Open Spaces and Empty Thoughts

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

“A wonderful and horrible thing is committed in the land; The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means; and my people love to have it so: and what will ye do in the end thereof?” (Jeremiah 5:30,31 KJV).

What is God’s controversy with ancient Israel?

I once accompanied an older Christian on a shopping trip. As he entered the parking lot, an empty lane near the store caught our attention. He told me, “The Lord knew we were coming,” and proceeded to park his vehicle there. God allegedly had cleared the way for us to get a good parking space so we would not have far to walk!

With all due respect, foolishness needs to be called out as foolishness. God is not in the business today of giving us empty parking spaces close to stores. There is not one Bible verse to support it; it serves no eternal purpose. Yet, this is not an isolated incident. Religious tradition has conditioned us the world over to embrace all sorts of wild ideas—beliefs that have absolutely nothing to do with God’s Word to us. It is vain superstition and utter silliness. We have to think like mature Christians instead of small children. If our Christian life is to function as God intended, we must have a renewed mind (Romans 12:1,2).

In reference to “God knowing we were going to the store,” what should we conclude if there are no vacant parking spaces adjacent to the building? Did He not know we were coming? If He knew, why did He not give us an open spot? I have shopped many times and not found a space next to the store. Does God does not love me? Why does He not want me to have an open lane?

Today’s Scripture is God upset with Israel. They have let religious leaders so thoroughly confuse them. Not only that, they “love” it: they enjoy those religious “highs,” feel-good doctrines, emotional experiences, pathetic superstitions! Meanwhile, it does nothing for them but harm their souls. God is righteously angered that Israel has allowed herself to be contaminated. Dear friends, may we get into the Pauline Books, Romans through Philemon, and fill our heads and hearts with that!

Bible Q&A #490: “Who are the ‘fearful’ in Revelation 21:8?

The Awareness of a Temporary Earth

 Sunday, April 22, 2018

“And, Thou, O Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: they shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; and as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail” (Hebrews 1:10-12 KJV).

On this Earth Day, let us not confuse the creation with the Creator!

Today, people worldwide celebrate “environmental awareness.” According to the secular, naturalistic worldview, our planet and its sun could last many more billions of years. They claim that we have done so much damage to our planet—climate change, overpopulation, deforestation, pollution, et cetera—that we must change our attitude toward “mother earth” and change our lifestyles before we destroy her and civilization as we know it! You can sense the zeal in their message, can you not? While these people are sincere, they are wasting all of their time, energy, and resources on a temporary planet.

Let us be very clear that the Lord Jesus Christ placed man on the earth, especially the Garden of Eden, to “dress it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Adam was to take care of the Earth: he was God’s representative, God’s king, who had a divine commission to rule this planet for God’s glory (Genesis 1:26-28).

It was not long, however, before Satan distracted mankind from understanding God’s purpose for him. Adam began to focus on himself: like Satan, he began to “worship and serve the creature more than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). Thus began man’s continual downward spiral into spiritual ignorance. He would continually worship himself, as we well know today.

Today’s Scripture reminds us that, because of sin, this creation will pass away. The Lord Jesus Christ, however, will live forever. Why worship that which is temporary? It makes no sense! The Lord Jesus Christ gave you life, not the pagan goddess “mother earth.” Environmental awareness? Indeed, be aware that our world is temporary, as God will one day create “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).

Benoni and Benjamin #7

Saturday, April 21, 2018

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin (Genesis 35:18 KJV).

Dear friend, look and see—herein lies prophecy!

At the close of Peter’s life and ministry, the Holy Spirit wrote in 2 Peter chapter 3: “[9] The Lord is not slack concerning his promise [of Christ’s Second Coming], as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance…. [15] And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; [16] As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”

Romans chapters 9-11 and 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 are the Apostle Paul’s divine explanations why the Second Coming and Millennium (“Benjamin”) have not yet followed Christ’s earthly ministry (“Benoni”). Of course, as Peter himself knew, some were failing to rightly divide the word of truth. So thoroughly confused in Scripture, they had created unspeakable spiritual destruction in themselves and their foolish audiences! (Sound familiar?)

In closing, perhaps you are saying, “How wonderful and insightful this was, Brother Shawn!” (I agree.) “I wish more people would see it!” (Indeed.) “So, why do they not see it? Has God not revealed it to them?” Friend, they can read as well as we, can they not? It is a heart problem—sin. The flesh, the natural man, sees this all as foolishness. It is easier to mock instead of study. When we look beyond Christendom’s superficial teachings, and refuse to be the lazy church members who do not (nor care to) understand the Bible, we actually have something fascinating to see in, and say about, it. Rather than wasting time with church tradition, superstition, and philosophy, we spend our time wisely by reading and studying (!!) Scripture.

Yea, we find amazing treasures in God’s Word when we look with the eyes of faith! 🙂

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Is Hebrews 13:3 a reference to the Body of Christ?

Benoni and Benjamin #6

Friday, April 20, 2018

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin (Genesis 35:18 KJV).

Dear friend, look and see—herein lies prophecy!

When the Apostle Peter maintained Israel’s ancient (and puzzled!) prophets foresaw “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Peter 1:10,11), he referred to the prophecies of a suffering Messiah (Psalm 22:1-21; Psalm 35:1-28; Psalm 69:1-36; Isaiah 53:3-12; et al.) and a reigning Messiah (Psalm 2:4-9; Psalm 22:22-31; Psalm 45:6,7; Isaiah 9:6,7; Isaiah 11:1-16; Jeremiah 23:5-8; et al.). Like Peter, only after the first set of fulfilled prophecies do we understand it all.

The one mountain the prophets observed ahead turned out to be two mountains aligned. Once Peter and his contemporaries stood on the first peak, though, they recognized a separate and distinct peak still future. They had just experienced Messiah’s First Coming (“the sufferings of Christ”)—His rejection, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven as a royal exile to sit at His Father’s right hand (Psalm 110:1; Acts 1:9-11; Acts 2:32-36). Now, in early Acts (Peter’s ministry), Messiah’s Second Coming is in view. The 12 Apostles, yea all the Little Flock, preach in early Acts, pleading with national Israel to repent of refusing Jesus and prepare for His return by trusting Him. Otherwise, these unbelievers will be consumed in His wrath when He returns to establish that earthly kingdom (“the glory that should follow”)!

As Israel was rapidly approaching that second mountain, something totally unexpected transpired. It was discovered that, while God had been revealing the prophetic program piecemeal, He had kept the mystery program totally secret. In addition to the prophets not understanding the details of one Messiah coming twice, they were completely unaware that a 2,000-year gap separated those comings. Here is the revelation Jesus Christ gave directly to the Apostle Paul. Then, in Acts chapter 15 (Galatians chapter 2), Paul taught Israel’s spiritual leaders about the extensive “mystery” valley below that no one had seen at all. Between the two “prophetic” mountain peaks was a major delay in Messiah’s Second Coming (Kingdom).

Rather than destroy all of Christ-rejecting mankind, Father God inserted between “Benoni” and “Benjamin” a parenthetical period of grace….

Benoni and Benjamin #5

Thursday, April 19, 2018

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin (Genesis 35:18 KJV).

Dear friend, look and see—herein lies prophecy!

Great pain and tremendous sadness came when “Benoni” entered the world. His mother suffered and died in labor. Yet, his father named him “Benjamin:” Jacob received strength and comfort because a new life had resulted. Notice the interesting parallels.

Father God agonized and was grieved when Jesus Christ His Son became a Man. Christ so suffered, and graphically died, on Calvary’s cruel cross. Still, in the midst of death, life would spring forth! Jesus was resurrected “with power” (Romans 1:4). The universal symbol of strength is the right hand (remember the definition of “Benjamin?”). Jesus Christ did not exercise that authority at His First Coming. At His Second Coming, however, He will return “in his own glory” (Luke 9:26) to “sit in the throne of his glory” (Matthew 19:28; Matthew 25:31). This is the glory following His sufferings.

“Son of my sorrow” applies to Jesus Christ’s First Coming to Israel because it resulted in His rejection and death. Father God experienced such pain to see His Son endure that torture and wrath. “Son of the right hand” is Jesus Christ at His Second Coming. Currently “sitting on the right hand of power” (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62), He will wield that power from the Second Coming onward (Millennium and thereafter).

Do you remember where Benoni/Benjamin was born? Where did his mother Rachel die? Where did his father Jacob bury her? “Bethlehem, which is Ephrath,” says Genesis 35:19. It was no coincidence that God mentioned such details. Micah 5:2 would later predict: “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be RULER in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Some 17 centuries after today’s Scripture, Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem Ephratah (cf. Matthew 2:1-6)!

History testifies that “Benoni” has already come: Jesus Christ has suffered and died. But, what of “Benjamin?” Why is Jesus Christ not reigning? Let us consider the 2,000-year delay….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “‘Whom no man hath seen, nor can see’—who is this in 1 Timothy 6:16?

Benoni and Benjamin #4

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin (Genesis 35:18 KJV).

Dear friend, look and see—herein lies prophecy!

When Moses wrote today’s Scripture, he had no idea what underlying truths the Holy Spirit was communicating through him. Since the Bible is a progressive revelation, the LORD God had not (yet) revealed the complete picture. First Peter chapter 1 comments on this reality: “[10] Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: [11] Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.”

For centuries, Israel’s prophets asked about and studied meticulously the Old Testament Scriptures, trying (unsuccessfully) to piece together just how Messiah would come to them. The Apostle Peter is writing to people living after our Dispensation of Grace. Like those in early Acts long ago, they too await the Second Coming of Christ to destroy the Antichrist and usher in the Millennial Kingdom. These “circumcision” (Jewish) saints, Israel’s “Little Flock,” have been promised God’s earthly kingdom (Luke 12:31,32). They see in totality what their ancestors struggled to grasp: one Messiah is coming twice!

Peter looks back on Calvary, when Messiah Jesus came, was rejected, crucified, shed His blood, and resurrected (1 Peter 1:19,21; 2:4-8). These are “the sufferings of Christ.” Peter also looks forward to Messiah Jesus coming again. Here, He will be glorified and reign as Israel’s King, Israel being His “kingdom of priests” (1 Peter 2:9-12). This is “the glory that should follow.”

How do these verses parallel the events of today’s Scripture? “Benoni” (“son of my sorrow”) and “Benjamin” (“son of the right hand”) are, respectively, the First and Second Comings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Grief would come before joy, the cross will precede the crown, the tree would come before the throne, the sufferings will precede the glory, and the Child would come before the Son. Again, Moses could not see it, but he was writing a template, and what a pattern it is….

Benoni and Benjamin #3

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin (Genesis 35:18 KJV).

Dear friend, look and see—herein lies prophecy!

While initially appearing mundane, the “Benoni/Benjamin” issue actually represents one of the Bible’s most essential themes. Again, these names mean, respectively, “son of my sorrow” and “son of the right hand.” Suffering is associated with the first; strength is connected to the second. Another way of looking at it is grief precedes joy. Using these clues, can you figure out what God the Holy Spirit is communicating beyond merely a woman dying in childbirth and she and her husband disagreeing over their baby’s name?

Perhaps we should appeal to what the Holy Spirit penned in 1 Peter chapter 1? “[10] Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: [11] Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” Is there anything here that can tie into and elaborate on today’s Scripture? Why, yes, there is! Look closely.

Throughout the Old Testament economy, as Israel’s priests and prophets and other religious leaders (“rabbinical scholars”) studied their Hebrew Bible, they could see the idea of a coming special Man. What always troubled them was a clear and concise timeline of those events associated with this Messiah (“Anointed One”). In some Old Testament verses, He was suffering and dying. Yet, other verses showed Him alive and reigning. Was there a Man who would reign and then perish? Would He perish and then reign (in resurrection)? Or, would there be two Messiahs—one to die and another to rule? What did it all mean? How would it all transpire? Where was a schedule?

Millennia later, dear friend, with a completed Bible in hand, we can look back in time to see clearly what these ancient Bible students saw in a fog. As there was one child with two names (“Benoni” followed by “Benjamin”), there would be one Messiah, one Son (note, a male child!), fulfilling two roles….