Dec 14, 2013

Impossible Things Do Happen—The Story of Zacharias and Elizabeth

There has been a class consciousness in almost every culture in history, and the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day was no exception. The upper class of that social structure consisted of the descendants of Aaron, the officiating priesthood. There were about 20,000 of them in and around Jerusalem at the time, and unfortunately many were proud, bigoted, overly indulgent, self-seeking men, religious only in those external matters that would impress other people. The priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan was a typical example. He considered himself to be above helping the unfortunate victim of a mugging and robbery.
But there were a few who were different and among them was an old priest named Zacharias, whose name means “the Lord remembers.” Since the law of Moses insisted that a priest marry only a woman of highest reputation, Zacharias had chosen the daughter of another priest to be his wife. Not only was she a descendant of Aaron, but she bore the name of Aaron’s own wife, Elisheba or Elizabeth, which means “the oath of God.” Their names would spring alive with new significance before the sun set on their life together.
Look, first of all, at their devout example, “And they were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord” (Luke 1:6). The lives of both Zacharias and Elizabeth were pleasing to God. They submitted to the will of God and obeyed the Word of God. And they did it “in the sight of God,” that is, to exalt the Lord alone rather than to make a good showing before men. In that they were different from most of their contemporaries. They did not even care about the status that went with the priesthood. They lived in some obscure village in the hilly region south of Jerusalem rather than, as the other priests, in the elite section of the city itself, or in Jericho, the luxurious city of the palms. Their piety was no outward show; it was a heart relationship with the Lord. They cared more about what God thought of them than what men thought. And that, incidentally, is an important foundation on which to build a good marital relationship. The quality of our walk with God determines our ability to walk happily and harmoniously with each other. And that walk with Him can only grow as we seek to please Him rather than impress men.
That is not to say that Zacharias and Elizabeth had no problems. While many of our problems stem from our own sins, God does allow some to invade our lives for no other purpose but to help us grow. He wants them there, and no amount of obedience can possibly bring immunity from them. Zacharias and Elizabeth had one like that, and it was a big one. “And they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years” (Luke 1:7). It is difficult for us to imagine the intense stigma attached to childlessness for them. Many Jewish Rabbis insisted that it was an evidence of divine disfavor. While Zacharias and Elizabeth may have been righteous before God, some of their friends probably suspected them of serious secret sin. And there was no way to erase that blot. The phrase “advanced in years” meant at least sixty years of age, well beyond the time of childbearing. It was a hopeless situation.
Zacharias could have exonerated himself by divorcing Elizabeth. In their society, barrenness was a commonly accepted grounds for divorce. Zacharias could have gotten rid of her, married a younger woman, had children by his new wife, and gotten that damnable curse off his back. That was the route many other men would have taken. But not Zacharias. Instead he prayed (cf. Luke 1:13). He committed the situation to the one person who could do something about it. And while I cannot prove it, I would imagine that he prayed about it together with Elizabeth, and by that means ministered to her spiritual needs. He was also a man of the Word, as his famous “Benedictus” later revealed (cf. Luke 1:67-79). So he probably shared with his wife the great Old Testament Scriptures which would console her and encourage her in her plight.
That is a husband’s responsibility as the spiritual leader in his marriage. The short time he has known the Lord may hinder him from fulfilling this role effectively at first, but as he grows in his understanding of the Word he will feel more comfortable encouraging his wife through the Word. Too often a wife has to drag her husband along spiritually; she coaxes, begs, and badgers him for every step he reluctantly takes in his spiritual growth. God does not want any of us trying to drag others along spiritually, but he does want husbands out in front, taking the spiritual lead and ministering to their wives and children in the things of Christ.

The Blood Moon Theory DEBUNKED (2014-2015)

Debunked may not be the right word here...maybe something like "had a little steam taken out of them" would be better.  First, we should beware of anything coming from the great sensationalist and prosperity preacher John Hagee.  Secondly, while these may well be signs, they don't seem to be specific of anything except maybe the times themselves.  Moreover, the true "signs in the heavens" will be visible likely to the whole world.  I still think they are close, but I don't know that this idea helps at all...

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Hamas: Israel Engineering an Earthquake Attack on Al-Aqsa

It's not beyond reason that this could happen. We are seeing earthquakes up to magnitude 5 occur daily in areas of the U.S. due to fracking. There is also ample documentation that electromagnetic devices can also cause faults to slip. Jerusalem sits on a fault line. They could have a temporary tabernacle up in a couple of weeks, maybe less. A very interesting idea...

Hamas Min. of Religious Affairs warns Israel is trying to collapse Al-Aqsa Mosque with 'artificial earthquake' to build 3rd Temple.
By Dalit Halevi, Ari Yashar

Israeli officer on Temple Mount (file)
Israeli officer on Temple Mount (file)

Ismail Radwan, Minister of Religious Affairs in Gaza's Hamas government, claims that Israel is trying to cause an artificial earthquake to totally collapse the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. According to Radwan, Israel is attempting to do so to establish the Third Temple.
The comments came at an event organized by female students of the College for Professional Applied Sciences. In response to the supposed "earthquake attack," Radwan called for a general national enlistment to the military, and to support the mosque by having fixed presence at the site.

Radwan said through repeated Jewish access to the Temple Mount, as well as "excavations and criminal acts," the Israeli "occupation" has "arrived at the stage of accustoming Palestinians, Arabs and Muslim to accept the existing reality so as to implement their goals to destroy the mosque and build the supposed Temple."

The minister blamed peace talks and security arrangements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) as providing cover for the "criminal acts" on the Temple Mount.

Regardless of Hamas's fantastic scenarios, Israel is facing a real earthquake danger. In October, the Home Front Minister MK Gilad Erdan (Likud) warned that a major earthquake is looming that could potentially kill 7,000 Israelis.

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Why Are So Many Pastors Committing Suicide?

 Jennifer LeClaire

I remember reading A.W. Tozer, the former pastor and writer, mention that pastors were getting burnt out because they were trying to do so much that they had no spiritual power to do.  When you are spiritually filled, no task is to great.  When you aren't, every task is too great.        
More than 2 million adult Americans made a suicide plan in the past year, and about half that many went through with the plan. (Stock.xchng)
In another church tragedy, Pastor Isaac Hunter—the son of the spiritual adviser to President Obama—has reportedly taken his own life. Hunter’s death is making national headlines because of his megachurch father Pastor Joel Hunter’s influence on the White House, his marriage troubles and an undated suicide note found last year, but his death is far from the only pastoral suicide in recent months.

Just days ago, a pastor who was grieving his dead wife reportedly shot himself in front of his mother and son, expressing that he was hearing his dead spouse’s voice and footsteps. Pastor Ed Montgomery and his late wife, prophetess Jackie Montgomery, served at the Full Gospel Assemblies International church in Hazel Crest, Ill.

In November, a Georgia pastor killed himself in between Sunday services. Larrinecia Sims Parker, wife of the Rev. Teddy Parker Jr., found the pastor in the driveway of their home with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Houston County coroner Danny Galpin reports.

Why the sudden rash of pastors committing suicide? Suicide is not a new problem among clergy, but three known suicides in less than two months begs a deeper look at the issue.

There is no lack of statistics about pastors and depression, burnout, health, low pay, spirituality, relationships and longevity—and none of them are good. According to the Schaeffer Institute, 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression, and 71 percent are burned out. Meanwhile, 72 percent of pastors say they only study the Bible when they are preparing for sermons; 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families; and 70 percent say they don’t have a close friend.

The Schaeffer Institute also reports that 80 percent of seminary and Bible school graduates will leave the ministry within five years. It’s not clear how many commit suicide, but it is clear that pastors are not immune to it. Psychologists point to several reasons why people commit suicide, from depression to psychosis to stressful life situations. But one thing is certain: Whatever drives someone to take their own life ultimately begins in the mind. Suicidal thoughts precede suicide.

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Dec 13, 2013

The Origin of "Angels We Have Heard on High"

Angels We Have Heard on High

Hymn Story:

The French carol "Les anges dans nos campagnes," now known as "Angels We Have Heard on High," is completely anonymous. It has always been printed with no known lyricist or composer. The beautiful carol tells the story of Christ's birth, when the angel choir told the good news to nearby shepherds. The chorus, "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," reflects the chorus of the angel choir that long-ago Christmas night.

Many years ago shepherds in the hills of southern France had a Christmas Eve custom of calling to one another, singing "Gloria in Excelsis Deo," each from his own hillside. The traditional tune that the shepherds used may have been from a late Medieval Latin chorale. It became the magnificent chorus of "Angels We Have Heard on High."

The carol seems to be of eighteenth-century origin, since it was known in England by 1816. At that time James Montgomery wrote his carol "Angels From the Realms of Glory", originally basing it on the tune of "Les anges dans nos campagnes." "Angels From the Realms of Glory" was sung to the French tune until Henry Tomas Smart wrote a new tune for it in 1967.

"Angels We Have Heard on High" was first published in France in 1855. The English translation came seven years later, in Henri Frederick's Crown of Jesus Music. This 1862 translation differed from the form we use now. The version we use today was first printed in a 1916 American carol collection entitled Carols Old and Carols New.


Sheep scattered around, the shepherds settled in for another quiet night, probably swapping stories as they watched the flocks. Then, in a divine moment, God burst into the night. Angels appeared, singing songs and speaking of the Savior's birth. And suddenly, the shepherds' ordinary lives were transformed-becoming part of a story that's lived for thousands of years.

Angels We Have Heard on High" reminds us of this amazing night. In the beautiful strains of its chorus, this carol helps us experience a taste of what that angel chorus might have sounded like as it proclaimed the "good news."

Christ's birth certainly was good news to those simple shepherds. The Savior changed their lives forever. And God still loves to speak to ordinary people and transform their lives into something extraordinary through his grace.

As we sing of the angels' great announcement, let's remember that God still wants to announce the "good news" today, using people like you and me. Helping a family in need, sharing the gospel story with a prisoner, encouraging a friend who's going through tough times-in these and countless other ways we can announce Jesus' birth to the "shepherds" of our day.

Through our words and actions, we can show that Jesus still lives in the hearts of man. So in this Christmas season, and all through the coming year, let's continue the angel song. Let's tell the world all about Jesus, and how he's changed our lives forever.

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Why Did the Angels First Announce the Birth to Shepherds?

The Angels and the Shepherds

We all know the story.  The shepherds were sitting there on the hillside minding their own business, looking after their sheep, when suddenly a single angel appeared to them and announced the birth of Jesus.  This was then followed by the appearance of a multitude of angels praising God.  Why did the angels appear first to the shepherds?

To answer that question, we need to backtrack a little.  Remember we said that Bethlehem was a centre for the production of wheat and barley but also a place where sheep were raised?  But these weren't just ordinary sheep.  They were lambs destined to be sacrificed in Jerusalem at the temple.  The law required that every household had to sacrifice a lamb at Passover time - if they could afford to do so.  This amounted to a very large number of lambs.  Moreover, the regulations dictated that each lamb had to be without blemish.  (Ex 12:5). 

The corrupt sacrificial system which was in operation during the time of Jesus ensured that the Temple always made a fat profit.  If you brought your own lamb to sacrifice, it was inspected by one of the Temple priests and the chances were high that it would be rejected as having some blemish.  You were therefore forced to buy a lamb from the Temple itself.  These lambs, naturally, commanded a high price and you couldn't just buy one with ordinary money.  You first had to change your money into Temple money - at a disadvantageous exchange rate!  These are the moneychangers referred to in passages such as Matt 21:12 and it was these types of "sharp" practices which made Jesus so angry.

The bottom line is that the Temple not only sacrificed lambs, but it supplied them too - in industrial quantities!  Where did these lambs come from?  The answer is that many of them were reared in fields near Bethlehem by shepherds who effectively worked for the Temple in Jerusalem.  Now here's the important part: whenever a new lamb was born, it was the duty of the shepherds to immediately inspect the new born-lamb to determine whether or not it had any blemish.  A lamb which had some deformity (no matter how slight) was of absolutely no use for Temple sacrifice.  It was slaughtered immediately. 

This is the reason the angel appeared firstly to the shepherds: the most important sacrificial Lamb of all had just been born, and the angel therefore sent the shepherds hastening to see the One who, thirty-three years later, at Passover time, would be lifted high on a cruel cross as the one, perfect sacrifice for their sins. 

For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us. (1 Cor. 5:7)
You've heard the Christmas story dozens of times. But I want you to slow down and consider what it was like to be a shepherd -- seeing and hearing what they saw and heard that night. I've taken some effort to research the various aspects of the story and angel's message. Ssssh. Quiet, now, the sheep are resting quietly....

Shepherds Keeping Watch over Their Flocks (2:8)

"And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night." (2:8)
Tending flocks, with agriculture, formed the basis of the Palestine economy, and sheep raised on the hillsides around Bethlehem may well have been destined for temple sacrifices in Jerusalem, only six miles to the north.[1]

Jeremias describes a shepherd's life: "The dryness of the ground made it necessary for the flocks of sheep and cattle to move about during the rainless summer and to stay for months at a time in isolated areas, far from the owner's home. Hence, herding sheep was an independent and responsible job; indeed, in view of the threat of wild beasts and robbers, it could even be dangerous. Sometimes the owner himself (Luke 15:6; John 10:12) or his sons did the job. But usually it was done by hired shepherds, who only too often did not justify the confidence reposed in them (John 10:12-13)."[2]
Some of Israel's great heroes were shepherds -- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. Both Psalm 23 and Jesus compare God's care to that of a Good Shepherd. But in the First Century, it seems, shepherds -- specifically, hireling shepherds -- had a rather unsavory reputation. Jeremias cites Rabbinic sources to the effect that "most of the time they were dishonest and thieving; they led their herds onto other people's land and pilfered the produce of the land." Because they were often months at a time without supervision, they were often accused of stealing some of the increase of the flock. Consequently, the pious were warned not to buy wool, milk, or kids from shepherds on the assumption that it was stolen property.[3] Shepherds were not allowed to fulfill a judicial office or be admitted in court as witnesses.[4] A midrash on Psalm 23:2 reads, "There is no more disreputable occupation than that of a shepherd."[5] Philo, a Hellenistic Jewish philosopher of Alexandria (25 BC - 45 AD), wrote about looking after sheep and goats, "Such pursuits are held mean and inglorious."[6]

In contrast to rabbinical contempt for shepherds, however, Jesus distinguishes between the good shepherd and the hireling (John 10:11-13). He tells a parable of the shepherd leaving ninety-nine sheep in the fold while searching the hills to find the missing one (Luke 15:3-7). Perhaps this is because Jesus, who has fellowship with the despised and sinners, knows and appreciates them as people. There is no suggestion that the shepherds to whom the angels appeared were not devout men, though they were from a despised class.[7]

They lived most of the year outside, away from the townspeople. "Abiding in the field" (KJV) is the Greek verb agrauleo, "live out of doors."[8] Flocks were kept outside in this way from April to November, and, sometimes during the winter in suitable locations.[9] They were constantly with their sheep, since the sheep were vulnerable to all kinds of trouble. "Keeping watch" is a combination of two related Greek words. The verb is phulasso, "to carry out sentinel functions, watch, guard."[10] The noun is phulake, "the act of guarding." Together they carry the idea of "keep watch, do guard duty."[11] The shepherds made sure that the sheep were safe from wandering off and injuring themselves, as well as dangers from thieves and wolves.

The Glory of the Lord (2:9)

One minute the shepherds are talking quietly in the blackness of the winter sky. The next moment the hillside is ablaze with light and booming with the sound of an angel's voice.
"An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified." (2:9)
This appearance wasn't at a distance, but upfront and personal. "Appeared" is the Greek verb ephistemi, which here means "to stand at or near a specific place." Often this use of the verb occurs with the idea of suddenness.[12]

The brightness is more than just mega-candlepower. It is the radiance of God's own glory. "Glory" is the Green noun doxa (which we also see in verse 14). Here it refers to "the condition of being bright or shining, brightness, splendor, radiance."[13] Throughout the Old Testament the presence of God is referred to as overwhelmingly bright, burning as fire, such as the cloud above the temple by day (Exodus 16:7, 10; 40:34-35; 1 Kings 8:11; Isaiah 6:3; 40:5; 60:1; Ezekiel 3:23; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 4:4; etc.). God's angels sometimes bear this same bright glory (Matthew 28:3; Luke 24:4; Daniel 10:6). In this case the glory shines around the whole area (Greek perilampo). The result in the shepherds is predictable -- abject terror. "Terrified" (NIV) or "sore afraid" (KJV) reads, literally, "feared with a great fear."

The Good News Angel (2:10-11)

The angel moves first to calm their fears....
"But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.'" (2:10-11)
This Good News angel has the enviable task of being the first herald of Messiah's birth. "Bring good news" (NIV) or "bring good tidings" (KJV) is the Greek verb euangelizo, from which we get our English word, "evangelize." Here it means, "bring good news, announce good news." Later in the New Testament it is widely used for "proclaim the message of salvation, preach the gospel."[14] The message the angel brings is very good news that results in joy. "Joy" is the Greek noun chara, "the experience of gladness, joy."[15] Here joy is intensified by the Greek adjective megas, "great, pertaining to being above standard in intensity"[16] -- great joy!

Notice how broad is the angel's message. It's not for just the pious or the Jew, but "for all the people." What wonderful news for those who are estranged from God and struggling under oppression! The baby is not just born to Mary and Joseph. Verse 11 indicates that the baby is born "to you" -- to the shepherd recipients of the message and all others. This birth is unto everyone and to everyone's benefit. It is also an immediate message -- "Today" (NIV) -- "this day" (KJV).
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Dec 12, 2013

Does Micah 5:2 predict that Jesus would be the Messiah?


by Ryan Turner

The Historical and Literary Context

Micah was a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah who lived in the 8th century B.C.  In this short passage, he predicts that the Messiah will be born in the Bethlehem of David.[1]  Micah presents the idea of a coming ruler against the backdrop of the invasion of Judah by the Babylonians.  This text was intended to bring comfort to the despairing covenant people.  In contrast to a smitten king (5:1), a great ruler (5:2) would come to shepherd God’s people.

The Prophecy

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting (Micah 5:2).


There are a number of important aspects of this text.  First, Ephrathah is simply the older form of Bethlehem in this passage (cf. Genesis 35:16, 19; 48:7).[2]  Second, linguistically a case can be made for showing a strong affinity between this figure and God.  Qedem, the Hebrew word for old, means from “ancient times” and it is used of God Himself elsewhere in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 33:27; Habakkuk 1:12).  Further, mee mai-oulom literally means from “ancient time or eternity.”[3]  One can also translate it as “days of immeasurable time.”[4]  Robert Jamieson notes, “The terms convey the strongest assertion of infinite duration of which the Hebrew language is capable.”[5]  There are other references in Scripture where this phraseology is used, as in Psalm 90:2 where the reference is to God the Father and in Proverbs 8:22-23 where the voice of Wisdom speaks.  “Old” and “ancient times” can refer to eternity.  The Hebrew word for ancient times is used in Micah 4:7 to refer to God.  Ankerberg, Weldon, and Kaiser point out, “The fact that such terms were used of a future ruler indicates that Micah expected a supernatural figure. This harmonizes with Isaiah’s expectation of the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 where the future Messianic King is called ‘eternal’ and ‘God’ (El), a word Isaiah uses only of God.”[6]
Third, this passage was recognized by the Jews as a Messianic text, especially in all of the Jewish paraphrases and interpretations of the Old Testament known as Targums.[7]  The Aramaic Targum Jonathan translates as “. . . out of thee shall proceed in my presence the Messiah to exercise sovereignty over Israel; whose name has been called from eternity, from the days of the everlasting.”[8]  Likewise, the priests and scribes during Herod’s day likewise thought that it was Messianic (Matthew 2:5-6; John 7:42).  Fruchtenbaum summarizes the text well, “Here in Micah 5:2, we read where that birth is to take place. Messiah is to be born, not in Jerusalem as might have been expected, but in Bethlehem.”[9]

Evaluation as an Apologetic Argument

This text definitely is a valid text to use in demonstrating the case for Jesus as Messiah.  While it is difficult to demonstrate that Micah predicted the incarnation of God in the flesh, the text at least demonstrates where the Messiah would be born.  As such, one must be careful to take all of the factors into consideration when arguing for the deity of Christ from this passage.  Anyhow, one can at least argue that the text comes extremely close to demonstrating that the Messiah would be eternal – using phraseology that is only used of God.  Therefore, one is definitely justified in using this text to argue that Jesus is the Messiah.
[1] Louis Goldberg, Our Jewish Friends, Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1983, p. 123.
[2] John A. Martin, “Micah,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, Wheaton: Victor Books, 1983, p. 1486.
[3] John Ankerberg, John Weldon, and Walter C. Kaiser, The Case for Jesus the Messiah: Incredible Prophecies that Prove God Exists, Chattanooga: The John Ankerberg Evangelistic Association, 1989, p. 74.
[4] Martin, “Micah,” p. 1486.
[5] Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, A Commentary, Critical and Explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments, Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997.
[6] Ankerberg, Weldon, and Kaiser, p. 75.
[7] Kenneth L. Barker, Micah (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), p. 86.
[8] Ankerberg, Weldon, and Kaiser, p. 75-76.
[9] Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology: A Study of Old Testament Prophecy Concerning the First Coming of the Messiah, Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998., p. 64.

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The Story Behind "I Wonder As I Wander"

Video describes the discovery by John Jacob Niles of one of Appalachia's great American folk carols. It is featured in AMERICAN CHRISTMAS CLASSICS, a superb boxed set collection of three CDs and lavishly illustrated book about the fascinating stories behind favorite American carols and holiday classics.


Jillian Aversa | ethereal vocals, emotional music |

Album: Through Sand and Snow (2008)

.~ Lyrics ~.

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

When Mary birthed Jesus 'twas in a cow's stall
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all
But high from God's heaven, a star's light did fall
And the promise of ages it then did recall.

If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing
A star in the sky or a bird on the wing
Or all of God's Angels in heaven to sing
He surely could have it, 'cause he was the King

I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on'ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky

Are You Clothed With Power? - Paul Washer

Booms & shaking continue in Pennsylvania, now in Maryland too. + Texas Quake hits where Booms are located

This is from TheUnitedKnowledge Youtube Channel.  His premise in gathering info the past few years has been that something nears the Earth each year from late Winter through Spring causing increases in Earthquakes, Booms, etc.  In other words, the planets birth pangs are getting larger and stronger...

thread report:

booms across 11 states:
booms are coming video:


So what's happened to Comet ISON?  Has it blown to dust?  Will we be going through it's remnants?  Will we even see it again?  We don't really know... It's been almost 2 weeks since i've put out a new Comet c/2012 ISON WTF NASA EARTH PRoFESSIONAL SCIENCE episode. This episode was marred with technical difficulties and frustrations. So I just hit the 'FINISH THIS VIDEO' button and was done. I think i covered the bases, perihelion, death, life, destruction, debris and such. I apologize if this was not my best episode. I shall make it up on the next one. I think i over thought this one too much. c'est la vie.

God Bless Everyone!
This has been one wild and crazy ride.
Let's discuss!
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Fire in the Sky News / "Sounded like a Jet"! / "Loud Boom"

So the Arizona fireball actually left it's smell should concern everyone as they become larger and more frequent.

Fireball over AZ creates Sonic Boom! December 10, 2013. Chandler Az area smelled of strange smoke that lingered in the air afterwards for over an hour. YT Jon Duhigg

Dec 11, 2013

When They Saw the Star


"When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy" (Matthew 2:11).

Each year, as Christmas approaches, articles appear in numerous publications, both secular and religious, "explaining" the famous star whose unspoken testimony led the wise men to Bethlehem when Christ was born. Many theories have been offered, by many learned men, seeking to account for this remarkable event recorded in Matthew 2:1_12. Although a small booklet such as this cannot really do justice to all these studies, it may be helpful to give a summary evaluation of them from the viewpoint of Biblical literalism, assuming "star" means "star."

But before considering the nature of the star itself, there are at least two intriguing questions about this remarkable event that are rarely discussed, even at Christmastime, but which do bear upon its true significance.

1. Just who were these "wise men" and why were they the only ones who realized the importance of the star? None of the political or religious leaders of the Jews seemed aware of it until these men from a distant country suddenly showed up in Jerusalem.

2. Why did the appearance of these three (?) travelers, with their question, inspire such agitation among King Herod and these Jewish leaders? When the wise men saw the star over Bethlehem, they were excited and joyful. Why did not Herod and the Jewish leaders rejoice with them?

3. Finally, just what was this star, and how could it possibly lead them on such a long journey to just the right location, especially since every one else in the very city of the promised Messiah seemed unaware of it?

Let's take a brief look at possible answers to these fascinating questions.

Who Were the Wise Men and How Did They Know?

The common legend about the wise men says that there were three of them, named Melchior, Balthasar, and Gaspar, from three different nations (Babylonia, Persia, and India). One early writer called them three kings.

However, all this is traditional, with no basis in Scripture. The phrase "wise men," in Matthew 2:1,7, is Magi (or Magoi) in the Greek original, and applies to members of a special group of men. A class of scholars called the Magi (from which our modern word "magic" is derived) may originally have come from a certain tribe in Media, and may even have later become a part of the governing body of Persia. This is uncertain, but what does appear to be well established is the fact that they were especially interested in astronomy and the prophetic "wisdom" that this talent seemed to give them.
They eventually became a sort of priestly caste, and were attached to the royal courts of Babylonia and Persia and even those of more distant lands such as Arabia and India, as consultants and advisers to the nobles of those lands.

There is even an ancient tradition that Balaam, the notorious prophet from Mesopotamia, was an early member of the Magi, perhaps even their founder. If so, this fact would at least partially explain why the Magi at the time of Christ were aware that a special star would be used by God to announce the Savior's birth to this world. It was Balaam's prophecy, of course, as recorded in the Bible, that spoke of this future star. Here is his prophecy, actually constrained by God to be uttered against the prophet's own will.

I shall see Him, but not now: I shall behold Him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth, and Edom shall be a possession. Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly. Out of Jacob shall come He that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city (Numbers 24:17_19).

Thus Balaam's reluctant, but divinely inspired, prophecy, revealed that a unique Star associated with Israel would accompany a future Sceptre (that is, King) who would eventually rule the world.
The later Magi, especially those in Babylon and Persia (where the influence of Daniel, as well as Mordecai and Esther) had been profound and long-lasting, would surely be familiar with this prophecy and also the various prophecies of Daniel (who had been the most respected of the "wise men" at the courts of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus?note Daniel 2:45; 6:28).

Some of the Magi may even have been Jews in religion, if not in ethnicity. At the time of God's great deliverance of the Jews in Persia during the days of Queen Esther, it was recorded that "many of the people of the land became Jews" (Esther 8:17). This event in itself would constrain many of the Persian members of the Magi at that time to study the Jewish sacred books, especially the Messianic prophecies of Daniel. This lore would have become a key part of the Magi's traditional learning, handed down generation after generation, even to the time of Christ.

Among these Danielic prophecies, of course, given during the reign of Darius the Mede, was the great prophecy of the "seventy weeks," which revealed that the Messiah would come as Prince of Israel 483 years after the Persian emperor gave the commandment to the Jews to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:24,25). It would easily be possible for the Persian Magi, as the promised date came near, to put these prophecies of Balaam and Daniel together, and thus be watching for "His star" to appear.
Something like this may at least partly explain why the Persian Magi?and not the Herodians and the rationalistic Sadducees (who comprised most of the Jewish religious leaders of the time) were aware of the significance of the star when it appeared. It is quite possible also that the "wise men" from this same caste who were prominent as counsellors in Babylon and other lands (even Arabia and India) were also aware of what was happening. It may be possible (as the tradition suggests) that Magi from other lands as well as Persia joined the entourage journeying to Jerusalem to seek this promised "King of the Jews." There is no convincing reason to think that only three Magi came. The fact that three types of gifts (gold, frankincense, myrrh) were offered does not mean that only three men offered the gifts. The Bible does not say how many there were, but there may well have been many more than three.

Why Were Herod and the Jews so Troubled by the Magi's Visit?

It would, indeed, seem rather unlikely that the visit of three itinerant "astrologers" would create such a stir in Jerusalem. In the first place, how could these foreigners ever get in to see King Herod? Why would their question cause the king to be "troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" (Matthew 2:3).

But all this becomes clear when it is realized that the visitors probably consisted of much more than three foreign "astrologers" (as a number of modern translations call the "wise men"). There were very likely more than three Magi in the group, probably a dozen or more. They had come from "the east," and were themselves representatives of one or more great nations, traveling no doubt with a military escort and a sizable entourage of servants.

Even so, why should this upset a powerful king acting under authority of the great Roman empire, supposedly dominant in all the known world of that time. Herod had been appointed "King of the Jews," by no less then the great Caesar Augustus himself, so why should he be troubled by these dignitaries from the east?

The fact is, however, that the Roman empire was not dominant in all the known world. In fact, the various nations "east" of Judaea?Persia, Babylonia, Assyria, etc.?were not part of the Roman empire at all, but rather part of the large and powerful Parthian empire, which was a serious rival to Rome and had defeated several attempts by the Roman legions (including one led by Herod himself, before he became king) to subjugate her. There is reason to believe that, at this time, the Parthians (i.e., Persians) were actually threatening Rome along the nearby boundaries of the Roman empire.

Herod had been appointed "King of the Jews" as his official title by Rome, but here was a delegation from a powerful enemy empire demanding information about someone "born King of the Jews" (Matthew 2:2). No wonder Herod was troubled. Furthermore, the entourage was not traveling on camels (as the Christmas cards tend to picture them) but on strong horses (for that was how Persian nobles travelled), and they were quite confident that this coming King was already in the land and that His presence had been announced by God Himself through a star in the heavens.

The rest of Jerusalem was also "troubled" by what seemed an imminent threat of invasion. The religious leaders were undoubtedly embarrassed, as well as troubled, that they, of all people, had to be informed by foreigners about the coming of Messiah.

Although these Jewish religious leaders were not looking for the Messiah, and did not really want Him to come and upset their own profitable operations, they did at least know about the messianic prophecies. King Herod, who was a descendant of Edomites, did not know the prophecies himself, but when he inquired of the chief priests and scribes, they were able to tell him where this coming King Messiah was to be born. Paraphrasing Micah 5:2, they said: "Thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel" (Matthew 2:5,6).

Whether these Jewish leaders were familiar with Balaam's prophecy of the Star or not, the account does not say. In any case, they had not paid any heed to the actual Star when it appeared, though they must have seen it.

Read the full article at -

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

by Jennifer Woodruff Tait
The story behind the season’s most somber hymn
It was December 21 in Los Angeles in the early 1990s, and writer Kathleen Norris was hunting in the most unlikely place for nuns.

For over twelve centuries, monasteries and convents throughout Christendom have, during the final week of Advent, chanted a series of verses at vesper services before the Magnificat or Song of Mary from Luke 1:46-55 (“My soul magnifies the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my Savior”). These verses, known as the “Great O Antiphons,” each name Christ by a different biblical title: Wisdom, Adonai, Root of Jesse, Key of David, Dayspring or Radiant Dawn, King of Nations (or of the Gentiles), Emmanuel.

Norris (a Presbyterian laywoman, poet, and Benedictine oblate) had spent much of the year in a writing residency at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, MN, and had hoped that she might be able to sing the O Antiphons with the community of monks there before returning to Hawaii to spend Christmas with her family.

A Wild Antiphon Chase

Instead, her publisher insisted she make a stop in Los Angeles to do publicity for her bestseller Dakota. As she wrote in her memoir The Cloister Walk, the publisher’s publicist was no help in finding a monastic community for her to sing vespers with; his job was “arranging interviews and putting me in a tony hotel in Beverly Hills, thinking, as he cheerfully put it, that it would make a nice contrast with the monastery.”

Leads from a friend of a friend led her to Mount St. Mary’s College, high above the city with a view of “the snow capped peaks of mountains to the east and the breadth of the Pacific to the west.” On her way, she stopped to do a scheduled radio interview and told the talk show host how she had “schemed for months to find the O Antiphons in the city. I doubt that it was the looniest interview the woman had all day, but it had its moments.”

The O Antiphons which Norris searched so hard to find are to this day sung between December 17 and 23 by Roman Catholic and Anglican religious communities around the world. They are also the source of the Advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” one of the few hymns and carols for that season known to low-church Protestants. Sometime around 1100, an unknown author took these antiphons and turned them into a metrical Latin poem. Shortly after 1700, an unknown editor printed this metrical version in the collection Psalteriolum Cantionum Catholicarum.

The Birth of a Hymn

A little less than a hundred and fifty years later, the poem came to the attention of Anglican priest and hymnwriter John Mason Neale (1818-1866). Prevented from serving in a parish by lung disease, Neale divided his life between social ministry (he founded a nursing order of Anglican nuns and helped social welfare organizations care for orphans and young women) and the wardenship of Sackville College. In his “spare time,” he set out to translate for his fellow Anglicans the great early and medieval Greek and Latin hymns for all the feasts and fasts of the Christian year.

Among Neale’s many, many hymnal collections were titles such as Hymns of the Eastern Church and Hymns, Chiefly Medieval, on the Joys and Glories of Paradise. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel appeared in Medieval Hymns and Sequences (1851), headed by his notation: “This Advent hymn is little more than a versification of some of the Christmas antiphons commonly called the O’s.”

Neale’s translation of the hymn made it into the Church of England’s official hymnal in 1861 and spread from there throughout Protestantism. Along the way, various other translators kept tinkering with the text; the version most commonly used today combines Neale with alterations made for the Episcopal Hymnal 1940 and stanzas on Christ as Wisdom and Desire (King) of Nations translated by Presbyterian preacher and social activist Henry Sloane Coffin (1877-1954).

In Neale’s day, hymnals for congregations were often published in sizes small enough to carry to church in a pocket or bag. This meant the tunes were omitted from most hymnals; only occasionally did editions with tunes appear. In Neale’s tune collection The Hymnal, Noted (1854) he copied the melody, using it only for the first stanza and refrain, from “French sources.” Or so said the musician Thomas Helmore, who published the collection.

For many years no one knew quite what Neale’s “French sources” were, and though to this day no one still knows how Neale came in contact with the melody, its origin was eventually traced to a 15th -century processional funeral hymn for French Franciscan nuns, found in a manuscript in the National Library of Paris. An odd origin, perhaps, but his matching of tune and text seems inspired today; it is difficult to imagine the words set to any other music—especially when the verses are sung in a contemplative unison and the “Rejoice!” bursts forth in sudden, amazing harmony.
Glory and Justice

What is it about this text, whether as prose or poetry, that has survived so long, in so many different traditions—and even inspired Norris to search through San Francisco for someone to witness to its continuing presence? In a world, and sometimes even a church, that celebrates the days before Christmas as an endless obligation of organized exuberance, these words remind us that as Christians we are to long for another country, one where the coming Messiah wipes the tears of the sorrowing and casts down the mighty from their thrones.

When Norris found the community at Mount St. Mary’s, the antiphon for that evening was “O Oriens,” the Dayspring: “O Radiant Dawn, brightness of light eternal and sun of all justice; O come and illumine those who live in deep darkness and in the shadow of death.” Or, as one hymnal translates that same stanza about the true source of our joy, “O Come, thou Dayspring, come and cheer/ our spirits by thy justice here;/ disperse the gloomy clouds of night,/ and death’s dark shadows put to flight.” It is that, in the darkness of Advent, for which we wait. And it is that, in the glory of the Incarnation, which will arise.

Has The Bible Been Changed?

More good research from Chris White, explaining why the Bible is such a reliable (living) document.  Good stuff...

Can You Trust the Bible Historically? - Is it a Game of Telephone? - What about the Gnostic Gospels?

From Chris White

The questions Im going to look at today are:

Can we trust the New Testament as a historical document?
Hasn't the Bible been rewritten so many times that it can't be trusted?
Wasn't the New Testament written hundreds of years after Christ?
*Was the bible changed?

Clip from used with written permission

Dec 10, 2013

History of the Christmas Tree


by Bill Petro
It is generally believed that the first Christmas tree was of German origin dating from the time of St. Boniface, English missionary to Germany in the 8th century, who replaced the sacrifices to the Norse god Odin’s sacred oak by a fir tree adorned in tribute to the Christ child. The legend is told that Boniface found a group of “pagans” preparing to sacrifice a boy near an oak tree. He cut down the oak tree with a single stroke of his ax and stopped the sacrifice. A small fir tree sprang up in place of the oak. He told the pagans that this was the “tree of life” and stood for Christ.

In the early Middle Ages there began to circulate a legend that when Jesus was born in the dead of winter all the trees throughout the world shook off their ice and snow to produced new shoots of green.

During Renaissance times there are records that trees were being used as symbols for Christians first in the Latvian capital of Riga in 1510. The story goes that it was attended by men wearing black hats in front of the House of Blackheads in the Town Hall Square, who following a ceremony burnt the tree. But whether it was for Christmas or Ash Wednesday is still debated. I’ve stood in that very square myself in the Winter, surrounded by snow.

Accounts persist that Martin Luther introduced the tree lighted with candles in the mid 16th century in Wittenberg, Germany. He wrote often of Advent and Christmas. One of his students wrote of Luther saying:
For this is indeed the greatest gift, which far exceeds all else that God has created. Yet we believe so sluggishly, even though the angels proclaim and preach and sing, and their lovely song sums up the whole Christian faith, for “Glory to God in the highest” is the very heart of worship.
Returning to his home after a walk one winter night, the story goes, Luther tried unsuccessfully to describe to his family the beauty of the starry night glittering through the trees. Instead, he went out and cut down a small fir tree and put lighted candles upon it.

In a manuscript dated 1605 a merchant in Strasbourg, Germany wrote that at Christmas they set up fir trees in the parlors and “hang thereon roses cut out of paper of many colors, apples, wafers, spangle-gold and sugar…” Though the selling of Christmas trees are mentioned back to the mid 1500s in Strasbourg, the custom of decorating the trees may have developed from the medieval Paradise Play. This play was a favorite during the Advent season because it ended with the promise of a Savior. The action in the play centered around a fir tree hung with apples.
The earliest date in England for a Christmas Tree was at Queen’s Lodge, Windsor by Queen Charlotte, the German born wife of George III, for a party she held on Christmas Day, 1800, for the children of the leading families in Windsor. Her biographer Dr John Watkins describes the scene:
In the middle of the room stood an immense tub with a yew tree placed in it, from the branches of which hung bunches of sweetmeats, almonds, and raisins in papers, fruits and toys, most tastefully arranged, and the whole illuminated by small wax candles. After the company had walked around and admired the tree, each child obtained a portion of the sweets which it bore together with a toy and then all returned home, quite delighted.
The Christmas Tree was most popularized in England, however, by the German Prince Albert soon after his marriage to Queen Victoria. In 1841, he began the custom of decorating a large tree in Windsor Castle. In 1848, a print showing the Royal couple with their children was published in the “Illustrated London News.” Albert gave trees to Army barracks and imitation followed. From this time onwards, the popularity of decorated fir trees spread beyond Royal circles and throughout society. Even Charles Dickens referred to the Christmas tree as that “new German toy.” German immigrants brought the custom to the United States and tree decorating is recorded back to 1747 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Many individuals and communities vie for the honor of having decorated the first Christmas tree in America. One interesting story tells of Hessian (German) soldiers who fought for George III in the Revolutionary War. As they were keeping Christmas in Trenton, New Jersey around a decorated tree, they left their posts unguarded. George Washington and his troops were hungry and freezing at Valley Forge, but they planned their attack with the knowledge that the Hessians would be celebrating and thus would not be as able to defend themselves.

Christmas trees really became quite popular in the United States following the invention of the electric light. In 1895, President Grover Cleveland decorated the tree at the White House with electric Lights. This idea caught on and spread across the country.

How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?

Bill Petro, your friendly neighborhood historian

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Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man

by Lambert Dolphin

Why God Became a Man?

The religion page in the Saturday newspaper these days treats Jesus as a great moral teacher whose words we may or may not have accurately recorded for us in the gospels. Jesus may have been a remarkable teacher, but so was Confucius, Buddha, or Mohammed.  The disciples of Jesus, and the majority of the Jews who enthusiastically followed the Master at the beginning of his public ministry clearly hoped he would bring in the kingdom of God by throwing out the Roman overlords and bringing Israel back to the glory the nation had in the days of Solomon. Reading through the gospels there is plenty of evidence that Jesus' teachings were inexhaustibly rich and profound and authoritative. His miracles were real and brought much relief from pain, suffering and even death. His manhood, lived out in total dependence on the indwelling Father, was startling to many because no man living or dead had ever come close to measuring up to Jesus' demonstration of what God intended normal manhood to be.
While the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret. And he saw two boats by the lake; but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had ceased speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.

But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." (Luke 5:1-10)

Jesus probably first realized his calling when he was about 12 years old,
And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the company they went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintances; and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when they saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously." And he said to them, "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" And they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man." (Luke 2:40-52)

From the time He first realized why He had been sent into the world, Jesus knew that His main purpose was to arrive in Jerusalem at a precise, exact time and date on God's calendar that had been prophesied by Daniel 700 years earlier, (Daniel 9:24-27). There he knew that he would be betrayed by one of his own, and that he would become a sacrificial lamb for the sins of all the world.
"...[Jesus] strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah. From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men." Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. (Matthew 16:20-27)

Men today are no different from the Jews of Jesus' day. We'd all like a Savior who would fix up the externals of our lives, solve our financial and emotional problems, deal with our enemies and give us at the happiness that constantly eludes us. But the Primary Mission of Jesus was much more serious and profound and terrible. He came to undo cosmic evil and to accomplish a permanent fix for the problem of human sin. The solution to human ills and to the cosmic problem of evil could not, cannot, and did not come from human skills, ingenuity, or from our meritorious efforts. It is the Creator Himself who formulated the plans---from the beginning of time---for the solution of man's terrible plight. Though the councils of God are conducted in eternity "before the foundation of the world," in due season,
"...when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4, 5)

God executed His plans, as He always does, according to His own timing and pre-planning. What God did to solve the problem of evil was to enter the human race in the Person of the Son, as a perfect, sinless man. Jesus,
"who, though he was in the form (morphe) of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied (ekenosen) himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found (schemati) in human form (homoiomati) he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:6-11)

Jesus, the Son of God became a substitute for each one of us, a sin-bearer, a reconciler. He is called in the New Testament, "the Author (archegos) and Finisher ( teleiotes) of our Faith" (Heb. 12:2). By a voluntary act the Son of God chose to become a man, to be an obedient servant, and to do everything, day by day throughout his entire life on earth, in total dependence upon the Father who indwelt Him.
 This passage quoted above from Philippians is of great importance to our understanding the nature of God and the radical solution to sin God accomplished through the incarnation of His Son. The early church wrestled over the issue of whether Christ had one nature or two (the problem of the "hypostatic union")---most Christians today agree that this passage implies that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man. Furthermore, Jesus lived His entire life on earth by faith in total dependence upon the Father who dwelt in Him, thus He did not, while He was on earth, exercise His sovereign power as God the Son. This right and privilege (that of acting as Sovereign God), in addition to His exalted and splendorous place beside the Father, were temporarily and voluntarily set aside by Jesus of his own free will.  The Son of God, having become a man, grew into maturity, through suffering and obedience, and so came to the age where He was fully qualified to die as a substitute for the sins of the world. Then, having accomplished that terrible, bloody work of the cross, Jesus was raised from the dead by the Father and by the Holy Spirit. Forty days later He ascended into the heavens. This same Jesus now sits at the "right hand of the Majesty on High." In this series of cosmic events, Jesus has actually gained a more exalted position in the universe than He held before. Because of his obedience and death on the cross, He has been elevated by the Father to the place of supreme authority in the entire universe. This "higher state" may be difficult for us to imagine---since Jesus was already the Son of God before He became a man---but such is the language used of Jesus in the New Testament describing his post-resurrection exaltation. Chicago's Moody Church pastor and prophet, the late A.W. Tozer wrote these words:
"The teaching of the New Testament is that now, at this very moment, there is a Man in heaven appearing in the presence of God for us. He is as certainly a man as was Adam or Moses or Paul; he is a man glorified, but his glorification did not de-humanize him. Today he is a real man, of the race of mankind, bearing our lineaments and dimensions, a visible and audible man, whom any other man would recognize instantly as one of us. But more than this, he is the heir of all things, Lord of all lords, head of the church, firstborn of the new creation. He is the way to God, the life of the believer, the hope of Israel, and the high priest of every true worshiper. He holds the keys of death and hell, and stands as advocate and surety for everyone who believes on him in truth. Salvation comes not by accepting the finished work, or deciding for Christ; it comes by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, the whole, living, victorious Lord who, as God and man, fought our fight and won it, accepted our debt as his own and paid it, took our sins and died under them, and rose again to set us free. This is the true Christ; nothing less will do."

The Seat of Original Sin

The late Arthur Custance, a gifted Canadian Bible scholar, in his book The Seed of the Woman, (Ref. 1) makes a case that "original sin" in the human race may very well be transmitted biologically from generation to generation [from Adam] through the male sperm, rather than through the female ovum. Custance took care to defend his premises thoroughly. The virgin birth, Custance believed, allowed Jesus to be born of Mary free from all sin so as to become a "lamb without spot or blemish," "tempted in every way, just as we are, yet without sin." Scripture also speaks of Jesus as "The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world." If original sin is transmitted genetically by the male sperm and not by the female ovum, then Mary, though she herself was a forgiven sinner and a mortal daughter of Adam and Eve, could give birth to a sinless son through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit without ordinary fertilization by her husband's seed.  The incarnation, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus the Son of God is an awesome intrusion into our limited space-time domain. These events which we see as merely historic in our time frame constitute an eternal event, a transaction (known in theology as "the eternal covenant") between the Father and the Son, which really takes place in eternity, outside of time. The prophet Isaiah records amazing "conversations" outside of time between God the Father and His servant the Messiah, (Isaiah was written about 700 years before Jesus was born) For example Isaiah 49 says:
Listen to me, O coastlands, and hearken, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me (Messiah) from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name. He made my mouth like a sharp sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow, in his quiver he hid me away. And he said to me, 'You are my servant, Israel, (here the Messiah is spoken of as the true Israel) in whom I will be glorified.'

But I (Messiah) said, 'I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.'

And now the LORD says, who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, and that Israel might be gathered to him, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength---he says: 'It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.' Thus says the LORD, the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One, to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the servant of rulers: 'Kings shall see and arise; princes, and they shall prostrate themselves; because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.'" (1-7)

Arthur Custance's argument about the mechanism by which sin may be genetically transmitted is a very reasonable one, (at least to my way of thinking), and helps us to understand why the blood line of the promise through legitimate heirs from Eve down through Mary is uninterrupted, while only the Kingly promise (not the blood line---see Jer. 22:30, 36:30) is preserved from Abraham to Joseph. The conception of Jesus in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit interrupted the chain of genetic links beginning with the fall, allowing a descendant of Adam to be born into the world free from original sin. The perfect obedience of Jesus during His life on earth also was necessary to assure that He reached the cross as a fully qualified sin-offering. Scripture emphasizes the humanity of the Messiah as fully as it does His Deity. The Old Testament is replete with references to the Messiah as the "root out of dry ground," "the seed of David," "the suffering servant of the LORD," and so on.

Jesus and the Undoing of Cosmic Evil

The most famous passage from the pen of Paul describing the resurrection of believers also makes mention of Christ's victory over evil angels, and over death itself. Indeed Jesus will, ultimately "put all things under himself:"
"But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 'For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.' But when it says, 'All things are put in subjection under him,' it is plain that he is excepted who put all things under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one." (1 Corinthians 15:20-28)

The Bible is full of evidence that both the spiritual dimension and human society are today influenced by an active and pernicious evil agency. The old creation has been ruined because of active evil perpetrated by fallen angels. Both the heavens and the material universe have become flawed and corrupted. Some of the laws of physics we now take for granted were evidently different in the past. Evil in the heavens means that malevolent spiritual beings, having great influence in the universe have access to the throne of God and to territories beyond the earth as well. Satan does not rule in hell, as popular cartoons usually suggest. As the prince of the power of the air he has access to heaven, (Job Chapter 1). As the god of this age he rules over the fallen social order of the nations.  Satan and his hordes of malevolent spirit-beings rule in the activities of men; however, only with permission from God. They are completely in subjection to God and can not go beyond boundaries established by God. Satan's pervasive influence of active evil influencing all human affairs is also temporary and soon will be coming to an end. In fact, the doom and fate of the Father of Lies has already been sealed in eternity. The victory of Jesus on the cross was a cosmic, all-encompassing one:
God has delivered us [who believe] from the dominion of darkness and transferred [translated] us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities---all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him...(Colossians 1:13-22)

We sons and daughters of Adam, who still live constrained in time, can rest assured that a bright, new world lies ahead for all who follow Jesus as Lord. A just and holy God cannot tolerate the present world situation forever. He must, and He will, intervene and change the status Que. One such direct intervention has already occurred, at the time of the Flood of Noah. God's next moves will be more grand, terrible, and awesome indeed. He reigns over the entire universe always, but He does not yet rule on the earth. The day of Christ's rule on earth is fast approaching.

Man's Three Enemies

Man is fallen, human evil is a reality---The first three Chapters of the Book of Romans spell this out for us in detail. How can we miss such a complete and thorough indictment before the bar of God's court of justice? Yet amazingly everyone of us seems intent on denying what should be perfectly obvious. Even though we all suffer from the effects of early in life, we persist in living for the moment denying the fact that the human mortality rate remains a flat 100%. The fact that we begin to die as soon as we are born, attests to the fall of our forefather Adam, "Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned--" (Romans 5:12). Even those of us who know Jesus Christ as Lord, and who experience his renewing life in us, (Rom. 8:11) still live in fallen physical bodies---bodies that are not yet redeemed. Non-Christians are described in the Bible as "dead in trespasses and sins." Thus those who do not yet know God cannot be expected to live what in God's eyes is truly moral and godly lives---by our very nature. The power to live a moral life comes from God as a gift, as does inherent rightness which is imputed to us when we become Christians. Becoming a Christian does not eliminate sin, rather, conversion to Christ is the time the real battle begins. Christians find themselves subjected to temptations and inclinations towards evil through three mechanisms. The Bible calls them "the flesh, the world, and the devil." However, neither the body, nor matter, nor things in the material world are, in and of themselves, evil.
The flesh might better be translated "the self-life." The seat of the flesh lies in the as-yet-unredeemed physical body of man, but it is Satan who energizes and empowers the lusts of the flesh that we all experience. The enemy seeks to draw us away from dependence upon the indwelling Lord Jesus, this produces self-centeredness---which is how the flesh operates. The flesh and the world are Satan's main instruments in this process. The flesh, according to the Bible, has both "good" and "bad" aspects. The flesh always springs to life when a Christian tries to live his life by self-effort---rather than by dependence upon his indwelling Lord. Christians are free to "walk after the flesh" but admonished instead to "put to death the deeds of the body" and to "sow good works by the Spirit" since there are inevitable consequences for evil or for good depending on all our daily choices. These contrasts are set forth in Galatians Chapter 5. The "world," (as the New Testament uses the term), is not the world of nature, but culture, custom, tradition, and human society as dominated by Satan. The Greek word cosmos, translated "world" means "ornament, decoration, arrangement." Cosmos gives us our English word "cosmetics." Hence worldliness is a concern for external appearances more than inner content and quality. The world system is outwardly religious, scientific, cultured and elegant. Inwardly it seethes with national and commercial rivalries. The influence of the "world" on a follower of Christ shows up in the following ways: a conformity to cultural norms or traditions and stifles individuality, the use of force, greed, ambition and warfare to accomplish objectives, the use of financial reward, position, power or social status as a important aspect of identity. The world cares nothing for the worth of the individual or his uniqueness, promotes myths and illusions which appeal to human vanity and pride, diverts attention from spiritual values by appeals to pursue pleasure, pride (vainglory), or to power, is permissive in regard to sexual, moral and ethical values to encourage self-indulgence, makes an appeal to immediate pleasure rather than long-term goals, ignores eternal values and invisible realities, offers false philosophies and value systems to support its goals. The root problem behind worldly values is pride. The world exalts man, his abilities and his supposed "progress"---e.g. through the myth of social evolution, glosses over and hides suffering, death, poverty, the depravity of man, and man's accountability to God. The "world" seeks to unify mankind under an atheistic humanistic or pantheistic banner, and emphasizes pluralism while denying Biblical absolutes. Worldly philosophy teaches human progress and advancement through better education or social welfare.  The third enemy of man is Satan. The Devil is "the god of this world" (or in Greek this "age.") He does not preside over hell, but over the earth, that is, over society. He has access to heaven. As a "liar and a murderer from the beginning," Satan seeks to twist, warp, cripple and destroy man, and to further ruin God's creation. His basic appeal is to persuade men to be their own gods, to be self-sufficient, to attempt mastery of their own fates and destinies. Satan is not equal to god, and must obtain permission from God for all that he does. He is clever, deceitful, treacherous, and man's deadly enemy. (C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters is an excellent fictional story of conversations between the devils---revealing much about the stratagems of Satan and his devices). The good news of the Bible is that God has already solved the problem of evil in both dimensions, that is, "in heaven" and "on earth". This is why the theme of victory, triumph, and hope pervades the New Testament. "...I would have you wise as to what is good and guileless as to what is evil; then the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." writes Paul (Romans 16: 19-20) To the Corinthians he says, "For he (Jesus) must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 'For God has put all things under his feet.'" (1 Corinthians 15:25-27)

The Work of the Cross: The Central Accomplishment of Jesus

In Scripture, when God has something important to say, it is sometimes repeated. Usually one repetition is sufficient to tell us to pay attention, as when Jesus would begin a statement with the words "Truly, Truly I say to you..." (In the original language the word "truly" is actually the word Amen. "Amen, amen, I say to you). Sometimes Scripture repeats something twice to make very certain we don't miss something important. A very few times does Scripture repeat something three times for emphasis---for example "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts, the whole earth is full of his glory," are Isaiah's words when he became aware of the holiness of God and his own deep-seated sinfulness (Isaiah 6).
 When it comes to the life of Jesus---His temptations, betrayal, trial, death and resurrection---four, not two, not three, Gospels were written. Surely this strategy by the Holy Spirit is intended to help us see the supremely great importance of God becoming a man. We must not miss the message that " Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them..." (2 Corinthians 5:19) John R.W. Stott has written a thorough treatment on the cross of Christ, revealing the importance of this subject from God's point of view (Ref. 2). But, the cross of Christ is all-too-frequently neglected or even crowded out of Christianity by other less "offensive" aspects of theology and Bible study. Not only is the subject of the Cross all about the death of Jesus on our behalf, but also it points to the fact that we, too, must be put to death, in Christ, on that same cross, to gain eternal life. Our crucifixion with Christ shows us that there is nothing in the old creation, in the first Adam, that can be saved apart from death. Paul writes, "I have been crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification came by the law, then Christ died to no avail." (Galatians 2:20-21)  While writing to encourage the Christians in the early church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul reveals to them some of the mighty once-for-all-time accomplishments of Jesus on the cross:
"As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits (stoicheia) of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily (permanently), and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in (the) baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, having canceled the (legal) bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside (blotted out), nailing it to the cross. He disarmed (stripped of power and authority) the principalities and powers (in the heavenly places) and made a public example (spectacle) of them, (bodily) triumphing over them in him." (Colossians 2: 6-15)

Christ's Return Seen from Eternity

Speaking of the return of Christ as one grand event, Paul wrote this to the Thessalonians:
"We are bound to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is fitting, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be made worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering---since indeed God deems it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant rest with us to you who are afflicted, when the Lord Jesus is revealed (apokalupsis) from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not know God and upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at in all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thessalonians 1:3-12)

If death for the follower of Jesus Christ means leaving time and entering eternity, then a similar kind of happening transpires when physical death comes to those who have rejected all of Christ's rights and claims to rule their lives. Since the issue of sin has been dealt with once for all by Jesus, it is only our proud unwillingness to be forgiven that ultimately stands between us and our full reconciliation with our Creator! Physical death for those who are not God's children means that spirit, soul and body exit our space-time dimension and "time travel" to the end of the age when the Day of Judgment is held. This event (in eternity) will also intersect human history, like the Second Coming, at some future date on our calendars. But it is no more than a split second away in the consciousness of a person who dies in unbelief! The passage quoted above describes the terrible last glimpse the lost have of Jesus before they are separated from Him forever.  The book of the Revelation records what is known as the judgment of the great white throne, which follows immediately:
"Then I (John) saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if any one's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." (Revelation 20:11-15)

Most Bible commentators teach, first, that all those judged at the Great White Throne are non-believers, and second, that there are degrees of punishment in hell---because of the reference to books (angelic records) being opened and the dead being judged according to what they have done. All those present at this judgment will find that their names have not been written in the book of life.


All paths in life lead ultimately to a face-to-face meeting with the man Jesus of Nazareth. There is no escaping Him. Jesus is the One who spoke the universe into being, carrying out the Father's design and plan for the creation. All things were made through him, and according to Colossians, "for him." He is the absent landlord who will one day come back and claim what is His own. We are only house-guests in Some Else's universe. Quoting from and applying Isaiah Chapter 45, the Apostle Paul says,
"None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, 'As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.' So each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:7-12)


1. The Seed of the Woman, by Arthur C. Custance. Available from Doorway Publications, %Evelyn M. White, 38 Elora Drive, Unit 4, Hamilton, Ontario, L9C 7L6, Canada 1980.  2. John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (Intervarsity Press; Downers Grove, Illinois, 1986).

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