Category: Seeing in the Spirit

The Best Gift

Earnestly desire to prophesy!

When was the last time you received a word of encouragement, one that consoled you during a time of loss or simply gave you a quick “nudge from behind” to keep moving in spite of your discouragement?

Reading the Scriptures, particularly the Apostle Paul’s teachings in I Corinthians, we see clearly that God desires to give us these kinds of messages through the ministry of fellow believers.  He does so by empowering believers through the Holy Spirit’s “spiritual gifts,” which are listed in the following passage:

But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills (I Corinthians 12:7-11).

According to the writer of the Book of Hebrews, these gifts were demonstrably manifested through the believers in the Early Church:

how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will. (Hebrews 2:3-5)

Have the Gifts Ceased?

In recent years, comparatively at least, many dispensational Bible teachers and their disciples have taught that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were no longer given after the age of the Apostles.  This teaching is primarily based on the following passage:

 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part;10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known (I Corinthians 13:8-12).

This seems clear enough according to a superficial reading:  based on Paul’s description of the spiritual gifts in this passage, therefore, it is believed by many in the Church today that the gifts are “childish,” not intended for mature believers, for they are “partial” and imperfect.  As Paul writes, “We see in a mirror dimly” (II Cor. 3:12).  It is believed instead that the “perfect” has come to the Church through the completion of the Holy Scriptures, so we no longer need the Holy Spirit’s gifts to teach us and lead us, and the “partial” has been done away with because the “perfect” Bible has been completed. 

However, we must read all of the Scriptures in their contexts, particularly those written by the apostle Paul.  Consider the following passage:

But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.  Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.  But we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed [metamorphosized] into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.  (II Corinthians 3:15-18)

It seems ironic, therefore, that the Apostles and Prophets of the Early Church who exercised these “childish” and “imperfect” spiritual gifts of the Holy Spirit were also the very ones who thoroughly read the books of the Old Testament (“Moses is read”), and wrote the books of the New Testament.  I can only conclude that the dispensationalist interpretation of Paul’s message is incorrect and misleading. 

Looking Into the Mirror

Instead, the “mirror” references in these passages reveal that the  “perfect” that was predicted is not the New Testament itself, but instead is Jesus Christ when He comes again.  He is the “perfect” Who is coming, and when He appears, we all will be instantly transformed and metamorphosized into His image, for we will see Him in all of His glory.  When this happens, we will be “like Him”:

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. (I Corinthians 15:51-53)

See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.  For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.  Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.  And every one who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  (1 John 3:1-3)

What is the Outcome, then?

We must not be like those sons of Israel who hardened their hearts and heard the reading of the old covenant (Moses) with a “veil” over their hearts.  We must turn to the Lord, who takes the veil away from our hearts, and He will give us liberty.  Read again Paul’s exhortation:

Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech,13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (II Corinthians 3:12-18).

Since “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,” Paul further exhorts us to be used by the Holy Spirit through the “gifts of the Spirit”:

So also you since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church. (I Corinthians 14:12).

In the Book of Acts, Luke the author and disciple of the Apostle Paul writes this description of Peter’s message to the curious onlookers when on the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the gathered believers:

 “…Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:38-39).

In context, therefore, the Holy Spirit is God’s gift to us in the same way, for the promise is to “all who are far away, as many as the Lord calls.” When we are baptized in His Spirit, therefore, we will find that we will experience the gift of speaking in tongues, plus all the other gifts when needed, if we continue to follow Him (1 Corinthians 12, 13, and 14). These are God’s gifts of power to enable us to accomplish the tasks to which we have been commissioned.

These gifts have been abused by many, unfortunately, even by some in the Early Church, according to the Apostle Paul’s admonitions in the “Love Chapter” (I Corinthians 13).  If the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not operated in love, Paul writes, we align with the following description:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. (I Corinthians 13:1-3).

Nevertheless, we should not take lightly the Lord’s words to us provided in John’s Gospel.  Clearly, we need today the “rivers of living water” Jesus promised us:

…Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified). (John 7:37b-39)

Finally, the Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to “earnestly” desire the best spiritual gifts (I Corinthians 12:1). 

What are the “best” gifts?  They are those that are most in need at the moment.  We should be open to being used by the Holy Spirit at any time in any way He chooses.  And Paul particularly recommends that we desire to prophesy,

 Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. (I Corinthians 14:1-4).

He makes this recommendation specifically because prophecy is a gift that we all need to experience, for spiritual encouragement.  

One who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation. (v. 3)

In addition, the Apostle Paul also reveals another reason why prophecy is important in the Church:

24 But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; 25 the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you.  (I Corinthians 14:24-26)

I experienced just such a moment early in my ministry when, while leading a home group meeting, I was praying and a word of knowledge came to me.  I spoke the revelation with my eyes closed, and when I opened them, a young woman whom I had never seen before was standing in front of me weeping.  “How did you know those things about me?” she said.  I asked if she wanted to invite Jesus into her life to be her Lord and Savior, and she readily agreed, praying for salvation that night.  

We must understand, therefore, that the gift of prophecy is not intended to “predict the future,” as so many believe.  It should not be connected with occult astrology, fortune telling, or divination by any means.

Another Example

Just yesterday in a women’s Bible study and prayer group here in Hopkins, Belize, my wife Jan received a “word of knowledge” and spoke to a young mother who tended to be very shy in the group.  In effect, Jan said to her, “Do not be troubled about what you will say when you are led to speak to someone, for you love Jesus and you only need to let His light shine through you to others.”

The woman was so moved by this message that she began to weep joyfully, for she indeed had been encouraged, edified, and exhorted.  

Final Comments:

Please note that the Apostle Paul does not denigrate the gift of speaking in tongues, for he tells us that he speaks in tongues more than anyone else.  He does so because through the Holy Spirit he is able to pray “in mysteries” when his mind does not know how to pray.  Consequently, he is personally edified.  He only stipulates that this gift must be used properly and in love.  Paul also states that its use in the Church must not be forbidden:

 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. . . .39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues. 40 But all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner. (I Corinthians 14:4-5).

Marveling at the Miraculous by Jan Jenkins

A Miracle!

Peter and John are going to the temple to pray when at the temple gate they hear a man calling to them.

It appears that this forty-year-old man is lame and depends on handouts to support his existence in his disabled condition. What the man does not realize is that his condition can actually be changed so that he need not continue to beg.

This story is a reminder that God often sees a greater ailment in our lives that may need changing that is far deeper than what we may be asking or praying for.

Peter stops and tells the man that he does not possess what the man is begging for; however, he does have something far greater. Peter says, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene – walk!” He then grabs the man’s right hand and raises him up.

Luke, the author of the book of Acts writes that “immediately his feet and his ankles were strengthened” (Acts 3:7).

Not only is the man strengthened and upright, but he begins “walking and leaping and praising God” (v.8). People who saw him were astounded because they knew something miraculous had happened, knowing that this man was the one who had been carried daily to the temple gate to plead for sustenance.

Peter’s Message

At this point, Peter answers the amazement of the people by preaching his second recorded sermon. He assures his listeners that faith in the name of Jesus has brought strength and healing to this man (Acts 3:16). He then reminds the people whom God’s prophets had foretold of “this Christ” and that by repenting of their sins they may experience His presence and “times of refreshing.” Consequently, this is a reminder to us that we need to repent and make sure we can approach our Savior with a clear conscience and a clean heart.

Next, the priests and Sadducees who have also been listening to Peter, see to it that John and Peter are arrested since this is the only immediate way they can keep them from speaking the truth.

In spite of this arrest, as many as 5,000 men who had heard the message believed! When given the opportunity to testify the next day, Peter again states that the man (who is standing there next to Peter) was made well “by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead” (Acts 4:10).

Peter tells the high priest and the others of “high priestly descent” that there is salvation only through Jesus. Peter’s words are a reminder that it is through the power of the mighty name of Jesus that we are made whole. Not our good works, our power, our religious knowledge, or our social or political standing.

Peter’s message leaves these educated leaders speechless, and they are unable to reply. They begin to talk among themselves, trying to decide what should be done with Peter and the other men with him. They even admit that a “noteworthy miracle” has happened, and therefore they “cannot deny it” (Acts 4:16). In a feeble effort to control Peter and John, they command them not to do any further teaching about Jesus. They answer by saying that it is impossible for them to stop speaking about what they have “seen and heard.”

It is natural for us to want to share our experiences with others, whether they involve a fabulous vacation, a newborn baby, or career advancement. How much greater is the urge to share the good news of salvation and healing to those who are seeking answers or to those in perilous situations.

So, what did the officials do? They “threatened them further” (Acts 4:21), but their threats were empty. They couldn’t punish Peter and John because of the crowds of people glorifying God! When the apostles were finally released, they went back to their companions to report what had happened to them. Additionally, they prayed together asking to speak God’s word with confidence while He extends His hand to heal in the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:29 – 30).

They are absolutely aware that it is the power of God through the name of Jesus that is the source of these signs and wonders.

Finally, when they had prayed, the building was shaken and they were once again filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke God’s word with boldness. Accordingly, the only way we can share God’s message is through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

Steps to Growth and Faith

Therefore, what are the steps in the process of growth and faith as evidenced by this story?

  • First, we recognize that God is in control and we are to trust Him to guide us when we speak to other people while knowing that what that person wants may not be all that God has for him or her.
  • Second, making sure we have a repentant heart and a clear conscience so that we may clearly hear the voice of the Lord when He is leading.
  • Third, we learn that it is the power of the name of Jesus that makes us whole. It is not about us and our good works.
  • Forth, it is desirable for us to maintain a close relationship with the Lord through His word and by hearing His voice, so we can share with others the “signs and wonders” that we are experiencing.
  • Fifth, it is God “who works in us both to will and do His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).
  • Sixth, the only way we can truly share God’s love and His good news to others is through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

Wrangling, Part II

A Brief Follow-up

Shortly after posting my last article, titled “Wrangling About Words,” I had a dream.  

I was out fishing with some friends in a boat near where we are currently living in Belize.  One of the fishermen wanted to give a fish to one of his village friends, but he couldn’t remember which fish it was he had caught.  He said something like, “You know, the one that looks like a large trout!”

An argument arose, each man naming the fish by a different name.  After a very intense discussion, I finally held up the fish itself and said, “Surely, we can agree on what to call this fish!”

I was relieved that the argument was over when I awoke from the dream, even though we still hadn’t named the fish.  I lay there in the darkness thinking about the final message, and I was reminded of my recent blog article.  

First, I realized that the fish itself was more than a name, more than just a word.  Instead, it was a vital piece of food for someone in the Belizean village who needed subsistence.  Arguing about what it was called and even agreeing on a name wouldn’t satisfy the hunger of the recipient.

Second, I recalled that Jesus called some of his new followers to be  “fishers of men.”

18Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”20Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him (Matthew 4:18-20).

I realized that arguing over the name of a fish will not catch a fish, any more than arguing over Church doctrines will bring people into the Kingdom of God.  Instead, wrangling about biblical teachings only convinces non-believers that Christians are deceiving themselves into thinking that they truly know and understand the Scriptures that we claim to be the Word of God which we have personally received.

Let us all agree to cease arguing over doctrines and teachings.  Surely, we can agree on what to call Jesus: the Messiah and Savior, Who came into the world to redeem us from the bondage of sin.


Wrangling About Words

Responding to Critics

Since beginning in Christian ministry in 1973, first as an Associate Pastor (licensed), continuing as a home group leader and Bible study teacher, then as a senior pastor and church founder (ordained), and now as an online blogger, I have been accused on a number of occasions of being a “false teacher,” trying to start a cult and gain followers, or be like so many other prominent televangelists and megachurch leaders who seek to gain fame and wealth.  

I can understand the concerns of my accusers, for the Apostle Peter warned against just such “false prophets” in the following passage:

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep (II Peter 2:1-3).

It is not in my nature to become bitter and angry when I receive such accusations against my life and ministry, though I am only too willing to respond and explain my background, teachings,  and calling when confronted by those who are willing to listen.  

I fully understand that some of my teachings may conflict with many of the more standard interpretations of the Scriptures obtained from theology texts or consumed in seminaries and Bible colleges.  I also acknowledge my weaknesses, for I am not trained in the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew and Greek), for example.  However, I  believe my inadequacies are sufficiently compensated for by my willingness to consult expert opinions and translations online, as well as use a Greek thesaurus.

My Qualifications

With a Ph.D.  in literature and more than twenty years experience as a university professor, I believe I am fully trained in recognizing and adapting the genres of literature and written texts, while applying the norms for these genres to biblical texts, a context that is not always followed by many Bible teachers and preachers.  Those who delight in interpreting the Scriptures literally, for example, do not always acknowledge that some passages are nonsensical if interpreted literally.

Christ’s references to the “bread” and “cup” in the Gospel accounts  of The Last Supper, for example, do not mean that the elements of the communion are literally the body and blood of Jesus, although many Christians believe in “transubstantiation.”  An example of taking a metaphor literally.  Surely, Jesus wasn’t condoning cannibalism, as the Early Church was accused of teaching.

Apocalyptic writings in the Bible, mainly in Daniel and the Book of Revelation, are also interpreted literally, even though such writings are obviously made up of dreams, signs, symbols and the extra-textual meanings of these kinds of writings.  In addition, I once heard a Bible teacher relate that the “locusts” in the Book of Revelation refer to the “helicopters” in today’s conditions, which meant that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent given the kind of warfare being fought during the Vietnam era.  And how long has it been since then?  Remember when Henry Kissinger was labeled the AntiChrist?  Or was it Anwar Sadat?  

The Apostle Peter continues in his letter to advise and admonish Christians as follows:

14Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Peter 2:14-18)

Clearly, Peter the fisherman had some difficulty understanding the educated Apostle Paul’s letters, for even he, the “rock,” found them “hard to understand.”

Notice, however, that Peter does not counsel that believers must vehemently argue with and condemn or accuse any teachers with whom we disagree. He instead simply advises believers to beware so as not to be “carried away” with teachings that espouse greed and licentiousness.

Indeed, the Apostle Paul admonishes Timothy, his disciple, not to fight, or “wrangle,” over “words,” or perhaps such acronyms as the “TULIP” of Calvinism.

I, personally, have chosen to teach from the Scriptures rather than a book someone has written, whether in the 1600’s or in the 21st Century.    

14Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers  (II Timothy 2:14).

Surely, Paul does not condone false teachings, but instead says that wrangling and fighting are “useless” and lead those who hear such wrangling to ruin.

Indeed, I have tried to explain certain biblical teachings to some of my opponents, only to see the homegroup meetings or Bible classes disrupted and almost destroyed.  Some people simply will not be convinced in spite of clear evidence in Scripture passages, primarily because they do not like what they have learned to be opposed.  Thus, they rise up in “unrighteous indignation.”

The Holy Spirit’s Teachings

Jesus related to His disciples that the Father would send the Holy Spirit to them, both to empower them to spread the Good News of the Gospel, but also to be their Teacher: “ But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:6).

I have been listening to sermons and teachings since my childhood, yet I am persuaded that I learn only when the Holy Spirit is the inspiration for these messages and He confirms their truths in my heart.  Consequently, while I admire and listen continually to a number of Bible teachers, I am mostly focused on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to live, learn, and grow.

In addition, as a Bible teacher I have been most moved recently by such Scriptures as the following:

  1. Job 12:22 “He reveals mysteries from the darkness And brings the deep darkness into light.
  2. Daniel 2:28:  “However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.”
  3. Daniel 2:29:  “As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.”
  4. Daniel 2:47:  “The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.”
  5. Matthew 13:11:  “Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.”
  6. Luke 8:10:  “And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.”
  7. 1 Corinthians 4:1: “Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.”
  8. 1 Corinthians 13:2:  “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.
  9. 1 Corinthians 14:2:  “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.

The Apostle Paul’s defense of his own teachings includes the following:

 “Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak” (II Corinthians 12:1-4).

Thus, Paul’s teachings, which comprise most of the New Testament, were revealed to Him as “mysteries,” which defined means, “the secrets God desires to reveal to His people.”  Consequently, the purpose of this Biblical Mysteries Revealed blog site is to share what I have learned about these mysteries.

Back to Peter

One teaching that continues to be highly controversial concerns “End Times” prophecy, for the reasons stated above, as well as the desire to sell books, perhaps, among other reasons.  Concerning this mystery, Peter wrote the following:

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:3-9)

Unlike so many teachers today, however, Peter does not, in an attempt to sell books, try to pick the “day or the hour” of Christ’s return (which only the Father knows!) nor does he try to locate the “anti-Christ” (who obviously was not the Emperor Nero!).  

Peter continues on to write the following:

10 As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11 seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look. 

13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (I Peter 1:10-13)

Therefore, even those who declared the prophetic Words of the Lord, following the leadings of the Holy Spirit, did not presume to “serve themselves” by trying to gain fame and fortune by publishing best sellers or make films about the End Times, as is the case today.

It even appears that lately, such false teachers are resorting to astrology to predict End Times events (“blood moons” and Jupiter’s emergence from the “womb” of the constellation Virgo).


It is fruitless to “wrangle” over such teachings, however.  We are only told by Peter and Paul to beware lest we be led astray.  We need only be concerned with keeping our lamps filled with “oil,” so that when Christ appears, we all will see Him in His glory, and we will forever be with Him!  

Which Film Will You Be Watching?

Many Available Choices

When Jesus Christ returns with the sound of the trumpet, after the “tribulation of those days,” (Matthew 24:29-30), what kind of movie or television program will you be watching?

Many people may be watching the latest “blockbuster,” either in a theater, on a DVD player, or using video streaming online.  One of the options might be a film about a single woman who has opened herself to the sexual temptations offered by the film’s hero, the attractive superstar who has never been turned down.  Consequently, the heroine is facing the choice of continuing with her pregnancy and having her baby or taking the advice of Planned Parenthood (what an ironic name!) and destroying the unborn child in her womb.     

More Choices 

On the other hand, a number of people who believe that the Scriptures are the true Word of God may be watching a film about Mary, the virgin who found herself carrying a child after the angel of the Lord had told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her.  The angel said,  “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. (Luke 1:31).  In spite of the possibility of condemnation and scorn from her friends, family, and even her future husband (Joseph), however, Mary said to the Angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (v. 38).  Her faith in the proclamation of the Lord was enough to carry her through the persecutions of King Herod and to comfort her in the events to come, even to the point of seeing her son’s horrific death and crucifixion.

Another film some people might have found compelling and would be watching when Jesus comes again concerns our culture’s current uncertainties about “gender identity.”  In the film, titled Born Again, (rated R for V, N, AC, AL)  a young adult man finds himself confused to the point of suicide. His problems began when he was still in elementary school after being sexually abused by an older teenager.  Because as a child he had often imagined himself turning into a girl when he got older, he, therefore, decided that perhaps he was indeed a girl “trapped” inside a boy’s body, as so many people were explaining in the newscasts and online forums he was listening to.  This path led him not only to seek and endure further abuse, but also to suffer the physical harm he would endure from unnatural sex practices, to the point where he contracted sexually transmitted diseases and extreme mental distress.  In the end, he decided to take medical treatments and surgery to be changed into a woman. His agonies did not cease after his transition, however, and he ended up taking his own life by overdosing on drugs. 

Other people might be watching a film about a woman who awakens to find herself surrounded by a beautiful garden filled with flowers and living streams of water.  She turns and sees a large form beside her, who puts his hand on her shoulder and comforts her in her confusion.  Her fears are quenched by his kindness and tender touch, and she quickly learns how to communicate with him in his language of love.  She realizes that she is like him in many ways, although some of her body parts are very different.  She does not see these as problems, however, for their coming together seems to right, entirely understandable, and satisfying.  When he tells her that she was formed out of a rib in his side, she isn’t perplexed or confused, but instead sees herself indeed as being “one” with him in many ways.  As he had said to her, she was indeed “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23).

Films for Families

A father and mother, both of whom were scientists, atheists, and university professors, were watching a film with their children, confident that a science fiction film would be enlightening and entertaining to the whole family.  The science fiction, however, soon turned to occult spiritualistic themes with alien ghosts and demonically evil antagonists.  The children were afraid even to look at the television, with one young girl standing in the room’s hallway so she could quickly escape if the violence turned ugly.  The parents were certain that there was no harm in the film, however, and agreed together that their children could benefit from seeing the evils of religious beliefs and practices, and seeing such an expanded vision of their universe, while learning how to cope with dangerous situations in life.

Another family with three young children was watching a film about the life of Jesus Christ.  One particular scene struck the children immensely:

And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)

The parents looked at their three kids in wonder and amazement, for they couldn’t comprehend Jesus’ statements about receiving the kingdom of God like little children.  Laughing together, they talked about the messy rooms and hilarious predicaments they continually visualized at home.  But they also were amazed at the love Jesus had for the children, finding their own kids in Jesus’ loving arms. Likewise, they held their sleepy children and carried them up to their rooms.

Keep the Lamps Full

Another possible film might be a depiction of the “Parable of  the 10 Virgins,” told by Jesus Christ:

Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps (Matthew 25:1-4).
Watching a film does not mean that our lamps will be full or not, but the oil in the lamps is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and when Jesus comes again, just as the bridegroom comes in the parable, we must be sure to have our lamps filled with oil.  Our hearts need to be constantly full to ensure that they will be full when Christ appears.  The Apostle Paul exhorted the Church in Ephesus not to “grieve” the Holy Spirit, by whom they were “sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).  And Paul also wrote, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).
Clearly, we understand that watching a film will not make us drunk in the way that indulging in alcohol will.  However, we must be aware of what we take into our lives that may lead to “dissipation.”  We need to take in what will not grieve the Holy Spirit, who lives and moves in the lives of all believers. 
Jesus taught his disciples that they needed to fill their hearts with “what is good.”
“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45).
As is said in terms of computers and internet technology, “Garbage in…garbage out.” In the same way, we will reveal what is in our hearts by what comes out of our mouths.  We must, therefore, be filled with the Spirit and the Word of God.  Thus, by filling our lamps with the oil of the Holy Spirit, we will bring forth what is good.

My Personal Story

Only one or two years ago, I was accused by a text message sent from a person whom I did not even know, of seeking to start a new cult and raise up to myself a new crowd of followers.  

This person had never even spoken to me, at least that I am aware, so he couldn’t have known for sure whether his accusations were true.  Since he didn’t know me, he didn’t know that I have never tried to be “cool” enough to start a cult, for I have never liked Cool Aid.  I have had no desire to lead a group of “followers,” hoping they would give me either recognition or money.  Instead, I have always tried to set an example of godliness in the churches or groups I have pastored or led, never even taking a salary in the last two churches.  I have sought only to be a giver, not a taker, unlike the leaders of most cults.

In addition, I have sought only to “equip the saints for the work of service and the building up of the Body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12), doing the best I can, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to encourage and exhort, speaking the Truth in love and rightly dividing the Word of Truth.    

Therefore, I hope to be ready when the Lord appears, with my lamp filled with oil. 



Who Is In the Mirror?

Entirely Unexpected

I recently finished reading a extraordinary book on Kindle, a memoir titled, “Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary With the Bard,” written by Laura Bates, a professor and volunteer teacher of Shakespeare in a maximum security prison in Indiana.  

As a retired Professor of English myself, with over 20 years experience teaching some of Shakespeare’s plays, as well as numerous other challenging texts in literature and composition classes (Seriously?  War and Peace?), while also teaching English majors to teach English as secondary education teachers (grades 7-12) for many years, I was poignantly reminded while reading this book of my own struggles to make my classes not only interesting for my students, but also challenging and meaningful, not to mention obtaining tenure and promotions.  

My students were usually very motivated to become teachers themselves, or at least complete their undergraduate degrees. I never considered, however, that teaching Hamlet, Macbeth, or Othello would bring significant changes into my students’ lives.  

Professor Bates, however, taught Shakespeare’s plays not only to prisoners, but also to the worst criminal offenders who had been confined in a supermax solitary prison. While doing so, she had to hand out assignments and hold group discussions with only eight students, yet all had to sit in separate cells, conversing through the very small “windows” used to pass meals to the prisoners.    

One of the Worst

One of these prisoners was Larry Newman, known to be the most dangerous prisoner in the Indiana state’s Westville supermax prison” (Bates, 17).  Although he was a fifth-grade dropout and a convicted murderer, with two escape attempts on his record, stabbing one of the prison guards during one attempt, Larry is the focus of much of the book because of his life-changing encounters while reading and studying Shakespeare’s plays.

Larry Newman’s experiences growing up in an abusive home and a crime-filled neighborhood gave him significant insights into some of the problems raised in Shakespeare’s plays, such as the gang-warfare in Romeo and Juliet (Capulets versus the Montagues) or the murders of King Duncan in Macbeth and Othello’s murder of his wife Desdemona because of Othello’s jealous rage. While reading these scenes in Shakespeare’s plays, Newman must confront the decisions he has made in his own life and is forced to challenge his own tightly held positions.  

Consequently, studying Shakespeare’s plays under Laura Bates changed his life, and he became one of the reasons why Bates’ program was so successful with other prisoners, as he participated with her in the classes, continually adding insightful contributions to the weekly lessons and discussions. Ultimately, he even partnered with Dr. Bates in writing a detailed guide to teaching Shakespeare’s plays to inmates, and he even began taking classes to obtain a Ph. D. while in prison to pursue his goal of becoming a professor himself, even though parole would never be possible in his lifetime.

Previously, Newman had spent over ten years in solitary confinement, his only contact with another human being occurring when he was handcuffed and escorted to a restroom, or when he was finally allowed to attend the Shakespeare classes with Dr. Bates.  In the class, titled “Shakespeare in Shackles,” Newman is confronted with such topics as honor, revenge, and conscience, forcing him and the other prisoners to consider their own actions from a new perspective provided by Shakespeare 400 years ago.

A Changed Man

At one point, after three years of partnering with Dr. Bates, the following conversation took place (Bates, 174):

“Where do you think you would be without Shakespeare?”  

Newman responded, saying, “I wouldn’t be anywhere I am today.  I know that.  I’d either be in deeper trouble–tried to escape and been in worse trouble than I was–or maybe I would’ve just that one day developed the courage to . . . you know what I mean?”

“Suicide?” I asked hesitantly.

Heck, yeah,” he replied.  “I was ready to go! I can’t tell you how much I was.” 

After musing on his suicidal thoughts, Newman continued to say,

“But the point is, the being dead part never worried me.  It seemed like a very plausible alternative.  So that’s not even what makes me the happiest.  I like being alive, I like my life, but what makes me the happiest is that I just really feel like I can go anywhere and do anything. I make decisions now ’cause that’s what makes me the happiest.  

Laura Bares is amazed and speechless:

I had worked with this prisoner for more than three years, but I had no idea that Shakespeare–and I–had that kind of impact on him.  I had never had that kind of impact on anyone.  I had never saved anyone’s life before (176).

Finding the Pattern

As both a literature teacher and a student of the Bible, I am always intrigued when I see “patterns” in a text, particularly the Scriptures.  These patterns might also be described as “similarities,” or “repeated phrases,” or “repeated themes,” for these patterns reveal helpful insights into the truths of the biblical teachings, the “mysteries” that the Holy Spirit desires to reveal to us.  

One such pattern is found in the following verses:

  • When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known (I Corinthians 13:12).
  • But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (II Corinthians 3:18).
  • For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25).

Beholding As In a Mirror

By reading these passages closely you will see that they all use the example of “looking into a mirror” to reveal how we are to see ourselves–not as we think we are but as we truly are.
The pattern revealed in these similar passages first highlights the perspectives of looking into the mirror as a “child,” or with a “veiled” face, or by merely seeing the “natural face” that appears.  This image may quickly be forgotten, while the image that appears in the “perfect law of liberty,” or a different kind of mirror, is an image that once adhered to leads to being blessed in all that we do. 
A significant indicator, therefore, of spiritual maturity is the ability to see ourselves consistently not through our natural senses but through the perspectives, we gain by “thinking with the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:16), or seeing ourselves as Christ sees us.  

While no record exists of Larry Newman’s encountering Jesus Christ and finding eternal salvation through Him, he did escape earthly destruction by viewing and identifying with human encounters through the examples of Shakespeare’s plays which enabled him to reorder his thoughts and find new directions not based on his previous misconceptions about life and death.  

Ironically, however, Shakespeare’s plays do not provide the same kind of freedom and liberty that the Word of God provides, for His Word is “perfect”:

But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does (James 1:25).

Sadly, many representations in our culture today have stated that not only is God dead, but also Truth is dead, as portrayed on a recent edition of Time Magazine (Source).

April 8, 1966

Commenting on these covers, Jonathan Van Maren writes,

As far as our culture is concerned, God is dead, and so is truth. An institution no less respected than TIME Magazine announced their respective departures from the culture. But I can’t help but think of the origin of the phrase “God is dead.” It came from the nihilist philosopher Friedrich Nietszche, in his parable “The Madman,” where he wondered with appropriate panic, where morality would come from once God left (Source).

Van Maren continues to expose the latest examples of the opposition of fact and fiction:

We now reject every constraint on our own so-called right to radical self-determination, even if those constraints are biology and reality. That is why a full-grown man can decide to leave his family and live as a six-year-old girl, and the media coverage of this is largely subdued and respectful. That is why there is a new group of human beings who identify as non-human beings—rather, they are “Otherkin,” people who identify as certain animals. This is treated with long-faced solemnity by our cultural elites, because truth is dead and people can be whatever they want, even if they are obviously not what or who they say they are (Source).

Larry Newman found much freedom, not by denying the truths about himself and his life but by acknowledging the truths about his mistakes and misconceptions about himself.  May God give him the grace to see all the way to “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:16).


Moving For Purpose, Part II (By Jan Jenkins)

Moving Ahead 

After visiting and sharing with Pastor Herdie, we walked to the CPC Real Estate office the next day, where we met John Stewart, who has lived in Belize for 20 years, but still has a home in Pennsylvania.  John took us to see several houses, but nothing seemed to stand out.

John then told us about some lots for sale along the canal and along the Sea at the southern end of Hopkins, in an area called Sittee Point (pronounced like “city”).  John took us to see some of them and then dropped us off at our cabana.  We needed time to process what we had seen, to pray and listen, and to talk together about all of the possibilities.

On Friday morning, we went out together for an early swim in the sea.  Our morning swim had become part of our morning routine while we were there in Belize since the incredibly warm Caribbean Sea was only about 60 feet out from the front door of our cabana.

We then decided to do more exploring of the village.  We found a wood worker, named Alex, who made beautiful carvings out of the native woods of Belize.  We picked a few small carvings that would fit into our suitcases to bring home for gifts, but when we went to pay, we realized we hadn’t brought enough money.  He pointed to two bicycles that were parked in front of his little shop and told us we could use them to go back to our cabana instead of having to walk.  He even let us take the carvings with us.  We bicycled the six blocks or so and got our money and then returned to pay Alex.

Finding a Lot on the Sea

We went to see John, the realtor, again to ask him about the lots for sale.  He took us for a drive to look at properties, and about an hour later we took our step of faith and made an offer on a lot! We had decided to build rather than purchase a home that could already have upkeep problems.  We had God’s peace and believed that if this was in God’s will to happen, He would make a way for us.  We had the money to pay for the lot, so if nothing else, it would be a good investment.  We found out that the property tax would only be $20 a year whether we built a house or not!  We felt very happy and took another swim in the sea to celebrate!

Sunday came, and as we floated in the water during our morning swim, we shared our thoughts about God’s direction and prayed that He would continue to direct us.  Again, we felt His peace.  We had learned long ago that if we wanted God to direct us, we needed to begin moving and trust that He would keep us on the right path.  Like someone has said, “It’s much harder to move a parked car than one that is already moving.”  Additionally, our God provides a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path” Psalm119:105.

A Wave Hits

We talked to both of our daughters about our plans, and after explaining what we felt God was doing in our lives and feeling they understood, we wired the deposit money to Belize so that the purchase could proceed.  Now there were lots of little “waves” in the water, but in spite of occasional overwhelming feelings about all the decisions ahead of us, we felt peace and we were determined that we would keep our eyes on Jesus.

In May, 2016, I began working on floor plans for a house in Belize.  I looked at a few samples and even measured the rooms in our house here so I could have an idea of room sizes.  This was fun, and I went through pages and pages of drafting paper coming up with various ideas, showing them to Charles for his input, and then making more changes.

By the end of May, I had a couple of rough drawings that I thought would work.  When we were in Belize, our Realtor had introduced us to Dennis, who was about six weeks into a build there.  He gave us a business card for his builder whom he highly recommended.  Additionally, we had heard of a builder who built square or rectangle houses and then moved the house to the property to set up and finish.

I spent a month sending rough plans to these two companies, getting feedback and making changes.  We decided to go with the builder who was building the house for Dennis and who would build the whole house on our lot rather than moving it in.  Communication with R. G. Home Builders was easy, and they always responded quickly.

I emailed Rolando Gonzalez, the owner and contractor of R. G. Home Builders, and told him we would like him to build our house and requested an estimate on my floor plan.  In a couple of days, he sent his estimate.  It was much more than we thought it would be. We felt like we had hit a big wave this time.  Our plan to sell our house here and downsize to something small to rent or buy might not work, we thought!  For one thing, we realized that the first listing price the realtor had suggested for our house here in Pennsylvania was probably too high, so we had lowered our asking price.

We didn’t believe the Lord wanted us to get into debt with this Belize property either, so I sent an email to Rolando asking about changes to bring the cost down.  We still felt peace, however, and we believed it would work out.  Reading I and II Thessalonians seemed so timely, and so many verses jumped out and ministered to us. One scripture became a prayer for Pastor Herdie and the church in Hopkins:

For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith?  (I Thessalonians 3:9-10)

For ourselves, we prayed the following prayer:

To this end also we pray… that our God will count [us] worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power.  (II Thessalonians 1:11-12)

Rolando had a few suggestions and sent another estimate.  It was still too high. We had gotten some idea of building prices when we were in Belize, and these estimates seemed so much higher.  Our house hadn’t sold, we hadn’t even gotten an offer yet, but even if it sold, we wouldn’t have enough money to cover this last estimate, along with other associated costs, such as where we would live while home in Pennsylvania.  Charles, in faith, had even written about our calling to Belize in his online blog site.  We had felt sure about Rolando and now we urgently believed that we needed to keep “walking on the water” and keeping our eyes on Jesus.

I went back to my Bible, reading again in Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians.  In Chapter five I read, “Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass” (I Thessalonians 5:24).

A couple of days later, I was looking again at the estimate.  I was stunned when I saw at the top of the column written in very small letters:  BZD,  (or “Belize Dollars”).  Rolando’s estimate was in Belize dollars, not US dollars!  That meant that the house would cost half as much as we thought it would.  I charged out of the house to find Charles and tell him what I had discovered.  We truly believe God sent us a huge blessing that day.

Calm Waters

Suddenly the waves were gone, and the water was calm.  It was easy to see that Jesus was with us.  There was a great deal of praise and happy dancing going on that day!  We emailed Rolando and gave him permission to have his architect look at our floor plan.  Working with the architect, Salim, we spent a few weeks exchanging ideas and came up with a final plan. We then received another estimate which we interpreted correctly and knew that with the sale of our house here we could pay for this home and remain debt free.  Now the build was contingent upon the completed purchase of the lot.

In June we made a decision to sell our camper/travel trailer.  It was only two years old, and we had taken good care of it, but we figured we would not use it enough to keep, and it would be nice to have the money for our move.  We found a large dealership in Bath, NY, that would sell it on consignment, so we took it up there and prayed it would sell quickly.  It didn’t sell quickly, but amazingly it did sell late in August.  By then we had begun to think about bringing it home since it was so late in the summer.  Who would buy the travel trailer when camping season was almost over?  Once again, God showed us who was in control!

On June 11th and 12th we had a huge moving sale at a friend’s house located on a busy road.  We sold a bed, sofa set, table, dressers, and many household items and tools.  It was exhausting, but it felt good to be rid of things we no longer needed.  With assurance, we told anyone who asked that we were scaling down to move part-time to Belize and live in a smaller house here.  We had the Salvation Army pick up everything we had left over.

A month later on July 11th, we received an offer to buy our house.  We were so grateful, and we felt encouraged in our faith journey.  Then, on July 18, we got a congratulatory message saying that the sale on the Belize lot was complete and we were the new owners of number 32, Sittee Point, Belize.  All we could do was thank the Lord for making our path clear.

The next day we contacted the surveyor our builder Rolando had recommended since we needed an up-to-date survey of the Belize lot.  We wired the money, and the surveyor emailed us a couple of days later  to write that he had finished surveying.  We then learned from Rolando that we needed to apply for a building permit.  Both Rolando and our Real Estate Agent in Belize, John Stewart, helped us through this process.  It would apparently take four to six weeks to be approved.

Another Wave Hits

Near the end of July, however, another large wave hit.  Our Real Estate Agent here in the U.S. phoned to say that the buyers had changed their minds and didn’t feel like they could continue with the purchase of our home.  We were too stunned to talk about it, but both of us prayed.  I went by myself into the bathroom and quietly told the Lord I wasn’t going to complain because our plan was His plan and He knew the timing.  This was not easy to do because my feelings of fear hit hard.

We had gone so far with our commitment in Belize, and we were so excited about God’s call!  Charles went outside to do some yard work which I understood was his place to be alone and pray.  There were so many parts to this puzzle, and they all had to be pieced together for this vision to be accomplished.

About four hours later the Real Estate agent phoned and said, “You must have been praying!”  I told her we certainly had been.  “Well, your buyers have changed their minds; they really want your house.”  Wow!  To say we were relieved is an understatement.  The sea had calmed.  We figured we would need to plan another trip to Belize after closing in September so we could meet the builder in person and make decisions about colors, countertops, and the placement of the house on the lot.

The buyers sent a home inspector to look at the house, and we began checking off the list of improvements he felt were necessary.  It was a little mind boggling at first since one of the improvements necessary was a whole new heating and air conditioning system.  We had no idea ours was so near collapse.  Again, though, we trusted that God would get us through this move debt free.  We needed to keep our eyes on Him and not on the waves.  We had already seen God meet our needs so many times when we trusted Him.

Surging Waves Hit

On August 5th the Real Estate agent phoned and said she had bad news again.  My heart felt like it dropped to the floor.  We had made arrangements with our daughter and son-in-law to rent a small house they owned on their property.  It hadn’t been lived in for several years, so we were there cleaning and repairing when we got the phone call.  “The buyers have changed their minds again and they won’t be purchasing your house.”   This was the biggest and hardest hitting wave yet.

Momentarily, we lost sight of Jesus in the midst of the huge wave crashing over us.  Charles and I gave each other a despairing look and again felt too shocked initially to talk much about it.  Our only communication was, “What do we do now?”  We held hands and said a quick prayer and then went back to our work on the house.  So far, we owned the lot in Belize, which had been surveyed, and we had applied for a building permit.  Our house had been scheduled to close around September 5th, and Rolando, our builder, had told us he could begin the build the first of October, providing he received the permit and first installment payment.

All the puzzle pieces had flown apart.  Both of us were praying and seeking God, although the temptation to sink in the water was great.  Many times we had to ask for His peace.  We both decided that if we had gotten it wrong, we would be willing to let go of the vision and be satisfied with having invested in a lot in Belize.  I emailed Rolando and told him to put the plans on hold until we notified him that we had sold our house.

He wrote back, “No worries.  I can do that.”  Yes, if we were truly walking with the Lord and keeping our eyes on Him, we shouldn’t have any worries.  It was a struggle to deal with relisting our house and starting over again, but we signed all the paperwork again, and the house went back on the market.

The Word says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  We needed to trust and not waver just because we didn’t understand what was happening.  In Matthew 8, Jesus needed to get away from the crowds, and He told His disciples they were going to the other side of the sea (V. 18).

When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.  And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”  He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?”  Then He got up and rebuked the winds and sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:23-27).

I imagine the disciples didn’t understand why Jesus would have them get into a boat and experience a horrifying storm.  Jesus clearly reminded them that with faith they could be overcomers, no matter what they faced.  We only needed to ask Jesus to rebuke the “winds and sea” on our behalf.

After a few days, with humble hearts, Charles and I both felt that we needed to operate in faith again, so we could observe how Jesus was going to rescue this situation.  We notified Rolando that he could continue to plan on building the house in October.  We knew we had enough savings to make the first payment of the build and God would provide.  With this decision made, our spirits felt renewed, and we felt like we were back where we were supposed to be.  It was entirely up to Him to put all the puzzle pieces together.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you (I Peter 5:6-7).

In August Rolando sent us a picture of the lot to show us what the surveyor had done.  When we looked at it, it didn’t look right.  I sent the picture to our Real Estate agent, John, who immediately wrote back saying that this picture was not of our lot!  John went to our lot and notified us that it had not been surveyed.  We contacted Rolando and told him to have the surveyor stop by the Real Estate Office and have John show him the correct lot.

After going to the lot with John, the surveyor emailed an apology and told us he would survey our lot immediately.  On August 22, John sent us an email verifying that our lot had been surveyed.  God had truly protected us again.  With much relief, we thanked him for his help and then contacted Evan at Royale International, Belize, to tell him he could begin the excavating. Without even a deposit, this wonderful company began excavating around September 1st.

Another Trip to Belize

We decided after this experience that it would be a good idea to visit Belize again for a week, so we could meet face to face with Evan, the excavator, and Rolando, the contractor.  We left on September 8th; this time we had an uneventful flight to Belize City airport and then flew in the little Maya Cessna plane to Dangriga, Belize, where our friend Golden picked us up and drove us to Hopkins.  It was fun to see him and be greeted by someone we knew.  Golden’s huge smile is contagious.  In the car he pointed out where several places were and answered our questions about the church in Hopkins.  He was excited because he was getting a license to be able to take people on fishing excursions.

We stayed at a resort called Jaguar Reef, not far from our lot.   We were greeted Belizean style and given drinks upon our arrival and then shown to our little cabana with a palapa roof.  It was beautiful and comfortable, but we were excited to go see our lot.  We unpacked and each got a bicycle provided by the resort and took off.

The lot was only about a mile up the road, but we still had a little difficulty remembering where it was.  When we found it, we were astonished at how picturesque the property looked. The excavators had leveled the lot and removed the mangrove trees and gigantic roots down near the water.  We stepped into the warm Caribbean Sea, and it felt wonderful.  The sense of God’s blessing was so powerful, we were overwhelmed with excitement and anticipation.

We biked back and had a fish burrito dinner at a café near the resort.  Mostly expats were eating there since the café is located near the resorts at the south end of Hopkins Village.  We had Belize style burritos and fried plantain chips, which were fun to try, and we liked the taste.


Local Fishermen

The next morning we resumed the routine we had started during our last visit in April and took a morning swim in the sea.  As expected, it was warm and calm.    We were fascinated to watch as several men launched a very heavy looking canoe.  When they go out fishing in Hopkins Village, they must drag or push the boat from the sand out into the water and then jump in since there are no close docks in the village.  Upon returning, they head straight into the sand as fast as they can and then pull the boat up on the dry sand.  If there is a motor, one man lifts it up just as they get into the very shallow water, and the boat shoots up on the sand.

We made plans to meet Evan, our excavator, at the lot a little later in the day, so we bicycled down to the Real Estate office where John Stewart worked, which was also on the way to the lot.  We wanted to thank him in person for all the help he had given, and it was good to see him again, like meeting an old friend.  He invited us to meet him and his wife, Paragi, at a local café called Lucky Lobster for dinner that night.  After a nice visit, we bicycled down to meet with Evan. 


It was encouraging to meet and talk to Evan, our excavator, as we watched one of his crew leveling the lot and seeing how conscientiously they did their work.  We asked him about payment, and he said he would send us the bill when the work was completed in about two days, and we could pay him after we were back in the States.  “No worries!”  We were surprised at his trust in us!  Evan piled our bikes in the back of his truck and gave us a ride back to our resort.

We relaxed and cooled off a while in our room and then went for a bike ride around the village.  September is the month when many of the expats and locals who own resorts, cafes, and other businesses take off.  Several of the places where we liked to eat and visit were closed.  We stopped at Golden’s shop to visit a little. It was fun to see the Hopkins kids coming back to school after their noon lunch break.  We found a little bakery located next to a house and bought some cakes to take back to our cabana for lunch.

On Saturday, we biked to Pastor Herdie’s house.  He was not there because he had been invited to speak in Guatemala.  We had a short visit with one of his sons, though, who was very friendly and polite. Charles left one of his books for Pastor Herdie to read.

Riding back, we got pretty hot, so we took another swim in the sea and then had a relaxing afternoon and evening at the resort.  We looked forward to visiting the church again.

Sunday morning, as we were walking along the beach, three young Garifuna boys approached us asking if we wanted to donate money for their soccer team.  We told them we had already donated to the girls’ soccer team, but that didn’t dissuade them.  It’s hard not to support these kids, even though we don’t know if they really are on a soccer team because they have so little.

Unfortunately, because they spot us as tourists, we’re sometimes targets because they think we’re rich, but we do have so much more than they do.  We talked to them for a little while, asking them if they liked to play baseball.  They said they didn’t play because this sport isn’t as familiar to them as soccer.  We asked them if they’d like to play if they had baseball equipment.  One got a little excited and asked, “Can we have hats like that?” pointing at the cap Charles was wearing.  It seemed like they were more interested in caps than in having a ball, bat, or glove.  We would love to have had three caps to give them right then, but maybe we will be able to bring some with us when we go back.

One of the ideas we’ve had is to have a baseball camp where we could show the kids how to play baseball and then have Bible classes with them.  It would be wonderful to have groups come to Hopkins for periods of time to hold Christian baseball camps, too.  The village has a large level park where they could possibly play.

For lunch we ate at the Jaguar Reef Resort, where we were staying.  Part of the meal included yucca (pronounced “you-ka” by locals) fries.  They’re a little more solid in texture and chewy than potato fries, but so delicious.  The Yucca Giganta plant is native to Belize and Costa Rica.  It was fun to try something new.  Interestingly, much of the food there is a variation of Mexican food with which we are very familiar.

We decided to rent a golf cart at the resort to drive into the village for dinner before we went to church.  There weren’t too many places open, but at the north end of the village, we found a small place called Northside Kitchen with a few tables set up outside a house under a carport.  When we stopped, we were greeted warmly by the owner.  She didn’t have a menu, she explained, because she makes one dish and then sells it until it is gone!  Today was chicken.  It was moist and tender and yummy.

While we were eating, we talked to a couple of women who were there visiting the owner.  It was an enjoyable meal and another opportunity to meet a few of the locals.  It was surprising how many people came by for take-out while we sat there and ate.  When we finished, we said “good-bye” to everyone and told them we would be back in February when our house was built.

We wanted to go to the little grocery store to get some snacks, and on the way, we saw two women walking.  We asked them if they wanted a ride, and they were so happy.  They talked, giggled, and waved to friends as we drove to the grocery store.

Coming out of the store, we saw a little boy who looked familiar.  He asked if he could go for a ride on the golf cart. I asked him if he was one of the boys that sell cakes.  It turned out he was one of the boys who would come to our cabana every night when we had been in Hopkins last April.  He told us his name was Brayden.  We told him he could have a ride, but that we were going to church, so we asked if he would like to go to church with us.  He wanted to go, so we had him show us where he lived so I could check in with his parents.

It was a roundabout ride and then a walk through the brush for about a quarter of a block to his tiny house.  It probably wasn’t necessary to ask his parents since the Belizean kids seem to run comfortably around all over the village without supervision, but it was nice to meet Braydon’s mother.  She was a beautiful young woman nursing a newborn.  She told me Braydon could go to church, but he needed a bath.  I told her I thought he was fine, and we could take him “as is.”  I asked her if she wanted to go with us too, but she said she couldn’t because she had just had the baby, even though she liked going to church.

On the ride to the church, Charles asked Brayden if he knew Jesus.  He said yes, but Charles still explained to him that he could pray and ask Jesus into his heart. When we got to the church building, Brayden became bashful; he would sit with us only for a few minutes and then go outside and stand by the open side door near where we sat.

It was a joy to see Pastor Herdie.  It was a little early, so he was setting up the floor fans and some chairs.  After talking with him briefly, he began walking around silently praying like we had seen him doing last time.

As people began arriving, I saw Kendra and walked over to give her a hug.  She looked very pregnant now, but was feeling good.  I had a lollipop for her, and she giggled with delight to see it.  Kendra told me she was due in October.  I told her that the next time I saw her, I would be happy to see her baby.  She seemed pleased.  I told her I had been praying for her, and she thanked me and told me not to stop!

The singing began, and this time more songs were sung in Garifuna than before.  The music blessed us even though we didn’t understand the words.  Pastor Herdie is a songwriter, so I imagine they were singing some of his original music.  Once again, we were aware of the people’s total lack of self-consciousness and their ability to sing “from the heart” during the worship.  The lyrics were all known by the people, and there were no songbooks or projected lyrics.

The same “prayer warrior” came up, and again she again prayed right out of the Scriptures with amazing boldness and power.  What a blessing!  Two ministers from Guatemala were also visiting, and Pastor Herdie introduced them and had each one share a brief testimony in Garifuna.

Since Pastor Herdie had been out speaking during the week, he had a man speak in the service who was originally from the United States.  I think the man and his wife have been living there at Sittee River for around two years.  He shared an excellent Word-based message of faith.

We hadn’t seen Brayden for a while, and we hoped he was still outside or had gone home.  When the service ended, we talked with another couple who had moved to Dangriga from the US, and then briefly with the Pastor, who told us his wife was temporarily in Punta Gorda, Belize.  He looked very tired, so we said goodbye and hoped we’d get a chance to see him again before we left Belize.

When we went outside, we were relieved to see Brayden sitting in the golf cart waiting for us.  We took him home and then went back to the resort.  It was another enjoyable evening and we continued to feel blessed.

On Monday, after our morning swim and sharing time, we went for a bicycle ride to the village.  We had just passed the church when we saw Pastor Herdie along the road.  We stopped to say hi and asked him about his wife.  He invited us to go into the church building, and we sat down together.

He shared that two of his sons and his wife had temporarily moved to Punta Gorda, where she has relatives, and where their older boys could attend school.  They were occasionally able to visit during weekends, but it was a difficult situation.  He never complained, but repeatedly told us they were in God’s hands and He would take care of them in this transitory situation.

He additionally shared with us that his oldest daughter had died about six months before.  The story was heartbreaking, and it was hard to keep back the tears, but again Pastor Herdie was full of trust, for he had obviously received God’s peace and comfort.  While talking to him that day, we saw the hurt and pain evident after 30 years of serving as Pastor in Hopkins, but at the same time, he exudes a quiet joy and peace. 

He made us mindful of Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We shared with him that our house had not yet sold, but God had led us to “get out of the boat” and trust Him.  We further explained that we had told the builder he could go ahead and begin in October.  Even though we were completely out of our comfort zone, we told him we felt we were being led of the Lord to Hopkins Village.

He seemed to understand perfectly our situation, and we had a wonderful prayer time together, praying for all of our various needs.  As we left, both Charles and I strongly felt a release and a God-given confidence.  The burden over our house was gone, and we felt renewed.

For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.  (Philippians 1:6)    

We met Rolando and Salim, our architect, in the large lobby of Jaguar Reef later that same Monday.  We immediately had a good first impression of them both, and the more we talked about the building project, the more we felt good about it.  Salim had pages and pages of house plan diagrams from all angles, including all the electrical outlets and plumbing.  We signed the contract to build and signed off on the floorplan.

Rolando then drove us to the property.  We decided where we wanted the house to be located on the lot.  It’s going to be built on nine-foot high cement pilings, and Rolando said he would contact someone who could put the pilings in, which would be the next step.  He assured us that the building permit was coming and that we could go ahead and have the pilings put in.

He then took us to see the house he had just about finished for Dennis.  It was very impressive and well-built.  We got back in his truck and began talking more about why we were moving to Belize. Charles told him a little about our calling to Hopkins, and immediately Rolando told us that he was a Christian.  He told us about his church, and again we felt so blessed.  God had definitely brought us together, and Rolando agreed.  When he dropped us off at the resort, we felt very content.

The rest of our time at Hopkins, we relaxed.  One day we took a drive in the golf cart to the harbor and river area south of Hopkins.  As we drove we suddenly saw about 20 coatimundis run across the road ahead of us. We learned that these cute mammals are part of the raccoon family.  When we were in Belize in 2006, one of the workers at the resort had shown us a coati that was her pet.  He crawled all over her, similar to a ferret.  

On Thursday morning Golden drove us to the Dangriga Airport to begin our trip home to the U.S.  On the way he shared his amazing testimony.  We were reminded how much God loves us and reaches out to those people whose hearts are searching for Him.

Charles with Golden

We took the Cessna plane again to Belize City and then flew home to Pennsylvania from there.  Of course, it was good to see our Pennsylvania family and our dog, Louie.  We took a day to adjust, get unpacked, and get caught up on the laundry, and Charles did some yard work.

Problems With Our Home Sale

We didn’t hear anything from our Real Estate agent for a week, so we discussed whether it might be time to drop the selling price of our house once more and trust that the Lord would continue to provide what we needed for the build in Belize, as well as our housing in the U.S.  Charles, however, felt that we should wait until the following Monday before we contacted the agent.  It wasn’t long after this decision that we received a message from the Real Estate agent saying that someone wanted to see the house on Saturday, September 25th.

On the following Monday, we had an offer!  We both felt it was a direct answer to our prayers with Pastor Herdie that day when we had felt that release.  We rejoiced and believed that this time, everything would work out.  The estate closing was scheduled for October 25th.

Moving Out of Our Home

Some friends had recently moved, and they told us that they had many boxes we could use for our move.  We went over and picked up what we thought would be enough and were grateful we wouldn’t have to look everywhere for boxes.  We had finished fixing up the little house where we would be living, so we began packing and separating things we no longer needed.

Even though we had had a huge moving sale, we were still finding so many accumulated things that we no longer needed since our little rental house had only one bedroom.  It felt good to “scale down.”  We found homes for our futon, large living room rug, stereo/TV cabinet, TV, sofa, dressers, and other items.  The smaller items we donated to the Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries.  It kept us busy.

In October we moved a few things to the little house so we wouldn’t have to do it all at once.  Troy, our son-in-law, along with our daughter  Bethany and the grandsons, helped us one weekend by carrying all the heavy stuff.  The little house was starting to feel like home, and we loved it.


Meanwhile, we had to wire money to Belize to get an electric permit and then have an electrician put in an electrical pole so Rolando could begin his work.  He had moved a huge container, looking like a train car, onto the lot with all his equipment.  The nine-foot pilings were in, we learned; Rolando had the building permit, and was about ready to begin construction.

On October 7th, we made our application to the Belize Water Board to have water access for our property.  To process this application and get the water hook-up would take four to six weeks.

Meanwhile, the electrical post had been installed; now we had to purchase a permit so we could actually have electricity for the house and for its construction.  This, at least, was a little easier because BEL (Belize Electric Limited) is online and we could set up the account and make the payment directly online.  It wasn’t until October 27th that the electricity was connected and available.  At that time we were still waiting for the water hook-up.

Since we didn’t have much furniture left in our house, it was feeling pretty bare and cold.  With the help of Bethany and the grandsons, we got our heavy latex mattress moved to the little house.  We added a few personal items and moved in on October 8th.

After this, we gradually moved everything over and tried to unpack boxes as we brought them over.  Since Fall weather was beginning, I was able to put most of the summer clothes and small things we would take to Belize in plastic tubs that we stored in the garage below the house.  We enjoyed being in the little house and having the grandsons drop in now and then to see how we were doing.  Our furniture consisted of one sofa, two end tables, one cabinet, one dresser, along with our bed and two-night stands.  We felt so free!


Another Wave Hits

Everything during the escrow was going fairly smoothly until the day before closing.  On October 24th, around noon, our Real Estate agent telephoned to say we had a problem.  We could see the wave hitting again, and it was troubling, to say the least.  For some reason, the buyer’s bank had approved the loan for the house before receiving the appraisal.

Our agent told us that the appraisal had just been released, and it was $26,000 less than our selling price!  This news was astounding since our agent had agreed that our price was very marketable.  Did this mean the sale was off?  The Agent assured us she was going to find comparable sales herself to try to convince the buyers the price was reasonable.

(To Be Continued:  Part III in next Blog Post)

Moving For Purpose, Part I (by Jan Jenkins)

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Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.  Is. 40: 29 – 31

At times the days go by slowly, and at other times they seem to go by very quickly.  Our whole family was together for Thanksgiving, which felt so good, and then the surge of the Christmas season passed quickly.  After the first of the year, 2016, Chuck and I felt apathetic. He had had surgery the previous October, and the recovery took longer than we expected because of some difficulties in the operating room, so we were so thankful when he was feeling much better.  A follow-up appointment in January showed that he was doing very well, and all his following appointments since then have been encouraging.  In fact, we had much to be thankful for, so why the lethargy?  Family, home, health, church, and friends were all a blessing to us.

We began praying that we would know God’s direction and that we would discern the plan and purpose God had for us.  Was retirement going to be settling down, finding some new hobbies, or taking an extended vacation?  Charles retired from the University in the spring of 2014, and for over a year we had reveled in the freedom we had to go on short camping trips in our new travel trailer whenever we wanted.  Now, there was an inner sense that there should be more for us.  Where was our place?  Where did we fit?  We had helped with leadership in the church home groups for a couple of years, but this ministry appeared to have ended since we never received further guidance.  I don’t remember how many times I asked the Lord what our purpose was. 

Getting Acquainted with Belize in 2006


A number of years ago in 2006, we had visited Hopkins, Belize, a predominately Garifuna community in Central America, and we loved it there.  The tropical sunny climate, the beautiful Caribbean Sea, and the enchanting rainforest with the howler monkeys were a joy.  The history of Belize and particularly the Garifuna people is intriguing. For many years Belize was inhabited by the Mayan civilization which accounts for the incredible Mayan ruins that can still be seen today.  Currently, Belize is home to the Creole, Maya, Garifuna, Mestizo (Spanish and Native Americans), Mennonite (Amish) peoples, as well as a blend of many other cultures.   The Garifuna came from the inter-married Arawak Indians and Carib Indians of St. Vincent Island.  After the British tried to subdue the native people, a minority of survivors were deported to Roatan, Honduras.  However, the Garifuna were again forced to flee and landed on the southern coastline of Belize in 1832. 

In a victory over the Spanish in the Battle of St. George’s Caye in 1798, the British were given control and British Honduras became a British colony.  The name was changed on June 1, 1973, to Belize, and on September 21, 1981, Belize became independent.  In 1954 all adults could finally vote in Belize, and in 1986 the first university opened there. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the Garifuna culture a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” in 2001.  This proclamation was made to raise awareness and protection of the Garifuna culture.  The government in Belize is a parliamentary, representative democratic monarchy.  The prime minister is the head of the government, and Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state. 

Chuck and I decided to look at airplane fares and reservations to see if another trip to Belize looked possible.  After doing some research, we decided to plan a trip for the following April 2016.  This trip would give us something to look forward to and plenty of time to plan, look for flights, and find a place to stay. 

We chose to go back to Hopkins, Belize, which is a small fishing village on the southern coast of Belize in a district called Stann Creek.  It is a small multicultural community consisting mostly of Garifuna people with a few Mayan people, and a small expat gathering.  English is spoken with a beautiful rhythm and is relatively easy to understand for native English speakers.   Spanish is also occasionally heard among some of the people.  They are a happy, contented people and very friendly to everyone.  The first time we visited Hopkins, we stayed at Hamanasi Adventure and Dive Resort, which is a beautiful resort located right on the Caribbean Sea that specializes in diving, snorkeling, and various tours of the area including the rainforest.  This time we felt confident enough to stay on our own in a location in the village of Hopkins itself.  After much internet searching, we found a small house, or cabana, to rent in the center of the village facing the Caribbean Sea. We made reservations for April 19th to the 26th.     

Seeking Direction    

As excited as we were to return to Belize, we still were grappling with purpose and God’s direction for us here at home in the United States.  We began thinking that maybe there was a higher reason to revisit Hopkins Village than merely a time of vacation.  We were both still searching for that answer.  I began looking at all the activities there were to do in the Hopkins area. 

On our first visit we had stayed for a few days in the rainforest in a beautiful resort called Lamanai Outpost Lodge before going to Hamanasi.  We hiked all around Mayan Ruins, climbed to the top of the magnificent Lamanai Mayan ruins, gone with a guide to hunt and tag crocodiles on the river, enjoyed the Howler Monkeys, taken an all day hike in the rainforest to beautiful Antelope Falls, where we went for a swim, and we had gone snorkeling along the Barrier Reef.  Now in the village area, cave tubing, river rafting, a Jaguar Reserve, zip lining, and sea fishing were available.  Initially, I thought we could plan one activity for each day since when we were there previously we had focused mainly on adventures and sightseeing. 


This time, however, we decided to see if we could find a church in the village to visit. I researched the area and found a church called Ligilisi Lareini Bunjiu, in Garifuna, and in English, “Church of Grace.”  We decided that we would try to find the pastor after we arrived.  With this first decision, it felt like God began speaking to us more about our visit.  Chuck had a vivid dream one early morning in which we were in Belize actively involved in ministry.  He woke up excited to share it with me.  Now we talked more about mixing with the Garifuna people and looking for ministry opportunities

By April, we additionally began to discuss whether, or not, God was actually calling us to a longer ministry in Hopkins Village.  Both of us believed that God had a higher purpose for this visit, and we needed to be in prayer for His guidance and wisdom. 

Meanwhile, our home here in the U.S. began to feel a little uncomfortable.  We had just attended a semi-annual Home Owners Association (HOA) meeting, and when the discussion focused on getting a large bank loan to repair the private road for our community, we became very unsettled.  Our plan since the early days of our Christian ministries, and God’s plan for us, is that we stay out of debt:

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who  his neighbor has fulfilled the law.  For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:8-10)

This loan, however, would put everyone in the association in debt for the next 20 years.  If they were able to get the loan, it would only take a majority vote to commit all the families in the association to this large debt.  The majority at the meeting didn’t want simply to fix the eroded and cracked places, but also to resurface the whole road.    I felt the Lord speaking to my heart saying that we were “unequally yoked,” with unbelievers who were making financial decisions we didn’t agree with. This situation, along with the upkeep on our house on six acres, which was becoming more difficult, made us begin thinking about downsizing.  Maybe it was time to sell the house and look for something smaller.  

Maybe it was time to sell the house and look for something smaller.  Meanwhile, at the very least, we would have a nice vacation in Belize, we could have some time away to think about our situation more, and finally, perhaps, we could come to a decision about our house.

We remembered many years ago hearing a speaker talk about the eagle’s nest.  The parent eagles prepare a comfortable home for their eaglets with soft, downy feathers, and they carry plenty of food to them.  When the eaglets grow their juvenile feathers and become more ready to leave the nest, the parent eagles rough it up so that there are irritating sticks surfacing instead of the soft covering of feathers and other plant life that had made their home so comfortable.  This new discomfort makes them want to leave the nest.  We concluded, perhaps, that because our nest was becoming a bit scratchy, it was time to make a move.  Now we began thinking that if we were able to sell our house and move into something smaller, we might consider having a house in Belize.

On April 17, we made a decision to phone a Real Estate agent and ask her to look at our house.  She was available to come out that afternoon, so we showed her around.  She thought the house was “saleable” and was willing to do a “soft listing” while we were in Belize, which meant that while we were gone she could show the house to anyone interested, as well as to colleagues in her office, to get a feel for the market.  Incredibly, after living in this house nearly 21 years, we felt very peaceful about our decision.

We did some frantic house cleaning, packed, and left for Belize two days later on April 19.  Since we hadn’t flown out of the country since 2006, we had forgotten some of the steps we had to take to get through customs, and we were sometimes mystified at the rude attitude of the TSA officers.  When we boarded the airliner to fly from Miami to Belize City, we felt relieved that we had successfully made it through all the checkpoints. 

At one point, when our plane began to taxi to the runway, suddenly there was a screeching of brakes, skidding, and a loud noise at the back of the plane as the plane came to a stop.  All the passengers were jerked forward, and I half expected the oxygen cups to come flying out!  We looked back and saw that all the metal cupboards in the back of the cabin had flown open and the big bin of ice had sailed off the shelf and hit the flight attendant in the head.  She was bent over in pain, and all the attendants from the front of the plane came running down the aisle to assist her.  Behind them, a woman came hurrying down the aisle saying, “I’m a doctor, let me help.”  After giving the woman immediate first aid, the pilot decided to take her back for medical attention at the airport.  Over the intercom, he explained to all the passengers that this meant a “few minutes delay” while they found a substitute flight attendant. 

Nothing was explained about why the sudden stop was necessary, but later we learned that another plane had been headed in our direction because the tower had neglected to notice that both planes were given clearance and were taxing at the same time to the same runway.  About an hour later we were finally ready for take-off again. 

This was the second time we were flying to Belize, yet the first time we had another unique experience when we were certain of God’s protection.  In 2006 we had a layover at Atlanta.  When our boarding announcement was broadcast, we saw two Arab men hug one another and say their good-byes.  As we boarded the plane, we saw that our seats were directly behind the one Arab man who had boarded ahead of us.  He didn’t have anyone seated next to him so he spread his prayer cloth on the seat and began reading a book. 

I peeked through the two seats and saw the title of the book written in English:  Journey of Death.  This was alarming, but I kept thinking how God was sending us on this vacation and that He surely would protect us.  Even if something horrific happened, I knew where we were going, so I tried not to think about it.  None of the attendants seemed to notice him.  I realized later that I should have said something to a flight attendant, but at the time I didn’t want to call attention to him if he were innocent.  I said a prayer, though, for protection as we got ready for take-off. 

After leaving the runway, I peeked again between the seats and saw that he was asleep.  He slept through the whole flight and didn’t wake up until we landed.  God used this experience to remind me how He protects those who trust in Him.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil for You are with me. (Ps 23:4)

We had a good flight to Belize City and went through customs.  The Belize International Airport is small and crowded, but it is fun to arrive and feel that immediate immersion into the culture.  There are several small shops that sell souvenirs and snacks around the perimeter of the room, with a tight seating area in the middle. We saw a sign for a restaurant, but never could find it in this small area!      2017-01-24_1029.png

Our next flight to Dangriga, Belize, was in a small Cessna that carried only six passengers, and after only 10 minutes we saw that we were landing again.  When we landed, the pilot said nothing to us, but we looked out and saw that they were loading several large boxes of vegetables onto the plane.  When they finished a couple of workers boarded, and then we were off again!  This time we landed in Dangriga Airport and we were picked up by a driver who took us to our small, colorful rented cabana in Hopkins Village. 

 2017-01-24_1030.pngIn the kitchen we noticed that all the knobs on the stove were labeled in Spanish.  We later found out that many of the “Mabe” appliances are made in Mexico and sold in Belize.  The cabana was pleasant, with a wonderful Caribbean breeze off the sea coming through the windows.  Occasionally, we would spot a gecko crawling along the wall.  We were told they eat bugs, so we left them alone.  We also saw beautiful Frigate Birds flying over the sea.

 We initially had a couple of days of adjustment to the tropical weather and the general environment.  It was hard to believe we were back in Belize, and we were even a little disoriented with all the activity around and the differences we immediately felt as a result of being in a different culture.  We were in the center of the village, so there was noise, and people, and children all around.  Out on the veranda, we would see an occasional small Iguana scamper across the sand.  They were fun to look at because when they run, they stand up on their two back feet.  Later, on a drive we saw one that was almost three feet long.  At night we could hear drumming at one of the nearby clubs.

On one side of the cabana, a crew of construction workers were building a house.  One evening we decided to try to knock off a coconut from one of the trees.  We found a stick but it didn’t reach high enough, so we tried jumping but couldn’t dislodge one.   One of the construction crew was sitting watching us and probably laughing inwardly at our technique.  Chuck asked him in Spanish if he could help us. The man found a longer piece of wood left over in a pile, and he was able to get us two coconuts immediately.  Between our limited Spanish and his limited English, we had a brief conversation and found out his name was Roberto and that he had probably traveled from Guatemala for this job.  After that, whenever we saw him, we greeted him in Spanish, and he would always greet us in English.


In the Garifuna language, the words for the village, Yugadan, Balisi, are translated “Hopkins, Belize.” In the village are many beautiful seafront properties with very small make-shift wooden homes that have been owned by families for generations. It is not uncommon for trash to be thrown outside on the sand, where it is then occasionally raked up and burned, along with sea grass that washes ashore. 


Hopkins is a small village with perhaps 1200 residents, many of whom are employed at the local resorts that have been built up over the years.  Many people own cafes or souvenir shops, or they just set up tables along the main road to sell food daily to tourists or school children for lunches.  One night we bought “burritos” from a woman who had set up a table.  To us, they were more like tostitos than burritos, but they were very tasty, nevertheless.

In the evening of our first night, though, we walked to a cafe called “Innies.”  We ordered a traditional Garifuna dish called Hudut, which is fish cooked in a coconut broth and served with a mound of mashed plantains.  When our bowl of soup, or stew, arrived, along with a plate with a huge mound of mashed plantain, we had no idea how to eat it.  We asked the waitress for help, who giggled and looked at her family gathered in the kitchen; they also thought our question was funny.  She then told us how to take the plantain mash and dip it into the “fish soup.”  This was our first experience eating plantains, and later we also had them fried, similar to French fried potatoes, or “thick chips.”

Since we were last in Hopkins ten years before our trip in 2016, a gracious expat had opened a Humane Society to help with the homeless animals that roamed the village.  Today, veterinarians donate time to provide vaccinations and care as necessary, and the services are all free.  On Sundays, The Lucky Lobster, a local eating establishment, has “Bow Wow Sunday,” a time when they invite customers to purchase a specific dish or drink, with 100% of the proceeds donated to the Hopkins Humane Society.  While we were staying in our village cabana, we had a temporary pet that would regularly come by and sometimes sleep on the veranda.  This dog looked healthy, but we never did find out if she had an owner.  We saw that there was a bag of dog food in the kitchen, so occasionally we put out a little food for the dog, who we named “Sandy,” since she seemed to come to us from the beach.  If she saw us walking outside, she often would come over and walk with us.

While we were staying in our village cabana, we had a temporary pet that would regularly come by and sometimes sleep on the veranda.  This dog looked healthy, but we never did find out if she had an owner.  We saw that there was a bag of dog food in the kitchen, so occasionally we put out a little food for the dog, whom we named “Sandy,” since she seemed to come to us from the beach.  If she saw us walking outside, she often would come over and walk with us.

Holy Family Roman Catholic School


From walking around the village and having conversations with people, we found out that the village school is what we call a “public school” in the US, but operated by the Catholic Church in Belize.  English is taught in the schools in Belize, but Garifuna is spoken among friends and family.  The children wear uniforms and generally walk to school or ride bikes.  For lunch they come back home or purchase food from women who set out tables of food along the road.  It was fun to sit outside at one of the cafes and watch the children go by. They’re somewhat shy, but responsive to a smile or wave.  I quickly found out that they love lollipops!

We learned that at the house next door to our cabana the owner rented bicycles, so we walked over to rent two of them.  All the bicycles we saw were “fat tire” bikes with peddle brakes.  However, now we could do a little more exploring of the village area.  We first biked to the north end of town, the home of the Drumming Center, where Garifuna drummers entertain and teach any willing visitor how to drum.  The Garifuna drums are hollowed out from solid trunks of Mahogany, Mayflower, or Cedar, made into a cylinder-shape, and then sanded smooth.  The skin of a deer, sheep, or goat may be used to cover the top of the drum, with cow skin for the larger drums, using rope and vines to secure the skin to the drum.  Eight pins are used to tighten the rope and these are used also to tune the drums.  The drums sit in the sun to dry and the skin is sanded smooth.  A drum called “Primero” is usually twelve inches or less in diameter providing a high sound, and a “Segundo” drum will be fourteen to eighteen inches or more and providing a bass sound. 

Lessons at the Drumming Center


Chuck was given a drumming lesson when we were in Hopkins the first time, and they had him drumming so long that he felt like his fingers were going numb!  It truly takes lessons and practice to beat the drums correctly.  

It was fun to visit the Drumming Center again and see that it was larger now, and easily accommodating more people that before.  The man in charge was just as friendly and talkative as the first time we visited.



We also met a Mayan woman who owns a souvenir shop selling both Mayan and Garifuna items.  She took us around her property showing us various edible fruits, as well as some that are medicinal.  One of the most unique fruits was the noni, which is used to make juice that the people believe kills cancer and many other illnesses.  Juice is made by letting the ripe noni sit in a glass jar in the sun making the juice seep out of the fruit over several weeks.  She says she drinks the juice every day, and she gave us one so we could try it.  The fruit is also eaten raw or cooked.  We tried the juice, and found it had a very bitter taste and the smell was pretty unpleasant.  The “free range” chickens in the village, however, like the ripe, softened noni fruit!

Seeing Golden Again!


We also saw a souvenir shop named “Golden Gifts.”  We remembered that in 2006, when we were there in Hopkins, we had a guide named Golden who took us on a hike to a beautiful waterfall called Antelope Falls.  We remembered him because of his name and because he was so informed about the plants, trees, and animals of the area.  We had a welcoming reunion with Golden, who now owns his own shop and has his own tourist company called “D Golden Tours.”  We’re so happy that Golden has been successful in his business since he was such a good tour guide.  On the way back to the cabana, we saw a woman washing a huge pile of clothes using a large bucket of soapy water and a washboard.  We waved as we rode by, and she waved back.

View From Driftwood Plaza

On another day we went on our bicycles up to the north end of Hopkins Village to eat at a highly recommended café called Driftwood Pizza.   It was a cute place, scenically located right on the beach.  There were tables inside and outside with a volleyball net on the sand and a few hammocks (the first choice for relaxation in Belize).  We ordered pizza from the waiter with several toppings, including coconut.  We saw the cook go out, knock a coconut off a tree and then take it to a place near the kitchen where she cracked it open with ease.  She got some coconut and began grating it to be put on the pizza.  Right before the pizza was done, she brought something rounded and light brown in color and placed it on our napkins.  We thought it might be some kind of a bread roll, so I asked her what it was.  She explained it was a rock to keep the napkins from blowing away in the light Caribbean Sea breeze!  Surprised, I told her I thought it was something to eat!  She and the waiter could hardly stop laughing!  Silly gringos!


 After a couple of days in the cabana, we started having young visitors every night selling cakes their mother had made during the day.  There were always two or three little boys who would knock on the door or look in the windows to get our attention.  They were lively and always wanted to try on our shoes which we always left outside the front door!  I gave them lollipops which probably encouraged them to come every night, and it was impossible for us to refuse to buy a cake!



2017-01-24_1051.pngOn Thursday afternoon we went out for another walk and decided to see if we could find the church and Pastor Herdie Castillo.  Everyone we asked knew him, and eventually we found the church, but there was no one there.  The double front doors were locked, and the wooden shutters around the whole building were all closed.  We then began asking for directions to his house.  The people have what for us was an unusual way of giving directions.  They are so familiar with their village and where everything is that they simply list off several landmarks to watch for, and always what you are looking for is “close by.”  Most roads off the main street are made of dirt, so we never could tell if “three roads that way” included dirt paths or dirt roads since most of the roads have no names that we could see.  Finally, after three or four directions, we found Pastor Herdie’s house. 

When we got there, he was watching the NBA playoffs on television, and we were apologetic for interrupting him.  The house was very small and simple, but there was an atmosphere of peace and contentment even though there was truly a whole houseful of people.  He came outside to talk to us.  Young and older children were all around, and he introduced us to several of them who were his children and grandchildren.  They were all attractive with beautiful smiles.  His lovely wife Victoria came outside so we could meet her also.  They told us a little about their ministry, and we told them we wanted to visit the church on Sunday.


We left Pastor Herdie’s house feeling like God might indeed have a ministry for us in Hopkins Village.  Pastor Herdie was a quiet, unassuming man who obviously had much wisdom and love for the Lord, and we were drawn to his humble, godly spirit.  Later, while reading the word the following scripture “jumped out.” 

And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony go God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.  I. Corinthians 2:1-5

These verses resonated with us because they provided confirmation of some of the things that Pastor Herdie had talked to us about.  He shared that the best way to become immersed into the village is by quietly observing and listening to the people.  One must come into the community with humility and listen as God provides opportunities to share the gospel, while also, relying on the Holy Spirit within us to give us His power without being concerned about our weaknesses or fears. Finally, we could depend upon Him to work through us.

We walked to the CPC Real Estate office the next day, where we met John Stewart, who has lived in Belize for 20 years, but still has a home in Pennsylvania.  John took us to see several houses, but nothing seemed to stand out.  He then told us about some lots for sale along the canal and along the Sea at the southern end of Hopkins, in an area called Sittee Point (pronounced like “city”).  John took us to see some of them and then dropped us off at our cabana.  We needed time to process what we had seen, to pray and listen, and to talk together about it.

Friday morning, we went out for a swim in the sea.  This morning swim had become part of our morning routine while we were there since the incredibly warm Caribbean Sea was only about 60 feet out from the front door of our cabana. We then decided to do more exploring in the village.  We found a wood worker, named Alex, who made beautiful carvings out of the native woods of Belize. We picked a few small carvings that would fit in our suitcases to bring home for gifts, but when we went to pay we realized we hadn’t brought enough money.  He pointed to two bicycles that were parked in front of his little shop and told us we could use them to go back to our cabana instead of having to walk.  He even let us take the carvings with us.  We bicycled the six blocks or so and got our money and then returned to pay him.

On Saturday, when we went out for our morning swim, we talked about Charles’s dream again and whether, or not, we were ready to make a decision regarding a purchase in Belize.  We formulated a tentative plan if the Lord should bring us back to Belize.  After talking with Pastor Herdie, we felt that we would be there initially to Pray, to Listen, and to Watch.  The following scripture ministered to us beginning with Paul’s prayer:

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak.  Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned as though with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person  (Colossians 4:2-6).

Part of our discussion was the connection we felt with the Garifuna people of Hopkins Village because we sensed their need for the Truth to set them free.  The Garifuna people have cultural traditions that remain very strong, so they aren’t necessarily interested in accessing the truth of God’s Word.  When they commit their lives to Jesus, they must disown occult traditions like witchcraft, including the belief in mediation with departed ancestors.  The precious Garifuna Christians, who have let go of those religious customs, have a joy and love that is amazing, but they also deal with pressure and misunderstanding from family and friends who are without Christ and who feel that these Christians have rejected their Garifuna roots.  Charles and I are both trained, professional teachers, and we felt a desire to teach the Word of God so the people might “be firmly rooted and established in the faith” (Colossians 2:7), while being mindful that “no one takes them captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men”  (Colossians 2:8).

We also discussed our concerns about our family and being gone from them for longer periods of time.  It would take time and much understanding for them to comprehend our vision.  It was not easy to think about being this far apart from them, and it would be a difficult separation for us.  Furthermore, we couldn’t plan this journey without thinking about how old we are, even though foreign mission work has been something we have always wanted to do. 

We Had Always Wanted to Be Missionaries

When we were first married, we wanted to be missionaries.  We traveled over two hours to Long Beach, California, for an appointment with a representative of the Conservative Baptist Foreign Mission Society.  The representative told us that even though Charles had a bachelor’s degree, as well as teaching certification, and though I was a licensed vocational nurse (LVN), we would still have to go to Bible College, and it would be at least seven years of study before we could even think about going to the mission field.  This news was overwhelming since we were in our twenties, and we were eager to move into ministry.  A while after that, we thought maybe we should apply to join the Peace Corp.  We had Christian friends who were in Africa with the Peace Corp, so we filled out the application.  We never heard back! 

Was it possible that after all these years God was finally sending us to ministry outside the US?

Later, we went to see John, the realtor and asked him about the lots for sale.  He took us for a drive to look at properties, and about an hour later we took our step of faith and made an offer on a lot! We had decided to build rather than purchase a home that could already have upkeep problems.  We had God’s peace and believed that if this was to happen He would make a way for us.  We had the money to pay for the lot, so if nothing else, it would be a good investment.  We found out that the property tax would only be $20 a year whether we built a house or not!  We felt very happy and took another swim in the sea to celebrate!

Sunday came, and as we floated in the water during our morning swim, we shared our thoughts about God’s direction and prayed that He would continue to direct us.  Again, we felt His peace.  We had learned long ago that if we wanted God to direct us, we needed to begin moving and trust that He would keep us on the right path.  Like someone has said, “It’s much harder to change the direction of a parked car than one that is already moving.”  Additionally, our God provides a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path” (Psalm119:105).

Worship Platform and Pastor Herdie 2017-01-24_1059.png                

Sunday Worship Service

Pastor Herdie’s Church service begins at 7:00 PM on Sundays in order to accommodate the many people who work at the local resorts on weekends and are not off until Sunday evenings.  We walked and had to ask for directions a few times since we couldn’t remember exactly where the church building was.  Again, everyone we asked was familiar with the church location.  When we arrived, we saw that the double front doors were wide open, all the wooden louvers were open at the windows (no glass), and all the lights were on.  The chairs were the plastic lawn chairs that are common here in the US.  Ceiling fans were on, and a couple of floor fans were turning.  There was a low stage with the traditional Garifuna drums and a guitar. We were a little early and saw the pastor slowly walking around the room praying.  We talked briefly with him and sat down.  

As the people entered, we noticed the smiles and general joy of the people.  The women all wore colorful dresses or skirts.  The children were shy, but would smile at us.  I had lollipops for a few of them too.  A woman sitting close to me came over and asked if she also could have a “sweet.”  I first assumed that she just wanted one because she saw the kids with them, but she explained that they made her stomach feel better.  She was in the early months of pregnancy and had been very sick.  I gave her a lollipop, and then later in the service, I gave her another one.                     

Now the church was just about full.  I would guess around 90 people.  We were so happy to see our friend Golden come in with his family.  It turned out that he was one of the two drummers who play for worship.  Pastor Herdie played the guitar and led the singing with two women as back up.  Because they have all the doors and windows open and use amplification, the sound carries out into the village.  What a testimony to hear and see these people sing out with all their hearts, each one worshipping as though no one else is there.  The songs were sung in English, and many of them were familiar to us.  They don’t have the words written out, so the songs are memorized.

                     Anointed Prayer                               

Next, a woman who was recognized as a prayer warrior came to the microphone and led us in prayer.  The power of the Holy Spirit in her as she prayed was amazing.  She opened her Bible to Deuteronomy 28:2-8 and declared these precious promises in her prayer for all of us who were there:

All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the Lord your God.  Blessed shall you be in the city and blessed shall you be in the country. Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground, and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.  Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out.  The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.  The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in all that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you.  The Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways. So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you. (Deuteronomy 28:2-8)

Her prayer was a declaration of faith in the Word of God, and there was no doubt the Lord heard this prayer which was prayed with faith and the agreement of the congregation.  This was truly a lesson in praying and believing His promises in the Word of God, as opposed to praying a “pleasing” prayer that just sounds good for listeners.

Golden on Drum and Pastor Herdie on Guitar

They had a greeting time, a time which always makes me nervous, but as the worship leaders sang and played the drums and guitar, it seemed so natural.  In an unselfconscious way, everyone, including the children, went around to one another for a quick hug and simply saying, “God bless you.”  It was not a time for conversation, but a brief blessing for one another.  There didn’t seem to be any hesitancy about including us in their blessings.  It was wonderful to feel so embraced.

One of the issues Pastor Herdie faces is the occult traditions of the Garifuna people.  He understands the hold the enemy tries to keep on these Christians.  In his message, Pastor Herdie spoke about this struggle and strongly urged the people to cease these practices which include trying to “hear” what their ancestors are saying.  He exhorted them, saying that our Savior, Jesus Christ, gives us the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us, and He is the only one we should be listening to.  He encouraged people to live in righteousness and to listen to the Holy Spirit. 

At the end of the service, the pastor asked two or three people to come up for prayer.  One of the women was Kendra, to whom I had given sweets and who was truly suffering from morning sickness.  As he prayed for each individual, everyone in the congregation prayed too.  I was so blessed by this prayer time because I had been feeling all through the service that Kendra needed special prayer.  After this, all the people sang Happy Birthday in Garifuna to one of the men.  It was delightful to hear it sung in their language.

As we walked home, we felt spiritually refreshed and confident of God’s calling.  We were so excited.  Later, God gave us the following scripture:

For what thanks can we render to God for you in return for all the joy with which we rejoice before our God on your account, as we night and day keep praying most earnestly that we may see your face[s], and may complete what is lacking in your faith?  Now may our God and Father Himself and Jesus our Lord direct our way to you. (II Thessalonians 3:9-11)  

The following Monday morning, we went for our early swim and had our habitual sharing time, believing that God had spoken to us through Peter the Lord’s disciple.  Like Peter, we have always been somewhat impetuous and have never held back from making instant decisions when we felt God was calling.  We have had home Bible studies, pastored churches, and been professional teachers in the public and Christian school systems.  We have moved our family several times when God was leading, and the last big move we had made was from California to Pennsylvania. 

Peter, the disciple, is an ever-present example of someone who is not afraid of making a mistake, but who fearlessly jumps at every chance to be near Jesus.  For example, Peter recognized that he was “all in” with Jesus.

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)  

Peter also made his confession of faith to Jesus when Jesus asked the disciples,

        “Who do you say that I am?”  And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God” (Luke 9:20). 

Peter didn’t always understand the mission of Jesus.  When Jesus told the disciples that He would have to leave them, 

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord where are You going?”  Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.”  Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now?  I will lay down my life for You” (John 13:36-37). 

Furthermore, Jesus spoke to the disciples telling them that He must suffer, be rejected, and be killed, but after three days He would rise again. 

And He was stating the matter plainly.  And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.  But turning around and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s”  (Mark 8:32-33). 

Again, Peter didn’t understand.  However, Jesus never gave up on Peter even though Peter tended to be impetuous, even cutting off the ear of one of the guards had who come to arrest Jesus (John 18:10-11).  And on the Sea of Galilee, upon seeing Jesus, Peter jumped out of the boat when he and the disciples were fishing. 

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord.’  So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.  But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about one hundred yards away, dragging the net of fish.  John 21:7-8 

Any other disciple could also have easily jumped out of the boat to be with Jesus since they were so close to the shore.

Peter was also blessed to be one of the disciples taken to the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, but not comprehending the significance of the event. 

“And as these were leaving Him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles:  one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah’ –not realizing what he was saying.” (Luke 9:33) 

Peter, as imperfect as he was, loved Jesus. 

He [Jesus] said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”  Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?  And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.’” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” 

As Peter grew spiritually, however, he became a powerful evangelist after he was filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, following Jesus’ resurrection and ascension to the Father. 

His boldness and power were evidenced in the following passages:

  • At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty person was there together).  (Acts 1:15)
  • “But Peter, taking his stand with the eleven, raised his voice and declared to them:  ‘Men of Judea and all you who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you and give heed to my words.” (Acts 2:14) 
  • “Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. ( Acts 2:38)

In the stories of Peter’s life, we find wonderful lessons about how God loves and directs our lives, both through our wise decisions and even decisions made impetuously without much forethought or prayer.  I have always liked the way Peter was comfortable enough with Jesus that he could make mistakes, speak out, and even question Him, knowing that Jesus loved him unconditionally and would keep him safe.

Finding Peace in God’s Will

While we were in the sea, we saw John, the real estate agent, drive up to the cabana.  We quickly got out of the water believing that he had good news for us.  Instead, he told us that our offer had been rejected because another one had come in sooner.  We were surprised and initially wondered if we had been too impulsive.  John suggested we go out and look again at the lots.  So, we trusted that if the Lord had a lot for us, he would either show it to us, or we would know that we should stop moving in this direction. 

We quickly showered and got dressed.  John then took us for a drive to look at properties we hadn’t taken notice of before, and about an hour later we made an offer on another lot.  A phone call was made to the owner who accepted our offer over the phone while we sat in the Real Estate office.  We were excited but a little overwhelmed.  Our Heavenly Father had actually prevented us from getting the first lot, and we not only got this lot for $9,000 less, but also it was a little closer to the village and partially cleared.







Were we really doing this? God spoke to our hearts about Peter again, this time from Matthew 14:23-32.  Following the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus went away to be alone and pray.  The disciples went out on the sea in a boat.  In the middle of the night, Jesus appeared to the disciples walking on the water.  They were frightened so Jesus said, “Take courage it is I; do not be afraid.” 

No matter what is happening to us, good or bad, at any given moment, we can have courage because we have Jesus in our lives. 

Peter then said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus replied, “Come.” 

Peter didn’t let any distractions deter him as he climbed out of the boat.  I can only imagine what the other disciples were thinking, but Peter was focused and wasn’t about to listen to their concerns.  Peter left his area of comfort and safety and chose to be with Jesus.  He got out of the boat and walked on the water.  He only began to sink when he became afraid. 

The important message in this passage is that when you “see” Jesus and keep on seeing Him, there is no fear.  This was our time to step out of the boat; to step out of our comfortable lives and home.  Our confidence was that we were where Jesus was, and even if we began to sink, he would stretch out his hand and hold us, just like he did with Peter.

On Tuesday, we left Belize and flew home to Pennsylvania.  We made it home at about 3:00 AM.  It felt good to be back, knowing we would soon see and talk to our family.  That week we talked to both of our daughters about our plans, and after explaining what we felt God was doing in our lives and feeling they understood, we wired the deposit money to Belize so that the purchase could proceed.  Now there were lots of little “waves” in the water, but in spite of occasional overwhelming feelings about all the decisions ahead of us, we felt peace, and we were determined we would keep our eyes on Jesus.


(To Be Continued:  Part II in next Blog Post)

Finding the Truth

The Scientific Method?

One calling of God for the Christian Church is to be a vital channel for Truth in today’s world.  The Apostle Paul wrote, concerning this calling, the following message to Timothy:

14 I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long;15 but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth. (I Timothy 3:14-15)

By general consensus, however, our culture today assumes and supposes a scientific basis for all valid knowledge, not seeking Truth from God’s “pillar and support” Instead, the world’s scientific pillar is described as follows:

“a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.” (Source)

This procedure assumes that the resulting conclusion will be the “truth” since it is based on facts that are tested through research and proven hypotheses.
Ironically, however, many influential academics and intellectuals have concluded that “absolute truth” is unknowable and cannot be found because it does not exist, a conclusion that contradicts the basis of the scientific method. Since an absolute truth is always correct, regardless of one’s ability to discern, or discover, any particular truth, those who seek to learn the “truth,” often deny the possibility that it even exists because of their own inability to find it.

An Age-Old Question

This is not a question that has arisen only in the modern scientific age.  Rather, the question arose in ancient times, and it was particularly revealed in the discussion between Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ, when Jesus was on trial before the Roman ruler in Jerusalem:
37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” 38 Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Thomas, a disciple of Jesus, yet another doubter like Pilate, received an answer from Jesus about finding the way to the truth.  Jesus made the following statement about finding the truth in a conversation with His disciples:  

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas *said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:3-6)

And later, just before His crucifixion, Jesus prays the following prayer for His disciples, both those with Him and those who would be His followers in the future:

13 But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves. 14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:13-19)

Significantly, when Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth,” He confirmed the first verse of John’s Gospel, a passage where John declares that Jesus is divine, the very Word of God Himself:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. (John 1:1-5)

Jesus Christ, therefore, is declared to be the manifestation of God’s truth, the Word of God through whom all things are created.  He is the Light that came into the world.

Unfortunately, even though this Light shines in our dark world, those who live in darkness cannot see the Light for their eyes are blinded.  And since the Light is allied with Life, those who cannot understand the Truth cannot obtain the Life that He was sent to confer upon everyone as a gift of God’s mercy and grace.

Revelation, Not Intellect

This is not to assert that the scientific method is the means Christians should use for gaining God’s Truth.  Instead, the mysteries of the Kingdom of God are obtained through revelation, and only those who seek Him will receive these revelations.  Jesus said, 

“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Matthew 7:6-8)

Jesus Himself gave His insights to Pilate, as well as other religious leaders, who then turned on Him, trampling the truth under their feet while seeking to tear Him to pieces.  Likewise, we must be discerning, seeking God’s guidance as we seek to fulfill Christ’s commission to spread His Word throughout the entire world.  We must recognize that some will not receive the Truth we have received from the Holy Spirit, and we may experience persecution for sharing the Word of Life, even though we are walking in the Light.

Likewise, we must be discerning, finding the Holy Spirit’s guidance as we seek to fulfill Christ’s Great Commission to spread His Word throughout the entire world (see Matthew 28:19-20).  We must recognize that because we find God’s truth through revelation, some people will not receive the Truth we have received from the Holy Spirit, and we may experience persecution for sharing the Word of Life, even though we are walking in the Light. Christians are despised for not being scientific enough, even though this scientific method is denigrated by those who believe they have discovered the truth through its use. Even the Apostle Paul was called a “babbler” (Acts 17:18) because he dared to share the spiritual insights he had through personal revelation:

Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. (II Corinthians 12:1-6)

Notice that in this passage, Paul relates that he received the “truth” (v. 6) from the visions and revelations he received from the Lord.  The truth was communicated not through the scientific method, but through “inexpressible words,” or in another word, “mysteries” which cannot be communicated directly, but only through the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Because of Paul’s faithfulness to these secrets, or mysteries, he suffered extreme persecution, as he explained to the Corinthians:

23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (II Corinthians 11:23-27)

Indeed, I believe that another period of persecution is coming to all who will be faithful to God’s calling, just as the early disciples of Christ faced extreme persecution.


It may be unsettling to learn this, but our brains are not the source of Truth. Instead, Christ Jesus and His Word is the source of God’s Truth, and we learn the Truth through “revelations” that come from God Himself through the Holy Spirit if we will only seek Him.  

Decades ago, people came to believe that “everyone is entitled to his/her own opinion.” However, such opinions derive merely from what has been heard and decided by the individuals’ brain choices, and not by direct revelation of the Truth from a loving and Holy God. Unfortunately, “majority rules” is likewise not an indicator of Truth.  Many horrible leaders in history have brought terrible disasters upon multitudes of people because their followers were convinced to become like sheep, all gone astray over the cliffs of false teachings and doctrines about what is True.     

People need only read the multitudes of “comments” following controversial articles on the Web to see that people disagree vehemently about the nature or substance of the “Truth.”  Unfortunately, therefore, the “Truth” is rarely discovered because the writers simply resort to name-calling, persecution, and threats. Subsequently, people who disagree are labeled as being a “bigot,” “stupid,” “uneducated,” or lacking in “tolerance.”  More and more, therefore, those who are “outside” the boundaries of what is considered true (from common perceptions derived from media representations or polling questionnaires) will be subject to various kinds of persecutions.


Note: For more on this topic, see the following blog article from





What Is the Nature of True Confession?

True Humility Versus False Humility

What is humility?  It is the quality or condition of being humble, of having a modest opinion or estimate of one’s own importance, status, or rank.  

It is surprising to me, however, how many in the Church, especially those who may lead in prayer or praise ministries, take on a false humility by focusing on their own “unworthiness,” telling the congregation that they, and we, all are nothing more than “ugly sinners saved by grace,” or “dead in our trespasses and sins, not worthy to invoke or receive the promises of God.”

One of the most relevant passages in one of the most significant books of the New Testament, however, declares the falsity of these statements.  In fact, such declarations are fully demonstrated to be examples of false humility by the Apostle Paul.

Paul states to the Corinthian Church why true believers are no longer defined by a sinful nature as they once were before coming to Jesus Christ as their Savior and Redeemer from sin:

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (II Corinthians 5:17)

In itself, this verse alone couldn’t be more clear in revealing to us who we are in Christ Jesus:  If we are “in Christ,” we have a “new” nature, for we are now a “new creature.”  

Paul elsewhere describes our former sinful nature as the “old man,” as opposed to the “new man” we have become in Christ:

Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him. (Colossians 3:9-10)

And Paul exhorts the believers in Ephesus to act on the new standing they have obtained in Christ:

But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind. (Ephesians 4:20-23)

Being “renewed in the spirit of your mind” simply means that we need to change our minds about who we are in Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Teaching to the Romans

Paul further expounds on these truths in depth in his letter to the Romans, as he writes in the following passage from Romans 6:1-18, and 8:1,6.  I have underlined some of the most relevant portions of the text:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?  Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.  For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!  Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that  though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:1-18, and 8:1,6)


Looking Ahead and Not Backwards

I just heard from someone the other day who gave me a very simple guideline for living victoriously.  She said that when we drive, we don’t just look at the rearview mirror.  If we only did that, we would eventually crash!  Instead, we need to look forward to the future with expectant hope, trusting that the Lord Jesus has not only forgiven us of all our sins, but also redeemed us from their curse of eternal separation from God.

Let me be clear.  I am not saying that we have never sinned.  In order to receive Jesus as Lord, we need to confess all of our sins, as the Apostle John writes:

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. (I John 1:8-10)

However, if we have been forgiven and redeemed, we need to act like we have been transformed by His power and consider ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ! Above all, we must not continue in sinful behaviors and practices, then publicly confess to relieve our consciences.  

To those who mistakenly believe that we need to denigrate the finished work of Christ in order to make unbelievers comfortable in our presence, I suggest that they do not go on presenting the members of their bodies to sin as instruments of unrighteousness by seeing themselves as sinners. Instead, believe and confess that you have been “born again” in Christ’s likeness.  As a result of this rebirth, you are no longer “such a worm,” as the old hymn “At the Cross” suggests (These are Isaac Watt’s lyrics; see this site: Watt.)

My Anchor Holds


While my wife and I have been on several enjoyable ship cruises, I have been on the ocean in a small boat only a few times.  My horrible seasickness during a fishing trip was enough to convince me that the ups and downs of the ocean were not very pleasant.

However, at one point, we even bought a small boat to use for fishing in the Pacific Ocean, but mainly we bought it to give the boat to my father-in-law, who was a particularly enthusiastic fisherman.  Trying to “fix” the boat to make it suitable for a gift, we learned quickly that a boat can indeed be a “hole in the water that you pour your money into.”

I confess that I am not an expert on boats or naval paraphernalia, including anchors. I have only owned one anchor used for a boat, but I rarely used it since we usually just tied up at the dock and didn’t try to stay stationary in the water to fish (to avoid sea sickness!).  

The use of an anchor in biblical New Testament times is clearly seen in the Bible, however, so understanding how anchors function helps us understand the Scriptural passages that include anchors.

The Apostle Paul’s Mediterranean Cruise

An understanding of anchors is particularly helpful when reading the 27th Chapter of Acts of the Apostles, a passage which includes the story of Paul’s journey to Rome while under arrest by Roman guards.  At one point during the journey, the following events take place as described by Luke, the writer of the Acts of the Apostles:

Fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” (Acts 27:29-31)

In this story we gain insights even into the minds of experienced sailors as they attempted to escape the dangers of a terrible Mediterranean storm, while also avoiding the brutality of their Roman employers.  Notice also that the four anchors were released from the stern of the ship to keep it from being cast aground on the rocks of the coast.  

Luke’s next account reveals how the anchors were discarded when the boat’s crew mistakenly decided to head for the safety of the beach of a bay.  The boat indeed ran aground, leading to the breaking up of the ship.

When day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach. But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. (Acts 27:39-41)

We see clearly from these accounts not only the value of ship’s anchors during storms but also their beneficial help in keeping the ship from becoming stuck fast and broken apart by the storm’s waves.

Most of us will never encounter such experiences in our lives, yet we all may experience the “storms of life,” perhaps even on a daily basis.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had anchors to hold us fast on the course the Lord has given us in our lives, as well as anchors to keep us from getting “stuck” and “immovable” when we are seeking to find peace and safety in this world?

In the Book of Hebrews, however, we find that we have indeed been given “anchors for our souls.”  The writer of Hebrews uses an example in the life of Abraham to demonstrate how this anchor keeps us steadfast, even in the worst storms and temptations in this life.

Seeing an anchor as being a beneficial help during a storm is somewhat of a mystery, for anchors are heavy and they usually are used to keep a ship from moving at all.    

Abraham’s Faith and Hope

After first warning Christians about the “perils of falling away,” the writer of the Book of Hebrews exhorts believers instead to be “imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).

. . . so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:18-20)

This passage is unclear unless we can determine what the “two unchangeable things” are.  God’s promise to Abram is the first unchangeable thing:

For when God made the promise to Abraham, since He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply you.” And so, having patiently waited, he [Abraham] obtained the promise.

Abraham, therefore, received the promise of God first because of the reliability of God’s Word.  To show the “unchangeableness of His purpose,” God also made an oath, the second of the two “unchangeable things.”

For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute. In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:13-18).

These two unchangeable things mean that “it is impossible for God to lie.” Therefore, we may be assured that the promises of God are “sure and steadfast”:  

We who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 6:18-20)

Our ability to look forward to the future with hope is both sure and steadfast because the Word of God is sure and steadfast. Both of these words mean dependable, reliable, true, constant, and trustworthy.  

We must conclude, therefore, that since the Word of God is dependable and trustworthy, we who have received the promise of God may look forward to the future with joyful anticipation, knowing that the promises made to us will be fulfilled.  And this means we have hope, which is the “anchor for our soul.”  

This anchor, in turn, will keep us steadfast and true; in nautical terms, we will “stay the course,” and not depart from the will of the Lord or stray from His purpose for our lives.  The hope we have in the promises of God will keep us steadfast during the storms of life, especially because this hope we have “enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” 

This “veil” is the curtain in the temple was placed between the “Inner Sanctuary” and the “Holy of Holies” where God’s sacred presence was.  When Jesus was crucified, this temple veil was rent, or torn, from top to bottom, signifying that Jesus the Lamb of God was the perfect sacrifice which did away with sin.  And Jesus became our High Priest who as our forerunner became our mediator, the One who allows us also to come into God’s presence. Jesus became the great High Priest who intercedes for us continually before the Father. 

This passage in Hebrews 6 also implies also that we have a choice in whether we will take hold of God’s anchor for our soul, the hope we have in His promises:

. . . so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:16)

We have been given “strong encouragement” to take hold of the hope we have been given, but the choice is still ours.  The more we learn about the steadfastness of God’s Word, the easier it will be to receive the anchor we need to keep us on the course set before us and have peace in the midst of the storms of this life.  And hope is the anchor that keeps us firmly directed and safe in the many storms that arise in this world.

Hope Does Not Disappoint

Finally, the Apostle Paul summarizes our hope in the promises of God through Jesus Christ:

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:1-5).

Not only do we have peace during times of tribulation, therefore, but we may also exult, which means we may feel a lively and triumphant joy.  We may rejoice exceedingly and be highly elated or jubilant, all because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the gift of His Holy Spirit.  Praise His name!


Examining Ourselves Rightly


The most difficult role for parents or Church leaders, in a similar context, is the role of one who must bring discipline and correction to the family or to the Church Body.  However, the Apostle Paul found himself in this role, as he describes it in his first letter to the Corinthian Church.  Since what follows is such a lengthy passage, we will examine it separately in parts.

Part I

In the first part Paul describes the problems that need to be corrected.  As Paul describes them, they consist of schisms and divisions in the Corinthian Church instead of solid unity:

But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.  (I Corinthians 11:17-19)

Clearly, Paul understands the sinful human nature, for he writes that these factions and divisions have occurred for an all-too-apparent reason:  those who believe themselves to be qualified to lead (those “who are approved”) also desire to be recognized as being in charge (“so that they may become evident among you”).  

Part II

In the second part of the passage taken from his letter, Paul describes an even more troubling problem in the Corinthian Church, one which was probably more prevalent among the believers as a whole:

Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you. (I Corinthians 11:20-22)

When the believers in the Corinthian Church come together, Paul writes, they come to eat and drink, not to “remember” the Lord Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for their redemption from the consequences of their sins.  Instead, they are only concerned about filling their bellies and soothing themselves with alcohol.  Their desire to gorge themselves is so strong that they even compete with one another, leaving some with nothing, while others are bloated with bread and wine.  

Clearly, this description is nothing like the communion observances we have in most protestant churches in our culture today.  As a child, I was struck by the tiny pieces of unsalted crackers that were passed on a silver plate down the rows of pews by the deacons, along with the tiny cups filled with grape juice. There was no way, under the watchful eyes of my parents, I could have filled myself with such small portions of juice and crackers, simply because there wasn’t enough on the plate for anyone to take more than a minimal amount.  

We knew we weren’t sharing a meal. My mother taught me to gaze at the elements after they were passed, while I prayed and asked for forgiveness for my sins, not allowing myself to be distracted by anything around me or spilling what was in my tiny cup.

Part III

Therefore, in the next part of his letter, Paul describes how the Lord’s supper should be observed:

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes. (I Corinthians 11:23-26)

Their purpose in gathering to partake of the bread and wine, therefore, was definitely not to gluttonously fill themselves with bread and wine, but instead to remember what Christ accomplished as the “Lamb of God” by sacrificing His broken body and His blood, as well as to proclaim the victory of His death and resurrection until He comes again.  

For both elements of this Last Supper, the bread and the wine, Jesus asked that they remember Him, His broken body and His sacrificial blood that was spilled for them. And He asked also that they continue to remember Him as often as they celebrated the Last Supper in the future, thereby proclaiming His death and the results of His sacrifice until He comes again.

Part IV

In this next portion of Paul’s exhortation, the Apostle explains not only the proper attitudes the believers in Corinth needed to have while partaking of the Lord’s Supper, but also the proper behaviors they should have as they drink and eat:

27 So then whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in a way that is unworthy [of Him] will be guilty of [profaning and sinning against] the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But a person must [prayerfully] examine himself [and his relationship to Christ], and only when he has done so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks [without solemn reverence and heartfelt gratitude for the sacrifice of Christ], eats and drinks a judgment on himself if he does not [a]recognize the body [of Christ]. 30 That [careless and unworthy participation] is the reason why many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep [in death]. 31 But if we evaluated and judged ourselves honestly [recognizing our shortcomings and correcting our behavior], we would not be judged. 32 But when we [fall short and] are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined [by undergoing His correction] so that we will not be condemned [to eternal punishment] along with the world. (AMP Version: I Corinthians 11:27-32)

To sum up these admonitions, Paul cautions believers not to eat of the bread or drink from the cup in an “unworthy” manner.  If they do, he writes, they will bring judgment upon themselves for “sinning against” (See above AMP v. 27) the Body and Blood of the Lord Jesus, resulting in weakness, sickness, or even death (v. 30).

By following and acting upon these admonitions, we will neither incur the consequences of sinning against the Lord’s Body and Blood, nor be “condemned to eternal punishment along with all non-believers” (See v. 32 above):

Instead, Paul’s remedy is that believers need to “judge themselves rightly” so they will not be judged or condemned along with the world (v. 32).  

Part V

Paul’s final teaching on this subject, therefore, entails that believers should “wait for one another,” eating at home rather than using the elements of the Last Supper to satisfy their hunger.  Avoid the temptation, he writes, so that the whole body does not come together “for judgment” (v. 34):  Here is the definitive passage:

So then, my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home, so that you will not come together for judgment. The remaining matters I will arrange when I come. (I Corinthians 11:33-34)

Eating and Drinking the Lord’s Supper Unworthily

What does the Apostle Paul mean when he counsels believers not to eat and drink of the Lord’s Supper “unworthily,” or in an “unworthy manner”?  (See I Corinthians 11:27 in Part IV above.)  

The secret to solving this mystery lies, I believe, in the consequences and ramifications of the incurred judgments, which are “weakness, sickness, or even death.”  Paul writes that we must “judge” and “examine” ourselves  to ensure that we are not
“sinning” against the Body and Blood of Jesus, a sin that may incur weakness, sickness, or even death.  (I Corinthians 11:30)

Most clearly, since Paul is writing to believers in the Corinthian Church, a person cannot participate fully in the Lord’s Supper unless he or she has become a true believer in Jesus Christ and has accepted by faith what He accomplished as the “Lamb of God,” the ultimate and final sacrifice for the sin that separates us from God, our Holy Father.  

This is why even churches that practice “open communion,” or, in other words, churches that allow even non-members of the church to participate in the Lord’s Supper, will most often still warn everyone who partakes to ensure they have committed their hearts and lives to Him, through faith in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to avoid the results of taking the communion unworthily.  

Paul’s teachings and corrections are definitely directed in his letter to those who have indeed submitted to the Lordship of Jesus, having committed their hearts and lives to Him and become members of the Church of Corinth.  Therefore, we must assume that his injunctions and warnings apply to everyone in the True Church, including all believers in the Church today as well.  

It seems wise to ask, what are we missing from Paul’s message to the whole Church?  Why does it appear that many people today are weak, sick, or even dead?  Are we partaking of the Lord’s Supper unworthily?  Have we diminished the significance of the communion sacrament and disregarded the implications of not examining ourselves according to Christ’s own guidelines?

I believe the key to discovering the meaning of this mystery is found in the following passage from John’s Gospel:

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there; so they put a sponge full of the sour wine upon a branch of hyssop and brought it up to His mouth. Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit. (John 19:28-30)

This is what Dr. Michael Brown writes about John’s description of Christ’s final moments on the cross:

What did Jesus mean when He uttered the words “It is finished!” in John 19:30?

The phrase actually translates one word in Greek, tetelestai, from the root teleō, which means “to finish, fulfill.”

Significantly, this specific form of the verb, tetelestai, is only found twice in the entire New Testament, both times in John 19.

In fact, the two occurrences of tetelestai are found within three verses of each other: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.’ … When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:28, 30).

Do you see that? Although the verb teleō occurs 28 times in the New Testament, the form tetelestai is found only twice, and those two occurrences are in the same context, right next to each other, making the meaning perfectly clear.

Jesus was saying, “Mission accomplished! Everything that had to be done has been done! It is finished!” (Source: Click Here to View Brown’s article)

First of all, therefore, Jesus asks for something to quench His thirst in order to “fulfill the Scripture.”  See the prophecy in the Psalms:

They also gave me gall for my food
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (Psalms 69:21)

Then, when He has received the sour wine from the sponge held up to Him, He says, “It is finished!” and “gives up His spirit” in death.  

We learn from this passage that, even on the cross, Jesus was intent on ensuring that all of the prophecies found in the Old Testament concerning His atoning death were fulfilled and “accomplished” before He gave up His life.  Jesus then declared that His mission was finished: He had completed all that had been prophesied and that His Father had planned in sending His only Son to be sacrificed.

What is probably missing in our participations in the times for ‘rembrance” during communion, therefore, concerns our inability to acknowledge and receive the fulness of what Christ came to accomplish on the Cross.  These relate to the three conditions that result from our not holding fast in faith to what He “finished”: His triumph over weakness, sickness, and death on our behalf.  

In Remembrance of Him

One passage in the Book of Hebrews states this idea in specific terms:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Clearly, many believers in the Early Church, just as in churches today, needed to be reminded about “remembering,” or the acknowledgement in faith and the appropriation of the magnificent provisions of Christ’s sacrifice on the Church’s behalf.  What does this mean?

Particularly as we “remember” Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, we need to focus on receiving “mercy and finding grace in times of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Since Jesus Himself was tempted just as we are, yet He did not fall into sin, we need to identify with the One who overcame all of the consequences of all sin.  

Jesus could vicariously sympathize with us, when the sins of the world were placed on Him, while identifying Himself as the One who took the punishment for all of our sins, receiving in His own Body on the Cross the consequences of sin as He suffered and died, even to the point of being “forsaken” by His Father because of those sins (see Mark 14:34 and Matthew 27:46).  

While in the Garden praying, Jesus knew not only what He would suffer physically on the cross, but also what He would endure while having the sins of the world placed on Him.  Imagine what He must have experienced, for He was without sin and knew no sin, yet suddenly while on the Cross He felt the sins of a world filled with wickedness placed on Himself, the spotless Lamb of God.

As a result of His willingness to receive this judgment, the consequences of sin were done away with, including weakness, sickness, and even death.  Therefore, Jesus Himself, as our propitiation for our sin, endured weakness, sickness, and death for the first time in His life, suffering not only death and entombment, but also three days and nights in Hell itself.  Is it any wonder why He asked His Father. . . 

“Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Jesus was in such agony over what He would experience and endure that He suffered from hematidrosa (or “sweating blood”) (See definition of “hematidrosa” caused by extreme stress“). Yet even knowing what He would experience, He was willing to take our place and drink the cup offered to Him.  

Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (I Peter 2:24)

And beforehand, during the Last Supper with His disciples, He broke the bread and offered the cup to demonstrate to them how they could remember His sacrifice on their behalf.  Consequently, we today have also been instructed how to identify with Jesus’s offer of redemption through His own death, finding eternal life also through His resurrection.


Whenever I send a package via United Parcel Service, I receive a “tracking number” so that I can determine the progress of the package as it is being delivered.

In the same way, the Lord has given us a means of tracking our own progress as Christians in the ways of the Lord.  We daily need to examine and judge ourselves completely, while identifying with Jesus Christ and holding fast our confession of faith.

However, we also need especially to remember His accomplished work on the cross as we take communion, in order not to be judged and suffer the weaknesses, sickness, and even death that have fallen on some believers. We need to judge ourselves continually and appropriate by faith all that the Lord Jesus purchased for us when He drank the cup that was given to Him according to the will of His Father in Heaven.

The Kingdom of God, Part VIII

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The End of All Things:  Revelation 21-22

Chapter 21 in Revelation begins with a vision of the new heaven and the new earth John sees after the final judgment described in the previous chapter, when death and Hades are thrown into the lake of fire.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. (Revelation 21:1)

Again, like other images in Revelation, this detail about the sea’s not existing should not be taken literally, although in a new Heaven and a new Earth there may indeed be no more water, as some teachers of Revelation have suggested, even though there is a “River of Life” flowing through the city.

I believe that the sea in verse one refers symbolically to humanity, which no longer exists on the earth, for all of the unredeemed rebellious people have been sent to the lake of fire, and all of the redeemed are seen as the “New Jerusalem.”  

The sea also symbolizes humanity in Chapter 13 of Revelation, where we see two “beasts,” one rising out of the sea and the other rising out of the earth.  The first is described specifically as devoted to speaking blasphemies against God and persecuting the Church.

And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in thebook of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Revelation 13:6-8)

The city called the “New Jerusalem” in Revelation 21 is also depicted as the bride in the following passage:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:1-4)

The speaker in the next few verses is clearly Jesus Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, or the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. He is the First and the Last, and the Beginning and the End!

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:5-8)

This symbolic connection between the New Jerusalem and the Bride of Christ is emphasized further in the next passage, for “one of the angels says to John, Come and see the Bride” (21:9), yet the vision John then sees is the holy city, the New Jerusalem:

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. (Revelation 21:10-11)


What follows is an extensive and elaborate description of this magnificent city, including the dimensions, descriptions of the city gates, and the ornate composition of the walls and streets.

We need to be certain not to interpret these details literally, as though they describe a physical city, however.  Instead, the details are all symbolic, beginning with the picture of the “Lamb” and the temple.

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it; and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:22-27)

Even the word “Lamb” is a symbol representing Jesus Christ who is described as “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29), a description which links Jesus to the lambs of the temple sacrifices of the Old Covenant that were sacrificed for the sins of the people.  Even these lambs were a pre-figured representation of the ultimate sacrifice for sin that Christ completed on the cross of His crucifixion, as described by Peter:

  • He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (I Peter 2:24)
  • For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison, (I Peter 3:18-19)

In addition, unlike what I was taught as a teenager, the New Jerusalem is not a physical place where all the saints will live, but instead consists of all of Christ’s saints, those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and are built up as “living stones,” as the Apostle Peter relates:

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, aprecious corner stoneAnd he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” (I Peter 2:4-6)

Further, John writes this about the Temple that is in the midst of the New Jerusalem, indicating that the Temple is an overall representation of the Church of Christ:

And nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only thosewhose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Revelation 21:27)

The Water and the Tree of Life

What follows in the next chapter, Revelation 22, is a description of the river of the water of life and the tree of life in the middle of the New Jerusalem, once again the symbolic representation of the Church, the Bride of Christ:

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)
This passage alludes back to the story of the fall of humankind in the Book of Genesis, where the tree of life first appears in the Scriptures.  If you will recall, God told Adam that the Earth was cursed because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, and the couple was banished so they would no longer have access to the Tree of Life.
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life. (Geness 3:22-24)
Thus, as the passage relates, there will no longer be a curse on the land, and the light will appear not from the sun, moon, and stars, but from the Lord God.

The Final Messages in Revelation

Finally, in Revelation 22:6-21, we read the final messages at the end of John’s visions:

  •  “And behold, I am coming quickly. Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.” (22:7)
  • “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. (22:10)
  • Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy.” (22:11)
  • “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (22:12)
  • I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (22:13)
  • “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (22:16)
  • The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (22:17)
  • He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” (22:20)

Some of these messages seem confounding and confusing, for they seem to be saying that the Lord is coming soon and Christ’s coming is near, in spite of the clear fact Jesus did not come soon.  Even the early apostles and the Apostle Paul implied that Christ’s coming was near.  

However, either His appearing has been delayed for two-thousand years or the Lord’s purposes have a deeper intent than we might suppose and understand.

Perhaps both interpretations may be correct, however, for the Apostle Peter addresses both possibilities about the delay in the Lord’s coming.  Considering that God is timeless, above the restrictions of the linear nature of time’s progress, only two days have passed!

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (II Peter 3:8)

In addition, the Lord will delay His coming until every stone has been added to the Temple, every person has been added to the Body of Christ:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (II Peter 3:9)

And finally, Peter says, the Lord will appear suddenly, without warning, much the same way a thief might secretly break into a home when least expected.  

Christ is not a thief, of course, but Peter’s analogy is significant.  As in the parable of the Ten Virgins, we need to be ready, no matter how long it takes, for He could appear at any moment:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (II Peter 3:10)

A Word of Warning

John  adds a final note of his own to his book, warning that some may try to add or take away from the words, and perhaps even the meanings, of the signs and symbols of these marvelously revealed visions.

I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19)

Unfortunately, some of the most dedicated teachers of Revelation have made the errors John mentions, either by adding their own interpretations to the visions or taking away parts of the visions. 

I heard recently a description of these kinds of interpretations as follows:

It’s like looking into a well and seeing one’s own reflection.  

Thus, some well-meaning teachers only see from their own solipsistic perspectives, rather than finding the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to understand the mysteries of Revelation.  This means, for example, that the locusts in the Book of Revelation are not helicopters with guided missiles, and the 144,000 saints are not members of a religious cult that only appeared in the twentieth century.

The Kingdom of God, Part VII

The Seventh Vision: Revelation 20

John’s Seventh Vision begins and ends in Chapter 20.  The previous six visions generally begin with an angelic messenger, but this messenger is different, for he holds a key. He is not given a key, for it is one He owns and has Himself obtained. He owns the key!

Jesus told Peter that “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19).  And we have already seen in the first chapter of Revelation the following verses when John saw the glorified Jesus Christ:
When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.  (Revelation 1:17-18)

Jesus Overcame Satan

Even before His victory on the cross, Jesus claimed to be the one who had come to bind the devil:  Luke 11:21

If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? So they will be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed. But when someone stronger than he attacks him and overpowers him, he takes away from him all his armor on which he had relied and distributes his plunder. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters. (Luke 11:18-22)

Before His resurrection and not long before Christ’s ascension to the right hand of God, the truths of His impending victory were clearly stated to the disciples and future apostles, though they did not understand completely.  In John’s Gospel, for example, Jesus prayed saying,

“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28)

Some in the crowd thought that an angel had spoken to Him, others that they had heard thunder, but Jesus makes clear what they had heard:

Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”(John 12:30-32)

And because the warfare in the spiritual realm is difficult to comprehend, Jesus promised the coming of the “Helper,” the Holy Spirit, who would not only enlighten the saints but also bring about the enforcement of the judgment of the prince of this world:

But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (John 16:7-11)

Later, the Apostle Paul wrote about Christ’s victory over Satan’s powers:

He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. (Colossians 2:13-15)

In the Book of Hebrews, we find that even though we live in the physical world with bones, sinews, and blood, we no longer need to fear the devil, who once held the power of death over us, for Jesus became a man with the same kind of physical body as ours to liberate us from him who once held us captive through the threats of death:

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. (Hebrews 2:14-15)

The Apostle John declared in his third letter that Jesus came to  “destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8).  And this understanding is confirmed in the vision John sees in his revelations.

What John Saw

Much confusion has arisen over the Church’s understanding of John’s vision in these final chapters, but we must realize that the many mysteries in Revelation are given to the whole Church, and the interpretations of these signs and symbols must relate to the whole Body of Christ.  Therefore, the good news of this revelation is not just for those living in what we call the “End Times.”

The “angel” in the following passage is actually Christ Jesus, for the word angel means “messenger,” and unlike the other messengers who are given a key, this messenger has a key already.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.  (Revelation 20:1-3)

During this period of one-thousand years the saints of God are given authority to go forth into all the nations to share the good news of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice and overcoming resurrection, but as we have seen in the other six visions, persecution is always the result.

First, the saints are given authority, the same authority Jesus claimed and delegated in Matthew 28:18-19, when He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.”

This authority is represented in Revelation 20 verse 4 in the words “thrones” and “judgment”:

Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. (Revelation 20:4)

When the Gospel goes forth, however, persecution is always the result, revealed in the following verses:

And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)

The vision continues with the description of the “first resurrection” from the dead, what happens when all who give their lives completely to the Lord Jesus are “reborn” of the spirit, as Jesus related to Nicodemus in the third chapter of the Gospel of John.

The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.  (Revelation 20:4-6)

This summation reveals that all who are in Christ Jesus shall not die but have eternal life with Him.  When does this life begin?  Not when our physical bodies die, for to be absent from the body, merely means to be present with the Lord (II Corinthians 5:8). Therefore, when we are reborn, we experience the “first resurrection.”

The Thousand Years Explained

Even when Jesus ascended into Heaven, the disciples continued looking into the sky to see when He was coming back, but the angel told them they had work to do first

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

The Apostle Peter, even in the first few years after Christ’s resurrection explained why the Lord’s second coming had not yet occurred:

But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (II Peter 3:7-9)

On the other hand, as we shall soon see in Revelation 22, the Lord Jesus said,

And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy. Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. (Revelation 22:10-12)

I come quickly, Jesus said, and He compared His coming to a “thief in the night,” which means it will come suddenly when we don’t expect it.

The First Resurrection

This first resurrection is best understood by seeing what the rest of the Scriptures reveal.  The Apostle Paul, for example, writes that we have been raised together with Christ and seated with Him on His throne:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7)

And in his Letter to the Colossians, Paul wrote that all the saints have not only died and been buried, but also raised up with Christ,

having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Colossians 2:12-13

In a parallel passage in Romans, Paul describes how we have been baptized as a symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection so that we might reign with Him:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:3-7)

Since we have died and been buried with Christ, as well as resurrected in the first resurrection, this is how we are to live our lives:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

We must set our minds where they exist in truth, seated with Christ in the Heavenlies.  Since Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world,”  we must not try to sit on our thrones in this earthly existence, only in the Heavenlies in the spirit.

The Final Judgment 

As in previous visions, specifically the one described in Revelation 16, the final judgment of Satan, his legions, and all on earth who continue in rebellion now occurs.

Just as the persecution of the saints begins when the Gospel goes forth, the time of judgment appears at the end of the visions John sees, this time a final judgment on those who continue to follow Satan, as well as Satan himself with his legions:

When the thousand years are completed, Satan will be released from his prison, and will come out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together for the war; the number of them is like the sand of the seashore. And they came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city, and fire came down from heaven and devoured them. And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  (Revelation 20:7-10)

The Great White Throne

In the final verses in Revelation Chapter 20, we read about the Great White Throne on which the One sits who will judge all of the dead based on their works and deeds in their lives. Clearly there has been a resurrection, for the scene John sees includes those who have died:

And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. (Revelation 20:13)

The “lake of fire” is reserved for those whose names are not written in the Book of Life, and even death and Hades are thrown into the fire as well:

Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)

In the last article in this series, we will continue to examine the final two chapters of this marvelously mysterious book.  I pray that your understanding has been enlightened!  As John wrote, “Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”




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The Kingdom of God: Revelation, Part VI

The Sixth Vision: Chapters 17-19

The Sixth Vision John describes in the Book of Revelation begins in Chapter 17 and continues through Chapter 19. This vision shows only the end of the cyclical tableau of seven visions John is shown. Rather than beginning with the first coming of Christ and revealing the warnings and judgments of the Gospel’s being sent to the world, however, this vision focuses on the end result of the judgments of God against Babylon.

Please understand that our purpose is not to dissect the text and try to understand every symbolic meaning and metaphoric element. Instead, it is more productive to get a comprehensive overview of the entire book to see how it relates not only to the Church today, but also to the Church of the whole Body of Christ that has come before us.

Two overriding metaphors are used in this vision to reveal the ultimate purposes of God.  Two women and two cities appear: first, the Bride of Christ, the Church, and the Harlot, Mystery Babylon; second, two cities also are in evidence, the New Jerusalem and Babylon. Just as the figure of the harlot and the virgin are seen as contrasting opposites, the Book of Revelation also speaks of two contrasting cities: Babylon and New Jerusalem.

The Harlot in Proverbs

John first compares Babylon to a “harlot,” and typical of a woman who sleeps with many men in exchange for money, this “woman” personifies spiritual corruption and contrasts with the purity of the other woman in the Book of Revelation, the Bride of Christ, or the Church.

The book of Proverbs portrays a harlot as a seductress to the vulnerable young man, seeking to lead him astray from wisdom and understanding. She uses the cover of darkness and the temptations of love and sexual pleasure to lead a young person to depart from wise behaviors.

Above all, the harlot in Proverbs is an advocate for false wisdom, a wisdom that leads to destruction rather than blessing. Spiritually, the harlot offers false wisdom as a means of obtaining wealth and power.

Lucifer’s deception in the Garden of Eden was that Adam and Eve  would not die as a result of disobedience, but they would become “like God,” knowing good and evil, and hence become the masters of their own destiny.

This deception has become the basis for all false religions, including atheism and agnosticism, as well as the false religions of both the past and the present, particularly occultism and sorcery.

Harlots in Isaiah and Jeremiah

The prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah both referred to Israel, Judah, or Jerusalem as a harlot or an unfaithful woman who commits adultery, for she was judged faithless and filled with selfish unrighteousness and even murder.

How the faithful city has become a harlot,
She who was full of justice!
Righteousness once lodged in her,
But now murderers. (Isaiah 1:21)

Then the Lord said to me in the days of Josiah the king, “Have you seen what faithless Israel did? She went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and she was a harlot there. I thought, ‘After she has done all these things she will return to Me’; but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. And I saw that for all the adulteries of faithless Israel, I had sent her away and given her a writ of divorce, yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear; but she went and was a harlot also. Because of the lightness of her harlotry, she polluted the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. Yet in spite of all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to Me with all her heart, but rather in deception,” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:6-10)

Babylon, the Harlot

Since the Bride in Revelation is a clear portrayal of the Church of Christ Jesus, numerous attempts have been made to identify the harlot in Revelation as representing some religions such as Catholicism or Islam, for example.

Unfortunately, many expositors of John’s Book of Revelation typically interpret the mysteries too narrowly, according to their own perspectives, rather than understanding that Revelation was written for the whole Church of all ages.

In this case, therefore, the vision is interpreted by the angel speaking to John himself. Although the angel declares that the  harlot is  a mystery, the angel provides the meaning of the mystery:

And on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” (Revelation 17:5)

The angel further explains the mystery of the woman, saying,

The woman whom you saw is the great city, which reigns over the kings of the earth.  (Revelation 17:18)

This interpretive key, along with the name of the harlot, tells us that Babylon is related not only to the stories of ancient Babylon in the Book of Daniel, but also to the story of Babel’s tower in Genesis 11:1-9:

 Mystery Babylon

In the original Hebrew texts, the names for “Babel” and “Babylon” were the same, essentially “Bbl,” since no vowels were used.  We can conclude, therefore, that the two cities were the same.  Thus, the Hebrew word translated “Babylon” is bâbel, which is the same word used in the book of Genesis that refers to the tower of Babel.

Using this story as a backdrop, therefore, we see that Mystery Babylon in Revelation represents the great city of historical Babylon, a city that symbolically depicts the attempts of humans to be equal with God and to elevate themselves to the sphere of divine beings.  They had swallowed the lie that they would be like gods, and their hope was manifested by building a tower they believed would reach into heaven.

Thus, Mystery Babylon in Revelation represents both a city and a harlot of false religion, one that supposedly helps humans find the divine from within themselves, rather than finding justification and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

The Tower of Babel

After the flood of Noah, the city of Babel was ruled by Nimrod, under whose leadership the tower was built.  Despite God’s desire that the people separate and inhabit the whole earth, Nimrod collected the people to himself, even building a ziggurat, or tower, to negate the possibility of a future flood in defiance of any future judgment of a flood from God.

Nimrod was the son of Cush, the grandson of Ham, and great-grandson of Noah.  Genesis describes him  as “a mighty one in the earth” and “a mighty hunter before the Lord” (Genesis 10:8-9).

Here is the story of the Tower of Babel as it is found in Genesis:

Now the whole earth used the same language and the same words. It came about as they journeyed east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. They said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and burn them thoroughly.” And they used brick for stone, and they used tar for mortar. They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. The Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.

An interesting article by biblical archaeologist Dr. David P. Livingston attempts to show that Nimrod was a fierce opponent of Yahweh.  Livingston proposes that Nimrod is not the man’s true name, which was a derogatory pseudonym, but that he was the one named Gilgamesh in the ancient epic.

First, what does the name Nimrod mean? It comes from the Hebrew verb marad, meaning “rebel.” Adding an “n” before the “m” it becomes an infinitive construct, “Nimrod.” (see Kautzsch 1910: 137 2b, also BDB 1962: 597). The meaning then is “The Rebel.” Thus “Nimrod” may not be the character’s name at all. It is more likely a derisive term of a type, a representative, of a system that is epitomized in rebellion against the Creator, the one true God. (See

Another legend concrning Nimrod is detailed by Josephus, the Jewish/Roman historian, who claimed that Nimrod’s city of Babel was constructed in defiance of Yahweh:

Now it was Nimrod who excited them to such an affront and contempt of God. . . . He also gradually changed the government into tyranny, seeing no other way of turning men from the fear of God, but to bring them into a constant dependence on his power. He also said he would be revenged on God, if he should have a mind to drown the world again; for that he would build a tower too high for the waters to reach. And that he would avenge himself on God for destroying their forefathers. (See

Thus, the stories of Nimrod and Babel lead us to the image of “Mystery Babylon” in Revelation, particularly the associations with autocratic governments, rebellion against God, blasphemy, and religious occultism. Consequently, we are able to understand more fully the symbolic images of Babylon, as the great city and the harlot, in the vision that John sees in Revelation.

The Harlot Rides on a Beast

The angel in John’s vision relates that the citizens of this Mystery Babylon will wage war against the Lamb and those who are with Him, those called “chosen and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come. (Revelation 17:8)

This description is uniquely mysterious.  I suggest that it relates to a parallel story about Lucifer.

We understand that Satan became the prince of this Earth after Adam’s sin, for Adam gave him his authority over the earth.  The three temptations of Christ confirm this assumed authority, for Satan the tempter declares that he will give Jesus the kingdoms of this world in exchange for His worship (see Matthew 4:1-11).  Of course, Jesus does not succumb to the lies of the devil, choosing instead to use the sword of the spirit, the Word of God in opposition.

Satan was then ultimately defeated by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, and the kingdoms of this world were indeed given over to the Messiah, who declared that “all power is given to me in Heaven and Earth (Matthew 28:18-20).  Though Satan fell “like lightning” from Heaven, he will arise from perdition for just a little while, only to be defeated again and finally imprisoned in Hell.  (We will study this in a future chapter of Revelation, specifically Chapter 20.)

Victory for the Lamb

Again in John’s vision, the sixth we have studied, there is a call for repentance and for all who are redeemed to come away from the spiritual domains of the Harlot:  

I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities. (Revelation 18:4-5)

The kings and merchants of the earth will mourn over Babylon, the Harlot, for they will no longer be able to access her luxuries or sell their goods to her.

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, because God has pronounced judgment for you against her.” Then a strong angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon, the great city, be thrown down with violence, and will not be found any longer. (18:20-21)

The destruction of Mystery Babylon, the Harlot, is decreed not only because of her corruption and rebellion, but also because of her persecution of the saints of the true Church of Christ:

And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints and of all who have been slain on the earth.” (Revelation 18:24)

The Bride of Christ

I’m constantly amazed at how perfectly God’s plans merge together into an astounding harmony throughout the Scriptures.  For example, just as Eve was formed out of the side of the first Adam in Genesis 2, the Bride of Christ, the Church, was formed out of the side of the second Adam, Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 15:45).

The Body of Christ, or the Church, was formed, therefore, as a result of Christ’s willingness to give His life through crucifixion and even to take the penalty in Hell for our sin.  At the time of His death, out of His side flowed water and blood to give us life in Him.

In Chapter 19 of Revelation, therefore, we see the Bride of Christ, the Church, ready to be married to the Lamb, or Christ Jesus.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.  Then he *said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” (Revelation 19:7-9)  

Our union with Christ as a marriage is a great mystery, wrote the Apostle Paul, for we are members of His body, having been formed from His resurrection. (Eph. 5:32).  We next see in Revelation, therefore, the second coming of Christ, not only to receive His Bride, but also to defeat finally the forces of Satan.

 Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, brightand clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. (Revelation 19:7-8)

Christ appears with His saints, also riding white horses, and the name written on His robe and on His thigh was “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses.  From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

Forces of Satan Defeated

We then see the forces and powers of darkness defeated, represented by the beast and the false prophet, the symbols of religious and secular opposition to the Kingdom of God.

And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh. (Revelation 19:20-21)

Thus, the sixth vision ends with the destruction of the forces of Satan and the blessed union of Christ with His Bride.


The Kingdom of God: Revelation, Part V

The Fifth Vision: 14-16

All In Seven Years?

One of the most persistent ideas about the End Times in the Church today is that many Revelation Bible teachers believe that the different outpourings of God’s wrath are successive, rather than describing the same events in different ways or from various perspectives.

I trust that you have seen in these articles so far that this is not the case.  Each cycle covers portions of the period between Christ’s birth and resurrection, followed by periods of tribulation as a result of persecution, culminating in the return of Christ to bring His Church/Bride home to heaven, along with the end of the world.

Although we are currently looking at John’s Fifth Vision, one other problem needs to be addressed.  

Many End-Time Bible teachers believe that a seven-year period of time, usually labeled the “Great Tribulation,” is predicted in Daniel Chapter 9.  And this period of seven years is the same amount of time all of the plagues, wars, beasts, judgments and horrible events in the Book of Revelation will supposedly appear and occur.

This teaching is based on a false interpretation of the prophecy found in Daniel, where the Angel Gabriel brings an answer to Daniel’s prayer of repentance for the people of Israel.  Here is Gabriel’s message:

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. (Daniel 9:24)

What follows, then, is a description of how and when these events will take place:

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. (Daniel 9:25)

These two verses show that from the issuing of the decree by Cyrus, the Prince of Persia (the successor to Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon) to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem there would be 69 weeks of years, “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks,”or 483 years (69 x 7 = 483).

Thus, 483 years after the decree is issued, the Messiah will appear and then be “cut off”:

Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. (Daniel 9:26)

This means that after the 483 years, the Messiah will begin His ministry on earth.  The Messiah will then be “cut off and have nothing,” sometime during the final seven-year period, or the 70th week.  This happened when Jesus was crucified after about three and a half years.

Then, the “prince who is to come” will bring about the destruction of Jerusalem once again, along with the Temple.

Not only Daniel, but also Jesus predicted during His earthly ministry that the Temple would again be destroyed.   

And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” (Luke 21:5-6)

Consequently, Jesus implied also that all sacrifices and grain offerings in the Temple would cease, for the Temple would be destroyed, for He was the Messiah who would cause sacrifices to cease.

This is how Gabriel’s message to Daniel is stated: 

And he [i.e. Jesus] will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week [i.e. 3 1/2 years]  he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)

Therefore, Jesus the Messiah was indeed “cut off” in the middle of the final “week,” or seven years, for He was crucified after three and a half years.  Then after his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus the sinless Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice for sin, caused all sacrifices to cease.

The common understanding is that there needs to be a new temple built and sacrifices resumed in order for the “prince who is to come” can cut off sacrifices and grain offerings, a condition that denigrates Christ’s ultimate sacrifice as the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  

The Apostle Paul raged against this kind of teaching, opposing those who wanted Christians to continue to follow the laws of Moses, which would include sacrifices.  

In the sixth century B.C. during the Babylonian captivity, the sacrifices ceased until the Temple was rebuilt about seventy years later. The sacrifices continued until AD 70 when Titus and the Roman army sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Since then, the sacrifices have not been offered because the temple has not been rebuilt.

This means that there is no 2,000-year gap between the 69th and 70th weeks of Gabriel’s message to Daniel, and no other prophecy predicts a mere seven-week tribulation period.  Instead, Jesus told His disciples that “in the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33).  

This is how the Apostle Paul describes the tribulation to the Church in Rome:

But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. (Romans 2:5-11)

I have written two articles on this problem, posted September 1, 2014, but if you would like to see them again, click here and copy/paste to your web browser: 



The Bowls of Wrath

The Fifth Vision John sees focuses directly on the judgments of God against those on Earth who have refused to turn to the Lord of Mercy in repentance.

Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last, because in them the wrath of God is finished. (15:1)

John then sees a picture in Heaven of those who have been victorious on Earth as they have taken their stand against the temptations of sin:

And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God. (Revelation 15:2)

John then sees this gathering of victorious people with harps in their hands, singing the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb. John sees seven angels carrying golden bowls filled with the wrath of God:

After these things I looked, and the temple of the tabernacle of testimony in heaven was opened, and the seven angels who had the seven plagues came out of the temple, clothed in linen, clean and bright, and girded around their chests with golden sashes. Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God, who lives forever and ever. And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from His power; and no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. (Revelation 15:5-8)

The Bowls of Wrath

Chapter 16 begins, therefore, with the seven angels holding Bowls of Wrath. They are told by a loud voice from Heaven this message:

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God. (Revelation 16:1)

The rest of this chapter continues with the descriptions of the bowls of wrath being poured out upon the Earth.  The first six bowls are poured, including the following plagues:

  • The first angel pours his bowl and it brings a loathsome and malignant sore upon the people who worship the beast and carry his image on their foreheads.
  • The next angel pours the second bowl, and the sea becomes blood.
  • Then the third angel pours out blood into the rivers and springs of water and cries out that God is righteous, “for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it” (16:6).
  • The fourth angel pours his bowl onto the sun, and it began to scorch the sons of men until they cried out blasphemies, yet still would not repent.
  • The fifth angel pours his bowl of wrath on the throne of the beast, and his kingdom becomes darkened. They cried out in pain because of their sores, and though they blasphemed God, they would not repent.
  • The sixth angel pours out his bowl on the River Euphrates, yet it became dry, leaving a clear path for the armies of the kings of the east.

Now there is a brief pause between the sixth and the seventh bowls to reveal the gathering of the nations in a place called Armageddon, or Har-Magedon in Hebrew.


John sees three unclean spirits coming out of the mouths of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet that are like frogs.  These spirits go out to the kings of the earth to gather them together for “the Great Day of God,” the final judgement of God against those who refuse to repent:

Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder; and there was a great earthquake, such as there had not been since man came to be upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe. (Revelation 16:17-20)

Thus, the question is not, “What is Babylon?” or “Who is the Beast?” Instead, what should concern us and the Church of all ages is what these terms represent.  

So many have labeled them in twenty-first-century people or places, but they have been represented throughout history in countless different ways.  


How Do We Interpret Such Mysteries?

Imagine living in the time of the Apostle John in the first century after the Book of Revelation was written. Whom do you believe is the “Beast: or the “Harlot”?  What does “Babylon” represent?  

Or perhaps you are living during the reign of Nero in Rome, or even Hitler in Germany in the 1940s.  

Is Barrack Obama the Antichrist? Some have declared him to be the one John wrote about in Revelation. Should we try to fit these historical figures into John’s apocalyptic visions, only to be wrong when years pass?  

Today, one site ( declares that Alexander the Great is the Antichrist who will supposedly rise from the dead. Other sites say the Pope is the Antichrist. Wait, I thought Henry Kissinger was the Antichrist!  Oh, no!  

Today, we are told that the “Mystery  of Babylon” (which we will study next in Revelation 17) is Rome, or Jerusalem, or even America, depending on the interpretations of the various Bible teachers. And these places are interpreted literally, not as representations of spiritual significance applicable to all Christians.

Shouldn’t these teachings be modified in case the link doesn’t work out in the light of history, as has happened so often in the past?  

Again, this is the danger of trying to be too specific in terms of identifying the actual persons or places in Revelation and linking them with present-day people or cities.  

On the other hand, if I were alive in the first or second centuries hearing that the Beast arising out of the sea is an evil person living in the 21st century, I’m not sure I would take the warnings of repentance and the consequences of not doing so too seriously.  

Thus, we need to focus our spiritual attention on the meanings of these visions, not trying to take them literally or applying them to specific contemporary people or places. If we are wrong, we will only bring reproach on the Church and Christ Jesus.

Nor should we be focusing on the “signs of the times” to declare that the European Common Market is the Beast with seven heads and ten horns found in Revelation 13 and 17.  It’s been years since I have even heard that term “Common Market” used, but when I was a teenager that was what we were told was the prime indicator of the Antichrist’s coming kingdom.

In the next article, we will consider John’s Sixth Vision beginning in Revelation Chapter 17.


The Kingdom of God: Revelation, Part IV


The Fourth Vision (Chapters 12-14)

Rightly Dividing the Book of Revelation

First a few suggestions for reading and studying the Book of Revelation.  I’ve already written that John’s Apocalypse is a book of signs and symbols. Consequently, it should not be read literally.  

When we see a beast arising out of the sea in Revelation, it does not refer to the  creature living in Loch Ness or to the whale in Moby Dick.  And we know that the creatures in Jurassic Park and other films are not real, even though they look realistic.

In addition, however, realizing that there are many mysteries and secret meanings in the Revelation, persecution from world governments and false religions is a primary theme John is asked to write down.  Therefore, the book is written in a kind of code that may only be broken by using the whole Word of God as a key.  

Those not familiar with the Scriptures will be totally confused by the strange beasts and descriptions of the plagues, for example, but we who have read about the story of the Exodus of Moses or the visions of Daniel have access to the secrets God wants to reveal to His people.

Finally, one more suggestion: We should not become focused on every detail in John’s vision, trying to find direct links comparing what is written with current events or people in history.

Instead, finding meaning is much like seeing a painting by Picasso, trying to understand all of the colors, lines, and distorted features of the portraits.  Picasso needs to be understood wholistically, not focusing on any particular unusual feature in a painting.  Clearly, Picasso was not trying to be realistic in his paintings, but instead only suggesting his ideas through images that convey his ideas.

The following painting, for example, makes more sense when we know it is of a weeping woman. 

However, we do not need to understand Picasso’s every intention to see what the artist is doing overall.  We either like the painting or we don’t, and I have to say that I prefer the works of other artists much more than those of Picasso!  

Thus, we need to see the Book of Revelation as a whole, in context with the rest of the Scriptures, relying on the Holy Spirit for guidance.  

For example, we will see the sickles in Chapter 14 in context with Christ’s Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, a good example of determining meanings in the whole body of God’s Word, for in many ways, the Book of Revelation is equally disturbing in terms of the images and symbols John writes about.  


Another Vision

Beginning in Chapter 12, therefore, we again see one more perspective of God’s plan to redeem the world and set free all who will call upon His name in faith. This Fourth Vision begins the cycle of the whole plan of redemption, although some of the seven visions do not contain the entire tableau, as we will see in future articles.  

This Fourth Vision begins with the story of Christ’s first coming:

A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth.  (Revelation 12:1-2)

Most teachers and scholars in the Church believe that this woman represents the true Israel, the crown of twelve stars standing for the twelve tribes.  John’s vision relates to Joseph’s dream in Genesis:

Now he had still another dream, and related it to his brothers, and said, “Lo, I have had still another dream; and behold, the sun and the moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” He related it to his father and to his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have had? Shall I and your mother and your brothers actually come to bow ourselves down before you to the ground?” (Genesis 37:9-10)

Clearly, Jacob (whose name is later changed to Israel) interprets Joseph’s dream in the following way: The “sun” represents Israel, the “moon” represents Rachel, and the “eleven stars” represent Jacob’s eleven sons (besides Joseph). (See also Genesis 35:9-10.)

Some Bible bloggers believe this number cannot represent the Church, for it only consists of Jews.  However, the New Testament clearly declares that the Jews and the Gentiles both make up the True Church in Heaven.  See my articles on “The New Covenant with Israel” concerning the joining together of Jews and Gentiles:

The Birth of the Savior

In John’s vision, therefore, the woman, who represents the faithful people of Israel, is pregnant, or “with child,” and she is ready to give birth to the One who will redeem the world out of the control of Satan.

Then John sees another sign in Heaven, a great dragon who waits for the child to be delivered so it may devour the child and destroy God’s plans:

Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. And his tail *swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. (Revelation 12:3-4)

In fact, Satan indeed conspired to kill Jesus, the promised Son of God and Messiah, by using King Herod, who ended up committing mass murder of children to rid his kingdom of a potential rival for his throne.

The dragon in Revelation, therefore, represents Lucifer, or Satan, who brought down many angels with him. (Revelation 12:4).


Lucifer’s Fall

Ezekiel’s prophecies of this event depict not just the King of Tyre, but also Lucifer, for the prophet relates that Lucifer was in Eden (Ezekiel 28:14); he was the “anointed cherub” God placed on the Holy Mountain (14); he was “blameless” in his ways until unrighteousness and sin were found in him (15); and he was cast as profane from the mountain of God (16).  And according to many Bible teachers, when Lucifer fell, he took one-third of the angels with him.

What follows next in Revelation depicts in just one verse the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension to Heaven of Christ Jesus, the promised Messiah:

And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne. (Revelation 12:5)


Michael Again Wages War

Once again, however, we find that when the Gospel goes forth into the world, persecution follows, and this is what happens to the woman, or the true Israel, who has become the True Church, the Bride of Christ: “Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God (12:6).

Michael the Archangel also appears in John’s vision, along with Michael’s fellow angelic warriors,  waging war with the dragon.  This dragon is, a symbol of Satan and his demonic angels, for this symbolism is explicitly revealed by John in the following passage:

And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:7-9)

John then hears the voice of victory in Heaven:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. (Revelation 12:10-11)
The battle that raged in the Heavens, however, is not finished, for it is then waged on earth.  The dragon, or Satan, attempts to persecute the woman who gave birth to the child, but she was protected, able to fly to the wilderness (12:13-15).  Therefore, the dragon turns his persecutions against the Church, or the “children” of the woman:
So the dragon was enraged with the woman, and went off to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. (Revelation 12:17)


The First Beast

The story continues, showing how the dragon, or Satan, stood on the sand of the seashore awaiting a “beast” coming out of the sea. This beast is a representation of worldly powers, authorities, and rulers in the form of various beasts and animals:

Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.  (Revelation 13:1-2; see also Daniel 7)

These beasts symbolize the governments and rulers of the world, and they are much the same as those beasts arising out of the sea in the 7th Chapter of Daniel.  These governments also seek to persecute the Church:

It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Revelation 13:7-8)


Another Beast

Then in John’s vision another beast arises out of the sea, one that represents the false religions of the world, yet a beast that still supports and functions under the authority of the first beast:

Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. (Revelation 13:11-14)

This beast is like a lamb, but it speaks with the voice of a dragon. Thus, this beast speaks the words of the dragon, but it is deceptive, operating like a benign religion while exercising the authority of the first beast.  Thus, this second beast is a picture of the counterfeit church, an alternative to the True Church of Jesus Christ.

Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six. (Revelation 13:18)

The number 666 represented here in Revelation is a bit difficult for modern readers to understand, but it was common to use letters of the alphabet not just to form written words but also to represent numbers, hence the numeric system we had to learn in elementary school:  Roman Numerals. 

This conversion of letters to numbers system is called a “gematria,” and was commonly used in the Early Church as a code to identify various people who were persecuting the Church without naming them directly and, thus, inviting increased persecution.

John says, however, that the one “who has understanding” can calculate the “number of the beast,” so applying this name to someone two thousand years later seems unwise.  The Emperor Nero, however, seems to be a likely candidate, not only because of the “gematria,” the numbers in his name adding up to 666, but also his extreme persecution of Christians, an important theme in John’s book. Thus, Nero is a symbol for future world leaders used by Satan to persecute the Church.


The 144,000 on Mount Zion

Finally, nearing the end of this Fourth Vision, we see a picture of the resurrected Church:

Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. (Revelation 14:1)

The Mount Zion John sees in Heaven is not the same Mount Zion in geographical Jerusalem, nor will it be in future visions in Revelation.  Mount Zion in geographical Jerusalem is where King David claimed the fortress from the Jebusites, making it his palace and the site of the future Temple.

In the New Testament, however, Zion takes on additional symbolic and spiritual significance as the name of the city of the Living God.  First of all, Peter says that Jesus Christ is the “Cornerstone for the foundation,” described in Isaiah’s prophecy.

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For this is contained in Scripture: Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stoneAnd he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the very corner stone,”  (I Peter 2:4-7)

As Peter describes it, Christian believers are part of the Temple, as living stones built upon the foundation of Christ the Cornerstone.

And as the writer to the Hebrews describes it, Christians “have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind” (Hebrews 12:18).  Instead, he writes, you have come to the true Mount Zion in Heaven:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven. (Hebrews 12:22-23)

Although, much has been proposed about who the 144,000 are, therefore, it is clear that they are those who have been sanctified and set apart unto God through Jesus Christ, and are a part of the Mount Zion in Heaven, the New Jerusalem.  These Christians are able to sing a “new song” and have the name of Jesus and His Father God on their foreheads. They also have been purified and have lived chaste lives:

These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless. (Revelation 14:3-5)

Their number, 144,000, is a combination of several significant symbolic numbers:  3 x 4 x 12 x 10 x 10 x 10.  Thus, the total number of 144,000 is made up of combinations and multiples of the prominent symbolic numbers in the Scriptures and represent the True Church in Heaven.


Final Judgment

In the final part of the Fourth Vision, we see three angels proclaiming the final judgment on the followers and worshipers of the Beast, those who have a mark on their hand or their forehead. Here are the words of the three angels:

  • Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come. (v. 7)
  • And another angel, a second one, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.” (v. 8)
  • “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb.  (v. 9-10)
We find two bodies of people in the final part of John’s Fourth Vision, therefore: First, the True Church, or the 144,000, those with a mark on their forehead with the names of Jesus and His Father;  and second, those who worship the beast and hold to the false religion of spiritual Babylon.  
Finally, the vision ends with two angels carrying sickles, reaping the “harvest of the earth” in judgment.  The people of God are reaped to enter their final place in Heaven, while those who have worshiped the beast are reaped and, like the “tares” in Christ’s teaching, are doomed to fire and brimstone.

Tares Among Wheat

This part of  John’s vision in Revelation is a reflection of Christ’s “Parable of the Wheat and the Tares.”  

Tares are very similar in appearance to wheat, but they appear first in the ground and steal nutrients from the soil.  They entwine themselves around the wheat so they cannot be removed without destroying the wheat crop as well.  

The tares mature faster than wheat, however, so they may be cut first and destroyed, allowing the wheat to grow to maturity.  

Here is Christ’s parable, along with the interpretation He gives the disciples.  Notice the parallels with the vision John sees in Revelation 14:

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’ But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Then Jesus is asked to explain the parable:

Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Thus, the Fourth Vision repeats the cycle, beginning with the coming of Jesus, continuing with the spread of the Gospel and the subsequent persecutions by the two beasts, and concluding with the final judgment.

Looking to Things Unseen

New Criticism

When I began my studies in English Literature in the late 1960s, the favored method of textual interpretation was called “formalism,” or “New Criticism,” proposed by I.A. Richards in the 1920s.   Other approaches were not favored necessarily, particularly Freudian criticism, Marxist criticism, and philosophical criticism.

New Critical methods focused on discovering the author’s intentions through a “close reading,” while looking at the uses of figurative language or other expository techniques and asking what the author’s purpose was and what he or she wanted the reading audience to learn or discover.  This method involved analyzing a poem, novel, or short story based on the writer’s techniques, without bringing in a lot of background information about the author’s life, the history of the time, the beliefs or values of the culture at the time.

As students, our goal was to analyze each text based on the text alone as much as possible, discovering an ironic tone, for example, or the imagery patterns the author may have developed.  We also analyzed the work’s setting, characters, and the author’s overall point of view and try to discover what the author’s message was in the text.

When I entered my doctoral program of study over twenty years later, I learned that the world of literary criticism and study had changed drastically, for the work of Jacques Derrida, labeled “Deconstruction,” had overtaken the literary realm from New Criticism. This new method was nearly antithetical to New Criticism, for it essentially denied the possibility of any work’s having an inherent meaning, for such a meaning was considered impossible given the nature of human language and thought.

I’ll never forget one published article I read that essentially said, “The meaning of a text changes the moment it is written down, and it continues to change with every person’s reading of that text.”  This idea was stunning to me, for I asked myself, “Why read anything then?”

One of the first essays I wrote for my PhD classes concerned the imagery patterns in a particular novel we were analyzing.  I focused on similar passages in the novel that used the same types of images (similes, metaphors), so I quoted the texts at length, completing a thorough New Critical study of the novel.

I was stunned when I received my graded paper back.  My grade wasn’t the usual top of the ladder mark I was used to getting, and my professor simply wrote in explanation, “So what?”  In other words, he was saying, you have uncovered an imagery pattern, but in itself it means nothing.  What does the novel say as a result of these patterns?

In other words, he was saying, you have uncovered and analyzed the author’s imagery patterns, but in itself your analysis means nothing.  What does the novel say as a result of these patterns, if anything?

I wasn’t used to having to explain the interpretation of a text necessarily, so I definitely had to readjust my thinking when approaching a work of literature if I wanted to succeed in getting my PhD degree.


The Scriptures

In actuality, the New Critical approach I learned as an undergraduate was very appropriate for studying the Scriptures, however, for I had learned to recognize the truth resident in the words themselves, understanding that the truth was infallible and could be discovered, for that was God’s purpose.  I had found that a deconstruction approach, however, was futile, for it declared itself to result in meaningless meanings from a text that was itself meaningless. However, I believed that the words of the Scriptures had true meanings, and they could be not only understood but also life changing if received by faith.

However, I believed that the words of the Scriptures had true meanings, and they could be not only understood but also life changing if received by faith.


Biblical New Criticism?

Analyzing literary techniques found in the Scriptures is not always easy, for we live in a different age and culture.  Nor are we familiar with the writing strategies prominent in the Scriptures, and finding them is difficult.

For example, the use of an ironic tone in the Bible is not always apparent, and if it is used, it is often difficult to discern.  However, we may discover fairly easily that Elijah is being very ironic when he says, “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone” (I Kings 18:27).

If you will recall, Elijah had set up a test for the 450 prophets of Baal.  He challenged them to offer an ox as sacrifice; however, they were not to start a fire, but instead were to challenge Baal himself to burn the sacrifice on his altar.

So they cried with a loud voice and cut themselves according to their custom with swords and lances until the blood gushed out on them. When midday was past, they raved until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice; but there was no voice, no one answered, and no one paid attention. (I Kings 18:28-29)

When no fire appeared, Elijah was moved to speak words of ironic ridicule, saying, “Perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.”

Elijah then showed how God was strong on his behalf.  He had the Lord’s altar rebuilt with a trench around it, then he had four pitchers of water poured over the ox, not once but three times, until the water filled the trench also.

When he prayed for God to reveal Himself, the fire appeared miraculously:

Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” (I Kings 18:38-39)


Double Meanings

One university freshman literature class I had was reading an essay from our text that was written in a highly ironic tone. The author essentially was saying that medical personel should not be required by law to hold to their Hippocratic Oath, for they should not be required to treat patients with extremely communicable diseases such as AIDS.

Several students wrote their analysis of this essay agreeing with the author, not realizing that he was using an extremely ironic tone in his essay.  In essence, his intentions were entirely the opposite of what his words seemed to be saying.

After studying this lack of recognition in students further, I learned that the cognitive abilities of most young people do not completely function until well after their teens when their pre-frontal brain lobes have fully developed.

Thus, college freshmen by and large are unaware of the many nuances of tone in language and in writing particularly.  I found I had to demonstrate verbally, using exaggerated tones of voice, to show the difference between the many different messages that might be communicated in writing just by altering the tone in my voice.


Irony in the Scriptures?

This kind of ironic double meaning is apparent in the description God gave to Isaiah:

Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes, so that they may not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and comprehend with their minds, and turn and be healed. (Is 6:10)

Why would God not want people to hear, or see, or understand the prophet? Why wouldn’t He want the people to be healed? Jesus essentially said the same thing after telling His Parable of the Sower:

To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God, but those who are outside get everything in parables, so that while seeing, they may see and not perceive, and while hearing, they may hear and not understand, otherwise they might return and be forgiven. (Mark 4:11)

In other words, an obstinate people may hear the words, but they will not receive the message for which they will then be held accountable.  Is God being cruel to these people?  No, He ultimately is being kind.


Finding Patterns

In a similar way, I learned that finding patterns in the Scriptures was helpful in understanding what the authors, and hence the Holy Spirit, intended.

While reading through Paul’s second letter to the Church at Corinth, for example, I found some significant passages in the fourth and tenth chapters that seemed interrelated, especially after I was able to discern the similarities in their contexts and meanings.

Read through the following passages carefully to see if you also can find the similar meanings:

  • But our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (II Corinthians 3:5-6)
  • And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (II Corinthians 4:3-4)
  • But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak, knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you. (II Corinthians 4:13-14)
  • Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.  (II Corinthians 4:13-18)
  • I ask that when I am present I need not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.  (II Corinthians 10:2-4)
  • You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.  (II Corinthians 10:7-11)

Finding the common themes in these passages may be difficult for you, at least at first, but read them through several times slowly, while thinking about what the Lord is telling us through the Apostle Paul.

Take note of the following extractions from these passages, for they may help you to find the common themes:

  • . . .not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
  • . . .if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. . .so that they might not see the light of the gospel
  • . . .having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,
  • . . .while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
  • For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.
  • You are looking at things as they are outwardly.

Combining these ideas together, we find that we Christians are contending in a daily struggle or a kind of warfare against two competing realms.  The conflict is in the realm of the flesh and the realm of the spirit, between what is seen as opposed to what is unseen, the outward appearance versus the unseen inner reality, between faith fighting against unbelief, and what is veiled in darkness against what is seen in the light.

Consequently, we find that the Apostle Paul wants to teach us about walking in the Spirit according to the Word of God, not looking to outward appearances or moving according to the flesh, but being guided by the unseen presence of the mighty God and taking our guidance from Him.


Receiving The Power of the Holy Spirit

Filled to Overflowing

I recently asked a pre-teen boy if he had ever asked Jesus to come into his heart.  He answered that he had, so I asked him when he had made this decision.  When had he prayed and invited Jesus to come and live with him and be his Lord?

He thought a moment, then said, “When I was born!”  I assured him that he needed to make a more definite decision at some specific time in his life.

Thinking again, he said, “Well, I guess it was the first time I went to Church, then.” I told him we all need to make a definite decision to ask Jesus to cleanse us from all sin and come into our lives.  I emphasized that salvation is not necessarily automatic. We can just live good lives or be raised in a godly home.


Continued Filling

We all need to continue to grow in the Lord and in the power of His might. Salvation is only the beginning of our life in the Lord.  We may have the foundation built, but we need to build on that foundation with more than wood hay, and straw as we continue our journey with our Lord through this life.

For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. (I Corinthians 3:11-13)

For example, how many times have you asked God for more power in your life?  Do you hunger and thirst after righteousness, or “right-standing” with Him? Many Christians assume that the power of the Holy Spirit is a gift that is automatic and doesn’t need to be searched and prayed for.


The Holy Spirit’s Likeness

The Holy Spirit is described in the Scriptures in many figurative ways.  When Jesus met with His disciples immediately after His resurrection, for example, John’s Gospels says that Jesus “breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit'” (John 20:22).

Later, however, Jesus told them, “And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:48-49).

Then, before His ascension, Jesus gathered his disciples together and commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (Acts 1:4-5).

In these verses the Holy Spirit is compared to Jesus’ breath, articles of clothing, and with cleansing water.  Also, these verses show that the “promise of the Father” was not limited to just being born again in one moment, or just the Church’s receiving the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, but the filling, or “baptism” of the Holy Spirit, when they received the power they needed to be His witnesses “throughout the world,” a phrase that extends these promises to all believers today:

Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.”  (Acts 2:38-39)

The pouring out of the Holy Spirit was, and today still is today, a step-by-step life of filling and refilling.  The early believers received this power at Pentecost, but also were filled again with power when Peter and John were released by the Jewish religious rulers after the healing of the lame beggar (Acts 3).

And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.  (Acts 4:31)

Other Examples

More examples of the infilling of the Holy Spirit may be found in the Acts of the Apostles in particular. Most noteworthy are those when Christians were filled again with the Holy Spirit, not just when they were saved or born again.

Saul of Tarsus was definitively “saved” when he met Jesus in a vision on the Road to Damascus, for Ananias was sent not to lead Saul in praying the “sinner’s prayer,” but to pray for the healing of Saul’s eyes and also for the infilling of the Holy Spirit.  After laying his hands on him, Ananias said,

Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.  (Acts 9:17)

Another example is when Peter was sent to the first gentile Christians at the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion.  Notice that the Holy Spirit fell upon these gentiles before they were baptized:

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. (Acts 10:44-48)

This is the reverse order of what occurred on the Day of Pentecost, for during Peter’s message to the gathered Jews, he said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 10:47).  Thus, water baptism usually came first!

Finally, we have the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesian believers:  “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

The Holy Spirit is not only our Comforter and our Teacher, but also the true source of our Power.  We need to seek Him and His power continually in our lives, not just be filled, but also refilled.


Discernment in Spiritual Warfare


What is Discernment?

What does it mean to have discernment?  The Apostle Paul gives us an exhortation that demonstrates the need for discernment in the following verses: 

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.  (Philippians 1:9-11)

By exercising discernment, Paul writes, our love for others will grow and abound through the true knowledge of God, for it will be based on the will and wisdom of God.  Consequently, we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness, our right-standing with God, and we will be without blame, having walked in the paths of righteousness.  We will know which turns to take that will lead us to Him.

Discernment is described in slightly different terms in the following exhortation by Paul: 

But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”  (I Thessalonians 5:21-22)

Thus, the word discernment is typically defined as the ability to distinguish, or judge, between good and evil, true and false.   It is impossible to do so, however, unless we have help from God, particularly since there are no true standards for what is good or evil in the world today.  We live in an age when truth is relative, and it is the particular situation that decides what is right and wrong, at least to those who advocate “situation ethics.”  This is why we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit to reveal what truly  comes from Him.   

The apostle John issues a warning about the false prophets who have been teaching the heresies of gnosticism, for example, a philosophy that was based on the idea that all matter is evil; therefore, Jesus could not have appeared and died physically, much less resurrected, in the flesh.  

John writes, 

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.  (I John 4:1-3)

True discernment is Holy Spirit inspired, yet the writer to the Hebrews declares that we can become so aware of the differences between good and evil that even our senses may become adept at knowing the difference:

Concerning him we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.  (Hebrews 5:11-14)

Thus, the Word of God is the basis of our training, first with the “milk” of the word, the fundamentals of the faith, followed by the “solid food” that is linked to the “word of righteousness,” the deeper truths of the Word that reveal to us the mysteries and secrets God desires for us to know about His plans and purposes.


The Spiritual Gift of Discernment

Both the “milk” and “solid food” of the Word of God, therefore, are significantly important in the exercise of discernment, for we must know the difference between what is good and what is evil.  In the realm of spiritual warfare, therefore, the Holy Spirit has given the Church the gift of discernment: the “distinguishing” or “discerning” of spirits (I Corinthians 12:10).  

This spiritual gift is important when it comes to “testing” the spirits to see whether they come from God, particularly when various teachings and prophecies come forth into the Body of Christ (I John 4:1). This is why we need all of the spiritual gifts described in I Corinthians 12.   If anything, we need the gift of discernment as much today as in the early Church age to help us uncover the darkness that is in our world, as well as the false teachings and false prophecies that are constantly coming forth, even in the churches.

Yes, the Word of God is the foundation of our faith, and it alone is the final arbiter of what is true and false doctrine. However, the Word alone is not enough for those who are infants in terms of their spiritual growth and development, those whose senses have not become trained to discern good and evil.  And especially in the realm of spiritual warfare, we desperately need the gifts of discernment, knowledge, and wisdom to uncover false teachings and the hidden evils of Satan, who disguises himself even as an angel of light.  

Paul writes about this problem in his letter to the Corinthians:

For such men are false apostles,deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness,whose end will be according to their deeds.  (II Corinthians 11:13-15)

My Sheep Hear My Voice

One story in the Gospel of John speaks to this issue of discernment, specifically with those who refused to believe in Jesus.  They ask Him, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24).  Jesus replies that He has already told them, but they did not believe, for the works and miracles He has performed in the Father’s name testify of Him.  

These skeptics have not exercised true discernment, however, for Jesus did not always speak literally in words, but He also spoke through signs and wonders.  They do not believe because they, like the false prophets the Apostle John describes, do not believe that Jesus has come in the flesh, even when He is standing in front of them.  Jesus tells them, 

But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. (John 10:26-28)


The Plot to Capture Elisha

Having discernment means that we can see beyond the natural world and into the realms of the spirit.   And the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, or of the flesh, but they are mighty to the pulling down of demonic strongholds, even though we cannot see them with our physical eyes.  

This kind of discernment is emphatically demonstrated in the story of Elisha, who was being hunted by the King of Aram.

The enraged king sent for his servants, demanding to know which of them had betrayed him to the Israelites.  It seemed that every time he and his armies waited in secret places to attack, the Israelites always avoided the surprise attack. The king is sure that there is someone in his house who is a spy, and he is determined to find out who it is.

Fearful that they will be put to death, one of the servants finally tells the king what he knows, “No, my lord, we are not guilty of treason.  O king; Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”

The king decides that an attack against Elisha will solve his problem.  Therefore, when Elisha’s servant arose early one morning, he was stricken by what he saw, an army, along with many  horses and chariots, circling the city.  He ran to Elisha, saying, “What shall we do?”

Seeing the army of the king of Aram surrounding the city, Elisha replied to his servant, “

“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.  O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.”

In response to Elisha’s prayer, the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Then Elisha prayed again to the Lord saying, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.”

The Lord heard Elisha’s prayer and struck the armed soldiers and charioteers with blindness.  

Then Elisha said to the army, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” 

And Elisha brought them to Samaria, where their eyes were opened to find themselves captured by the King of Israel. 

In the marvelous ending to the story (see the full account in  II Kings 6), we learn that the King of Israel takes Elisha’s advice and instead of killing his captives, he gives them a great feast and lets them return home.  Consequently, we learn, the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel.


What You See Is Not What You Get

One focus of this story about Elisha concerns seeing and not seeing, on using true discernment to know how to walk in the light, to know right from wrong, to test the spirits. And what we learn is that our battles in this life should be fought with spiritual weapons, not fought with the weapons of the flesh.  


Spiritual Discernment and Scriptural Interpretation


Growing up, I loved to watch cowboy films, not in movie theaters but on the only television in our neighborhood, right across the street.  Occasionally, however, my sister and I saw a movie in town at the theater, a place that scared me so much that on one occasion I refused even to get out of the car to go inside.  

The previous time we had watched a rather violent seafaring film that entailed a flogging.  I was so upset afterwards that I resolved to stay in the car while the rest of the family watched the movie and ate popcorn, a situation that my parents strongly disliked.  They left me alone in the car, hoping I would change my mind.  When I didn’t, we all had to go home, and I was put to bed early while the sun was still out!

When I was older, I later was intrigued with what a “league” was after seeing 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but I couldn’t conect its context with what I knew for sure, a league in baseball or football!  

But it was in another seafaring film that I first heard the word “fathom,” although I had to wait until we got home to learn what it meant.  I recall the sailors in the film taking depth findings, so I gathered that a fathom had to do with how deep the water was.

Many years later, I read the same word, or at least a similar form of the word, in the following Bible verse:

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!  (Romans 11:33)

It wasn’t difficult for me, therefore, to realize that the term unfathomable in this context meant “deep, impossible to fathom, incapable of being fully explored or understood, mysterious.”

Based on this verse in Romans, we learn that the depth of the riches of both the wisdom of God and the knowledge we have of Him are impossible to completely determine, or fathom.  To say, therefore, that anyone may fully or completely understand any of the verses or chapters in the inspired Word of God, the Scriptures, is impossible, as the following prophecy of Isaiah declares: 

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.  (Isaiah 55:8-9)

Nor is it logical to believe that the Scriptures, the unfathomable Word of God, must only be interpreted literally, or according to the most basic kind of reading like I learned in first grade.  

Yes, some passages are clearly intended to be read literally, such as the following:

  • The Ten Commandments
  • For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
  • “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

Other passages are most definitely to be read figuratively, including the following:

  • The 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd.”
  • If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24, et al.).
  • Jesus’ parables.
  • The story of Zachaeus in the tree.

I understand that many theologians and Christian leaders are anxious to discourage heretical teachings in the Church. Therefore, they try to limit the possibilities for misreading unlimited, bottomless, or unfathomable repositories of Christian doctrines, including the even more obscure Biblical mysteries. 

Perhaps a better standard for biblical interpretation is “true” rather than “literal,” an approach with which I agree, for truth may be expressed and understood in many ways, all of which provide additional insight and depth of understanding.      


The Holy Spirit is Our Teacher

To prevent heresies in the Church,  however, the Holy Spirit has been given to distribute gifts of discernment and wisdom to Believers to be used to judge the teachings and messages of teachers and preachers in the Body of Christ.  Yet these gifts have been restricted in the Church today because the users of these gifts have been mistrusted, or these gifts of the Holy Spirit somehow have been misused.  Some theologians have even taught that the gifts have passed away and are no longer distributed to the Body of Christ today because they supposedly ceased after the Bible was completed.  

The logic of this reasoning is fallacious, for these gifts were given by Christ Jesus through the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, who was given to lead all believers into the ways of righteousness until Christ comes again. At that time we will no longer be like children, led astray by every wind of doctrine, we will  see no longer as in a mirror “dimly,” but then face to face:  “Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (I Corinthians 13:12).  

Unfortunately, without the powerful help of the Helper, the Holy Spirit, the one called alongside to teach and empower us, we are left with earthly tools and methods, carnal ways of learning and understanding spiritual truths from the Scriptures.  The Apostle Paul’s message to the Church in Corinth directly condemns these carnal approaches, however:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

         “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
         And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”

Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. . . . Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.   (I Corinthians 1:18-25)

Ironically, Christ taught His disciples that they needed to be like little children to discover the secrets of the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:14-16).  In fact, the inability to peer into the mysteries of God’s Kingdom arises from the foolishness and pride of the human mind and intellect, as Paul says in Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  (Romans 1:18-20)

It is highly ironic, therefore,  that rather than finding the unfathomable wisdom of God through the Holy Spirit’s guidance in the mysteries of His Word, or even God’s creation, humans have turned the omniscient and omnipotent God into any number of literal idols and have worshipped the creation rather than the One Who made all things:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. (Romans 1:20-23)

Unfortunately, some believers have unknowingly carried these idols into their tents, for they continue to use the world’s wisdom to understand the deep mysteries of God.  Likewise, some Bible teachers base their favorite teachings on literal renderings or other kinds of misinterpretations based on spurious readings.  The following are some of the missteps that lead to false doctrines:

  • Imposing a meaning onto a scripture (eisegesis) rather than drawing out a meaning from the scripture itself (exegesis). 
  • Not considering the genre or kind of writing that is being interpreted.  Poetry should not necessarily be read literally but figuratively, as poetry, for example, and a dream should not necessarily be interpreted the same way a historic event is understood.    
  • Not reading from the perspectives of the authors and time periods when the Biblical books were written. Reading the descriptions of the creation of the universe from a modern scientific perspective, for example, may result in incorrect interpretations.  
  • Imposing one definition of a certain word in Scripture onto another passage of Scripture. The word “day,” for example may indeed refer to twenty-four hours, but it may also be understood as one-thousand years (see Psalms 90:4 and II Peter 3:8).  


The Apostle Paul’s Perspective

The Apostle Paul makes clear the perspectives of interpretation emphatically throughout his letters, but most clearly when He is writing specifically about the mysteries, or ‘hidden wisdom,” that the Lord desires for us to know.  

Read carefully the following passages taken from I Corinthians.  First, Paul relates that his wisdom is directed to those believers who are mature in Christ, those who are walking in the Holy Spirit and are receiving the “mysteries” or insights only God may give.  These insights are not understood by the carnal methods used by the “rulers of this age,” for these methods are only transient, or “passing away.”   

Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (I Corinthians 2:6-8)

These mysteries, or secrets God desires to reveal, are given through the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete (our Advocate, Helper, or Teacher).  Only the Holy Spirit has the insights we need, for He is One with God the Father and God the Son (He is also called the “Spirit of Christ”).  And these insights are not taught “by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit.”

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.  (I Corinthians 2:10-13)

Thus, God’s wisdom is received by combining “spiritual thoughts with spiritual words,” a process that is much more genuine than merely reading and interpreting the Scriptures literally.    

Paul summarizes his teaching by relating that a “natural man,” one who thinks according to human wisdom and uses the methods of the intellect rather than the spirit, does not understand these mysteries, for they may only be spiritually discerned:

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.  (I Corinthians 2:14-16)

We must align our means and methods of interpretation to those of the Apostle Paul, therefore, and begin thinking with the “mind of Christ,” thinking not according to carnal wisdom or human methods, however wise they may seem.  They are not wise, according to Paul, and they may even be foolish, leading us into error.  It was this same kind of thinking that led the rulers of this world to crucify the Lord of glory.


Christian Cannibalism?

For example, in Matthew’s Gospel we read about the Last Supper, when Jesus gave His disciples the bread and wine:

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying,“Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.  (Matthew 26:26-28)

We cannot read this passage and interpret it literally without falling into the false doctrine of transubstantiation, which states that the bread and the wine used in the sacrament of the Eucharist become in actuality the body and blood of Christ, not merely the signs or symbols of His body and blood.

Also, in John’s Gospel, we find another example.  After feeding the five thousand, the crowds follow Him and try to get Him to continue feeding them.  Jesus says they are only following Him because they “ate of the loaves and were filled.” He then says, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35).  

Are we to take His words literally?

Later, the skeptics among the Jews question Jesus’ statements, having misunderstood Him and indeed taken them literally:  

Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 

Jesus responds with the following statement, which is even more obviously not to be taken literally:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (John 6:53-56)

This passage from John is sufficient for many unbelievers even today to accuse Christians of advocating and practicing cannibalism, all because Jesus’ words have been taken literally, first by the skeptical Jews who heard His words and later by misguided Christians who have also taken the written words in the Gospels literally.  

One blog article I read even surmised that this is actually what happened to Jesus’ body:  He didn’t actually rise from the dead.  Instead, the disciples ate His body because He had commanded them to eat His flesh and drink His blood.  This is what comes from taking the words of Jesus, or the entire Bible, literally rather than spiritually.

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