11th chapter of Revelation, two mysterious entities are introduced into the story of the end of this current age:

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Who are these “two witnesses” that God will empower at the end of this age to carry His message to a world ruled by the Antichrist?  Some believe that Elijah and Enoch, who were miraculously “taken away” by God (2 Kings 2:11; Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5), will return from heaven to prophesy for 3½ years.  Others think that it will be Elijah (who stopped the rain in Israel for 3½ years – I Kings 17:1; Jam. 5:17) and Moses (who turned water to blood and brought plagues on Egypt – Exo. 7-12) who will antagonize the Beast during the 42 months of his reign.  Some religious organizations believe that the two witnesses will be called from within the ranks of their ministry to perform this task.  Another theory is that the Old Testament and the New Testament symbolically comprise these witnesses.  But is there any way to really know who the two witnesses will be?

One vital key to understanding biblical prophecy is letting the Bible interpret itself.  There are many clues to the identity of the two witnesses, but we have to recognize and accept them.

Let’s look at their apparel, which is one of the first clues we’re given about these two.  They are dressed in sackcloth.  What do the Scriptures tell us about the meaning of wearing sackcloth?

ISAIAH 22:12 And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and for mourning, for baldness and for girding with sackcloth. (NKJV)

JEREMIAH 6:26 O daughter of my people, dress in sackcloth and roll about in ashes!  Make mourning as for an only son, most bitter lamentation; for the plunderer will suddenly come upon us. (NKJV)

LAMENTATIONS 2:10 The elders of the daughter of Zion sit on the ground and keep silence; they throw dust on their heads and gird themselves with sackcloth.  The virgins of Jerusalem bow their heads to the ground. (NKJV)

The Scriptures make it clear that the wearing of sackcloth is a sign of mourning.  These two witnesses are clothed in sackcloth because they are officially in mourning.  What they are mourning about will be shown later.

Now let’s look at the specific role these two fulfill as witnesses.  A witness is a person who has seen or knows something, and is therefore capable of giving evidence about it.  There are several scriptural passages that explain the role and function which witnesses fulfill:

DEUTERONOMY 17:6 “Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.  7 The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people.  So you shall put away the evil from among you.” (NKJV)

DEUTERONOMY 19:15 “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” (NKJV)

It is a clear principle in the Torah that the testimony of only one witness is not enough to convict a person of a capital crime.  It takes a minimum of TWO witnesses to convict someone for the death penalty (or any other sin, for that matter).  This same principle is repeated by both Yeshua and Paul in the New Testament:

MATTHEW 18:16 “But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ ” (NKJV)

II CORINTHIANS 13:1 This will be the third time I am coming to you.  “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established.” (NKJV)

According to the Scriptures, there must be two witnesses to an act in order for the sentence of the Law to be carried out.  Since those who accept the mark of the beast and worship him will “drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation” (Rev. 14:10), at least two witnesses to their sins will be necessary to convict and punish them.

Who are the two witnesses mentioned in Revelation 11?  Let’s look elsewhere in the Bible to see if God identifies who His witnesses are and what they will testify about:

ISAIAH 43:1 But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel:  “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine. . . .”  10 “You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.  Before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me.  11 I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from Me there is no savior.  12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed — I, and not some foreign god among you.  You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God.” (NIV)

ISAIAH 44:1 But now hear, O Jacob My servant, Israel whom I have chosen!  2 Thus says the LORD who made you, who formed you in the womb and will help you:  Do not fear, O Jacob My servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.  3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour My spirit upon your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.  4 They shall spring up like a green tamarisk, like willows by flowing streams.  5 This one will say, “I am the LORD’s,” another will be called by the name of Jacob, yet another will write on the hand, “The LORD’s,” and adopt the name of Israel.  6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:  I am the first and I am the last; besides Me there is no god.  7 Who is like Me?  Let them proclaim it, let them declare and set it forth before me.  Who has announced from of old the things to come?  Let them tell us what is yet to be.  8 Do not fear, or be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it?  You are my witnesses!  Is there any god besides Me?  There is no other rock; I know not one. (NRSV)

These prophetic passages from Isaiah plainly state that Israel will witness to the fact that there is no other God like YHVH the Father.  This testimony will be a necessary confirmation of the identity of the one true God (John 17:3) during the time the Antichrist is reigning and proclaiming himself to be god (II The. 2:4).  But how can Israel, the chosen people of God, be the TWO witnesses referred to in Revelation?

Christians who haven’t studied the Tanakh (Old Testament) in depth might be surprised to learn that Israel split into two parts after the reign of King Solomon.  This split is recorded in I Kings 12 and II Chronicles 10.  The division resulted in the southern kingdom of Judea (the “House of Judah“) and the northern kingdom of Samaria (the “House of Israel“) in the Holy Land.

The House of Judah was composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (I Kings 12:21; II Chr. 11:12).  The tribe of Levi also eventually sided with the House of Judah, having been rejected as priests by the ruler of the House of Israel (II Chr. 11:13-14).

The 10 tribes (I Kings 11:31, 35) which composed the House of Israel were the tribes of Ephraim, Manasseh, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Dan.  These 10 northern tribes were led by the tribe of Ephraim, which was given the blessing of the firstborn by the patriarch Israel on his deathbed (Gen. 48:14-22).

Therefore, we see from the Scriptures that Israel did indeed become “two.”   They can legitimately be recognized as two different, but related, entities.  But is there any other biblical evidence which connects the two houses of Israel with the two witnesses of Revelation 11?

Indeed there is!  Revelation 11:4 gives us the next two vital clues:

REVELATION 11:4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth. (NKJV)

We see that the two witnesses are symbolically called “two olive trees” and also “two lampstands.”  We’ll examine each of these symbols in turn and see what the Scriptures have to say about them.

First, let’s see what the Bible says about the “two olive trees.”  Are these olive trees spoken of anywhere else in the Bible?  Yes, they certainly are!

ZECHARIAH 4:1 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.  2 And he said to me, “What do you see?”  So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.  3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”  4 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, “What are these, my lord?”  5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?”  And I said, “No, my lord.”  6 So he answered and said to me:  “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel:  ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts.  7 Who are you, O great mountain?  Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!  And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” ‘ ”  8 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying:  9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it.  Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.  10 For who has despised the day of small things?  For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.  They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”  11 Then I answered and said to him, “What are these two olive trees — at the right of the lampstand and at its left?”  12 And I further answered and said to him, “What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?”  13 Then he answered me and said, “Do you not know what these are?”  And I said, “No, my lord.”  14 So he said, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.” (NKJV)

In Zechariah 4 we see the same symbols that are used in Revelation 11 — olive trees and a lampstand.  The two olive trees are said to be “the anointed ones” (literally “sons of the oil”) who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth” (Zec. 4:14).  But maddeningly, the angel doesn’t give Zechariah (or us) a direct answer regarding the identity of these two trees.  We must look in the book of Jeremiah to find the identification of the olive trees:

JEREMIAH 11:16 The LORD called your name, Green Olive Tree, lovely and of good fruit.  With the noise of a great tumult He has kindled fire on it, and its branches are broken.  17 For the LORD of hosts, who planted you, has pronounced doom against you for the evil of the House of Israel and of the House of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke Me to anger in offering incense to Baal.” (NKJV)

In Jeremiah 11 we see that both houses of Israel are called a “green olive tree.”  They were planted and named by Yah the Father Himself.  We can be certain from Scripture that both the House of Judah and the House of Israel are symbolically labeled as olive trees.  But is there any further evidence?  Yes there is!

HOSEA 14:5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall grow like the lily, and lengthen his roots like Lebanon.  6 His branches shall spread; his beauty shall be like an olive tree, and his fragrance like Lebanon. (NKJV)

The prophet Hosea preached several decades before the fall of the House of Israel to the Assyrians (c. 722 BCE).  Although he addresses both the House of Judah and the House of Israel in his prophecies, his primary message is directed at the House of Israel, also known as Ephraim.

To graphically illustrate the House of Israel’s rebellion against Him, YHVH commanded Hosea to take a harlot for a wife (Hos. 1:2).  This harlot bore Hosea three children.  God had Hosea name them symbolically to show how He was going to deal with the House of Israel.  The children were named Jezreel (lit. “God sows”), Lo-Ruhamah (lit. “no mercy”), and Lo-Ammi (lit. “no people”).

All three of these names described God’s punishment on the House of Israel, as He explained to Hosea.  Jezreel represented God’s sowing of the House of Israel among the Gentile nations of the earth after they were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians (Hos. 8:8; Zec. 10:7-10).  Lo-Ruhamah denoted the fact that Yah would no longer have mercy upon the House of Israel, allowing them to be taken captive because of their sins (Hos. 1:6).  Lo-Ammi pictured the gradual loss of national identity by the House of Israel.  After they were conquered by Assyria, they lost the knowledge of who they were.  Scattered throughout the Gentile nations of the world, the House of Israel forgot that they were part of the chosen people of YHVH (Hos. 1:9), and eventually came to view themselves as Gentiles.

What you just read, and will read is deeply discussed in this link; https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble/ljD9ZQ/vital-untaught-truth-in-all-religions-worldwide

With this background, we are now ready to look at the apostle Paul’s revelation on Israel the olive tree:

ROMANS 11:16 – For if the firstfruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches.  17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, 18 do not boast against the branches.  But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.  19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”  20 Well said.  Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.  Do not be haughty, but fear.  21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.  22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God:  on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.  Otherwise you also will be cut off.  23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.  24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature,[Easu the Edomite]  and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree?  25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:  “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; (NKJV)

Two olive trees are mentioned in this passage of Scripture from Paul:  one that is cultivated, and one that is wild.  Who or what do these two olive trees represent?

The cultivated olive tree depicts the House of Judah, which provided the foundation for the early church (Acts 2:41; 21:20).  This is the olive tree of salvation, for Yeshua said that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22).  Paul portrays those Jews who rejected Yeshua as branches which were broken off from the cultivated olive tree because they did not believe in the Messiah that YHVH sent to His people.

God told Hosea that He was going to cast the House of Israel away because of their sins (Hos. 1:6).  However, He said that He would not cast away the House of Judah (Hos. 1:7), although later their sins were even worse than those of the House of Israel (Eze. 23:11).  YHVH punished the House of Judah, but He never discarded them completely.

The House of Judah is God’s “lawgiver” (lit. “scribe” – Gen. 49:10; Psa. 60:7; 108:8; cf. Rom. 3:1-3).  The Jews had, and continue to have, a major part in the plan YHVH is accomplishing.  As a whole, only the House of Judah has continued to keep God’s Sabbaths, which are the sign between YHVH and His people (Exo. 31:13-17).  Because of this, they alone have been recognized as God’s covenant people down to this day.  However, the House of Israel lost their identity.  They were absorbed into the nations wherein they were scattered.  But God has never lost track of them (Amos 9:9).

This brings us to the wild olive tree Paul speaks of in this passage of Scripture.  Many people equate the wild olive tree with Gentile believers who accept Yeshua as the Messiah.  But is this really who Paul is referring to here?  There is a telling phrase used by Paul in Romans 11:25 that exactly identifies who he is talking about:

ROMANS 11:25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.  26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:  “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; (NKJV)

Paul tells us that ALL of Israel, both the House of Judah and the House of Israel, has been blinded to the truth for a period of time.  However, he says that wild olive branches will continue to be grafted in to the cultivated olive tree to replace those branches broken off until the fullness of the Gentiles has been added.  Does the Bible tell us who this “fullness of the Gentiles” is?  Yes, it most certainly does!

GENESIS 48:17 And Joseph saw that his father was putting his right hand on the head of Ephraim; and it was evil in his eyes.  And he took hold of his father’s hand to turn it from Ephraim’s head to the head of Manasseh.  18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father!  For this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”  19 And his father refused, and said, “I know, my son, I know.  He also shall be a people, and he shall become great.  But his younger brother shall become greater than he, and his seed shall become the fullness of the nations.”  20 And he blessed them in that day, saying, “In you shall Israel bless, saying, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!’ ” And he put Ephraim before Manasseh. (The Interlinear Bible)

On his deathbed, Israel blessed Ephraim when he adopted him and his brother Manasseh.  Israel said that Ephraim’s offspring would become “the fullness of the nations.”  In Hebrew, this phrase is melo hagoyim.  Interestingly, this phrase can also be translated “the fullness of the Gentiles.”  It was Ephraim (representative/leader of the lost 10 tribes of the House of Israel) that Paul had in mind when he spoke of the wild olive tree in Romans 11!

This conclusion is verified by Paul’s earlier statement about these “Gentiles” (Romans 9):

ROMANS 9:22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?  25 As He says also in Hosea:  “I will call them My people, who were not My people, and her beloved, who was not beloved.  26 And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ there they shall be called sons of the living God.” (NKJV)

In this passage, Paul quotes from Hosea’s prophecy about the eventual recovery of those Israelites (Ephraim and the tribes associated with him) who were cast away by God because of their sins (Hos. 1:10).  Either Paul was using this prophetic Scripture out of context and applying it to unrelated Gentiles, or the Gentiles he was speaking of were actually the offspring of the lost Israelite tribes.

Other Scriptures indicate that Paul understood that most of the Gentiles he was preaching to were in fact descendants of the 10 lost tribes who had been scattered 800 years earlier and had intermingled with all the nations round about Judea.  To prove this assertion, let’s first look at a telling statement by Paul found in the 10th chapter of 1st Corinthians:

I CORINTHIANS 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.  5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. (NKJV)

Paul is writing here to a group of former pagan Gentiles (I Cor. 12:2) in Corinth, Greece.  Yet in using the example of the Israelites who had been delivered from Egypt by God during the Exodus, he calls them “all OUR fathers” (I Cor. 10:1).  He certainly wasn’t referring to them as “fathers” in a spiritual sense, because these people rebelled against God and died while wandering in the desert for 40 years.  Therefore, Paul must have been speaking of them as the Corinthians’ PHYSICAL fathers!

The Israelite ancestry of those “Gentiles” was known to the apostle Paul, as his statement to King Agrippa also implies:

ACTS 26:6 “And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers.  7 To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain.  For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews.” (NKJV)

The final reunification of the two houses of Israel described in the Tanakh (Eze. 37:15-28; Isa. 11:12-13; etc.) had not been accomplished at the time Paul spoke.  In fact, it still has not been fully accomplished.  Therefore, the 12 tribes he referenced, who were “earnestly serving God night and day,” must have included so-called “Gentile” believers who were, in fact, offspring of the lost tribes of the House of Israel!

Paul wasn’t the only one who understood this truth.  In the salutation of his epistle, James also shows that he knew specifically to whom he was writing when he addressed the body of believers, both Jews and “Gentiles”:

JAMES 1:1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad:  Greetings. (NKJV)

What Paul revealed in his epistle to the Roman assembly was the same thing Yeshua spoke of in the 10th chapter of John’s Gospel:

JOHN 10:16 “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (NKJV)

Here Yeshua tells his disciples that he had sheep which belonged to another flock.  He was speaking of the ones to whom he was sent, the lost sheep of the House of Israel (Matt. 15:24).  These sheep had lost their identity and thought that they were Gentiles.  But Yeshua knew who (and where) they were, and it was his divinely sanctioned job to retrieve them for the Father.

Gentiles not of Israelite descent have certainly been included in God’s congregation through the centuries(Exo. 12:38; Isa. 56:3-8).  Yah has always made a way for godly foreigners to become part of His chosen people.  But Scripture indicates that those who have been called by God to His Son (John 6:44, 65) are primarily physical Israelites, both from the House of Judah (the cultivated olive tree) and the House of Israel (the wild olive tree).  These two olive trees are the two witnesses of Revelation 11.

The meaning of the “lampstand” symbolism used in Revelations 11:4 is further confirmation of this identity.  We only have to go back to the 1st chapter of Revelation to see what “lampstands” represent:

REVELATION 1:12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me.  And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands one like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. . . .  20 “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands:  The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches.” (NKJV)

The lampstands here depict seven ekklesiai, the seven Asian churches listed in Revelation 1:11.  The Greek noun ekklesia literally means “an assembly of called out ones.”  We can see that in the book of Revelation, a lampstand represents a called out group of people.  The symbolism fits perfectly with the House of Judah and the House of Israel, who were at first called out of Egypt together to be God’s people.  At the end of this age, they will be called out once more to witness against the people of this earth when they forsake YHVH and worship the Antichrist.

The scriptural evidence is overwhelming that the two witnesses, who are symbolically called two olive trees and two lampstands, are in fact the House of Judah and the House of Israel.  With this understanding, we can now clearly see the calling and sealing of these servants of God as it is described in Revelation 7:

REVELATION 7:1 After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.  2 Then I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, with the seal of the living God, and he called with a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm earth and sea, 3 saying, “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”  4 And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:  5 12,000 from the tribe of Judah were sealed, 12,000 from the tribe of Reuben, 12,000 from the tribe of Gad, 6 12,000 from the tribe of Asher, 12,000 from the tribe of Naphtali, 12,000 from the tribe of Manasseh, 7 12,000 from the tribe of Simeon, 12,000 from the tribe of Levi, 12,000 from the tribe of Issachar, 8 12,000 from the tribe of Zebulun, 12,000 from the tribe of Joseph, 12,000 from the tribe of Benjamin were sealed. (ESV)

The 144,000 sealed from the tribes of Israel have long been a mystery.  But now the purpose and mission of these witnesses can be understood.  These 144,000 servants will form the two witnesses YHVH uses in the end-time to show the world that He is the one true God.  These witnesses can be divided into two groups:

The House of Judah

  • The tribe of Judah
  • The tribe of Benjamin
  • The tribe of Levi

The House of Israel

  • The tribe of Joseph
  • The tribe of Manasseh
  • The tribe of Reuben
  • The tribe of Gad
  • The tribe of Asher
  • The tribe of Naphtali
  • The tribe of Simeon
  • The tribe of Issachar
  • The tribe of Zebulun

The tribe of Joseph has a double portion among the tribes (with Manasseh replacing the missing tribe of Dan), as his father Israel promised (Gen. 48:22).  Why is the tribe of Dan omitted from the twelve tribes sealed in Revelation 7?

In Genesis 49, Israel gives deathbed prophecies to all his sons regarding their fate in the “last days” (Gen. 49:1).  The prophecy for the tribe of Dan explains the reason why he is not included as part of the two witnesses:

GENESIS 49:16 “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel.” (NKJV)

Since one cannot be both a witness and a judge in a matter, the tribe of Dan was chosen by God to be the judge in this end-time situation.  He is prophesied to be the judge of those among the offspring of Israel that forsake the true God and follow the beast (Antichrist).  However, the nature of Dan’s judgment is not detailed.

The prophet Joel speaks of the sanctifying of the servants of God in the end times:

JOEL 2:28 “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.  29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.  30 And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:  Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.  31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD.  32 And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.  For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the remnant whom the LORD calls.” (NKJV)

Peter used this very passage of Scripture to explain the miracle which occurred on Pentecost in Acts 2.  But there remains an ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy which will occur during the unfolding of the events recorded in Revelation (compare Joel 2:30-31 with Rev. 6:12, 8:12).

The future sealing of the 144,000 will most likely occur on an upcoming Shavu’ot (also known as “Pentecost”).  The Jews associate trumpets with three of God’s commanded Feast Days:

  • The “First Trumpet” is sounded on Shavu’ot.
  • The “Last Trumpet” is sounded on Yom Teruah (also called Rosh Hashanah and the “Feast of Trumpets”).
  • The “Great Trumpet” is sounded on Yom Kippur (also known as the “Day of Atonement”).

When will the “first trumpet” of Revelation be sounded?  At the time shown in Revelation 8:7, which chronologically is a very short time after the 144,000 are sealed in Revelation 7:4-8.  The Spirit of God fell upon the 120 (Acts 1:15) after “the day of Pentecost had fully come” (Acts 2:1).  In like manner, the first trumpet of Revelation will be blown after the 144,000 (120 x 12 x 100) have been sealed, when this future Pentecost has “fully come.”

Now let’s look more closely at what these “two witnesses” will be doing during their 1,260 days of testimony (Rev. 11:3).  We are given two glimpses into their future activities by events that occurred during the ministry of Messiah Yeshua nearly 2,000 years ago:

LUKE 9:1 Then he called his twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases.  2 He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.  3 And he said to them, “Take nothing for the journey, neither staffs nor bag nor bread nor money; and do not have two tunics apiece.  4 Whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart.  5 And whoever will not receive you, when you go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” (NKJV)

The commission to the 12 disciples to go out and preach the kingdom of God to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6) was the first antetype of the sending out of the 144,000 at the end of the age.  Yeshua’s instructions and warnings regarding what the disciples were to expect during their mission is found in Matthew’s parallel account of this event:

MATTHEW 10:16 “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.  18 You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak.  For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.  21 Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.  22 And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake.  But he who endures to the end will be saved.  23 When they persecute you in this city, flee to another.  For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.  24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  25 It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!  26 Therefore do not fear them.  For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known.” (NKJV)

Yeshua told the original 12 disciples what would happen to them during their preaching of the gospel of the kingdom of God.  Yet his words also apply to what the 144,000 should expect as they go out into the world to preach the age-ending coming of the kingdom.

Yeshua’s comment that “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22) is evidence that these words also pertain to the witnesses at the end of the age.  This same statement was repeated by Yeshua just before his crucifixion.  In response to the question his disciples posed regarding “the sign of his coming and of the end of the age” (Matt. 24:3), Yeshua said:

MATTHEW 24:9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  10 And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  11 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.  12 And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.  13 But he who endures to the end shall be saved.  14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (NKJV)

Clearly the Messiah was not speaking solely to the 12 disciples here.  They did not take the gospel of the kingdom into all nations as a witness, and the end of the age and his return did not come during their days.  Therefore, we know that these words were also intended for a later group of witnesses.

Luke’s account shows that a second antetypical group was sent forth after the original 12, with similar instructions:

LUKE 10:1 After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.  2 And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.  3 Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.  4 Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road.  5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’  6 And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him.  But if not, it will return to you.  7 And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages.  Do not go from house to house.  8 Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.  9 Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’  10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you.  Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ ” (ESV)

The “72” disciples mentioned in Luke 10:1 above is said to be “70” in some other ancient manuscripts.  The reason for this discrepancy is unknown, but the difference is not confined to specific manuscript groupings.  Both Alexandrian and Western Greek manuscripts have examples of “72,” as do some Syriac manuscripts.  In The Gospel of Luke: A Commentary on the Greek Text, I. Howard Marshall states that manuscript “evidence in favour of 72 is the stronger” (p. 415).

Just as the number “12” is linked to “144,000” (12 x 12,000 = 144,000), the number “72” is also related to the number “144,000” in an interesting way:

72 x 2,000 = 144,000

About 2,000 years ago, Yeshua dispatched the 72 disciples “two by two” on their mission to prepare for the first harvest by preaching the gospel of the kingdom.  Soon, the 144,000 from the two houses of Israel will once again be sent out “two by two.”  Each pair of these witnesses will travel throughout the cities of the world to proclaim that the kingdom of God is coming soon in its fullness.

LUKE 10:17 The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!”  18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  19 Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (ESV)

The 72 disciples were given power over the demons in the days of Yeshua’s ministry.  In like manner, the 144,000 will also have such authority over “serpents and scorpions,” the demonic horde released from the Abyss (Rev. 9:1-11).

Now let’s look at the fate of these two (144,000) witnesses, as revealed by John’s vision:

100_3385

After the witnesses have finished their testimony before all the nations, YHVH will allow the Antichrist who had previously come up out of the Abyss (Rev. 9:11) to make war against them and kill them.  For additional information on this Beast and his activities in the end-time, see my article “Who Is The ‘Destroyer’?

For many people (formerly including myself), the end of verse 8 clearly establishes Jerusalem as the place where the witnesses will die.  It’s commonly understood that Yeshua was crucified in Jerusalem.  However, John’s very next use of the phrase “the GREAT CITY” in Revelation 14:8 shows that this is a reference to Babylon the Great, not the earthly Jerusalem.

The “great city” of Revelation 11:8 where our Lord was crucified is Satan’s Babylonian system.  Babylon the Great is called a CITY because it is patterned after the original city of Babel (Gen. 11:1-5).  This Babel (i.e., Babylon) was the first successful attempt at GLOBAL government on the earth.  Virtually all of mankind was gathered together in this one city under the rule of Nimrod, the original type of the Antichrist.  The famous Tower in the original city of Babel evidenced the rebellion of mankind against God; this rebellion will be replicated at the end of the age.

The Babel system of Satan is prophesied to rise up and rule over God’s people seven times before it is finally destroyed at the end of this age by the coming of the Messiah.  At the time John saw his vision of that system (Rev. 17:1-11), five of the Babel-patterned kingdoms had already arisen and fallen.  These five were: (1) Egypt, (2) Assyria, (3) Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon, (4) Medo-Persia, and (5) Greece.  The one that was then “alive” was (6) Rome.  Then comes the final one, (7) the end-time Babylon the Great, which in John’s day was still far in the future.

When John spoke of the “great city” where the Lord was crucified, he was speaking of Satan’s Babylonian system “Beast,” NOT the physical city of Jerusalem.  Rome was part of that Beast, the 6th incarnation of the “great city Babel” that existed in John’s day.  It was within the Roman Empire that Messiah Yeshua was crucified.  Indeed, without the Roman involvement, Messiah would NOT have been crucified, since crucifixion was a uniquely Roman form of capital punishment.

The phrase “make war against them” implies that action against the two witnesses is much more involved than just having two men killed.  The Greek word used for “witnesses” in this passage is martusin; the English word “martyr” is derived from the singular form of this Greek word.  At the end of their testimony, all 144,000 witnesses will be martyred for God:

100_3387100_3382Revelation 11:10-12

Such will be the hatred of the Antichrist-worshiping masses for these 144,000 witnesses that their bodies will be left to rot in the streets of cities all over the world after they are beheaded by the forces of the Beast.  The world [and all of today’s misled religions] will be so glad to see these two groups of witnesses slain that they will declare a global holiday and rejoice over their deaths.  But their defeat is not the end of the story:

Three-and-a-half days after the Beast is allowed to slay the witnesses of the House of Judah and the House of Israel (a day for every year they prophesied in the cities of the world), Yeshua the Messiah is going to raise them from the dead in the sight of all their enemies.  This event will cause the Antichrist to lose a 10th of his kingdom and bring to a close the 6th trumpet (also called “the 2nd woe”-Rev. 11:14), setting the stage for the end of the age at the 7th trumpet (Rev. 11:15-18).

After the Messiah establishes his kingdom and begins to rule from Jerusalem, these witnesses shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years (Rev. 20:4-6).  This is the reward of those from the House of Judah and the House of Israel who are called to be the witnesses of YHVH at the end of the age.  Amen!

Bryan T. Huie
July 22, 2000

http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm?page_name=2-Witnesses-in-Revelation

Revised: September 1, 2013

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble  offers a good choice being many individual reads on various subjects concerning the major mess America and our entire world civilization is truly in; and includes worldwide mislead Christianity according to the Bible.

 

THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN GROUP OR CONGREGATION SERVICES

Prior to reading what the Bible and Paul speak about women and their position, know that I love my wife very much, respect her, and depend on her as my only real support in this life, which for us has been almost nothing but difficulties since 2007. When two become as one through love, if she asks me a question regarding scripture, or if she speaks her belief on any particular subject within the Bible; we as men being their head, because Yeshua is our head, and YHVH is His Head are to only speak according to what we have been taught through our studies in spirit and truth. Even though my own studies began alone back around 1990, and to this day still remain just between me and YHVH, my wife and I share equal faith, need each other for support, and only put our trust in Yehovah for all things. I only speak these words because many accused Paul as chauvinistic, so in today’s modern society of equal rights, women’s lib, and every other subject, biblical truth is just not liked or accepted – even though Paul was only telling facts according to our creator – therefore what follows is needed education few shall learn now, but all through much affliction, tribulation and wrath, or after the 2nd resurrection.

100_3376 1 C0rinthians 14:34-35

In 21st-century western culture, we see many things practiced in worship and religion that were absent from the 1st-century church.  Things taken for granted in some of today’s Christian denominations would have been rejected as heresy by the early church.  One of the innovations of the past century is the increased participation of women in formal worship services.  In today’s society, it is considered intolerant to restrict the participation of woman based solely on gender.

However, if we claim to be followers of Yeshua the Messiah and seek to live our lives as he did, what should be our guidance in this matter?  Should we follow today’s cultural norms without question in order to be “politically correct,” or should we look to the Bible to see what God would have us do?

Let’s allow Yeshua’s own words to answer this question:

MATTHEW 4:4 But he answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” (NKJV)

Moses also addressed what God expects of His people:

DEUTERONOMY 12:32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” (NKJV)

Additionally, the book of Proverbs speaks of the value in heeding God’s words:

PROVERBS 30:5 Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.  6 Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar. (NKJV)

If we truly are going to live “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” we have to put aside what we think and what we want, and see what GOD thinks and what HE wants.  Today’s world is in rebellion against God and His commands. Paul’s exhortation and warning to Timothy in his final letter to him is very relevant to the time we live in now:

II TIMOTHY 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:  2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (ESV)

Certainly today we have a majority of believers who have rejected sound scriptural doctrine.  They have turned away from following the truth (God’s word-John 17:17) and have instead crafted rationalized fiction to accommodate their own desires and lusts.

In this article, we’re going to look at what the Bible says about the role of women in a formal church service.  The following information is not MY opinion; it’s what the Bible teaches.

In researching this topic, I read dozens of articles by people with a variety of different views.  I encountered an incredible amount of rationalization regarding current practices.  Some argued that Paul’s instructions were cultural and specific to the situations of his day.  Some said that Paul was a male chauvinist and should be ignored because his words contradict the teachings of Yeshua.  Some said that the Scriptures addressing this topic were not originally part of the Bible, but were instead added later.  Some said that Paul was writing only about unconverted or unlearned women who attended worship services.  Some stated that just two passages of relevant Scripture weren’t enough to establish church doctrine.  Some went so far as to claim that the Bible clearly shows women were leaders, teachers and apostles in the early church, and only later did a male-dominated leadership restrict them from these positions.

Most of the world does not understand or accept what the Bible plainly teaches about men and women.  The difference between what most people think today and what Paul taught nearly 2,000 years ago is rooted in the fundamental difference in the modern view regarding the composition of the human race.

To Paul, mankind was made up of families.  The family was the basic organizational structure for human relationships.  Within families, there was an order prescribed by God.  This order was instituted by God at the very beginning.

But for those living in today’s western feminist societies, the human race is no longer made up of families, but rather of individuals.  A woman is just another person like a man.  Therefore, most people in today’s world don’t see any reason for dealing differently with men and women.

Many believers today feel that what the Bible teaches about male and female relationships is irrelevant in our modern society.  When we ignore the Bible, as well as the inherent physical, mental, and emotional differences between men and women, there does not seem to be any reason why we should NOT view the sexes as equivalent.

But if we are going to be honest with ourselves about God’s word, we have to consider objectively what is written there about the relationship of men and women.  This article is going to examine what the Bible teaches regarding the roles God ordained for men and women.  In the end, it all comes back to the authority of the Bible in our lives.  Are we really willing to live by every word of God?

The best place to begin this study is at the beginning:

GENESIS 2:4 This is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, 5 before any plant of the field was in the earth and before any herb of the field had grown.  For the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; 6 but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.  7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.  8 The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed.  9 And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.  The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. . . .  15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”  18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a HELPER [‘ezer] comparable to him.”  19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them.  And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name.  20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.  But for Adam there was not found a helper [‘ezer] comparable to him.  21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs [tzal’otayv], and closed up the flesh in its place.  22 Then the rib [tzela’] which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.  23 And Adam said:  “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”  24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.  25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (NKJV)

Very soon after the creation, God saw that Adam was in need of someone comparable to himself to help him with the duties that had been assigned to him.  So God took a rib (Heb. tzela’) from Adam, and used it to create woman to be his helper.

The fact that God took a rib, and not another part of Adam’s body, is very significant.  The The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) says of tzela’ that “elsewhere it is an architectural term.  It refers to the sides of an object” (p. 768, vol. II).  The use of man’s rib in the creation of woman clearly shows that she was not to be over the man, nor was she to be trodden under his foot.  Rather, she was to be his supporter, working with him at his side.

This view of the role of woman is also confirmed by the use of the word ‘ezer (“helper”) in regard to her.  TWOT states that while the word ‘ezer “designates assistance, it is more frequently used in a concrete sense to designate the assistant” (p. 661, vol. II).  The woman, Eve, was intended by God to be Adam’s assistant, helping him with his responsibilities and subject to his authority.

GENESIS 3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.  And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”  2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ”  4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.  5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (NKJV)

Notice the tactic of Satan the serpent (Rev. 12:9; 20:2).  He approached Eve while Adam was absent.  He asked her a question regarding instructions Adam alone had received before she was created (Gen. 2:16-17).  Therefore, the only way she would have known what God had instructed regarding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge was if Adam had relayed it to her accurately.  Besides clearly calling God’s trustworthiness into question, it is likely that Satan was also subtly tempting Eve to doubt that Adam had told her the full story.  While disparaging the motive of God regarding the warning, Satan also tried to cause Eve to distrust Adam.

GENESIS 3:6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.  She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.  7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.  8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.  9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”  10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”  11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”  12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”  13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”  The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”  14 So the LORD God said to the serpent:  “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.  15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.”  16 To the woman He said:  “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”  17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:  “Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life.  18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.  19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (NKJV)

The sin of Adam and Eve led to curses being placed on both men and women.  Likewise, the sin of Satan brought a curse upon him and those angels who joined him in rebellion against God.  The curses on women are specifically listed in Genesis 3:16.

The book of Genesis provides us with an understanding of God’s original intent and purpose (Matt. 19:8).  As we’ll see when we review the apostle Paul’s comments on the role of women in the church, he appeals not to the culture of the day, but rather to the teaching of the Torah.  He uses chapters Genesis 2 and 3 to support his position.

The Genesis 2 account emphasizes the relationships of the man with his Creator, plants, animals, and the woman.  Genesis 2 highlights the three features which differentiate the man and the woman:

  1. God created woman at a different time; she was made AFTER man.  His priority in time has implications, as Paul points out (I Tim. 2:12-13).  In the divine order, a firstborn carries responsibility for, and authority over, those who come afterward.
  2. God created woman from a different material; she was made FROM man.  Paul uses this fact to support the headship of the man (I Cor. 11:8).
  3. God created woman for a different purpose; she was made FOR man.  The reverse is not true (I Cor. 11:9).  Woman’s primary function is in relation to man, but man was created first without reference to her (Gen. 2:15).

All three of these distinctions are mentioned in the New Testament as being significant to the divinely defined roles of men and women.  However, this does NOT in any way mean that women are inferior to men.  As Paul tells us in Galatians 3:28, all who accept the Messiah become heirs to the promise of Abraham:

GALATIANS 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (NKJV)

In this passage, Paul shows the potential for the salvation for ALL of humanity.  Both men and women will be in the kingdom of God.  However, Paul does not mean that NOW there are no longer defined roles and lines of authority.  Even though Jews, Greeks, slaves, men and women can all be saved, there are still roles that each will play in God’s plan during this age.  And these roles are different.

In the the book of Acts, we are told that Paul went from Athens to the Grecian city of Corinth (Acts 18:1).  He taught in the synagogue at first, and then at the house of Justus, who lived next door to the synagogue (Acts 18:4-7).  In a vision, Yeshua told Paul to stay there because he had many people in the city (Acts 18:9-10).  So Paul spent “a good while” longer than a year and half in Corinth, teaching the word of God to many former pagans (Acts 18:11-18).

However, some time after Paul had moved on, he heard from members of the Corinthian church that disputes and heresies had arisen there within the congregation.  From the letter Paul subsequently wrote to address these problems, it is clear that the practices of the Corinthian assembly had begun to significantly deviate from those of other messianic congregations.

Much of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians deals with proper conduct of believers during informal and formal worship.  As part of his correction and instruction, Paul outlined the divinely established order to the Corinthian congregation in the 11th chapter of his first letter:

I CORINTHIANS 11:1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.  2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.  3 But I want you to know that the head [kephale] of every man [andros] is Christ, the head [kephale] of woman [gunaikos] is man [aner], and the head [kephale] of Christ is God. (NKJV)

Paul starts this section of his letter by exhorting the Corinthians to follow his example ONLY as he followed the example of Messiah (v. 1).  He begins his correction with a quick acknowledgement that the Corinthians were still adhering to the instructions he had given them while there (v. 2).  However, Paul then immediately lays the groundwork for his ensuing guidance by listing the line of authority established by God (v. 3).

God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33).  In the church, as in families, there must be some defined structure of authority for all things to work properly.  The Greek word kephale is used metaphorically in verse 3 to signify one (or a group) who is superior in authority.  According to Paul, the line of authority in the church is as follows:

God the Father

Yeshua the Messiah

Men

Women

The Greek noun andros, and its variants (including aner), can refer generally to males or specifically to husbands, depending on the context.  Alternately, the noun gune and its various forms can be translated either as “woman” or “wife” based on context.

However, it is evident in this passage that the broader meaning is intended.  Messiah’s authority over the church does not extend just to husbands and wives.  He is over the ENTIRE church (all men and women).

Paul begins his discussion of the wearing of a headcovering by telling the Corinthians that God the Father is the ultimate authority.  Under Him is Messiah Yeshua, then males, and finally, females.  This seems like a strange way to begin this topic, but it is actually very relevant, as we shall see.

I CORINTHIANS 11:4 Every man [aner] praying or prophesying, having his head [kephales] covered [kata], dishonors his head [kephalen]. (NKJV)

After outlining the authorities in the church, Paul starts his corrective instructions.  He tells the Corinthian men that if they pray or prophesy with their physical head “covered,” they dishonor their spiritual head, Yeshua the Messiah (v. 3).  The Greek preposition kata, which is translated “covered” here, denotes direction and literally means “down from.”

Many take the discussion of the headcovering in this passage to be referring specifically to hair.  As we shall see shortly, verse 6 absolutely eliminates that possibility.  Paul is actually referring to the wearing of a fabric veil or covering on the head.

Paul starts out by addressing the practice the Corinthian men had adopted of praying or prophesying with a veil or covering hanging down from their head.  A similar custom is currently practiced by some Jews and messianics, where a tallit (“prayer shawl”) is draped over a man’s head during prayer.  This custom is supposed to represent the man creating a personal “prayer closet” to ensure privacy during the act of praying.  It appears that it was the Corinthian’s adoption of this custom (or one similar to it) that prompted Paul’s instructions here.

I CORINTHIANS 11:5 But every woman [gune] who prays or prophesies with her head [kephale] uncovered [akatakalupto] dishonors her head [kephalen], for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved [exuremene]. (NKJV)

Paul now addresses the reverse situation which was occurring among the Corinthian women.  The Greek compound word akatakalupto (“uncovered”) is made up of three parts:  the negative particle a, kata, and kalupto, which means “to cover” or “to veil.”  Literally, this word means “not veiled” or “not covered” (with a garment that hangs “down from” the head).

Here, Paul notifies the women in the Corinthian church that if they pray or prophesy with their physical head “unveiled” or “uncovered,” they dishonor the men in the congregation, who are their spiritual head (v. 3).  At the end of this verse, Paul states that the practice of a woman praying or prophesying without a veil covering her head was as scandalous as if her head were shaved (Gr. root xurao).

At that time, shaving a woman’s head was one of the punishments decreed for convicted adultresses.  Additionally, it appears that some of the sacred prostitutes from the pagan temples shaved their heads.  Properly understood, this statement was designed to show the Corinthian women how shameful it was to abandon wearing a headcovering.

I CORINTHIANS 11:6 For if a woman [gune] is not covered [ou katakaluptetai], let her also be shorn [keirastho].  But if it is shameful [aischron] for a woman [gunaiki] to be shorn [keirasthai] or shaved [xurasthai], let her be covered [katakaluptesthe]. (NKJV)

Paul here greatly strengthens his condemnation from the preceding verse.  He goes so far as to command that if any woman in the Corinthian assembly refused to wear a headcovering during prayer or prophecy, she should have her hair cut short (Gr. root keiro), or shaved off altogether, to make her shame evident to all.  He then reverses his statement by saying that if it was considered shameful for a woman to have her hair cut short or shaved off (and it WAS), then she should avoid that fate by covering her head (with a fabric headcovering).

This verse destroys the argument that Paul is speaking of a woman’s long hair as her covering.  To illustrate the absurdity of that position, let’s look at part of this verse using that assumption:

For if a woman is not covered (by long hair), let her hair be cut short.

To take the position that Paul is speaking here of long hair as a woman’s covering, we have to believe that his command was that if a woman had short hair, she needed to have her hair cut short as punishment.  As you can see, this view doesn’t make any sense.  Obviously, the covering Paul is speaking of has to be something other than hair.

I CORINTHIANS 11:7 For a man [aner] indeed ought not to cover [katakaluptesthai] his head [kephalen], since he is the image and glory of God; but woman [gune] is the glory of man [andros].  8 For man [aner] is not from woman [gunaikos], but woman [gune] from man [andros].  9 Nor was man [aner] created for the woman [gunaika], but woman [gune] for the man [andra]. (NKJV)

Contrary to the claims of some, Paul is not basing his teaching on the headcovering on 1st-century culture or circumstances unique to the Corinthians.  As he does elsewhere in his writings (cf. I Tim. 2:13), Paul refers back to the creation story to support his position.  The order established at the beginning by God is the basis for his teaching.  Man was created first.  Woman was created afterward from man and for man.

I CORINTHIANS 11:10 For this reason [dia touto] the woman [gune] ought to have a symbol of authority [exousian] on her head [kephales], because of the angels. (NKJV)

To most people, this is one of the most enigmatic verses within Paul’s writings.  However, the beginning of the sentence (“for this reason” – dia touto) shows us that Paul’s conclusion in this verse is directly tied to his observations in the previous verses.  Woman was created for man; THAT IS WHY (dia touto) a woman should wear a headcovering.  This veil is a powerful symbol which shows the angelic realm (Gen. 6:1-4) that the woman wearing it has accepted the divine order established at creation.

As a side note, in his work Against Heresies, Catholic church father Irenaeus (120-202 C.E.) rendered this verse as follows:  “A woman ought to have a veil [kalumma] upon her head, because of the angels” (sec. 2, ch. 8, bk. 1).  Irenaeus understood the “power” (exousia) on a woman’s head to be a cloth covering of some kind and not a woman’s hair.

I CORINTHIANS 11:11 Nevertheless, neither is man [aner] independent of woman [gunaikos], nor woman [gune] independent of man [andros], in the Lord.  12 For as woman [gune] came from man [andros], even so man [aner] also comes through woman [gunaikos]; but all things are from God. (NKJV)

Paul now seeks to balance his exposition of scriptural authority with a proper understanding of how that authority should be viewed.  In the Lord, men and women are not independent of each other.  Just as woman was initially created from the man, now man comes through woman via the birth process.  Man was placed in charge by God because order is necessary to the proper functioning of the family, not because man is somehow “better” than woman.

I CORINTHIANS 11:13 Judge among yourselves.  Is it proper for a woman [gunaika] to pray to God with her head uncovered [akatakalupton]?  14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man [aner] has long hair, it is a dishonor to him?  15 But if a woman [gune] has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering [peribolaiou].(NKJV)

Paul concludes his teaching on the headcovering by drawing an analogy between nature and the requirement for a woman to be veiled during prayer.  Just as nature shows that a woman should have long hair (and conversely, a man should not), Paul states that during prayer, a woman should be veiled (and a man should not).

It’s interesting to note that the Greek word translated “covering” at the end of verse 15 is peribolaiou.  This word appears only one other time in the New Testament (Heb. 1:12), where it is rendered “cloak.”  The Greek word for “veil” (kalumma – II Cor. 3:13-16) is purposely not used here, because a woman’s hair was not the covering or veil Paul was speaking about.

Historical sources from the early centuries of the church agree that the headcovering mentioned in I Corinthians 11:4-13 was a fabric covering worn by the women in worship.  These sources sometimes differ about the application of the headcovering, but they are solidly in agreement that Paul’s reference to women being covered in worship was to a cloth headcovering and not to the hair of a woman.

I CORINTHIANS 11:16 But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God. (NKJV)

Here Paul wraps up his teaching on the headcovering by stating that no custom such as that which had been instituted at Corinth (men praying with their head veiled, women praying without a veil) existed anywhere else.  What he had just explained to them was standard practice throughout all the messianic assemblies, and they were bound to follow it.

Moving on to the 14th chapter of I Corinthians, Paul addresses another issue where the congregation was having problems:  Speaking in formal worship services.  Because of disorderly speaking practices, confusion reigned during the Corinthian worship services.

From the comments made in this chapter by Paul, we see that there were essentially three speaking problems that had arisen:

  1. Speaking in tongues during services;
  2. Prophets speaking during services; and
  3. Women speaking during services.

Most of Paul’s instruction in this chapter deals with speaking in tongues.  To summarize his teaching on tongues, Paul states that he who speaks in a tongue speaks to God, not men (I Cor. 14:2).  He says that speaking in tongues is a sign to unbelievers (I Cor. 14:22).  Therefore, it does not benefit the congregation for someone to speak in tongues unless there is an interpreter present, and then only two or three should speak (I Cor. 14:27).  But if no one is there to interpret, then the one speaking in tongues should remain silent (I Cor. 14:28).  To do otherwise would not build up the assembly, and edification is the primary reason to desire such spiritual gifts (I Cor. 14:12).

Paul also explains how and when prophets should address the assembled congregation.  He says prophecy is a more important spiritual gift than speaking in tongues (I Cor. 14:1-5).  Prophecy is a sign to believers (I Cor. 14:22-24); it shows that God is present in the congregation (I Cor. 14:25).  Only two or three prophets were to speak (I Cor. 14:29), and then only one at a time (I Cor. 14:31).  The purpose for Paul to outline these instructions was to reign in the chaos that was ensuing from everyone trying to speak at the same time.  As he bluntly states, “God is not the author of confusion” (I Cor. 14:33).  Only if things were done in an orderly manner could the congregation benefit from these spiritual gifts.

The final section of I Corinthians 14 deals with women speaking in formal worship services:

I CORINTHIANS 14:33b As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women [gunaikes] should keep silent [sigatosan] in the churches.  For they are not permitted to speak [lalein], but should be in submission [hupotassesthai], as the Law also says. (ESV)

Paul starts off in verse 33 by saying that what he was teaching was common practice in all the messianic congregations.  Earlier in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul stated that his preaching was consistent everywhere (I Cor. 4:17).  Therefore, the ensuing instructions were not just for the women of the Corinthian congregation, but for women in all the “churches of the saints.”  Those who propose that only the Corinthian women were effected by this teaching must ignore other Scriptures which are equally clear on the subject (e.g., I Tim. 2:11-15).

In verse 34, Paul commands that women remain silent and not speak “in the assembly.”  Some have tried to weaken Paul’s teaching by suggesting that the term “speak” here refers simply to idle chit-chat or gossip by women during the worship service rather than to serious public participation in the study of Scripture.  This position is not supportable based on the original text, however.  The Greek root verb laleo is used 24 times in this chapter (I Cor. 14:2-6, 9, 11, 13, 18, 19, 21, 23, 27-29, 34, 35, 39).  It simply means to audibly speak, whether that speech be in another tongue, from a prophet, or from a woman.

Still others have attempted to paint Paul’s teaching as a cultural issue, based on conditions unique to Corinth and unrelated to modern believers.  But Paul’s command was not based on special circumstances in the Corinthian culture.  It was based on the biblical principle of humble submission to divinely-ordained authority (in this case, the authority man has over woman based on creation).

This is the reason for the citation of “the Law” as the basis for his instructions at the end of verse 34.  Many try to argue that since there is no specific law in the Torah forbidding women to speak, Paul must have been referring to some unbiblical law that is not binding on modern believers.  However, Paul’s use of “the Law” here is a reference back to the creation account we examined previously (Gen. 2-3).  “The Law” is simply another name for the Torah, the first five books of Moses (cf. Matt. 5:17; 7:12; 22:40; Luke 24:44; Acts 13:15).

It is fashionable now to reject Paul’s teaching on women speaking as though it was some chauvinistic doctrine that only he taught, some personal bias that is inconsistent with other biblical revelation.  Yet the silence of women in the churches was not a new innovation given only to the Corinthians.  The practice Paul required in formal church services was based on the scriptural principle of submission found in Genesis.  Peter speaks of this same principle in his first general epistle in relation to marriage (I Pet. 3:1-6).

I CORINTHIANS 14:35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home.  For it is shameful [aischron] for a woman to speak [lalein] in church. (ESV)

If verse 34 is difficult for many to accept, verse 35 is even more so.  Just as a woman having a shorn or shaved head was said to be “shameful” (aischron – I Cor. 11:6), so too is a woman speaking in formal worship services disgraceful.  It would almost seem that Paul is “rubbing salt in the wound” here.  A woman cannot even ask a question in a formal worship service, but she must ask her own husband at home because it would be shameful for her to speak in church.

Why would God forbid a woman to ask a question in the church meeting?  What would be the harm of a simple question?

Questions are seldom neutral.  While some questions are sincerely asked to gain information or insight, many are posed for other reasons.  Satan, for example, commenced his conversation with Eve with a question (“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” – Gen. 3:1).  He was not trying to learn from Eve, but instead, he was laying the groundwork to deceive her and tempt her into sin.

The opposition which Yeshua faced from the Jewish religious leaders of his day frequently came in the form of apparently innocent questions (e.g., “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” – Matt. 22:17).  Many who ask questions are really trying to make a point or to challenge the position of the one being questioned.  The power to question is the authority to lead and to correct, and thus it should be exercised by the men of the congregation, whom God has appointed to authority (I Cor. 11:3).

Paul used the principle of BUILDING UP the assembly in verse 26 to form the basis for his commands.  Therefore, there should also be positive reasons why women are prohibited from asking questions in a formal worship setting.

There are at least two ways that this prohibition teaches men:

First, the men will be stimulated to more serious study when their wives look to THEM for the answers to their biblical questions.  As long as the wife looks to someone other than her husband for spiritual guidance, he will not feel the weight of his responsibility as the leader of the home.  That is why Paul says, “let them ask their own husbands at home.”

Additionally, the husband’s authority will not be threatened and he will not be put on the spot publicly if he is asked at home.  If he does not know the answer, he will not be embarrassed in front of the congregation, but will be able to investigate the matter more fully before taking a stand.

I CORINTHIANS 14:36 Or was it from you that the word of God came?  Or are you the only ones it has reached? (ESV)

The almost bitter words that Paul adds in verse 36 show that he was very displeased with what had happened in Corinth.  In this verse, he reproaches the Corinthians for the innovation of permitting women to speak in the formal worship assembly.  Paul sarcastically reminds them that they were not the source of the Scriptures, nor were they the only ones who possessed them.  He encouraged them to observe the order in the Torah that God had established at the beginning and not to seek some new way of their own devising.  This order was the common practice among all the other messianic congregations of God.

I CORINTHIANS 14:37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.  38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.  39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues.  40 But all things should be done decently and in order. (ESV)

Paul clearly states that these teachings were not his opinion, but rather the commands of the Lord (v. 37).  Those who rejected them would themselves be rejected (v. 38).  His overriding concern was that things be done according to the proper order.

What must be noted in conclusion to our review of this passage in I Cor. 14 is:

  1. The prohibition of speaking in the church to women is specific, absolute, and all-inclusive.  They are to keep silent in all formal public worship services.  They are not to ask questions.
  2. This prohibition is given precisely for the related matters of teaching and ruling (specifically to avoid challenging the elders’ functions of teaching and overseeing the congregation, and the right of each husband to rule his own household); and
  3. The grounds on which the prohibition is founded are universal and based on the different fundamental roles each sex has been given by God in this age of mankind.

In addition to the instructions given to the Corinthian church, Paul spoke specifically of the role of women in his first instructional letter to Timothy also:

I TIMOTHY 2:8 I desire therefore that the men [andras] pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; 9 in like manner also, that the women [gunaikas] adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women [gunaixin] professing godliness, with good works.  11 Let a woman [gune] learn in silence [hesuchia] with all submission [hupotage].  12 And I do not permit a woman [gunaiki] to teach or to have authority over a man [andros], but to be in silence [hesuchia]. (NKJV)

The words of Paul regarding women here are difficult for 21st-century western Christians to accept.  But they are plain and unequivocal, and support his earlier comments to the Corinthian church regarding the role of women in church services.

Paul follows up these clear instructions with his rationale for giving them:

I TIMOTHY 2:13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman [gune] being deceived, fell into transgression.  15 Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control. (NKJV)

We may like what Paul says, or we may not like it.  In the end, we are either willing to do what he commands, or we are not willing to do it.  But there is no room for doubt about what he says.

Some attempt to use the NT example of Aquila and Priscilla to say that women can teach men.  But let’s look at this scriptural example a little more closely, because it’s very instructive if properly understood.

We’re introduced to Aquila and his wife Priscilla in Corinth:

ACTS 18:1 After these things Paul departed from Athens and went to Corinth.  2 And he found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, who had recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla (because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to depart from Rome); and he came to them.  3 So, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them and worked; for by occupation they were tentmakers. (NKJV)

They obviously became good friends with the Apostle Paul, because when he left Corinth, they traveled with him for a while:

ACTS 18:18 So Paul still remained a good while.  Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him.  He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.  19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there . . . (NKJV)

After stopping at Ephesus, we see Aquila and Priscilla meet with the Jewish teacher Apollos:

ACTS 18:24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.  25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.  26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue.  When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (NKJV)

An attempt is made, based on verse 26, to show that women are allowed to teach men because Priscilla taught Apollos.  However, the text clearly shows that she did so only in conjunction with and under the authority of her husband, Aquila.  Additionally, they did not do so in the synagogue, but rather they “took him aside” and explained “the way of God” to him.

ROMANS 16:3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, (NKJV)

I CORINTHIANS 16:19 The churches of Asia greet you.  Aquila and Priscilla greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. (NKJV)

II TIMOTHY 4:19 Greet Prisca [a shortened form of Priscilla] and Aquila, and the household of Onesiphorus. (NKJV)

Bryan T. Huie
March 1, 2005

http://www.herealittletherealittle.net/index.cfm?page_name=All&id=75

Revised: July 26, 2013

 

https://dochub.com/timesoftrouble  offers a good choice being many individual reads on various subjects concerning the major mess America and our entire world civilization is truly in; and includes worldwide mislead Christianity according to the Bible.