Our Model of Before-and-After Christian Faith

Ilike Peter’s writings better than any New Testament contributor because he’s so much like most before the Holy Spirit’s change.  Babbling Peter said whatever he wanted, whenever he felt it, just like so many Christians and nonChristians do every day.

Peter IIIRemember when Jesus moved to wash his feet, Peter said, “Right Lord, but if you do, give me a complete bath” (John 13:5-11).  Peter’s intent wasn’t rebellious, just emotional to the point of blabbing what he was feeling at the time.  He didn’t get the servant teaching Jesus was trying to show him, and made it clear.

When Jesus appeared on the mount of transfiguration, Peter said he’d get James and John to help him build three tabernacles for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. The Father Himself silenced his foolishness mid-sentence by thundering out of heaven: “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:1-7.)

When Jesus announced He would sacrifice His life, Peter warned the Lord to avoid it, earning Jesus’ rebuke of the devil speaking through him shaming the disciple for his foolish words (Matthew 16:21,23).

When Jesus prophesied He would be denied by all when arrested for crucifixion, Peter said, “Others may fall away from you Lord, but I won’t be one of them. No, not me!” to which Jesus prophesied Peter’s three-fold denial when confronted Passover night (Matthew 14:27-31).

When the resurrected Jesus prophesied Peter’s bleak end in John 21:18-23,  even then Peter mouthed off by looking at John and asking, “what about him Lord?” to which Jesus answered, “Don’t worry about John, Peter. If I want him to remain, until I come, what is that to you?”

Teachable Peter

But it was also Peter who spoke up when none of the others dared answer Jesus’ question regarding His identity. For that, Jesus changed his name from ”Swaying Reed” (Cephas) to “Rock” (Peter) and signified the heart of this man who received the revelation as the foundation on which Jesus would build His church (Matthew 16:13-20).

It was Peter who Jesus personally taught regarding a local Philippi tax by having him pull up a fish that had the exact amount in it. Wow. (Matthew 17:24-27.)

Peter on the Water IAnd it was Peter who by faith is the only mortal to ever walk on water. While the others trembled in fear thinking they saw a ghost on Galilee, Peter said, “Lord if it is you, say come, and I’ll come,” and he came. That’s right, Peter walked on the water before he got his eyes on the storm raging around him and started to sink (Matthew 14:22-32).

Born-Again Peter

Following his conversion, it was Peter who preached on Pentecost, causing great revival (Acts 2). It was Peter who healed  the lame man in Jesus’ name while passing by for afternoon prayer in the temple, causing great revival (Acts 3:7). It was Peter who healed Aeneas (Acts 9:34, 35) and raised Tabitha from the dead, causing great revival (Acts 9:40-42). In fact, Peter was so anointed with God’s healing power that the people “…even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on cots and pallets, so that when Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on any one of them” (Acts 5:15). And it was Peter who was entrusted with the in-grafting of the Gentile church, while receiving a prophetic vision that taught Gentile salvation was God ordained, a Roman captain received the visit of an angel, putting the two together for Peter’s preaching in the officer’s home. All assembled were saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 10).  Wow.

Peter, Christian Model and Guide

The early church looked to Peter as its founding Christian leader.  There is no other church leader in Acts, until the Peter IVconversion of Paul, the Spirit consistently chronicles. Philip’s ministry in Samaria gets a chapter of Acts press, revealing a model of ministry similarity to the Lord Jesus Christ’s (Acts 8). Signs and wonders and even the apostle’s translation are revealed in this powerful chapter. Peter’s epistles reveal him as a model of Christianity and serve as a revelation guide-book for the general church. Peter’s blabbermouth days ended after the resurrection. When he says in 1 Peter 4:11,”Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God,” we see a born-again man who understands Christian faith. Peter came to learn that his words were empowered by God when he conversed with others, preached a sermon, healed the sick, and raised the dead.

In 1 Peter 3:18 the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter Jesus’ netherworld preaching to those who were once disobedient in Noah’s Day that leaves you simply wondering about the event. Wow.

Second Peter gives the most comprehensive teachings on the ministry of a prophet anywhere in Scripture. Peter’s prophetic insight into last-days mockers and immoral teachers out for wicked gain reads like TV news and newspapers today (2 Peter 2).  It is Peter only who tells us the Spirit of Christ dwelt in God’s prophets to reveal His revelation (1 Peter 1:11).  It is Peter who reveals our church conversion as living stones of a temple in which the born-again Christian is a chosen priesthood who offers up sacrifices of praise (1 Peter 1:9).  Peter gives us as much lifestyle teaching as Paul in his directives of social humility.

Before his conversion Peter was an honest, interested, and misguided man. After his conversion Peter was an  honest, interested, and Holy Spirit guided man. Study his acts and words in the Gospels. Then study his words and actions in the New Testament Book Acts and Peter’s First and Second Epistles.

Is Peter your Christian model of “before – and after?” Do a word search on Peter this week in the Gospels and spend time in his two epistles. His before-and-after-conversion-snapshot will inspire your Christian life.

Yes, Jesus is coming again. Until then there is abundant life to be lived on this earth that God created for us. Like Peter, are you believing God daily in prayer and in the study of His Word?

2 Peter 1:16-19
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. 17 For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased” —  18 and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.
19 So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts.

Mark

Noah and the Blood Covenant

Leviticus 17:11-12
11 ‘For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’

Noah is the first believer in scripture to overtly offer God innocent animal sacrifice, making him the first literally revealed man of blood covenant in the Bible. This article will show how this world renowned patriarch’s salvation through the Great Flood is rooted in the blood covenant of atonement that foreshadowed Jesus Christ.

Written by Moses, the Bible’s book of beginnings, “Genesis,” moves quickly through 11 chapters before spending the rest of its revelation and the rest of the Old Testament on the family of Abraham that was blessed by God to bring mankind’s redeemer Jesus Christ into the earth.  We see Abram and God making mankind’s redeeming covenant, walking through innocent blood (Genesis 15:8-21).  But Noah is the first man revealed in Scripture at God’s ordained altar of sacrificial blood, which every succeeding patriarch and priest understood was the way God chose to deal with sin.

Genesis 8:21
21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.”

In Genesis 1-11 we are quickly informed of the creation of the heavens, earth, mankind, and the earth’s animals; mankind’s transgression that separated him from God; a great flood that purged sinful man from the earth, and the dispersion of the nations who all shared a common language before their rebellion at the Tower of Babel sent them   packing with different languages throughout the earth.  There are few details in the 11 quick chapters that teach man where we came from, and why we are here now. The rest of the book of Genesis from chapter 12 on focuses on another man of blood covenant, Abraham, whose family lineage would fill the rest of the Old Testament.

Blood Covenant
The first thing we see Noah doing after releasing the animals when stepping off the ark was blood covenant sacrifice on an altar he had obviously built before. Mizbeach is the Hebrew word for “altar,” which means, a slaughtering platter.

Genesis 8:13-22
13 Now it came about in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the water was dried up from the earth. Then Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and behold, the surface of the ground was dried up. 14 In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry. 15 Then God spoke to Noah, saying, 16 “Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by their families from the ark.

mount-ararat-noahs-ark20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.22 “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night Shall not cease.”

Reading backward to Genesis from Leviticus, the Old Testament student can see that the Old Testament Patriarchs, beginning with Adam and Eve’s son Abel had one, to atone for their sin.

3 So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. 4 Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; 5 but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard.

Understanding blood covenant from succeeding Scripture, the Bible student knows that Abel offered the firstlings of his flock and their fat portions on an altar, which God was pleased with.  He wasn’t please with Cain, because Cain did not.

Leviticus 6:12
12
The fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it. It shall not go out, but the priest shall burn wood on it every morning; and he shall lay out the burnt offering on it, and offer up in smoke the fat portions of the peace offerings on it.

In fact, Jesus said in Luke 11: 51 that Abel was a prophet. So this second born son of Adam was not only a worshiper on the altar of blood sacrifice, but a preacher of it.

49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’

We can presume that Cain and Abel’s  parents, mankind’s progenitors, learned of the atoning rite from God, who covered them with animal skins right after they sinned in Genesis 3:21: “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”

Genesis 6:9 tells us Noah was a righteous, blameless man, who walked with God, because he was a man of blood covenant.  As we are justified today through our faith in the sacrifice of Jesus’ blood (Romans 3:23-25), Noah and those who offered innocent blood on behalf of their sin were also justified. This is the high wisdom of God’s redemption from death that He established in the garden.

tabernaceReading backward in Scripture from Leviticus, where Moses brought blood covenant public,  we can see how Job was a man of the altar in Job 1:5 (mizbeach, slaughtering platter) who didn’t offer again after we see him doing so in chapter 1, until chapter 42; Jacob built altars, so did Isaac, and of course Abraham.  Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and fat portions to atone for sin. Cain did not. When Moses went public with bereth we see the tabernacle  surrounding tent, the bronze altar, the water cleansing laver, and the Holy of Holies present a gospel of the “eye” revelation of God’s atonement for sin. Paul tells us in Hebrews 9:23 the tabernacle in the wilderness was an exact copy of God’s throne room in heaven.  Read the entire chapter to understand blood covenant and the priesthood God established through Moses in the wilderness. Pretty astounding stuff. Each of the tabernacle sacrifices commanded by God displayed a ceremonial cleansing for the sinful offerer, all of which were shadows and types of God’s sacrificial lamb who forgave the sins of the world.

John 1:29
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The Bible’s blood sacrifice Old Testament foreshadowing pointed to Jesus, who John the Baptist said was the LambAltar IV images of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29).  Our Lord Jesus’ altar was the cross. As we move into this year’s Easter season, we can rejoice that Noah shed God’s bereth’s blood sacrifice for his sins, sparing the world for we who can now be saved through innocent sacrifice of Jesus’ blood in it.

The Truth About the Christmas Wise Men

12-24-08 

It’s that excellent time of the year again when the miraculous birth of Jesus and all its amazing encounters are given world-wide press. The angels that appeared to Mary, Joseph, Zacharias, and the shepherds are remembered this time of year.

I worship God in awe each Christmas season when rehearsing the fact that every one of these key biblical figures were from the priestly lineage of Moses, except Joseph, who was from the family of David according to God’ Messianic promise (Matthew 1). Mary’s powerful faith; Gabriel’s rebuke of Zacharias’ unbelief and silencing until John the Baptist’s birth (Luke 1); Joseph’s unbelief and illumination through an angelic dream (Matthew 1:19-25); the meeting of Mary and Elisabeth (Luke 1:39-58); the shepherds’ angelic leading (Luke 2:1-20); and Simeon and Anna’s temple revelations (Luke 2:21-38) are all powerful confirmations of the prophecies confirming Jesus’ birth.

Micah 5:2
2          “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

MSNBCChristmasAlso, again this year, the wise men (KJV) (Magi NAS) who were divinely led to find Jesus will be in the news. What is normally remembered of these biblical figures is the star that led them and their unique gifts, and this article will too. But if you dig a little deeper you discover their story has more.

What was it about these spiritual leaders that entrusted them with special revelation regarding the birth of Christ?

Why were they chosen to know of Jesus’ birth?

How did they know to bring the typical gifts of royalty and suffering that would finance Jesus’ family while living in Egypt?

And, what else, if anything, can be known about their guiding star?

Good historical research reveals who the Magi were. They were philosophers, scientists, and priests with roots in the Median empire stemming back to the regions of Abram’s Babylonian hometown of Ur. It is true that many evolved into the kind of crystal ball gazing turbaned mystics that pepper popular culture. But Matthew’s Magi obviously had deeper aspirations, and a hunger for God’s righteous truth.

The Magi’s Religion
In my article, The Truth About Alexander the Great, I point out the godly interactions of Cyrus (who released the Hebrews to return and rebuild their nation), Artexerxes (who favored Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls), and Ahasuerus (the one Esther won over to withstand his anti-Semitic Persian elements who wanted to destroy the Jews). 

By the time Alexander conquered Darius III, the Persian’s national religion was Zoroastrianism. A close look at this ancient 12-24-08Persian religion shows its roots were planted in Daniel’s heyday. A closer look discloses that his influence, and others among God’s captive Hebrew remnant, had much to do with Zoroastrianism’s faith. It incorporated one God, Satan, and a lifestyle of goodness as revealed in the Hebrew prophets. Though its religious strains were mixed with “dark side” cultic beliefs in astrology and witchcraft, its core was monotheistic. It proclaimed an eternal realm of reward for the righteous (heaven), and a spiritual realm of torment for the evil (hell). This was the ancient Magi’s religion. Here is what secular history has to say about their ancient Persian faith: “Although the roots of this religion can be traced as far back as the fifteenth century B.C, its real founder was Zoroaster (the Greek form of the Persian name Zarathustra), who appears to have lived shortly before 600 B.C. According to him, two spiritual principles ruled the universe: one, Ahura-Mazda, supremely good and incapable of any wickedness, embodied the principles of light, truth, and righteousness; the other, Ahriman, treacherous and malignant, presided over the forces of darkness and evil. The two were engaged in a desperate struggle for supremacy. Although they were about evenly matched in strength, the god of light would eventually triumph, and the world would be saved from the powers of darkness. On the last great day Ahura-Mazda would overpower Ahriman and cast him down into the abyss. The dead would then be raised from their graves to be judged according to their deserts. The righteous would enter into immediate bliss, while the wicked would be sentenced to the flames of hell. Ultimately, though, all would be saved; for the Persian hell, unlike the Christian, did not last forever.”[1]

All counterfiets must have an original. Zoroastroism’s doctrines clearly copy Old Testament scripture. The books of Daniel and his contemporary Ezekiel are replete with the truths of Zoroaster’s doctrinal struggles between evil and good. Ezekiel 28  reveals Satan’s origin and rebellion. Daniel 12 prophesies mankind’s last-days resurrection. Daniel’s chapter 9 “Seventy Weeks” prophecy gave an exact year (1 wk = 7 yrs) count from the time of rebuilding the Hebrew temple, to the coming of the Messiah that the Magi could have referenced to initiate their trip.

Daniel 9:25
25        “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.

_ScrollHistory also claims the Magi had a long tradition of serving ancient, eastern kings. Daniel’s refutation of them in Nebuchadnezzar’s court (leading to the king’s “wilderness” salvation [Dan 4]); God’s supernatural confrontation with Nebuchadnezzar’s son through his handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5); Daniel’s angelic deliverance from Darius I lion’s den and the king’s subsequent submission to God’s will (Daniel 6); and the prophet’s many Persian-directed prophecies (7-9) were all a part of Persian history beyond Daniel’s day.  So were Ezra and Nehemiah’s encounters with Artexerxes, and Esther’s with Ahasuerus.

Because the Christmas Magi were men of importance, they could have had access to Old Testament scrolls. The pathway paved between the Persians and Hebrews could have supplied them. Ezekiel instituted the synagogue, Ezra restored God’s Law.

And, it is possible, as Abram, that one or all were personally confronted by God. But this simply isn’t known.  If they were, they chose to say nothing of it in their conversation with Herod or Mary when they finally found the Lord. What is known, is they sought the Hebrew Messiah, and were led, very supernaturally, by a single, moving star.

The Star
One of the most astounding revelations of the Christmas Magis’ story is the star that led them some 300 desert milesImage2 along their redemptive search. This year scientists and pseudo-scientists will again attempt to fit its appearance into some normal seasonal orbit. But there was nothing natural about it. The Christmas story’s wondrous guiding star was a miraculous sign, created by God out of nothing (ex nihilo), to direct the wise men where God led. They traveled toward it from east to west, then were miraculously guided as it moved north to south (Jerusalem to Bethlehem) overhead.

Matthew 2:9
9          After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over (the place) where the Child was.
10         When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 

Once at their destination, the Magis’ missions were fulfilled. They were prepared to honor Jesus’ royalty with gold (Exodus 25:10,11 [which they would use for their move into Egypt]), His Godhood with incense (typical of prayer [Ex 30:7]), and his sacrificial death with Myrrh (the herb used by Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus when entombing Jesus [John 19:38-40]). Foreknowledge of each supports a hermeneutic supposition of their personal revelation of Jesus’ birth, and the purpose of His death.

Then these very wise men were warned by God’s Spirit in a dream to bypass Herod and go straight home.

Matthew  2:11-12
11        And they came into the house and saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell down and worshiped Him; and opening their treasures they presented to Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh.
12        And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their own country by another way.

Other stories go into great detail on their encounter with Herod. Some believe the wise men were accompanied by an army, and of course numbered more than three. Others don’t. What is biblically known about the encounter is Herod’s curiosity about the sighted star, the reading of Micah 5 during his query, and the Magis’ warning in a dream to leave Herod in the dark. Not long after, a dream directed Joseph and Mary to flee into Egypt, where they stayed until Herod’s death.

13        Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise and take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”
14       And he arose and took the Child and His mother by night, and departed for Egypt;
15       and was there until the death of Herod, that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “Out of Egypt did I call My Son.”

Others question the Magis’ worship of Jesus in a house (v. 11).  Some believe it happened two years after Christ’s birth because of the age (two years and younger) Herod decreed for the slaughter of Jerusalem’s children (Matthew 2:16). Others are satisfied it could have happened not long after the manger episode, even a few days, as census numbers dwindled, and Bethlemites showed sympathy to a new born in a barn.

One final question regarding these world famous biblical figures this Christmas holy day is this: did these Eastern men eventually receive the gift of Jesus?

Though I can’t prove it from history or Scripture, I would certainly think so.

Why? They were seekers of spiritual truth who were eager in their pursuit of God’s Messianic promise.

Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” The Hebrew word for “fear” in this verse means awe and respect. It is the attribute of holy (sanctified) devotion that leads to wisdom, which ultimately leads to understanding the ways of the LORD. Because the Magi shared it, they were wise.

How Wise Are You?
ChristmasstargirlThe Christmas wise men were wise because they understood the signs and seasons of their times, and sought God’s Messiah. How wise, this Christmas, are you? The next time you look at the star that tops your tree, ponder its place in history and let it guide you and others, like the Magi, to honor the birth of God’s Son.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

 

 

Merry Christmas!

Eschatology Today Publisher, Mark Norris, M.A.


[1] Western Civilizations, Edward McNall Burns, Robert E. Lerner, Standish Meacham:W.W. Norton & Company, NY, NY, 1980: The Persian Empire and its History,  p. 66

The Truth About the Resurrection

Jesus ResurrectionMatthew 28:1-7
1     After the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
2    And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.
3    And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow;
4    And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
5    And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.
6    “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.
7    “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

The testimony of these special women who were the first to know of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead is the founding tenant of the Christian faith.

“He is risen, just as He said!” the angel told Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary (Jesus’ aunt) as they hunted for His body once the Passover Sabbath passed. They didn’t understand it yet, but they had been with God’s Passover lamb during Passover in God’s Passover city, and the life changing epoch of the New Testament had just commenced.

“Look where He was lying to see He is no longer there,” the angel continued. “Then, quickly go tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead, and that He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him.”

marymaryjohn
When the two complied with the supernatural messenger’s direction, they set out for Jerusalem and were the first to encounter the resurrected Lord.

Matthew 28:8-10
8   And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.
9   And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

I Am He”

Three nights earlier Jesus spoke “I am He” in response to His captors’ Garden of Gethsemane inquiry, and the entire cohort fell to the ground. Historians say a cohort was made up of 600 soldiers (something no Easter movie has captured yet).

John 18:6
6   When therefore He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back, and fell to the ground.
The next day at noon while Jesus suffered on the cross, pitch darkness enshrouded Jerusalem for three hours (a type in fulfillment of the ninth Exodus plague previous to the first born’s death [Exodus 10:22-23; 11: 4, 5]).

christ
At the end of that time, around 3 PM, Jesus cried out to God (in what scholars confirm was no known earthly language): “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” (translated) “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Then God’s only begotten Son gave up His life (John 10:17,18) producing an outpouring of God’s Spirit that rumbled the hills of Jerusalem, tearing in two the holy of holies veil, and resurrecting many from the dead.

Matthew 27:45, 50-53
45   Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.
50   And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51   And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, and the earth shook; and the rocks were split,
52   and the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;
53   and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

These events are rarely touched upon in pulpit sermons or Easter films. “The Passion of Christ” was the first to capture the temple veil’s tearing (signifying the entrance into God’s presence once Jesus made the way [Hebrews 10:19,20]).  The resurrected saints may have been departed relatives of those they appeared to. Wouldn’t that have been something to welcome dear departed Grandfather Mordecai or Aunt Esther to your Sunday evening door?

All of this to say the Bible’s “Easter” story is a holy, miraculous story, full of supernatural events and heavenly beings rarely touched upon.

The response of some witnesses present that day is recorded briefly in Matthew 27.

Matthew 27:54
54   Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Not long after, Jesus would appear to the two Marys, then to the twelve, and the world would never be the same.

03 Christ Amidst theLampstandsResurrection Change

Allasso is the biblical Greek word used for the change that will take place when the church is resurrected and raptured at the end of the church age.

1 Corinthians 15:50-55
50   Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51   Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (allasso),
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 imperishable, and we shall be changed.
53   For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54   But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory.

55   ”O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”

Jesus experienced allasso that Sunday morning in the tomb. He was changed to another form of life that only God completely understands. In fact, Jesus was so changed, that in every one of His post-resurrection Gospel recorded appearances, no one recognized Him at first.

Mary thought Jesus was a stranger. When she finally realized who He was, she grabbed Him.

John 20:15-19
15   Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).

John 20:17,18
17   Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'”
18   Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

Remember, it was Mary who stayed by Jesus’ side throughout His crucifixion; it was Mary who was at the tomb; and it was Mary who Jesus appeared to and gave the first post-resurrection gospel message.

When Jesus appeared to the twelve He walked in through closed doors and gave them a brief demonstration of His new form of life. Once He revealed His wounds and form, the disciples rejoiced, but not before.

John 20:19-22
19   When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20   And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

That same day, “two of them” who heard the testimony of  Mary Magdalene and Jesus’ aunt, the other Mary, were walking the road to Emmaus when Jesus walked up next to them (Luke 24:13-32). In this instance Scripture says, “their eyes were prevented from recognizing Jesus” (vs. 16). Both were confused over Jesus’ death, so the risen Lord set them straight. After explaining the events surrounding His crucifixion from “Moses and the prophets,” He accepted their dinner invitation, then disappeared in front of their eyes.

RembrantEmmausLuke 24:30-33
30    When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them.
31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
32 They said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?”

John 21 tells us Jesus worked one last earthly ministry miracle the third time He appeared to the disciples on the sea of Tiberias beach. Jesus called out to Peter, Nathaniel, James, and John who questioned their catch as they returned from a fishing trip. When they acknowledged “none,” Jesus encouraged them to try again, and their nets were filled to capacity. To make an accurate account of His appearance, John even counted the number of their catch (153 fish). Jesus ate  with them, and still, none seemed to recognize Him, because He was apparently something altogether different following His resurrection from what He was before.

John 21:12
12    Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples ventured to question Him, “Who are You?” knowing that it was the Lord.

The 40 Day Post-Resurrection Jesus Seminar

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One more regularly ignored Easter revelation involves a series of appearances the resurrected Christ granted hundreds over a period of 40 days. Only Luke tells us of this time period that spanned the Sunday morning Jesus rose from the dead to His Bethany ascension.

Luke 1:1-3
1    The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach,

2    until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen.
3  To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.

Paul tells us Jesus appeared to more than 500 at one time.

1 Corinthians 15:3-6
3    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
4     and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
5     and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6     After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time.

Wouldn’t that have been a powerful seminar, crowded in with hundreds to hear the resurrected Lord preach? Taking into account the few teachings documented in His post-resurrection appearances, Jesus probably explained from Moses’ tabernacle that shadowed and typed Him, and the prophecies of David, Isaiah, Micah, and Zechariah, who He was, and why He came.

All of this should be fascinating to any Bible/history student. But you won’t hear much if anything of these Scriptures on any given Sunday in the church. In fact, the only time you typically hear anything about Jesus’ resurrection is on Easter Sunday, and then the usual fare deals ONLY with “the empty tomb.”

Why?

Immortality is both pneumatologcial (study of the supernatural attributes of the Holy Spirit), and eschatological (study of the prophetic scriptures), and it’s hard to understand in the modern church that doesn’t deal much with either of them.

Jesus said His redeemed will be like angels once resurrected.

Mark 12:25
25   “For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

Does that mean we will be able to appear and disappear at will, and travel at the speed of light? Interesting speculation. (Hebrews 1:7; 12:22; 13:2; Revelation 3:5; 5:11; 7:11; 12:7; 14:10; 21:12.)

Paul said once we’re changed, the Millennial Reign will lead to a pristine era in which there will no longer be any death.

1 Corinthians 15:20-26
21   For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.
22   For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.
23   But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming,
24   then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.
25   For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.
26   The last enemy that will be abolished is death.

This is the truth about the resurrection. Praise Him this Easter for this supreme miracle of salvation…while the others hide their eggs.

He is risen!

Mark Norris, Publisher, Eschatology Today, M.A.

Mary Magdalene Was Not A Whore

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as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this Easter season the church will rehearse the great truths of our miraculous birthing. Included among them will be Mary Magdalene’s role in discovering our risen Lord. And once again in popular Easter movies, pageants, and sermons, she will be cast in the role of a whore.

Poor Mary. Mary Magdalene was one of the few bold enough to watch Jesus suffer and die on the Cross. She was one of only two to see Him resurrected at His tomb, and was the first to witness the truth of His resurrection. But how is she perennially remembered? Not as the hero of Christian faith she truly is, but as a “former” whore.

Hallelujah that God sets prostitutes and the rest of we misfits free to make us new creations in Christ. This is what the Gospel is all about. But I’ve found myself an advocate of Mary’s true legacy over the years, not only because of Mary  Magdalene’s interpritive misrepresentation, but because it robs the church every Easter of a heroic model of faith. 

Like so many other biblical revelations, the truth of Mary Magdalene has fallen victim to poor hermeneutics (prejudiced study methods). And because Eschatology Today is dedicated to rightly dividing God’s Word without predetermined bias, our Easter offering to you is a fresh, systematic look at this biblical figure who knew Jesus on a personal level few have ever known. As in every Eschatology Today study, examine the cited Scripture for yourself, then consider your findings.

                                                Rightly Dividing the Truth of Mary Magdalene’s Past

So here we go. Remembering hermeneutics’ maxim: Where the Word of God is bound, so are we; where it’s not, we are free, let’s see what Scripture literally says about Mary Magdalene’s world-renowned past.

Luke 8:1-3
1    And it came about soon afterwards, that He began going about from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God; and the twelve were with Him,
2    and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
3    and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means.

Verse 2 of this passage tells us Mary Magdalene was among a remnant of certain women who “had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses,” and that seven demons had “gone out” of her. Mark 16:9 says Jesus “cast them out.”

These demons could have produced sickness or disease in Mary’s life (see Luke 13:10-13; Matthew 15:22-28). They may have even been idolatry, immorality, greed, sorcery, jealousy, or strife (see Galatians 5:14-21). Whatever they were, they certainly weren’t good. But to insinuate they directed Mary to sell her body for sex acts before her deliverance is a FREE INTERPRETATION. I’ll show you why.

The Four Gospel Marys

A systematic theology of the Marys in Scripture shows there were four in the Gospels, all of whom shared an intimacy with Jesus during His time on earth.

1.  Mary, the Mother of Jesus
The most famous Mary is the blessed virgin from the high priestly lineage of Aaron who was chosen by God tomary2 miraculously birth Jesus.

Matthew 1:16
16 …and to Jacob was born Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ.

2.  Mary Magdalene
Next best known is Mary Magdalene because of her relationship with Jesus, discovery of the empty tomb with the “other” Mary, and encounter with the angels and Jesus outside of the tomb.

mary6Matthew 28:1-20
1 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.
2 And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.
3 And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow;
4 and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.
5 And the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.
6 “He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.
7 “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going before you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”
8 And they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples.
9 And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.
10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren.”

John Chapter 20 focuses on Mary Magdalene only.

John 20:11-18
11 But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;
12 and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.
13 And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was Jesus.
15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
17 Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'”
18 Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.

3.  Mary of Bethany
Also famous in Scripture is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who chose the better thing formary_magdalene_Da_Vinci_Code sitting at Jesus’ feet.

Luke 10:38-42
38     Now as they were traveling along, He entered a certain village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.
39    And she had a sister called Mary, who moreover was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet.
40    But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him, and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.”
41    But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;
42    but only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

4.  Mary the Sister of Mother Mary

PassionPhoto6Lesser known than these three Marys is the sister of Jesus’ mother, Mary the wife of Clopas, mother of James and Joseph. The Holy Spirit ensured we understood this other Mary was Jesus’ aunt, and that she was with her sister, John, and Mary Magdalene during the last moments of Jesus’ earthly life. She was present with the three as witness to Jesus’ crucifixion, and encountered the angels and Jesus with Mary Magdalene during their visits to the tomb (John 19:25).

John 19:25
25 Therefore the soldiers did these things. But there were standing by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

Matthew 28:1
28 Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the grave.

Luke 28:9,10
9    And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him.
10  Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren.”

Only one of these four biblical Marys is implicated in any literal way of living a sinful lifestyle, and it isn’t Mary Magdalene. In fact, it is Mary of Bethany, the sister of Martha.

John 11:1 tells us this Mary “was [that] Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.”

Luke’s account implicates her simply as a sinner who was looked down upon by the religious elite.

Luke 7:36-39
36   Now one of the Pharisees was requesting Him to dine with him. And He entered the Pharisee’s house, and reclined at the table.
37   And behold, there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster vial of perfume,
38   and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her head, and kissing His feet, and anointing them with the perfume.
39   Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet HeWoman-Washed-Jesus-Feet-With-Her-Tears would know who and what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner.”

The Greek word that describes Simon’s dinner intruder is the word we derive our English word “sin” from, hamartos, “sinful, to miss the mark”. When He forgave her, Jesus did acknowledge her many sins (vs.47). But there is no huge revelation about this woman’s true condition except to understand she lived a sinful life.

Nevertheless, theologians throughout history have presumed she was a prostitute and connected her with Mary Magdalene, while at the same time protecting Mary of Bethany from any infamous connection. Why? I suppose to keep a woman from taking biblical prominence in the resurrection account during a very misogynistic time period. Outside of that, beats me. Instead of making a John 11:1/Luke 8:36-39 key event connection of Mary the sister of Martha and the woman who barged into Simon’s house, an amazing conglomeration of commentators believe John 11:1 refers to Mary the sister of Martha’s John 12:1-3 anointing of Jesus at the feast of Lazarus. The principle of chronological ascent disputes this. Why refer the reader to an act committed by Mary before the act occurred? One way or the other, this is the only possible key word/event connection with any “sinful” Mary mentioned in Scripture. And it is revelation. So far as Mary Magdalene is concerned, there is none. 

Still, this year if “Jesus of Nazareth” (my favorite Easter film) airs viewers will see Mary Magdalene portrayed again as a neighborhood whore who is told about Jesus’ forgiveness by one of her customers…and later as the sinful woman who barges into Simon’s house. In Mel Gibson’s heroic triumph, “The Passon of Christ,” viewers will see Mary Magdalene cast as the John 8 woman caught in adultery. In this year’s exciting biblical semi-fiction “Risen”, when the Tribune is searching for Jesus’ body, a barracks full of Roman Soldiers is asked if  any know Mary Magadelne, and all raise their hands with smirks on their faces. Sheeessshhh. Seasonal magazine articles, Sunday School lessons, and books will also hype her misrepresention again.

Setting the captive free, from whatever pre-salvation station, is what the Gospel is all about. But Mary Magdalene’s historic casting is hermeneutically unfair. Not because her legacy surrounds this one aspect of her misinterpreted life, but because the veracity of her Christian faith and model have been historically marred.

 The Truth About Mary

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So consider this, if you will, concerning Mary Magdalene as you celebrate Christ’s resurrection this Easter Season.

Luke 8:1-3 tells us Mary Magdalene discovered the truth of Jesus early during His earthly ministry, and that she traveled with Him and others as He ministered in Israel. This passage also indicates she financed His ministry, and confirms, along with Mark 16:9, that she was delivered of seven demons. John 19:25 says Mary Magdalene maintained a fearless fortitude with John, Mary the Mother of Jesus, and the “other Mary”, to stay with Jesus through His execution. John 20:1-16 explains it was Mary Magdalene, not John or Peter, who had the faith to stay at the grave following their investigation of Mary’s empty-tomb report. Because of this, John 20:17 tells us it was Mary Magdalene who Jesus entrusted with His resurrection appearance and gave the first commission to tell of His raising from the dead.

Did the seven demons Jesus cast out of Mary Magdalene have her bound in life as a whore? Based on a literal observation of Scripture, it is a sound biblical interpretation to answer this question: NO! Mary Magdalene was not a whore. It is as hermeneutically equitable to freely interpret Mary Magdalene’s undisclosed past as a housewife or merchant racked with demonically produced disease or overtaken by devils of greed, jealousy, or strife.

Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’ most intimate disciples who followed Him throughout His earthly ministry, to the Cross, and to the tomb. It was she who held the resurrected form of Jesus on the day He was raised from the dead. And it was she who was the first to be commissioned by Jesus to preach His raising from the dead.

Who else in Scripture can attest to this?

NO ONE.

Thank you Mary Magdalene for your heroic example of faith.

John 20:1-21:25
1     Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb.
2     And so she ran and came to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.”
3     Peter therefore went forth, and the other disciple, and they were going to the tomb.
4     And the two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter, and came to the tomb first;
5     and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in.
6     Simon Peter therefore also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he beheld the linen wrappings lying there,
7     and the face-cloth, which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.
8     So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb entered then also, and he saw and believed.
9     For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead.
10   So the disciples went away again to their own homes.
11   But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping; and so, as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb;
12   and she beheld two angels in white sitting, one at the head, and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been lying.
13   And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.”
14   When she had said this, she turned around, and beheld Jesus standing there, and did not know that it was mary magdaleneJesus.
15   Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing Him to be the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away.”
16   Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher).
17   Jesus said to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'”
18   Mary Magdalene came, announcing to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and that He had said these things to her.
19   When therefore it was evening, on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20   And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples therefore rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21   Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
22   And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
23   “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

By Mark Norris, Publisher, Eschatology Today, M.A.

God’s Richest Blessings on You this Year as You Celebrate His Resurrection!

Article photos from the Web, The Passion of the Christ, and Jesus of Nazareth