January 3, 2015 - A. V. Rauf
It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (Part 3)
What about those who say, don’t worry about His coming?
Acts 1:6-7 When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? 7 And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.
I have recently come across many a Bible teachers who use this verse to emphasize the notion that Christians should not be concerned about events leading up to the return of the Lord.
Another Scripture used is:
Mark 13:32— But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father
However, the Bible clearly informs us that although we may not the exact day of His return per se, that we would not be caught unaware as to when the season of His return may be upon us. It is critical to read God’s Word in context and not take things out of context. Furthermore, when rightfully divided, the Bible explains itself.
I Thessalonians 5: 1-9–But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. 3 For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 5 Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. 7 For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. 8 But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. 9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 3:1- —This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: 2 That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: 3 Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. 5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: 7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. 8 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. 9 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. 10 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. 11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.
The chapter ends with the following verse:
18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
Part of growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ includes being able to discern the times we are living in.
But what kind of Jews were ready for Him to come?
Luke 1:26-47–And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. 29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. 30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. 36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing shall be impossible. 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. 39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. 46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
The angel Gabriel – whose name means “mighty one of God” – came and told Mary that she was the greatest woman who ever lived. “Blessed are you among women – God Almighty is going to be physically incarnated inside of you.” Her name was not Mary, but Miriam, the same as Moses’ sister. The Hebrew root of “Miriam” is “bitterness”. She did not have blonde hair or blue eyes, but rather dark, Semitic features. She has also never been to Medjugorje, Guadalupe, Fatima, or Lourdes. Her name is Miriam, and she was probably no more than mid-teens in age when Gabriel gave her this momentous announcement.
What does the greatest woman who ever lived say in response to being told that that is who she is? Verse 46 and 47:
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.'”
The greatest woman who ever lived called God her Savior, stating that she needed to be saved from her sins. If the greatest woman who ever lived needs a Savior, where does that put me? None is righteous, no not one. (Rom. 3:10) All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom. 3:23) The word “Theotokos”, “Mother of God”, is not in the Greek New Testament.
She is told that she would be the mother of the Messiah, who would save His people from their sin, and she responds by saying “I rejoice in God my Savior”. God Almighty is going to be incarnated inside of her, and all she can say is that she needs to be saved!
If the greatest woman who ever lived states that she needs a Savior, I believe her. I do not believe that she would lie, and even if she did, God certainly would not put that lie in His Word. So, whom should I believe?
Mary herself or the lie of the Immaculate Conception which claims that she was conceived without sin? (Acts 17:11—Be a Berean.) What has happened is that you have the pseudo-Christianization of Minerva, Diana of Ephesus, etc., and the application of these to Mary in fulfillment of the prophecies of Ezekiel and Jeremiah.
The Madonna with the baby was originally derived from Tammuz-worship, which Ezekiel contended with. Jeremiah warned of the worship of the Queen of Heaven.
Miriam said she needed a Savior. God would become a Man, take my sin and put it on His Son, the Messiah, and take His righteousness and put it on me. Why should God become a man to take my place?
When I used to hear the phrase “Jesus is my personal Savior”, I did not really understand all of what that meant. I thought it meant that He was my personal Savior because I personally accepted Him; but that is only half of what it means. What “personal Savior” means in its totality is that if I was the only person who ever sinned, He would have had to be born of Mary and gone to that cross and risen from the dead just for me.
The religious people did not think they needed a Savior; they had rituals and celebrations. The devil gets more people into hell with religion than he does with all the dope, all the immorality and gambling and alcohol abuse put together. The Gospel is not religion, it is relationship!
“I need a Savior”; that is what Mary said. She was a teenage girl who was not concerned with Hannah Montana/ Justin Bieber videos on MTV or with her own personal vanity. Her response was to state her need of a Savior. That is the kind of person who was ready for Him to come the first time.
Miriam had a family and let’s read about them:
Luke 1:5-6–There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Now, remember that the Sanhedrin, the clergy, were corrupt – it was a racket. Yet despite the popular corruption and hypocrisy of the clergy, there were individuals within it who were righteous.
As bad as it is, and as bad as it is going to get, there will be people like Zacharias who are righteous, devout, and godly. No matter how corrupt the system and its clergy become, they will not go along with it. There may not be many of them, but they will be there. That is the kind of Jew who was ready for Jesus to come the first time, and that is the kind of Christian who will be ready for Him to come again.
Let’s look still further:
Luke 2:25–And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
The Sanhedrin did not want Jesus to come; all Jerusalem was troubled, but Simeon was longing for Jesus to come. In fact, it was his only reason for staying alive – verse 26:
“And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ.”
Under the old Covenant, the Holy Spirit was only for certain people at certain times – high priests, kings, prophets, and certain other individuals. Only they had the Holy Spirit in some sense; not until after Pentecost was He for all who believed. The gifts of the Spirit then operated only in a primordial sense in and through those who had them.
“So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law”
“he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”
This man, Simeon, was filled with the Holy Spirit and had been promised that he would not die until he had seen the Messiah. He was old, his hair and teeth and eyesight were going, but he knew he would not die until Jesus had come. He had what we call in New Testament terms the gift of faith.
The New Testament does tell us that we all have a measure of faith. We’re saved by grace through faith, (Eph. 2:8) without faith it is impossible to please God, (Heb. 11:6) and anything not done in faith is sin (Rom. 14:23), Scripture tells us.
Separate from this, however, is the gift of faith (1 Cor. 12), which not all of us have. It is the capacity to trust God absolutely for things that are not specifically written in Scripture, which the Holy Spirit has revealed to you. Most people with this gift are intercessors. Hebrew and Greek both make a distinction between prayer and intercession.
People who have this gift can truly intercede in prayer, believing and knowing – not wishfully thinking, or trusting in the futility of their own minds – but holding on to a promise they know by faith that God has truly given them.
Not only was there a little old man, there was also a little old lady.
Luke 2:36-38–And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
For years and years and years all this little old lady did was pray, fast, and serve God in His house. Then she just couldn’t stop telling people about Jesus – all those who were looking for the redemption of Israel.
Here was this little old lady, whose whole life was spent in prayer and service to God, and finally in telling people about Jesus.
That was the kind of Jew who was ready for Jesus to come the first time; and that is exactly the kind of Christian who will be ready for Him to return.
The final post will take a look at faithful shepherds then and now. (To be continued…)