“ON EAGLES’ WINGS MINISTRIES”
“When Shall These Things? Matthew 24: Part 1.
In this second part of our study, we are going to venture out into uncharted waters and put together statements both from the Old Testament and the New Testament that seem to be contradictory in language, but harmonious in substance. We want to turn the spotlight on what Jesus said in John 8; 51-58 borrowing from two different translations of the scriptures. First, we turn to J. B. Phillips: “Believe me when I tell you that if anybody accepts my word, he will never see death at all. Now we know that you’re mad, replied the Jews. Why, Abraham died and the prophets, too, and yet you say6, “If a man accepts my words, he will never experience death!” Are you greater than our father, Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets—who are you making yourself out to be? etc. etc. As for your father, Abraham, his great joy was that he would see my coming. Now he has seen it and he is overjoyed. Look, said the Jews to him, “you are not fifty yet—and has Abraham seen you?” “I tell you in solemn truth” returned Jesus, “before there was an Abraham, I AM.”
The N.E.B. (New English Bible) renders it this way: “In very truth I tell you, if anyone obeys my teaching he shall never know what it is to die.” The Jews said, “Now we are certain that you are possessed. Abraham is dead; the prophets are dead; and yet you say, “If anyone obeys my teaching he shall not know what it is to die.” Are you greater than greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too What do you claim to be?(Watch this carefully for future discussion) “Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see my day; he saw it and was glad. The Jews protested, “You are not yet fifty years old. How can you have seen Abraham?” Jesus said, “In very truth I tell you, before Abraham was born, I AM.”
At this point, the Jews took up stones to stone him because they recognized the words “I AM” the same I AM that spoke to Moses as he got ready to go back to Egypt to free the Hebrew slaves. What Jesus said, that cannot be denied even among those who don’t understand it, is that both he and Abraham met while Abraham was alive, and according to the dates in my bible, Abraham was called to leave his home in Ur of the Chaldees in about B.C.1921. This means that nearly 2,000 years before his birth in Bethlehem, Jesus and Abraham met under joyous circumstances. I pray thee, my Friend, tell me of another human being who actually walked the earth 2,000 years before his birth. Stay with me for more! Let us visit with Abraham, back in his time and place in history. “And Abraham fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, etc. etc. And he left off talking with him, and God went up from Abraham.” Genesis 17; 3, 22.
God appeared to Abraham at least seven times in what are called theophanes or bodily appearances. The second most notable encounter to which I believe Jesus referred to in St. John 8 is recorded in Genesis 18. Abraham sat in his tent door in the heat of the day, and lo, three men stood by him (not by his side, but rather close by) and Abraham ran to meet them and invited them to come in from the sun, wash their feet, while he prepares a meal. During the meal they asked for Sarah, Abraham’s wife was now old and well stricken in age. They promised that this time next year they will return and Sarah will have a son, which she overheard from her place in the inner tent. Then, we read, “And the Lord said unto Abraham (verse 13) And the Lord said (verse 17) And the Lord said (verse 20). Of the three men that came to Abraham we read: “And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. After Abraham’s long bargaining with the Lord in an effort to save Sodom from God’s wrath we read: “And the Lord went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham.” Please read the entire chapter of Genesis 18; you will find it very informative. Why was Abraham glad to Christ’s my day? Because he told him, “I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
There were many great meetings between the pre-incarnate Christ referred to as “The Lord” or “The angel of the Lord” and Abram who later became known as Abraham. Reading from Genesis chapter 12 through chapter 18 one finds a treasure house of the per-incarnate Christ’s dealing with Abraham. The Jews took offence in the claims made by Jesus that both he and Abraham met during Abraham’s lifetime, because they saw him as the little child born in Bethlehem and raised in their midst, whose mother and father and brethren they knew. They could not connect the dots that lead the way back to his pre-existence. He was seen as a man who was worthy to be criticized and put down every time he opened his mouth. Even when he healed the sick and cast out devils instead of getting credit, he was equated with the devils he cast out.
It would seem to me that based upon recent trends in this country, Jesus the Christ is getting less and less credit, and is even being reviled by many whose mindset can be likened to that of the unbelievers of his day. The greatest opposition to the ministry of Jesus Christ was not coming from regular sinners, but from the religious establishment and certain intellectuals who burned with envy and jealousy when the saw that the whole world was gone after the man from Galilee. “The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? Behold the world is gone after him.” John 12; 19.
I promised you that we would be sailing through uncharted waters, and now is the time to get ready to set sail. On their journey out of Egypt, the Israelites departed from the wilderness of Sin and came to Rephidim and there was no water there. They cried to Moses, who in turn cried to God. “And the Lord said unto Moses, Go on before the people, and take with thee of the elders of Israel; and thy rod, wherewith thou smotest the river, take in thine hand, and go. Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.” Exodus 17; 1-6.
Let us pretend that you and I were among the Israelites and in turmoil for the lack of water and a burning thirst. Moses and certain elders of the people approach this particular rock and smite it with the rod in his hand. We rush forward to drink and to give to our animals. At this point, who cares enough to decipher and ponder how a rock can produce water simply by having someone strike it with a staff. Judging from that perspective, the issue should be aptly closed and we look ahead for God to perform his next miracle on our behalf. But the issue was brought forward over approximately 1491 years to the Christian Era and now, you and I are presented with a new set of issues, and immediately, the simplicity is gone out of the matter. Once again, here are the Old Testament components: A rock, a man with a rod, who struck the rock in order to obtain water. Magical! Miraculous! But still within the realm of possibility! If only the matter was allowed to remain that simple! Paul came along with a brand new twist that added a mystery that has not been openly shared with God’s people for a long time. Listen to the apostle Paul!
“Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, (uninformed) how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they (actually and in reality) drank of the spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10; 1-4. Can you see how this man Jesus Christ shows up in odd places, under odd circumstances, and at odd times? Stand between the old and the new testaments, and carefully hold this story in both hands, and like a goldsmith weighing gold, balance one with the other. Apply both in real terms as they are chronicled in scripture.
Here is a story that defies logic; that supersedes logic. We are told that this particular Rock followed the Israelites in the wilderness. It moved and went along with them, and when the circumstance of want, thirst, doubt and complaints came to the forefront, the Rock produced the answer by meeting their needs. Was this a sort of bedtime story designed to appeal to the child in each one of us? They went through the sea, and had a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night around them! They ate bread from heaven that came down out of the sky. If those components were real, so was the Rock. But in unveiling the mysteries of a great God, we are told that the Rock that followed them was Christ. Do I understand it? No. Can I explain it! No. Can you?
Do I believe it? Absolutely! Let me say quite boldly and without reservation or apology that this man Christ Jesus occupies the bible from Genesis to Revelation. This man who fills time, space, and eternity declares: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Isaiah 45; 22-23. Say what we will! Form your own conclusion of what you think of Jesus, but the truth is that he sits at the center of the universe and controls the activities of mankind. “And he is before all things, and by him all things consist, for it pleased the Father that in him (Christ Jesus) should all fullness dwell.” Colossians 1; 17,19. There is nothing that exists outside of “all fullness.” It covers from A to Z, from Alpha to Omega, from the First to the Last.
We will turn our attention to what seems to be contradictions at first glance, but for the most part provide simple bible readings in worship services, and obviously have not generated much research and open study in the Body of Christ. Over the years, we have learned from experience that simple reading of scriptures trigger no argument or a desire to understand more. The case becomes more troublesome when in-depth study ensues and folks with sharp minds and understanding begin to dig deep for the message that is often hidden by words and their meanings. But I remember being told in bible school many years ago, that the bible always answers its own questions if we spend time to search for them.
Let us continue our biblical safari! “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face as a man speaketh unto his friend. Exodus 33;11. “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.” Exodus 24; 9-11. We notice that these verses offered no vagueness, no ambiguity, no veiled meaning as such. They saw the God of Israel and ate and drank! Do you see a problem here? Not really! Let us read on! Here Moses is in a sort of dialogue with God. “Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people. And he said, (God responds) My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. And he (Moses) said, I beseech thee, shew me thy glory. And he(God) said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live. And the Lord said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by: And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33;13-23.
As we fast-forward to the times of Jesus Christ walking the earthy, we find what seems to be a different stream of truths that if taken as written and made to stand alone, seem to offer direct contradictions to what we have just noted from the Book of Exodus. In announcing that the Word (God) was made flesh and dwelt among us, John went on to note: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” John 1; 18. Phillips translation puts it this way: “It is true that no one has ever seen God at any time. Yet the divine and only Son, who lives in the closest intimacy with the Father, has made him known.
CUT! HOLD YOUR HORSES! STICK A PIN RIGHT HERE! Did you just read that no man has ever seen God—at any time? Yes Sir! Yes Ma’am! In that case, let us rewind our record back to a distant time in the history of ancient Israel. “Also they saw God, and did eat and drink. And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone.” Jesus offered his own account on the subject at hand: And the Father himself which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” John 5; 37. Again, Jesus said: “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.” John 6; 46. As we try to maintain the harmony of the scriptures, we are admonished in Colossians 1; 15, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” Notice the distinct description of God in this verse. What is his basic characteristic? God is invisible! He was, he is, and will always be invisible. But alas! Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God.
If that is true, and the bible seems to indicate that it is, we will have to conclude that the person in the Old Testament that Israel and Moses saw face to face was not him that is invisible, but rather him who is the visible expression. Thus, we see that there is no contradiction at all in these scriptures. The invisible Being that we call God, will never be seen for he cannot be seen. Jesus said that he is a Spirit and I call him the “Eternal Spirit” that fills all in all. During his earthly ministry, Jesus spoke of the Father in terms such as: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth. As the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” John 5; 19-21. “Ye neither know me, nor my Father: if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.” John 8; 19. “I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou being a man, makest thyself God.” John 10; 30-33.
The disciples of Christ, being ordinary, unconverted men at this point in time, wanted to learn more about the “Father” so Philip put him to task by saying, “Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus said unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” John 14;8-11. Do you still believe that Jesus was just a good man and a mere prophet? The writer of the Hebrews put together this dandy little package for good measure. “But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste of death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Hebrews 2; 8b-10.
In just a couple verses, we have laid out for us, the master plan of salvation! Spirit cannot die and the sacrifice for sin is made through the death of that which is being offered upon the altar. We don’t like it, and recently on a radio talk show I heard an expert guest denouncing the idea of God requiring blood sacrifices, which, in her opinion was savage and violent. However, without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin, because the life is in the blood, and redemption involves “a life for a life” or one life for another life. “Moreover he (Moses) sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all vessels of the ministry. And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” Hebrews 9;21-23.
Christ could have taken on the nature of angels and that would have made his earthly ministry so much easier. All he would have had to do, as we say, “just wave a magic wand”. In fact in reference to his arrest, Jesus told Peter: “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” Matthew 26; 52-54. Jesus knew what the possibilities were, but he counted more highly his “purpose” rather than his options. Let us take a close up view on the unfolding of events that brought Jesus to earth in the first place. It is obvious that Mary did not conceive by accident or a freak event in nature. Let us see what actually transpired.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the LIKENESS OF MEN: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2; 5-8. For good measure and even for more clarity, let us bring in J.B. Phillips. “Let Christ Jesus be your example as to what your attitude should be.
For he who had always been God by nature, did not cling to his prerogatives as God’s equal, but stripped himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal. That is why God has now lifted him so high, and has given him the name beyond all names, so that at the name of Jesus “every knee shall bow,” whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that is why, in the end, “every tongue shall confess” that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
WOW! My Friend, this kind of narrative gives my goose bumps and makes me want to get up from behind my computer and break forth in a little dance around the room. Jesus has won, and continues to win, no matter who ignores him or reviles him. At the consummation of the ages all things will be gathered together in ONE in Christ Jesus, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” Ephesians 1; 10. Remember I said earlier that when it comes to Jesus no man can remain neutral, because one day all men (mankind) will stand before him. The records say that the sea will give up its dead, and the graves will open their doors so that all those who were sleeping may arise and step forth before the Christ.
A vast percentage of the Christian Church at large embraces the concept of a “Trinity”—One God in three Persons, that developed around the end of the 4th century. This concept places Jesus in the number two position as “God #2.” All the disciples of Jesus who happened to be Jews, knew that Moses spoke to Israel saying, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.” Deut.6; 4. But Isaiah declared that Jesus would be called “The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.” Chapter 9; 6. So did this mean God number two? God himself has said that he is “ONE.” There are so many references that there is not enough space to quote them all, so I will render only a few.
“I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Savior. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God. Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it? or hinder it. Isaiah 43; 11-13. “Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any. Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens ALONE; that spreadeth abroad the earth by MYSELF. Chapter 44; 8b,24. “I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is NO GOD BESIDE ME…I am the Lord and there is none else…For thus saith the Lord that created the heavens: God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord; and there is none else. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” Chapter 45;5-7,18,22.
It seems that God has deemed it necessary to repeat, over and over, the fact that he alone is God and there can be none other, yet men seemingly ignore this truth and turn to myth and the vain concoctions of religious leaders. Here he speaks again: “Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.” Chapter 48; 12-13. I said earlier that Jesus Christ has gained preeminence in all things, because it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell. Colossians 1;19. The term “Godhead” refers to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and many has elected to put Jesus in this three-some relationship at #2—meaning God #2, and this, in all reality cannot be, for God is not three—he is ONE. Paul tells us: “For in him (Christ Jesus) dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Colossians 2; 9. In other words, Jesus is not in the Godhead; rather, the Godhead is in him—they are both in him. He indicated that “If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him.” John 14; 23. So when Christ comes into the heart of the believer, he or she receives the Holy Spirit, which is God and Christ all put together, and not three persons identified as God #1, God #2, and God#3. That concept should be banished back to the Holy Roman Church of the 4th and 5th centuries. “Men are saying whom they think I am, but whom say ye that I am?” O sweat wonder, O sweat wonder, Jesus the Son of God. O how I love him, O how I adore him, Jesus the Son of God. I agree with the song writer!
Royce O. Kennedy