Obey Government

SUBMITTING TO GOVERNMENT
We took a picture of a “Covid-19 Occupancy Compliance Certificate” that is posted in one of our restaurants here in South Africa. The local health inspection officer previously visited the restaurant, judged that the seating capacity was 48. In compliance with the laws of the national health department, the local health inspector calculated that the seating capacity of the restaurant was now 24.

In a similar manner, at the beginning of the pandemic, each food store was given a number of people who could be present in each store at any one time while customers shipped for essential food items for the week. Someone was thus standing at the entrance of each food store handing out numbered tags. Once all the numbered tags were distributed, then no other customers were allowed to enter the store until someone left the store, and handed back his or her numbered tag. The population submitted to these temporary government mandates in order that all of us as a society be where we are today. As Christians, we submitted in order to escape the judgment in time of the Covid-19 virus. (The “judgment” of Romans 13:1,2 is not a reference to the end-of-time judgment.)

Because the population of South Africa collectively submitted to the mandates of the government for the survival of the people, the people of South Africa are essentially delivered from the fourth wave of the Covid pandemic, for all the citizens willingly submitted to the advice of the government health department during the pandemic. By the first of February 2022, the populace of South Africa will be well on its way to some normality, and thus free from many of the government restrictions that were followed by the people during the pandemic.

It seems that the whole world is watching South Africa quickly move out of the fourth wave of the pandemic, but they do not understand why. This will take some explanation on the uniqueness of the South African government and culture. While the American and European West obsess over being restricted, and thus supposedly losing their freedoms, the populace of South Africa complied with their government for the sake of the collective, a cultural value that is somewhat void in the West. The populace of South Africa agreed to be restricted in order to regain their freedom after the pandemic.

A movie was once produced many years ago that could be somewhat prophetic of the present worldwide pandemic scenario. The setting of the movie was based on a supposed third world war that had transpired in the world, which war almost wiped out mankind on earth. It was concluded, by the survivors that human emotions had driven the people of the world to go to war with one another in order to settle a dispute.

Therefore, in order not to go to war again, a powerful psychological drug was developed to suppress all human emotions. The state mandated that the drug had to be taken every day by every citizen. If one missed a day in taking his medication, the emotional part of the brain would start to arise again within the human mind. According to the autocratic leaders of the surviving city-state, that would not be good. Therefore, they supposed that human emotions would lead to another world war where the existence of all humanity would again be endangered. But in actuality, the leaders had gained power during the war, and subsequently, they did not want to relinquish that power after the war.

In order to prevent another world war, the autocratic leaders of the now totalitarian city-state, convinced the people to take their daily emotion-suppression medication. As a result, there was an “equilibrium” of emotionality among the people. The movie was subsequently entitled, Equilibrium.

The problem was that one day one of the law-enforcement officers of the state forgot to take his daily medication, and subsequently, he started to experience some emotions. And then he missed another day. To him, and all those who had refused the medication–and were now living underground–it was a decision between making a choice and enjoying freedom, or submitting to a totalitarian state whose citizens walked around like emotionless zombies doing their commanded duties.

The movie Equilibrium was first released in 2002. That was twenty years ago! In many ways, the movie may have been prophetic of our times. Therefore, when vaccinations are available for a population to escape a pandemic war, the vaccination must still remain in the freedom of individual choice. Governments may mandate vaccination standards, but this is not within the realm of Divine authority, lest we create the “vaccinated church” and the “unvaccinated church.”

However, in reference to the authority of the state to mandate that which is good for the whole of society, in a democracy we the people often relinquish into the hands of our government the power to determine that which is good for the whole. If we do not do this, then we have no democracy. We will loose our freedom of choice in a society of totalitarian rule. Nevertheless, if we would be citizens of a healthy society in a democracy, we as a collective of society must relinquish some of our personal freedoms for the sake of the survival of society as a whole.

When our freedoms are slowly eroded away by state coercion, the story never ends well. In a democracy, the state is composed of politicians, and with politicians, remaining in power is often more important than the individual freedoms of the individual citizens. In fact, this thirst for power corrupts the morals of the politicians. It is for this reason that politicians in a democratic state are often known for being liars. They are such people in order to stay in power. It is just an inherent flaw of democracy. On the other hand, autocratic dictators in a totalitarian state will often say the truth more often than a power-hungry elected politician in a democratic state.

Moral decisions are the responsibility of Bible-obedient children of God. Unfortunately, we have too many autocratic politicians in the state who thirst only for power, regardless of the freedoms of the individual citizens of the state. Sir William Wallace (portrayed by Mel Gibson) in the 1995 released movie, Braveheart, is still right when he cried out at the end of the movie before his execution, “FREEDOM!”

OK, so you would like an example of the leadership of South Africa as to why the fourth wave of the present pandemic is closing, and at the same time, the rest of the world is still struggling in the midst of this wave. Here is one reason why: A great political meeting of people was recently scheduled for a visit of the President of South Africa. The mass gathering was composed of those of the President’s constituency who had voted him into office.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa subsequently arrived at the place of assembly. Before he was allowed out of vehicle, his security personnel, as usual, first entered into the assembly hall where all the people had gathered. However, the security personnel returned to the vehicle in which the President was seated, and informed him, “This is not a legal assembly. There are too many people who have gathered. There is no social distancing because of the mass number of people, and many are not wearing face masks.”

President Ramaphosa replied, “We cannot attend this illegal assembly,” and thus his motorcade moved on. This is leadership, not a thirst for power that would violate the very mandate of the South African Health Department that put restrictions on the number of people who could gather in assembly halls of various sizes. This example is one of those reasons why South Africa is rapidly moving out of the fourth wave and on to some normality. It is a matter of leadership, not playing politics by narcissistic political figures who are looking for opportunities to exert power. It is leadership of a population of people who are willing to forego some of their freedoms in order to eventually be set free from an unseen enemy.

(Boris Johnson should have called up Cyril Ramaphosa before he accepted invitations to all those parties.)

Reassurance

REASSURANCE IN TIMES OF TURMOIL
If we view the present pandemic from a biblical point of view, we should find some encouragement. However, the pandemic should not be an occasion for Bible believers to take out of historical context specific statements of hope in the Bible that were directed to initial individuals and audiences who needed encouragement in times of local tragedies. Specifically, we must not be prophetic thieves to steal away from local first century Christians those prophecies that were originally spoken to encourage local believers directly, but only us indirectly.

It is for this reason that Christians must be cautioned about what they encounter on the worldwide social media today, the messaging of which can reach even to the young village dweller in the bush of Africa. Some innocent minds are often in cellphone contact with an encyclopedia of theological nonsense that is spewed around the world by those who would seek to arouse hysteria during a worldwide pandemic.

For example, the prophecy of Jesus in Luke 21:23-25 is a commonly misunderstood prophetic statement that Jesus made specifically to first century Jewish Christians. He made the prophecy in order to explain to His immediate audience that in the lives of their children and grandchildren in the years to come, God would be working in a local tragedy that they would personally experience.

With this understanding in mind, Luke 21 was originally a message of reassurance to those believers in His audience to whom He initially delivered a prophecy concerning the termination of their Jewish persecutors. Jesus’ message was that in the midst of any tragedy, the believing Jesus must not forget that God is always in control. In their case, He would bring judgment upon national Israel because of the unbelieving Jews’ rejection of the Son of Man (See also Mt 24; Mk 13:14-20).

A few extracts from the prophecy of Jesus’ message to Jewish Christians at that time is central to our discussion in the context of modern-day prognosticators who misapply the Luke 21 prophecy. Around A.D. 61/62, Luke, the scribe, eventually recorded in writing Jesus’ spoken prophecy. This was about a decade before the time of the fulfillment of the prophecy in A.D. 70, that was about thirty years after Jesus originally made the prophecy.

In A.D. 70, the Jewish world was about to come to an end within the Roman Empire. For unbelieving Jews, this end seemed to be the end of the world. Therefore, because the events of A.D. 70 would affect the Jews throughout the world of the Roman Empire, Jesus prophesied during His earthly ministry years before a message of reassurance for believing Jews. His message was in view of the fact that the immediate unbelieving Jews to whom He first prophesied the end of national Israel, who subsequently rejected Him as the Son of Man (the Messiah), would themselves in about four decades meet their judgment. So in order to prepare the Jewish Christians of Palestine for a social trauma that was going to take place in about forty years after the ascension, Jesus embedded a message of hope in His prophecy of the termination of the Jewish State, and specifically, Jerusalem and the temple.

So with the liberty of our following parenthetical interpretive inclusions, notice what Jesus prophesied concerning the children and grandchildren of those Jews who personally rejected Him as the Messiah. Their children and grandchildren would experience the following:

“But woe to those [unbelieving Jewish women in Jerusalem in A.D. 70] who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days [of Roman’s besieging of Jerusalem]. For there will be great distress in the land [of Judea] and wrath upon this [Jewish] people. And they [the future children and grandchildren of Jesus’ generation of unbelieving Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword [of the Romans]. And they [the survivors of the destruction of Jerusalem] will be led away captive into all nations [over which the Romans rule]. And Jerusalem will be trodden down [with every stone overturned] by the Gentiles [Romans] until the times of the Gentiles [the Roman Empire] are fulfilled.”

We must keep in mind that by the time the preceding events occurred in Judea, Christian Jews had already left Judea and Jerusalem (Compare At 8:4). The letters of Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, and Jude were all letters that were written in the middle 60s to warn Christian Jews to stay away from Jerusalem when they began to witness the “signs of the times” surrounding the end of national Israel in A.D. 70.

The preceding calamity that eventually came upon national Israel in A.D. 70, was the end of the Jews’ social and political influence within the Roman Empire, though the Jews’ religious beliefs carried on, even to this day. However, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70 seemed that their world had fallen apart because God allowed such to happen to His supposed chosen people after they rejected and killed His Son (See Mk 12:1-12). They had not accepted the incarnate appearing of the Son of Man. National Israel rejected the Son of Man by not accepting the new nation of Israel, the body of Christ, that was established on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30.

In the context of the Luke 21 narrative, Luke turned to common metaphors that were used in Old Testament prophecies in reference to kings and kingdoms. His Jewish audience would understand the meaning of these metaphors. The “sun” was commonly used in prophecy to represent the king of a particular kingdom. The minor heavenly lights of the “moon” and “stars” represented tributaries of a kingdom, or the satellite nations that were under the control of the king of the empire. We must keep in mind, therefore, that when such metaphors were used in prophecy, focus was not on the literal sun, moon and stars, but on their dominance of light in the darkness of space.

The metaphorical meaning of the sun, moon and stars of the Luke 21 context were used in reference to the vast network of satellite nations that functioned under the control of the Roman Empire.

At the time of the conclusion of the first century, Rome was continuing to expand throughout the Middle East and into Persia. Regional kingdoms in Europe, the East, and North Africa were likewise succumbing to its military dominance. Therefore, at the time of the fall of national Israel in A.D. 70, the Jewish nation was only one of many social population groups that needed to be subjugated to the control of Rome. So Jesus continued, and Luke thirty years after Jesus in A.D. 61,62, recorded, the following:

“And there will be signs in the sun [regional kings of the Roman Empire], and in the moon [the regents of nations], and in the stars [the generals and governors of Roman dominated nations within the reach of the Roman army]. And on the [inhabited] earth [world] of Rome, there will be distress among nations [that Rome will militarily dominate] and perplexity at the roaring of the sea [populations] and the waves [turmoil among the populations].

John’s metaphorical use of the word “sea” in the visions of Revelation defines that the populations (citizenries) of the nations is intended. There is always sociological movement in the populations of every nation, just as waves and currents of the sea constantly shift and move the waters of the sea. Therefore, when an invading force, as Rome, moved in to conquer, the raging waves of the people reach their climax. It is during these times that “men’s hearts will be failing them for fear” (Lk 21:26). In A.D. 70, there was great fear among the Jewish people when Rome launched her war against national Israel. It was the same fear that permeated the hearts of every citizen of every nation at the time Rome launched her military attacks against the Jews.

Of course, the heaven in which God dwells is unshakable. Therefore, Jesus referred in the Luke 21 context to the “heavenly” rule of nations on earth that would be shaken by the invading forces of Rome. It would be at this time that the presence of the Son of Man (Jesus) would be confirmed to every Christian, for believers would conclude that King Jesus was in control of all these things, just like He said during His earthly ministry (Mt 28:18; see Hb 1:3 that was written just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem). In the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the believing Jew would subsequently conclude that King Jesus had come in judgment of Israel for rejecting Him as the Son of Man, the Messiah and Savior. It was exactly as He prophesied.

Old Testament judgment language is found in Luke 21:27 when the word “coming” was used by Luke in reference to “the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” In Matthew 24:27, and in the same prophecy, Matthew used the Greek word parousia. This word means “presence.” Therefore, the “coming” of the Lord in time in judgment was a sign of the presence of the Lord.

The “coming of the Lord” in Old Testament prophecies was a sign of judgment upon the nations. In the judgment, the presence of the Lord was revealed. The Lord came in judgment upon nations, and in the context of prophecy, the nation upon which the Son of Man would come in the prophetic judgment of the Luke 21 and Matthew 24, was national Israel. This was a coming of the Lord “in time,” whereas there will be another coming of the Lord at “the end of time.” The coming of the Lord in time, therefore, is always prophetic of the coming of the Lord at the end of time. But we must not forget that the coming of the Lord in the context of Luke 21 and Matthew 24 is in reference to judgment in time.

Jesus gave, and Luke, Matthew and Mark recorded, a final and specific note of encouragement for the local Jewish Christians who would suffer at the hands of the unbelieving Jews. Unbelieving Jews would persecute Jewish Christians from the time of the cross to the conclusion of national Israel in A.D. 70. However, when the immediate believing Jews’ children and grandchildren, forty years after the initial spoken prophecy of Jesus, saw all these events (“signs”) transpiring in their world, it would be a time to look up and realize that all things were still under the control of the resurrected and ascended King. Great comfort went out to the Jewish Christians of Palestine at the time of fulfillment because Jesus prophesied that the persecuting Jews would in the event eventually be silenced. The Christian Jews at the time of fulfillment in A.D. 70 were thus “redeemed” from their persecutors.

Unfortunately, during the “time of the Gentiles,” Rome would by the end of the first century, and into the second through the fourth centuries, launch an onslaught of persecution against all Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles. This would lead us to the encouraging prophecy of Revelation in order to find hope in the eventual Divine judgment of the Roman Empire. John would prophesy that even Rome’s persecution of Christians throughout the second to the fourth centuries would also come to an end (Rv 17:14). Therefore, in fulfillment of John’s visions, the coming of the Lord as King of kings would again be perceived.

As during the time of all wars and pandemics, it is always time to find hope in the fact that King Jesus still reigns in heaven with all authority. He is still King of kings and Lord of Lords. This was true throughout the great influenza pandemic of 1917/1918 when millions died around the world. It was true in the 1300s during the Black Plague pandemic when millions died. Great human tragedies have thus occurred before our present pandemic. However, God does not, and will not, use a pandemic as a sign of the end of the world. He used pandemics in Israel in order to drive people to repentance. He so used such to punish and to turn Israel to repentance (Study Nm 21:4-9; Dt 32:23-27. In the context of these passages, throughout the history of Israel God would and did use suffering and national tragedy to return His people to Him and His word.).

Nevertheless, our hope is in the fact that throughout all human tragedies, some of which were recorded in the Bible, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit remain true to believers. After “experiencing” the visions of Revelation, John responded, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rv 22:20). In view of the present worldwide pandemic, we too, as always, include that request in our prayers.

It is not that any one pandemic is a sign of the end of the world. Bible students have proclaimed hysteria in the midst of all pandemics of the past. Unfortunately, the only people to become frightened are those who believe in the Bible. But most people today do not believe in the Bible. It is only that during a pandemic the thinking of Bible-believing people is driven beyond this disease-cursed world in hope of being in the presence of the Lord where never again a tear will flow from a sorrowful eye (Rv 21:4). But in reference to unbelievers, everything just carries on as though there will be no finality to the things that presently exist. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Mt 24:36).

In this way, we, as Bible believers, interpret the present pandemic. It would be a judgment of God in time in order to encourage repentance. But only those who believe in God will repent. The rest of the unbelieving world is oblivious to the judgments of God in time. So as God dealt with Israel, so also He would deal with us in an effort to keep us focused on King Jesus. We must connect the dots on this matter. If we understand that the present pandemic is an in time judgment, then it may be that we need a restoration to the word of God among ourselves (Hs 4:6).

God certainly brought a worldwide judgment on the civilization of Noah’s generation. But since every imagination of humanity then was continually evil, God was justified in the flood to wipe that generation of unrepentant unbelievers from the face of the earth (Gn 6:5). We pray that God will not have to bring the civilization of today to such a climatic conclusion. In pandemics we see God purging religion out of us in order to restore us to the word of God.

Be A BRother Keeper

So God interrogated Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” (Gn 4:9). Why would God ask such a question if we are all free from one another and independent? Can we not be free from one another in order to do our own thing, regardless of the interests OF our fellow citizens? Would we have any social freedoms if we were continually looking out for the interests of our neighbors? The fact that God asked this question of the murderous Cain infers that we are responsible for the well-being of fellow citizens, and thus we are our brothers’ keeper. So Cain responded to the inquisition, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gn 4:9). Yes you are, Cain!

In the context of the church, the Holy Spirit mandated, “Let each one not look out merely for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Ph 2:4). In fact, the Spirit had introduced this mandate with the statement, “In humility of mind let each esteem others better than themselves” (Ph 2:3). Yes, we are our brother’s keeper as citizens of civilization.

It is today as it was a few decades ago when the American government finally came to the conclusion that it would mandate the law that people wear their seat belts when riding in a moving vehicle. Most countries of the world today have followed after the same mandate. When the law was first established, however, some people grumbled. They complained, “I have the right to make a choice as to whether I will or will not wear a seat belt in my own vehicle.” But they were wrong. Sometimes, dead wrong. Such people were thinking selfishly.

The reason for the law was a matter of protecting and benefitting society as a whole. If one did not wear a seat belt, and was subsequently involved in a moving vehicle accident on the road, then he or she could be thrown from the vehicle and seriously injured. He or she would thus be rushed to a hospital, and nursed back to health, that is, if he or she was not initially killed in the accident.

Now the question is, Who pays the hospital bill? Or, who initially paid for the ambulance, the doctors and nurses, or even the hospital in which the anti-seat belt person was nursed back to life? The answer is that society as a whole paid the bill for all the medical services. Society even paid most of the bill for the anti-seat belt victim because he or she could not in a lifetime pay the high cost of insurance premiums for his own medical expenses. All of us as a society, therefore, had to subsidize the hospital bill of the anti-seat belt wearer. And for this reason, society as a whole, through the government of society, said that everyone, when in a moving vehicle, must wear a seat belt.

In order to be a member of society as a whole, citizens must be willing to give up some of their rights . . . freedoms . . . in order to be a keeper of society as a whole. And when speaking specifically of Christians, it is incumbent upon every member of the body of Christ to “not look out merely for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Ph 4:4). As members of the body of Christ, we are our brother’s keeper. If we are not looking out for the interests of our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we are behaving selfishly. We are considering our “rights” above the interests of the whole body of Christ.

Smokers have always been very selfish people. They are more concerned about their right to freely smoke cigarettes over the rights of the people who must breathe in their smoke after they have exhaled. As a smoking father puffs away on a cigarette in his own home, the lungs of his young children are being damaged for life. He is a selfish father.

We have thus been vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus for the benefit of the brothers and sisters into whose presence we come in any formal or non-formal setting. We wear a face mask in one another’s presence in order to guard our brother or sister against asystematic Covid carriers among us. We socially distance ourselves from one another for the interest of one another. And if lockdown is necessary to detour the pandemic, then in our own homes we confine ourselves We are thus not selfish, trying to exercise some rights or freedoms we think we have that encourage us to ignore the interests of the body of members, and society, as a whole.

On the contrary, we are trying to be our brother’s keeper during a pandemic that is ravaging the world. It is thus not a sacrifice of our individual rights or freedoms to be vaccinated, but a manifestation of our love for one another. We vaccinate ourselves for the sake for the community in which we live, but also for the safety of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our vaccination is not a total guarantee from being attacked by the Covid virus, but at least it reveals to you that we are doing the best we can to protect you if we are tested positive.

Gospel Foundation

The statement of the attached billboard lists the centrality of the good news (gospel) that was carried out from the time a woman cried out in childbirth in a barn in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, to the moment when that same child, as a grown man with nail holes in His hands, disappeared in a cloud from His apostles’ sight somewhere in Palestine. Some have believed in this gospel journey of the Son of God, but have never taught a lesson on the incarnation of God into the flesh of man. And yet, the incarnation establishes the very heart of what constitutes the mentality and life of a believer (See Ph 2:5-11).

And then there are some who fail to understand the extent of the present kingdom reign of the incarnate Son of God, assuming that He is coming sometime in the future in order to begin His reign as God on this speck of dust that we call the earth. They assume that His present reign is limited to the church of believers whose members are sprinkled throughout the world. They have not understood that He now reigns over all things, including the church of believers (1 Pt 3:22).

Religionists who do not preach and teach the incarnation of God, nor believe in the totality of Jesus’ present reign over all things, are preaching and teaching a marginalized gospel message. As a result, they often fill in the gaps of their message with religious rites and ceremonies that they assume merit a salvational relationship with God. In doing so, they unwittingly establish a self-righteous system of religion to escape the implications of incarnational living after the One in whom they believe was only some good religious teacher who wandered throughout Palestine. But in teaching such a limited understanding of the gospel, they are actually preaching another gospel, that is, fragments of the true gospel that is saturated with meritorious religious rites and ceremonies that one must obey in order to be justified before God.

There can be no unity among such religionists simply because everyone is binding religious rites and ceremonies that are unique with their particular denominated group. They thus believe and teach another gospel that opens the door for self-righteous religiosity that marginalizes the sanctification of the incarnate Son of God on the cross.

This book was written to call out of the religious world misguided religionists who would seek to come into a unity of faith that is based on the totality of the gospel, the final action of which will be revealed in Jesus’ revelation from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire. He is coming again in order to take vengeance on all those who refused to respond to His gospel journey to this earth, which journey is reported to us in the Bible. If one does not respond in obedience to the His gospel, then there will be some unfortunate consequences when He comes again (See 2 Th 1:6-9).

Please download and share this book with your religious friends who have been frustrated with all the division among people of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We can be united on the foundation of the gospel, and thus, give one another freedom in those areas that do not infringe on the gospel. The more we agree on and focus on the gospel, many points of debate on other issues simply vanish away.

http://www.africainternational.org/files/Book%2079.pdf

Death

Through the apostle Paul the Holy Spirit thus admonished, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, so that you DO NOT GRIEVE AS OTHERS WHO HAVE NO HOPE” (1 Th 4:13). There . . . the Holy Spirit said it. The grave site scene of a dearly beloved Christian must be far different than the same scene at the burial of an unbeliever. Living Christians “do not grieve as unbelievers” in the death of their loved ones.

Consoling Christians must not be accused of being hard-hearted when they exhort the grieving with these words from the Holy Spirit. If our grief at the death of a Christian brother or sister is no different than that of the unbelievers, then we have a problem with our faith in the fact that the one who went down into the grave will come out again dressed in a glorious body. Our challenge at the death of a disciple, therefore, is how to salt our grief with hope. And in so doing, there is a sense of victory as we lay our loved ones in a tomb that will eventually be broken open.

There will be grief for the moment. The admonition of the Spirit allows for this. A simile is used with a negative concerning the occasion. The phrase reads, “not grieve as.” There is grief, but it is not as those unbelievers who have no hope beyond the grave.

The burial of a saint is only a temporary transition of the body. The body must transition through the dissipation of the body into dust in expectation of the heavenly body that will eventually dress our souls with a body from God. Therefore, in our hope “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our house that is from heaven, if indeed clothed, we [in the state of our disembodied souls] will not be found naked” (2 Co 5:2,3).

When Jesus comes in the clouds, He will bring with Him all those souls of departed saints who have had the privilege of escaping this world that is infested and infected with sin and sickness (1 Th 4:14).  So the Holy Spirit concluded the matter, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Th 4:18).

Gospel Covenant

The forerunner of Jesus, John, was tagged with the nickname, “the Baptist.” He so carried the name, “John the Baptist” because he was preaching “the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” and baptizing people “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:1,4). Because he was preaching and baptizing, “THERE WENT OUT TO HIM all the land of Judea and those from Jerusalem” (Mark 1:5). Subsequently, “they were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5). This is exciting!

It is interesting to note in the narrative of John’s ministry, that everyone who went out to be baptized by him, did so because they believed that John, as a prophet, was preaching a message that was given to him by God. They were subsequently baptized because God said that they must be baptized. They KNEW NOTHING about the gospel of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, for at the time of John’s preaching, Jesus had been neither crucified nor resurrected. They KNEW NOTHING about the gospel reign of King Jesus, for Jesus had not yet ascended to the right hand of God. And yet, on basis of their simple faith that a preacher was preaching what God said one must do, THEY WERE WILLING TO BE BAPTIZED. This is what a true believer does.

If you read this book, THE GOSPEL COVENANT, and have not been baptized in the name of Jesus, then be careful about plagiarized the name “Christian.” You might be as those religious rulers during Jesus’ ministry who “believed on Jesus,” but were not willing to confess Him (John 12:42). We assume, therefore, that there are many today who “believe on Jesus,” but because they are not willing to be baptized into His name, they are not yet true believers. Therefore, if one has not been baptized, and yet believes on Jesus as the Son of God, then he or she should say as the Ethiopian eunuch after hearing the gospel message of Jesus, “Here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). We must remember that true believers do not have to be asked to be baptized for the remission of their sins. On the contrary, they are willing to go out from Judea and Jerusalem, or from any place in order to find “much water” in order to be baptized, as John the Baptist baptized “believers” in the wilderness near Salim (John 3:23).

BLACK CAT THEOLOGY

So it seems that Zeus, the chief god of the Greeks, was guilty of a little hanky panky (“infidelity”). Among the many servants of the heavenly palace, his eye had been lured to one particular young damsel named, Galinthias. All was fine until Hera, the wife of Zeus, discovered the hidden unfaithfulness. Since Hera could not take her anger out on the chief god of Greek mythology, she turned her attention to the compliant Galinthias and cursed her in order to impede the birth of her illegitimate child. Hera turned the servant girl into a black cat. This may have been the beginning of all “black cat theology.”

Nevertheless, the child was born, and thus came into existence in the minds of the Greeks, the god Hercules. But don’t fret concerning the fate of Galinthias. The Greek goddess of witchcraft took in the adulterous servant girl, now a black cat, and employed her as her own servant. Unfortunately, black cats thereafter have had to live with the curse of this superstitious mischief among the gods. “Black cat theology” is still with us today.

In some cultures today, the unfortunate black cat is often considered an omen of evil that is associated with witchcraft. Some have believed that black cats were the very embodiment of witches themselves. And so you might think that you are innocent of all this babble about black cats. If so, then we will pay close attention to your walk along a pathway or sidewalk when a black cat crosses your path. If you waver in your stride, or even have the slightest disturbance in your thoughts, then we will know that you too are still a victim of “black cat theology.”

Superstition is belief that has no evidence. Greek mythology is based on all sorts of superstitions. In fact, mythology itself is founded on vivid imaginations that have run wild in the absence of a knowledge of the one true and living God. It is for this reason that mythology affected the behavior of the Greeks because they had little or no knowledge of the one true and living God. Greek lives were controlled by the gods they had created after their own imagination. They did this or that in view of pleasing the gods, or escaping some punishment of a mischievous god. It was a society that was ruled by “black cat theology.”

A little over two thousand years ago a representative of the true and living God stepped into the capital where “black cat theologians” were gathered to babble about their beliefs and behavior in reference to imaginations. The common subject of debates among these “preachers” from throughout the ancient world was to babble about their “black cat theologies” or some new thing (See At 17:18-21).

Nevertheless, this particular day, the traveling preacher stood up in the lecture hall of Mars Hill and shouted out with a strong voice, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious [superstitious]. For as I passed by and observed your objects of worship, I found an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown God’ (At 17:22,23).

For the first time in the history of the Greeks this messenger from the true God established a contrast between the beliefs of the “black cat theologians” and the truth of a God whose gospel to mankind was based on the resurrection of His Son from the dead (See Hb 11:1). It was now time for all “black cat theologians” to step aside and hear a message about a living God who was not the product of vivid imaginations.

You might claim that you are unmoved by some relics of your own beliefs in “black cat theology.” This may be your personal conclusion, but the recent pandemic has rattle the faith of millions of people around the world. It seems that many folks have dipped into their former superstitions in order to blame some “demon” who supposedly causes this or that as people struggle for their last breath in emergency rooms around the world. In fact, in a recent conversation with an elder of the church on the other side of our country, he remarked, “It seems that religious leaders across the country have ascended to their pulpits in order to proclaim some superstitious reason for all this social turmoil.” “Black cat theology.”

In one case it was assumed that if one was injected with the vaccine against Covid, he or she would turn into a horse. In another case, someone contacted me from the other side of the world and ask, “What is the mark of the beast? My friends are telling me that if I am vaccinated against Covid, I will be receiving the mark of the beast.” “And thus,” she continued, “they said that they could not associate with me.” “Black cat theology.”

Taking medication, receiving vaccinations against diseases as polio, or just eating certain foods is the personal choice of the individual. But when such is either done or shunned for religious reasons, then it becomes “black cat theology.” Nevertheless, until that time when a new convert puts away his “black cat theology” in reference to eating meat, for example, those who are strong in the faith should exercise love and patience (See 1 Co 8). But at the same time, it is assumed in the Holy Spirit’s exhortations on this matter that the “weak brother,” who eats meat in respect to some religious superstition, as he previously did in respect to some foods in his former life of superstitious behavior, he must grow out of his “black cat theology.” In fact, the Holy Spirit said on such matters as food, “For it is a good thing that the heart be established by grace, not with foods” Hb 13:9). “Therefore,” continued the Spirit in another context, “let no one judge you in food or in drink” (Cl 2:16). Attaching spiritual or religious significance to foods, to idols, or even to vaccines that might prevent us from certain diseases, is “black cat theology.”

An even more subtle belief of “black cat theology” is the tempting of God with a faith that is contrary to science. So against the science of gravity, a foolish man of “faith” preaches from his pulpit to his friends on the top of a one hundred story building, “You must have faith. God will protect you.” So against the science of gravity, he leaps off the building in order to reveal his faith in God to protect him. As he passed floor fifty, it was heard that he yelled out, “So far so good.”

Assuming that God will protect us when we walk in violation of the laws of nature is tempting God to do evil by catching us on the final floor (See Js 1:13). If we willingly walk contrary to that which science provides to protect us, assuming that God will not allow us to fall victim our own neglect, then we are participating in “black cat theology” in reference to faith. If we knowingly place ourselves and our family in a situation of danger, while knowing that there is an opportunity to avoid that danger, then we are tempting God to do for us that which we should be doing for ourselves. This is the faith of “black cat theology.”

If we do this or that in our lives on the basis of superstitious beliefs, then we have allowed ourselves to promote “black cat theology.” It is for this reason that Christians grow in their knowledge of the word of God (2 Pt 3:18). They study zealously in order to sift out of their minds those former superstitious beliefs that are associated with “black cat theology.”

So you can judge for yourself on this matter. The next time a black cat crosses your path, take a moment to consider the fact that you may still be subservient to some beliefs of “black cat theology.”

Navigating Through Life

FROM THE PREFACE

The advantage of a Bible-based world view is that one’s responses to current events can always be sifted through eternal principles that do not change. People today respond to the word of God as they did four thousand or more years ago. God-fearing people from the beginning of time have responded to any revelation from their Creator in reference to the times in which they lived. I reserve the right to do the same. My understanding of matters that must be understood through deductive interpretation may differ from yours. However, those fundamental principles that permeate time need no interpretation, and thus, with these fundamental principles of the Bible in view, I have laid the foundation upon which I seek to respond to current events and religious discussions.

Download Book 105 from the website below:

www.africainternational.org

Incarnational Love

The word “incarnation” means “to be made in the bodily flesh of man.” This word can only be applied to God coming in the flesh of man, for God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have always existed eternally in spirit form. In reference specifically to Jesus, the Son of God, He who was in spirit in eternity was revealed in this world in the flesh of man. An angel named Him “Jesus,” meaning “savior” (Mt 1:21).

The Holy Spirit gave us a commentary on this incarnational journey of the Son of God in Philippians 2:5-11. This commentary begins with the following statement: “Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus” (Ph 2:5). Before He explained the incarnational journey of the Son of God in this text, the Holy Spirit first stated that everyone who would be a Christian must think and behave after the example of the incarnational sacrifice of the Son of God. The Spirit emphasized the importance of this thinking and behavior in reference to the continued transformation of our lives in response to the grace of God (See Rm 12:2; Ti 2:12).

In Philippians 2:6, the Spirit continued to explain, “Who [that is, the Son of God], being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (Ph 2:6). Jesus was previously in the nature (“form”) of God. However, He did not consider this equality with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as the one God in spirit something to be continually grasped. He did not because all people of this world would continue dead in their sins if there were no incarnational offering for them (See Rm 3:10). Therefore, through His incarnational sacrifice, the Son of God was willing, on our behalf, to give up His eternal equality in spirit with the Father and Holy Spirit in order to come into this world.

The Holy Spirit, through the apostle John, further informs us what happened through the incarnation of the Son of God into the flesh of man: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1). The preceding Philippian 2:6 statement revealed that the Word initially “existed in the form of God.” So as one with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Word—this was Jesus in the spirit before He was born into this world—was God. He was one with God, and thus existed in the spiritual form of God.

However, the Holy Spirit continued to explain through John, “He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (Jn 1:2,3). The Holy Spirit revealed the following work of the Son while He was still in spirit with God before the creation: “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Cl 1:16). In other words, the world and all mankind were created for the Son of God. We were created in order that the love of God eventually be manifested in history through the incarnation of our Creator, the Son of God (See Gl 4:4).

In the beginning when all things were created, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit said, “Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gn 1:26). In this statement God was not saying that the image of God before creation was physical as that which we see in man. If the Son of God were in any way physical in eternity, then there would have been no such thing as an incarnation of the Son of God into the flesh of men. We must remember that God is Spirit (Jn 4:24). He is not flesh. Therefore, the extent of the incarnation of the Son of God is in the fact that He, in the spirit, had to be revealed in this world in the same flesh into which He originally created humanity from the dust of the earth (Gn 2:7).

The preceding is exactly what the Holy Spirit continued to reveal in the context of Philippians 2: “But He [the Son of God] made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of men” (Ph 2:7). And in the incarnate form of the flesh of man, “He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Ph 2:8). If there were no incarnation, then there would have been no cross, for a spirit cannot be crucified. And if there were no incarnational offering for our sins, then all of us would be without any hope in this world.

Incarnation means that the Son of God took upon Himself that which would be able to suffer crucifixion. We would indeed have a shallow understanding of the cross, if we did not first comprehend the magnitude of the incarnational suffering of the Son of God on the cross.

The incarnational crucifixion of Jesus’ body on the cross was prophesied to be His destiny the moment it was said, “Let us make man” (Gn 1:26). The Son of God knew that it was His from the time the very first word was spoken in reference to creating humanity in the beginning. Even before the Son of God created Adam and Eve, He knew that all humanity would sin (See Rm 3:10). Therefore, we correctly conclude that before the Son of God spoke the first word to create, He had already planned to be incarnate in the flesh of man in order to be crucified for our sins.

We cannot fully understand the extent of the cross until we understand to the best of our ability the extremity of the incarnational sacrifice of the Son of God giving up existence in the “form” of God in order to come into this world in the flesh of man. The extremity of the incarnation reveals the extreme love that Jesus has for us.

[Portion of a chapter from a forthcoming book entitled, EXPERIENCE THE GOSPEL WITH JESUS.]

The God Of Space

Before we can understand the following terrestrial challenge, we must first step for a moment into a science class. When a material object is struck, strummed, plucked, or somehow disturbed, it vibrates. The vibration in turn disturbs the immediate surrounding air molecules, which molecules disturb neighboring molecules. This chain reaction of vibration carries on from molecule to molecule until the final molecules of the chain reaction collide with a receiving eardrum, specifically the eardrum of our inner ear. The vibration of molecules against our eardrum is then translated into electrical energy, which energy is sent on to our brain. The brain receives and perceives that a sound has been created by the vibration of some material object. Now that you have graduated from “sound school” we can now move on to a better understanding of God.

We believe in a God who hears no sound as we hear sounds simply because He exists beyond the molecules of our atmosphere. No humanly produce sound of this world can make its way outside the confines of our atmosphere. Since God is not confined to our physical means of hearing, then He does not need to hear sounds. He thus needs no physical ears. He is spirit without ears, and thus does not “hear” as we hear one another (Jn 4:24). So how does God “hear” our prayers? Now we have moved into the realm of metaphor—keep reading.

He is likewise a God without vocal cords to excite air molecules in order to be carried alone through the atmosphere by air molecules bumping against one another, and eventually ending up as vibration on our eardrums. He is indeed the God beyond our senses, and certainly, beyond the molecules of our atmosphere.

When God “said” to Moses, “I AM THAT I AM,” He was not speaking through the vibrating vocal cords of a literal mouth (Ex 3:14). The same would be true in reference to what the bystanders heard from heaven at the time of Jesus’ baptism: “Behold, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son’” (Mt 3:17). By applying our scientific understanding of sound to this “voice,” we must conclude that the God who has no physical vocal cords was able to vibrate the molecules of our atmosphere until neighboring molecules eventually made their way to the eardrums of the bystanders, whose brains eventually translated the sound of the words into a message. However, the origin of the “voice” came from space where there is no atmosphere, where there is no sound. It was thus the miraculous power of God that generated words for our eardrums, and thus a message from the dwelling of God (See Jn 12:30).

It is God’s power that vibrates the molecules of the physical atmosphere of our world in order that words be generated. It was the vibrating molecules of this atmosphere that came as a “voice” to Moses on Mount Sinai (At 7:31). We must not be so naive as to think that the “voice” with which God spoke to Moses assumes that God has physical vocal cords and lips that can produce words. The “voice” only assumes that God, who is spirit, can powerfully touch the molecules of our atmosphere in a way that words can be formulated in order to bring us a message from beyond the confinement of our world.

Therefore, we believe in a God who is beyond the limitations of the blue atmosphere that surrounds this world, and in which our continued existence is made possible. Since man can reside only within an atmosphere of air, then unless we can find an atmosphere with air on another heavenly body of the universe, we must assume that man resides on this earth alone.

And since the “voice” of God can be produced and heard only where there are air molecules to bump against one another in order to produce “words” for eardrums, then we extend our reasoning beyond this world in view of the fact that there need be no atmospheres on other heavenly bodies that can be used by God to communicate through “words.” The conclusion, therefore, is that there is no life on other heavenly bodies, specifically human life, for whom the Son of God would have to be incarnate also for their salvation.

Richard Branson, with other fellow earthly passengers, recently climbed into the Virgin Galatic vessel named SpaceShipTwo, and then blasted themselves into the realm where our God dwells—space. In order to survive in this realm where only God can exist, the occupants of the SpaceShipTwo enclosed a portion of this earth’s atmosphere in order that the occupants might be able to communicate with one another with their voices when they arrived outside the confines of our atmosphere. However, they had to remain in the confines of their transported portion of earth’s atmosphere. Likewise, and a week later, Jeff Bezos and other passengers, made a similar trip into space, transporting with them also a portion of earth’s atmosphere.

If any of these space travelers could have stepped outside their portion of transported atmosphere that they took along with them from earth, then they could never have communicated with one another except through electronic radios. They could not have communicated because there are no air molecules in space, and thus, no voice transmission from one person to another. The triune God in whom we believe dwells in this realm, but does not communicate among themselves with words of this world.

This nature of space in which God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit dwell was pictorially illustrated in the 2013 movie entitled GRAVITY. Stars, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, could communicate with one another in space only through the electronic transmitting devices within their space suits. In order to prepare the viewing audience for an “out-of-this-world” experience, the movie prepared the audience for the experience with the leading statements, “372 miles above the earth.” “There is nothing to carry sound.” “No air pressure.” “No oxygen.” They thus explained the environment in which our God dwells.

The theme of the movie realistically communicated the tragic drama that was experienced by Bullock and Clooney. However, the producers could only graphically illustrate the eventful and tragic decimation of their space station and space shuttle. When encircling debris from an exploded Russian space station on the other side of the world eventually encircled the earth, the debris began to impact and destroy the space station and shuttle of Bullock and Clooney. As viewers, we could only see, not hear, the destruction.

The visuals of the impact were graphic. However, the audience could hear no sound of ripping metal, or the impact of the Russian space station debris impacting the US space station. There was no sound at that time in the movie. We cannot even use the words “explosion” to explain the tragedy because such a word assumes sound. So on screen there was the space station being silently torn apart without any sounds whatsoever. If one did not understand the introductory explanation at the beginning of the movie, then he might have thought that the sound system of the theater had failed at the time of the impact.

This is the realm in which our God dwells. It is truly the “third heaven” in which there is no sound. If a giant meteor the size of our moon somehow hurdled through space and struck the moon, there would be total silence of the destruction on earth because there are no air molecules between the earth and moon that could bump against one another. Therefore, if God seeks to communicate personally out of this realm of silent space to those who are confined to the atmosphere of this world, then He must either vibrate the molecules of our atmosphere, or communicate with us through incarnate vocal cords. And that He did.

If one does not understand the metaphors of communication that are used by the Holy Spirit in Scripture in reference to our communication with the God who resides in the silence of space wherein there is no sound or the transmission of sound, then he or she might move into the realm of idolatry. It is in the realm of idolatry that we perceive gods with whom we can communicate with words as we do with one another on this earth.

We must guard ourselves against using the earthly definition of communication that we use with one another in the confinement of our atmosphere in reference to God communicating to us from His realm of total silence. If we do not understand that God’s communication with us through the metaphorical use of the words of our world, then we will be moved into creating a god after our own physical image. We will argue that this god must speak as we speak, and thus have vocal cords and lips as a human being.

If our world with its atmosphere did not exist, would we conclude that our god also would not exist? If we assumed that He speaks as we speak to one another with vocal cords and lips, then we have conceived an idol god in our minds. Therefore, in order to understand the God who is beyond this world, we must understand Him as though this world did not exist. And indeed, He existed without time long before the creation of this world, its atmosphere, and earthly bound inhabitants.

Our God is beyond the definitions of the words of our dictionary, specifically the definition of those words that refer to our communication with one another concerning His existence. In fact, there are no words in our dictionary that can adequately explain the God of space. By believing in this God of space, some might think that we are somewhat distant from being idolaters. And they would be correct.

We have witnessed in Africa of old that drums are used in “pagan,” or animistic ceremonies in order to excite an emotional self-hypnotic frenzy on the part of those who worshiped the spirits. The worshipers of gods (spirits) came alive in the minds of the worshipers only when the drums rhythmically stirred alive the imagination of the subjects. This same means of generating gods in fertile imaginations has been brought into the realm of many religious groups in these times. Instrumentalists in worship centers around the world turn up the volume and beat harder on the drums in order to call on gods who respond to their noise and the beat of their drums.

Nothing has changed since the days of Elijah. An opportunity to illustrate imagined gods was organized by Elijah who invited all the religionists of the Baals and the Asherah to Mount Carmel (1 Kg 18:17-46). It was at Mount Carmel that a challenge was made between the imagined gods of the religionist idolaters with the God of space who is above and beyond this world.

During the contest of “gods,” and after the religionists had cried out aloud for hours and cut themselves in order to gain some response from their god, “Elijah mocked them” (1 Kg 18:27). He continued his mocking with the words, “Cry aloud, for he is a god” (1 Kg 18:27).

Unfortunately, Baal was a god only in their minds. He was a god who could not be awaken no matter how much noise the worshipers produced. Nevertheless, he was a god they believed could hear their loud cries (or, drum beats), and see the blood flow from the ascetic self-inflicted wounds of their wrists. He was an idol god they believed could “see” and “hear.” This god dwelt in the confines of this world’s atmosphere, and only in the minds of the deceived.

We believe in a God who cannot see as we see and who cannot hear as we hear. He is a God who dwells in a realm that is not confined to our atmosphere where sound exists and can be scientifically defined. He is a God, therefore, who cannot be awaken out of sleep, as Elijah mocked the Baal prophets (1 Kg 18:27). He need not be awaken by the drummers playing louder and the instrumentalists strumming more vigorously to produce an ear-splitting noise through magnified speakers. Those sounding instruments may stir the worshipers into a self-hypnotic frenzy emotional ecstasy. However, the one true God who is spirit is in His holy temple beyond this world. Therefore, let all the earth keep silence before him.

The apostle Paul was caught up in vision to Paradise, whatever or wherever this may be. We do not fully understand. He “heard” what he later defined as “inexpressible words” (2 Co 12:4). They were certainly inexpressible as words that we use in this world, if indeed he was caught up in vision to a place that was beyond the atmosphere of this world.

The destination of his terrestrial journey “landed” him in the “third heaven” (2 Co 12:2). To the Jews, the birds flew in the first heaven, the clouds were in the second, and the third was the dwelling place of terrestrial bodies as the sun, moon and stars. If indeed Paul were caught up to a realm in which only God dwells, then the only Greek word phrase he could have used to speak of what he encountered would be “inexpressible words.” There are no words of our world that could be used to explain that which he saw in a realm in which “words” do not exist.

The God in whom we believe is spirit, and thus must be communicated with through our inner spirit. Vocal words can pour out as vibrated sounds through our mouths, but the intent, meaning and definition of these words that proceed from our mouths must first have originated in devoted hearts. It is for this reason that God “listens” to hearts, not the strumming sounds of harps. It is something like the first Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gargarin, later said after being the first man to orbit the earth in 1961: “An astronaut cannot be suspended in space and not have God in his mind and heart.”

One may want to cry out his prayers at the top of his voice. However, we must always remember that the God who dwells in the realm of total silence is listing to the silent pleas of our hearts before our thoughts make their way to our vocal cords, and eventually to the God who dwells in a realm of silence. He truly hears the sound of our silence long before we ask. This is the God in whom “we live and move and have our being” (At 17:28).

Let's talk Bible!