At the time the Hebrew writer addressed his fellow Jews in less than a decade before A.D. 70, they were about to undergo a tremendous national calamity. Since the writer directed the letter of Hebrews primarily to the believing Jewish Christians, it is interesting to note the subjects on which he focused in order to encourage them to remain focused on Jesus. If we notice well this point of focus, it will deliver us from a great number of self-appointed prophets out there who are seeking to create a frenzy around their supposed end-of-time pronouncements. Sometimes it is necessary to note the message of a particular preacher in order to determine if he is either misguided, or simply a false prophet among us. The book of Hebrews is a masterful document to use in order to make this determination.
A reading of Hebrews easily proves the preceding point. In order to encourage the disciples of his time to remain stable and focused, the Hebrew writer directed the minds of his readers through the document in order that they continue to focus on the existing gospel ministry of Jesus from heaven. In chapters 1 & 2 he encouraged his readers to focus on the gospel of the incarnate Son of God who was greater than angels. He then focused on the incarnate Son dwelling among those who were loyal to Him in all things. In chapter 3 he reminded his readers that this incarnate Son was greater than the Moses who led the people of Israel to freedom fifteen hundred years before. In following this Jesus, the Hebrew writer then turn to the good news of the eternal rest that is prepared for those who remain faithful to King Jesus. And then moving into chapter 5, the writer exhorted his readers to grow in their personal faith in Jesus, trusting, as he concluded in chapter 6, in the gospel promises of God. And then in chapter 7 he turned to the gospel of the high priesthood of Jesus who now ministers on our behalf from heaven after the order to Melchizedek. As our high priest, the writer continued to explain in chapter 8, that this resurrected and ascended incarnate Son of God is now ministering the new covenant relationship that we now have with God. Therefore, in chapter 9, the readers were metaphorically portrayed as the spiritual tabernacle on earth who worship in hope because they have been cleansed of sin by the blood of their crucified King of kings. And because of the gospel of His offering that was made once for all time on the cross, King Jesus mediates on our behalf in heavenly places. And in order to reassure his readers of this gospel offering, the writer in chapter 10 reminded his readers that the offering of the cross was sufficient and final for all time. Therefore, we must walk in gratitude of this gospel offering. In chapter 11, the writer then reminded his readers that they too must remain faithful as the Old Testament patriarchs did when they had to endure hard times during great calamity. They remained faithful even though they had no revealed knowledge of the gospel which was yet in their future. They endured great suffering in times of calamity, though they had no knowledge of the incarnate offering of the Son of God that was coming. And then only at the end of chapter 12 does the Hebrew writer bring up the subject of the former “shakings” of God throughout the history of Israel. The “shakings” throughout Israel’s history was the work of God to keep His people focused on the end result of His call of Israel. They were called into nationhood for the purpose of preserving the seedline of Abraham until the Seed came into the world. After one more “shaking,” the purpose for which the nation was called would be consummated. Chapter 13 is a final encouragement for Christians Jews to remain faithful during the calamity that they were about to endure in the consummation of their national heritage.
By comparing the message of the book of Hebrews with the message of some modern-day hysterical end-of-time preachers among us we discover something that is quite revealing. We find it very interesting that throughout the entire document of Hebrews, the writer in only two verses mentions anything about a final “shaking” of God to come in the life of his readers. Though the Jewish readers were about to go through a tremendous ordeal in the national tragedy of the end of Israel, the writer did not through the book obsess over predictions concerning the end of time. If we would listen to some of the end-of-timers to today, we would think that the entire book of Hebrews should have been written about the “signs of the times” in reference to some final “shaking.” But this is just not the case.
We learn one very profound lesson from the book of Hebrews: When we are enduring times of great national, geographical, or biological trauma in this physical world in which we dwell, we must focus on the gospel of the present ministry of Jesus and His kingdom reign as King of kings. Obsessing on any other subject is simply a diversion of Satan away from the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, by using the book of Hebrews in the New Testament we can identify those who are misleading the people by their end-of-time predictions over which they are usually obsessed.
No nation or living creature can escape the fierce shaking judgment of God in time in reference to His plans for this world. God shakes all living creatures, nations and the earth for the purpose of bringing about the purpose for which He created the world and all mankind. He shook Israel in order to bring about the intended purpose for which he called Israel into existence to continue the seedline of Abraham that resulted in the Seed of woman, the Christ (See Gl 3:16). In order to remind us of this eternal purpose of God, Ezekiel was called to direct the thinking of the faithful remnant of Israel to another “shaking” that would happen in the years to come in their history:
“The fish of the sea and the birds of the heaven, and the beasts of the field and all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth, will shake at My presence. And the mountains [governments] will be thrown down and the steep places will fall, and every wall [of every city] will fall to the ground” (Ez 38:20).
Israel was shaken by the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities. The nations who took Israel into captivity were themselves shaken in order that they release the seedline remnant of Abraham in order that they might return to the promised land. This brings us to the time of the prophecy of Haggai, and the preceding prophecy of Ezekiel. After their captivity, it was time in the history of Israel to give the remnant of God hope for something that was coming in the future. Therefore, according to Haggai there was another “shaking” that was to come in the history of Israel. This was the “shaking” about which the Hebrew writer referred in Hebrews 12:26,27.
At the time of the prophecy of Haggai, the remnant of captives had returned to the land of promise and were to be prepared for the future. Haggai was called by God in order to encourage Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, and Joshua the high priest (Hg 2:2). The Lord encouraged these two leaders of the returned remnant with the following exhortation, “Now be strong” (Hg 2:4). The Lord promised them, “According to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so My spirit remains among you. Do not fear” (Hg 25).
In the middle of the Lord’s encouragement that the people rebuild the physical temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity, there was an implanted prophecy that would not be fulfilled until four hundred years later. The Lord promised, “Yet once again in a little while I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land” (Hg 2:6). The phrase, “a little while,” did not refer to something that would happen 2,400 years later, supposing that the “shaking” would be at the end of time with the final coming of the Lord Jesus. Neither did the statement refer to something that would take place in their lifetime. Since the Hebrew writer quoted this prophecy of Haggai, which quotation was made about thirty years after the ministry of Jesus, then we must conclude that there was yet one more “shaking” by which national Israel would be sifted in order to separate the chaff from the grain.
In the historical context of Haggai, Zerubabbel and Joshua, the Lord continued to historically contextualize the shaking that would come. Haggai continued, “And I will shake all nations, and they will come to the desire of all nations. And I will fill this house with glory” (Hg 2:7). The prophecy Haggai moved beyond the physical temple that the Israelite remnant was to rebuild. The physical temple would be a symbol of the temple of the spiritual house of the Lord. Isaiah explained: “And it will come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established on top of the mountains, and will be exalted above the hills. And all nations will flow to it” (Is 2:2). Both Haggai and Isaiah revealed that all nations would come unto the temple (church) of the Lord at sometime in the future from the time they prophesied.
When the Lord eventually shook the nations with the gospel of King Jesus, it was then that the mountains of the nations came tumbling down. People from all nations submitted to the kingdom reign of the Son where there is “neither Jew nor Greek. There is neither bondservant nor free. There is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gl 3:28). The final shaking of Israel began during the ministry of Jesus and continued until the consummation of national Israel in A.D. 70. The first part of the shaking was spiritual with the preaching of the gospel message by Jesus, and then after Acts 2, by the apostles. The second part of the shaking was physical when God brought down national Israel in A.D. 70. The patience of God prevailed during the forty years from the beginning until the end (See 2 Pt 3:9).
When the gospel went into all the world, it was then that the prophecy of Haggai 2 began to be fulfilled. The gospel brought all men under the kingdom reign of Jesus (See Dn 2:44; 7:13,14). This is the meaning of the following final words that the Lord gave to Haggai to deliver to the people: “I will overthrow the throne of the kingdoms and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations” (Hg 2:22).
A. One more “shaking”:
And now we come to the conclusion of God’s “shakings.” This brings us to the “shaking” of Hebrews 12 that in these times has “end-of-time” speculators trying to shake everyone in their boots. Unfortunately, in their efforts to shake us by twisting the meaning of Hebrews 12, they are promoting the end-of-times in reference to the world. Unfortunately, these end-of-time prophets have simply missed the in-time “shakings” of Israel in order to bring about repentance, and finally, to bring about the end of national Israel in A.D. 70. They forget that the “shakings” of God were always in-time events that had in-time results. When we understand the purpose of why God shook people in time, then we can easily determine that the work of God to shake humanity never refers to end-of-time events.
Before we look at Hebrews 12 that was written about thirty years after Jesus made the pronouncements of the demise of national Israel in Matthew 24, we must focus on one statement in Luke’s parallel account of what Jesus said was coming in the lifetime of some of His disciples (See Mk 9:1). In Luke’s record of Jesus’ prophecy of the end of Israel, which was written less than a decade before the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70, Luke referred to an emotional state of the people that is always prevalent in the hearts of man every time God shakes humanity. Jesus prophesied that this state of emotional distress would exist among the Jews when Rome finally brought down judgment on the insurrectionist Jews of Palestine: “Men’s hearts will be failing them for fear, and for expecting those things that are coming on the earth. For the powers of heaven will be shaken” (Lk 21:26). The “powers of heaven” (Rome) would be shaken in order to shake the chaff of unbelieving Israel from the grain of believers. The chaff (national Israel) would then be gathered up in Jerusalem and burned (See Mt 13:40). The seed (grain) of the kingdom of God would then continue unhindered by the chaff. After A.D. 70, there was never again any persecution of Christians by the Jews that was so prevalent during the forty years that led up to that date.
Jesus placed the fulfillment of that about which He spoke to occur in time, not at the end of time. This was a shaking in time because of “those things that are coming on the earth” at the time he spoke. But when the Holy Spirit spoke of the final coming of Jesus at the end of time, He revealed things that would happen “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Co 15:52). In reference to the end of time, Paul added, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God” (1 Th 4:16). These are events that will take place instantaneously. When speaking of end-of-time events, the New Testament does not speak of events that would unfold gradually over a period of time. Regardless of how long it would take Rome to bring destruction upon national Israel, the day of the Lord in A.D. 70 was more than a 24-hour day. It was judgment that was planned in Rome, which judgment eventually came upon national Israel over a period of several months. This is certainly not within the instantaneous time frame of the events that will take place on last day when Jesus comes again.
This introduces us to the text of Hebrews 10:26,27. The Hebrew writer was directing his words to those who were forsaking the kingdom reign of King Jesus. They were going back to live under the Jews’ religion of the day. Because of the intimidation of the radical Jews at the time in their efforts to restore national Israel, the Hebrew writer penned a document to save the lives of young Christian Jews who might be encouraged to take up a sword and head to Jerusalem in order to fight the Romans. At the time, there were nationalistic zealot Jews at work throughout the Roman Empire who were recruiting all Jews to go to Jerusalem on the Passover of A.D. 70 in order to consolidate their resistance against Rome. Strategically, it was also at that time that Rome planned that the Roman army should show up at the same time.
The finality of the Hebrew writer’s arguments were based on the affirmation of Hebrews 10:39: “But we [faithful Jews] are not of those [apostates] who draw back to destruction, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.” If any Jew fell away from their allegiance to King Jesus, then there was only certain doom waiting him in Jerusalem. God was again going to shake national Israel in order to separate the chaff from the grain. Through and after the destruction, Jesus had prophesied the result: “Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43). Once the tares were gathered up and burned, then the true grain would be revealed. It would be as Jesus said at the conclusion of the parable of the Tares: “Therefore, as the tares [unbelieving Jews] are gathered and burned in the fire [of the destruction of Jerusalem], so it will be at the end of this [national Israel] age” (See Mt 13:40). (During the final weeks of the destruction, the Jewish historian Josephus stated that hundreds of thousand of Jews were killed by the Romans. The bodies of the dead were burned outside the walls of the city.)
When we read the statement of Hebrews 12:26,27 that was written only a few years before the calamity (shaking) that came upon national Israel in A.D. 70, we must understand that Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24 (Lk 21) was in the process of being fulfilled. About thirty years later when the book of Hebrews was written, national calamity was indeed coming upon the Jews. Notice carefully how the Hebrew writer took the minds of the recipients of the letter back to God’s shaking of Israel in the past when Israel continually went into apostasy: “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they [apostate Jews] did not escape when they refused Him [Jesus] who spoke on earth, much less will we escape if we turn away from Him [King Jesus] who speaks from heaven” (Hb 12:15). At the time this statement was made, King Jesus continued to speak from heaven through His apostles whom He sent into all the world (Mt 28:19,20).
In the context, the Hebrew writer spoke specifically of the incarnate Son of God speaking to national Israel during His earthly ministry. But during His ministry, the Jews rejected Him and His word. The writer then continued in Hebrews 12:26, “His voice then shook the earth.” The voice of Jesus shook the earth during His ministry on earth because His word became the standard by which all would be judged both in time and at the end of time: “He who rejects Me and does not receive My words” Jesus reminded the obstinate Jews, “has one who judges him. The word that I have spoken, the same will judge him in the last day” (Jn 12:48). From the time Jesus ascended to the throne of God in heaven, until the time He comes again in the last day, it is the word of King Jesus that will judge all men (At 17:30,31).
In the historical context of the recipients of the Hebrew letter, there would be another “shaking” after Jesus shook the earth with His personal words while He was on earth. “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also heaven” (Hb 12:26). We must not miss the metaphors of this statement. Paul’s statement in Ephesians 1:20,21 is a needed commentary. The Father “worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.” It is there that King Jesus is “far above all principality and power and might and dominion and every name that is named.” Paul continued with his commentary on this matter in Philippians 2:9,10: “Therefore, God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the earth.” Jesus is now King of all nations of this world (1 Tm 6:15). He is King of all the realm of Satan (See 1 Pt 3:22). There is nothing outside His present kingdom reign.
The Hebrew writer continued to identity the obedient subjects of the kingdom reign at the time the Hebrew document was written. In view of all those kingdoms of the world that can be shaken out of existence, the obedient subjects of King Jesus “are receiving [accepting] a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hb 12:28). “Those things that can be shaken” were about to be taken away in A.D. 70. They were to be taken away in order to reveal those things that cannot be taken away. Therefore, “let us show gratitude, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hb 12:28). It is significant that the Hebrew writer concluded his exhortation in view of the fact of the fire that was soon to come upon Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70. “For our God is a consuming fire.”
In order to guard ourselves from being deceived, we must allow the Bible to be our final dictionary in reference to establishing our world view. If one today would rise up and claim a supposedly inspired proclamation to be directly given to him by the Holy Spirit, then we must use the Bible to determine if such a self-proclaimed prophet is simply being presumptuous. Even before the close of the first century the Holy Spirit gave us the following warning: “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.” In conjunction with this, we must never forget the warning that God gave to His people Israel when they were about to enter the land of promise:
When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not follow or come to pass, that is the thing that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You will not be afraid of him (Dt 18:22).
The principle that is mandated in preceding statements must not be ignored. They must not because, throughout history, there have been and always will be those who seek to highlight themselves by speaking presumptuously in times of either social or national calamity. These self-pronounced prophets will always arise among us during times when the Lord finds it necessary to “shake” a society or civilization in order to bring us back into spiritual alignment with that which will preserve humanity. We learn this from the examples of God seeking to wake up the spiritual side of His people throughout Old Testament history.
Amos was such an “awakening” prophet. However, he was first proved to be a true prophet by the fulfilled proclamations that he made according to the preceding test of a prophet. He had no right to be heard as a prophet of God unless the prophecies he spoke came to pass. If he were not proved to be a prophet by fulfilled prophecy, then he would have been a false prophet. Therefore, he had no right to speak about those things that were beyond the common knowledge of the people unless God first proved him to be a true prophet. We would ask no less from the self-proclaimed prophets of today.
We will not listen to anyone whose presumptuous prophecies are unfulfilled. We will speak only when the Bible clearly speaks on a matter. In those areas where we can voice only our opinions, then we will speak, but we will let the people know that we are simply voicing our opinions. And such we are often doing in the context of how God now works in the affairs of man. We have not been inspired by God to tell the people that our opinions are sent directly from God.
A. Historical timeline:
Sometimes just one word or phrase in Scripture is enough to dispel a most commonly held theology. In the context of any discussion concerning God working in the affairs of man, a commonly quoted phrase is found in Hebrews 12:26, which is a quotation of Haggai 2:6. Haggai prophesied in reference to the work of God among humanity, “Yet once again in a little while I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.” By quoting this same passage from the Greek Septuagint of the Old Testament, the Hebrew writer stated, “And this word, ‘Yet once more,’ signifies the removing of those things that can be shaken, as of things that are created, so that those things that cannot be shaken may remain.”
The Hebrew writer evidently assumed that there would be speculators who would twist the Haggai 2:6 prophecy in order to make it refer to end-of-time events in reference to the removal of the present world. Therefore, because he did not want to be misunderstood in reference to his quotation of the prophecy, he sought to emphasize the statement, “Yet once more.” However, the Haggai statement in Hebrews reads, “Yet once again.” If one is not obsessed with all the present-day hysteria concerning end-of-time speculations, then he or she will notice a point in this quotation that is revealed in a change of a word of the Haggai prophecy in the Hebrews quotation.
We first must understand that in the phrase, “yet once again,” or “yet once more,” there is the assumption that the reader can deduct that there were many times before the “shaking” under consideration by the Hebrew writer when God shook things. God’s “shaking” of that which was coming had previously happened many times in the past. “Once more” assumes that at least there were “shakings” in the past that would be evidence of the same that would occur in the future. In fact, the power of the Hebrew writer’s use of the metaphor finds its substance in the many “shakings” of the past.
B. The past shakings:
When the Bible speaks of “shaking,” the metaphor was originally taken from the harvest practice of shaking the chaff out of the grain, as well as the shaking of the earth in an earthquake. In reference to an earthquake, Isaiah wrote, “He arises to shake terribly the earth” (Is 2:19; see Is 2:21). The Lord shakes the earth in order to bring down obstructions. The power of the earthquake is overwhelming, and thus strikes fear in the hearts of men. This is the substance of the metaphor. Therefore, Ezekiel could use an earthquake as a metaphor to symbolize God’s impact on the emotional state of humanity when He shook the environment of humanity: “All the men on the face of the earth, will shake at My presence. And the mountains [obstacles of man] will be thrown down and the steep places will fall, and every wall will fall to the ground” (Ez 38:20).
When God shakes the earth, both humanity and the physical world submit to His power. Realizing this power should strike fear in the hearts of all men, and thus bring submission to the presence and power of God. When the metaphor “shaking” is used, we must understand that God was seeking to get the attention of those He shook in order to accomplish a spiritual goal.
In reference to the shaking out of the grain of the harvest, the metaphor focuses on shaking the grain in order to separate the grain from the chaff, and thus discard the chaff while preserving the grain. In reference to Amos’ prophesy concerning the captivity of the northern tribes of Israel, the Lord stated, “For behold, I will command and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like grain is sifted in a sieve, yet a kernel will not fall to the ground” (Am 9:9). The shaking of the captivity was God’s way of sifting the faithful remnant out of the apostate Israel.
The farmer shakes the sieve in order to sift out the chaff, but save the grain. In reference to the many “shakings” that God did with Israel throughout their history, the purpose for the national calamities of shaking was defined by Ahijah in reference to a “shaking” in time in the history of the nation of Israel:
“For the Lord will smite Israel as a reed is shaken in the water. And He will root up Israel out of this good land [of Palestine] that He gave to their fathers. And He will scatter them beyond the River [to Assyria and Babylon] because they have made their Asherim [Baal gods and their prophets], provoking the Lord to anger” (1 Kg 14:15).
Throughout the history of Israel there were many “shakings.” In their historical context, the “shaking” meant that they would go into both Assyrian and Babylonian captivity in order to be cleansed. They would be taken out of the land of Palestine in order to be sifted clean of their religious gods and prophets that they had imagined, and whom they followed, which idolatrous gods and prophets led them away from God. As the civilization of humanity before the flood of Noah’s day, the apostates of Israel had given up on God. They discarded the one true and living God from their minds, choosing rather to create gods and religious behavior after their own lusts. For this reason, God would discard them through captivity. Their shaking as a nation on many occasions, therefore, resulted because they forsook God.
When they forsook God, they forsook His standard of morality. When a nation does this, then it is due for a good shaking. When a world does this, as in the case of the civilization that existed before the days of Noah, then it is time for God to shake heaven and earth and start over again. We must not forget that within the purpose of God “shaking” humanity He seeks to generate a moral restoration through a restored faith in Him. If the shaken society, or civilization is beyond repenting, then it is shaken out of existence. Such happened to Noah’s generation. The same happened to the generation of both the apostate northern and southern kingdoms of Israel. Those who were taken into captivity from those kingdoms died in captivity. Only their children eventually comprised the remnant that returned to the promise land.
C. Israel’s continued shaking:
The timeline of the Old Testament statements concerning God’s shaking is very important. When the Hebrew writer stated, “Yet once more,” the indication is not only that there had been “shakings” before the one that was coming in the context of the Hebrew readers, but also the fact that there were many more “shakings” before this coming final “shaking” that is in the prophecy of the Hebrews 12:26. Since Haggai 2:6,7 is quoted in Hebrews 12:26, then we must understand the prophecy of Haggai first in the context in which the prophecy was originally made.
It is necessary to understand the difference between the reading of the prophecy of Haggai 2:6 and the Holy Spirit’s quotation in Hebrews 12:26 from the Greek Septuagint. There is some difference because the Hebrews 12:26 in our New Testaments is a quotation from the Greek text that was a translation from the Hebrew text. Therefore, it must be noted that the English translation of the Hebrew text in Haggai 2:6 reads, “Yet once again.” The Hebrews reading is, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also heaven” (Hb 12:26).
The Holy Spirit assumed that we would notice the difference between the two readings. “Once again” assumes that there were “shakings” in the past, which “shakings” indicated that again in the future from the time Hebrews 12:26 was written, there would be one more shaking. But in reference to this “shaking,” the Hebrew writer wanted us to understand that this would be the final “shaking” that would be cause directly by God in reference to national Israel.
“Yet once more” in the Hebrews 12:26 statement assumes finality in reference to “shakings.” There were several “shakings” by God in the past, but there would be, in the historical context of the time the book of Hebrews was written, one more “shaking” that was brought about directly by God. After this “shaking,” there would be no more “shakings” what would be brought into the world as a direct act of God upon the physical and biological world of humanity. However, this does not discount the fact that there would be natural calamities that would emotionally shake societies, or the world as a whole. These “shakings” often accomplish the same result as those “shakings” that were cause directly by God. Since the final “shaking” about which the Hebrew writer wrote, there have been many calamities throughout the world that have caused us to be reminded that we live in a fragile world, and that we live in an environment over which we have no control.
But in reference to the Hebrews 12:26 “shaking,” the Hebrew writer sought to call our attention to all those “shakings” that occurred throughout the history of the Old Testament. Specifically, we must understand the reason why God shook Israel, and what He wanted to accomplish by bringing social upheaval among His people. We must not forget that these were “shakings” in time, and thus we must conclude that the “shaking” to which the Hebrew writer referred was also a calamity that would happen in time, not at the end of time. The Hebrew writer was not speaking of something that would happen at least two thousand years from the time he wrote the words of Hebrews 12:26. He was speaking of something that would transpire within the lifetimes of those to whom he wrote the document of Hebrews. His timeline was similar to Jesus’ prophecies concerning the end of national Israel which He mentioned would happen in the lifetime of some of His disciples (See Mk 9:1).
In the Old Testament we discover what is meant by God’s “shaking” of both His people and the nations around Israel. In both situations, the metaphor is that God causes a great social disturbance. The psalmist explained, “The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness. The Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh” (Ps 29:8). If the people were inside a house during an earthquake, they would stand in the doorway, believing that the lentil of the doorway would protect them from the falling debris of the house. Because the northern ten tribes of Israel went into apostasy, Amos was called from his farm in order to pronounce the judgment of God. But notice the metaphor that Amos used in the following proclamation of God that there would be no safe place to go for deliverance from this judgment: “Strike the lintel of the door so that the posts may shake. And break them on the heads of them all. And I will slay the last of them with the sword” (Am 9:1). God would indeed shake down the house of Israel, and in the shaking, He would also take out the apostate Israelites.
There would be no safe place to hide from this shaking of the Lord. This shaking of the northern kingdom took place when the Assyrians overthrew the capital of Samaria, and subsequently took the northern kingdom of Israelites into Assyrian captivity in 722/21 B.C. We must assume, therefore, in our understanding of the concept of God’s “shaking,” that God will always accomplish His purpose for shaking humanity. God does not shake people without bringing about His intended result.
In reference to Israel’s timeline, we must turn from the demise of the northern kingdom to the history of the southern kingdom of Israel. It too was shaken because of their idolatrous apostasy. The southern two tribes of Israel were shaken into Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C.
However, God’s shaking in the Old Testament did not only apply to His judgment on His people, but also on those who took His people into captivity. Of the Babylonian captors, Isaiah prophesied, “Therefore, I will shake the heavens and the earth will move out of its place at the wrath of the Lord of armies, and in the day of His fierce anger” (Is 13:13).
[The following chapter is from a forthcoming book. In reading this chapter please keep in mind that the chapter before this chapter was on the call of Amos in reference to the plague that had befallen Israel. The chapter after the material of this chapter explains in detail the “shakings” that occurred in the Bible. The reader, therefore, must be patient until the publication of the forthcoming book in order to read this chapter in the context of both the preceding and following chapters.]
Chapter 6 THE SHAKING
There is nothing like national or international pandemics or wars to draw out of the theological woodwork numerous prognosticators and their “end-of-time” pronouncements. This is so because such self-appointed prophets of doom often seek a following by instilling fear in the hearts of those who trust in their word. Such prophets existed before the revelation of the gospel, and they continue to exist in the religious world even to this day.
If someone today is seeking to frighten people into obedience through prognostications of “end-of-time” pronouncements, then that person has little understanding of the true reassuring power of the gospel in which we now stand. He has forgotten that our primary motivation for being disciples of Jesus Christ is based on our gratitude of the gospel of the incarnate Son of God. All other motivations for becoming a disciple of Jesus are minor in comparison to our response to the awesome love that was revealed on the cross. In fact, a young disciple who was at the foot of the cross, and into whose care was entrusted the blessed woman who brought into the world the crucified person who was at the time nailed to the cross for us, once wrote, “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19). Our loving gratitude for the eternal deed of the cross must find its expression in our response to the cross. And there is no fear in a loving response to the love of God that was expressed on the cross. In fact, the one who adopted the mother of Jesus, wrote, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has torment. He who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 Jn 4:18).
There is reassurance in our hearts in all world calamities we might have to endure in this life because we understand the present gospel reign of King Jesus. We have tremendous love for our King, and thus remain in a loyal obedient relationship with Him in reference to His commandments. For this reason, the apostle Paul wrote in this following statement his personal response to the gospel reign of King Jesus: “Knowing the fear of the Lord we persuade men” (2 Co 5:11). We have this unquenchable desire to be the fearful for those of this world, and thus we seek to bring every soul into the security of the gospel that we enjoy.
The same apostle who wrote the preceding statement, also wrote the following in reference to the reassurance we experience as obedient subjects of the kingdom reign of the King of kings: “For you have not received a spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption by which we cry, ‘Abba, Father’” (Rm 8:15). As we walk in obedience to King Jesus, we walk with the reassurance that comes to us through His grace. We are assured that He will forgive us of all our sins as we continue with Him on this earthly journey (1 Jn 1:7). We will not fear during any earthquake, tornado, hurricane or virus.
As the disciples of Christ, we know the awesome authority of the judgment of our King. But because of the gospel of grace that we have obeyed, we have confidence in His redeeming blood. Therefore, we do not fear the Judge, nor do we fear during any calamities that occur in this world over which He has control. We preach the gospel because we know what the Judge will do to those who do not fear (obey) Him (See 2 Th 1:6-9).
We must understand the preceding in the context of the scope of the book. We must firmly believe that King Jesus has all things in control, regardless of what calamities we must endure as a result of any geological or biological attacks from the environment that make our journey in this world sometimes uncomfortable. Therefore, when the Bible speaks of the shaking power of the Creator and Judge of all things, we must understand His awesome power to shake all things in our present environment in order to accomplish the purpose for which He created the world. This was the contextual meaning of what Paul wrote in the following statement: “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rm 8:28). When this world of humanity turns away from the purpose for which it was created, then it is time to shake humanity back into realizing the existence of the Creator of all things. In the process of this shaking, Christians must not lose sight of the fact that the Creator is shaking things back into some godly order. Nevertheless, though God has at times shaken civilization throughout history in order to accomplish His purposes, when He can no longer accomplish His purpose by disturbing humanity and our environment, then it is time to start expecting some finalization of all things.
The failure of the present-day prognosticators with their end-of-time fear tactics is that without an exception, they often fail to understand the historical context of the “shakings” of the Lord throughout history, particularly in reference to God’s people in the Old Testament. The word “shaking” is used several times throughout the Old Testament in reference to God directing a remnant of His people to the eventual fulfillment of gospel promises. However, if we do not understand the immediate historical context when those particular “shakings” took place, then we will invariably misunderstand the purpose for which the Lord shakes humanity today. Those who are obsessed with the end of the world unfortunately make this common mistake in their hermeneutics. It is for this reason that we must understand the historical context of the people whom the Lord shook in the past in order to remind ourselves of our Creator and the reason why we are on this earth.
Therefore, we would caution every student of the Bible not to be caught up in the present fanaticism that the present shaking of humanity throughout the world is some indication of the end of the world. All “shakings” in the Bible were in reference to purposes God sought to accomplish in time. They were not sent to signal of the end of times. If we use the Bible as our “dictionary” to define the metaphor of a “shaking,” then we cannot conclude that any “shaking” in time is a sign of the end of time. This is true because all of God’s “shakings” in the Old and New Testaments referred to something that took place in time.
It is a fact that the Lord allows natural shakings to occur throughout history. Sometimes, He directly causes the “shaking,” which was the case in the days of Amos. When He directly caused that “shaking,” He had to raise up a prophet to let the people know that the calamity that had befallen the northern kingdom of Israel was caused directly by Him. But we affirm that God no longer raises up special prophets to identify His “shakings.” Because of the inspired record of His “shakings” in the Old Testament, He assumes that all believers today have enough sense—at least biblical sense—to conclude that He is still at work in our world today. We need no special prophet to rise up among us and reveal that God continues to work in the affairs of this world. The fact is that He never ceased to so work. If someone would rise up to be a self-proclaimed God-sent prophet, then we know that such a preacher is a prognosticator, not a God-called prophet as Amos. He thus speaks presumptuously if he claims to be a prophet of God.
Therefore, this is where we must be cautious. God personally called Amos to inform the people concerning the origin of the natural calamity that came upon the people of his day. In other “shakings” in the Old Testament, God directly inspired prophets to reveal that a particular “shaking” was sent directly from Him in order to accomplish something in reference to the preservation of a faithful remnant until the entrance of the Son of Man into this world. Therefore, unless a prophet is raised up directly by God and inspired by the Holy Spirit to identify that a particular “shaking” has been sent directly from God, then we must assume that any “shaking” that we must endure in these times is simply the occurrence of the natural or biological laws of this world in which we live. We must believe this regardless of our belief that God continues to work behind the scene of natural laws in order to accomplish the same purpose of all His “shakings” that He brought upon the world from the beginning of time.
Natural occurrences (“shakings”) usually accomplish the same result as the directly imposed “shakings” that God used in the past in order to produce fear in the hearts of the people. But we must affirm that since the days when King Jesus came in judgment on national Israel in A.D. 70, there have been no prophets directly called by God to identify a particular natural shaking to have been sent directly from God. If a presumptuous prophet would seek to rise up among us to supposedly speak by the Holy Spirit to identify that a particular “shaking” is directly from God, then we must assume that that person is not a true prophet. He or she is a self-appointed prognosticator who seeks to create fear in the hearts of men, often for his own profit.
The true believer simply understands that we are in the bondage of a natural world that is groaning, as we, for deliverance from this present state of existence. This is the thought that the apostle Paul revealed in reference to our present bodily state in a physical world that is subject to the laws of nature, both biological and geological:
“For the creation was made subject to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who has subjected it in hope, because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors together until now in pains of birth. And not only that, but ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rm 8:20-23).
It is time to take another look at the preceding statement, realizing that every natural or biological catastrophe of this present world is a reminder that both the earth and ourselves groan for deliverance from this present state of existence. It is not that we need a prophet as Amos to rise up and tell us its so. It is that we as believers realize that King Jesus upholds all things by the word of His power (Hb 1:3). And though it may seem that all things are out of control, by faith we must conclude that He always has everything under control. We remember the following statement by the Holy Spirit:
“You have put all things in subjection under His feet. For in subjecting all things to Him, He left nothing that is not put under Him. But now we do not yet see all things put under Him” (Hb 2:8).
[Other chapters will be published of this book when they are completed.]
THE DODGE RAM NIGHTINGALE
From the viewpoint of a father
During the Crimean War in the middle of the nineteenth century, there was a unique young lady in England who could no longer sit around reading about the miserable conditions of wounded English soldiers who were dying in filthy conditions on the frontlines of the war. So she packed herself up, recruited 38 other like-minded volunteer nurses, and the English government shipped these daughters of England off to the frontlines of the war, knowing very well that many of them would also fall in the battle of duty. Luden Baudens later wrote of the young Nightingale, “This frail woman … embraced in her solicitude the sick of three armies.” On the frontlines and in the tents of the wounded and dying, she became known as, “The lady with the lamp.” Nightingale was continually among the wounded in the middle of the night. She was checking for those among the living who might need comfort and care in order to make it through just one more night.
Nightingale left a legacy that has inspired the profession of nursing far beyond her lifetime, especially among the English. I was recently sitting in my living room watching the local news concerning one of the economically depressed townships of Africans here in South Africa. The news reporter was there interviewing the members of a special team. It was a team of young volunteer English descendants of about twenty out there in the midst of the township people passing out brochures to educate people about how to protect themselves against the coronavirus. Nightingale left a legacy in England that has reverberated throughout the world to this day. Her legacy also made its way across the Atlantic Ocean to America.
On the news this morning an Uber driver finally had a paying customer in the state of Washington in America. She recorded the single twenty-five-year-old nurse on her way as a necessary worker to be out during the lockdown that was in force. The devoted young nurse said, “It is necessary for me to be out on lockdown because all my patients are suffering from coronavirus.” What is it about these nurses that the rest of us try to comprehend? There seems to be a certain nature within their souls that sets them apart from the rest of us.
My wife and I continue to experience our own Florence Nightingale. This daughter, endeared to us with the name, Cindy, was certainly God-molded to be who she is now as other nurses, a dedicated nurse on the frontlines of the Coronavirus War. She is a part of that extremely dedicated class of people throughout the world who have sacrificially thrown themselves into mortal conflict on the frontlines of the War. She, and thousands like her, are a tribute to the unselfish service that these medical soldiers exert every day among those who are clinging to life for just one more breath. Sometimes, many of themselves have also succumbed to the invisible enemy they have chosen to engage. The doctor will prescribe a ventilator, and then move on to another patient. But the valiant necessary nurses must stay there with the fallen victims day after day because there are too many victims for the doctor.
This morning I was listening to a British Broadcasting Corporation interview with a thirty-year veteran of nursing in England who had long ago retired. But in her retirement, she could not set back and watch a virus-stricken society in England languish away in the global Coronavirus War. So she showed up at a local hospital and told the management, “I’m back.” The BBC interviewer asked why she came out of retirement in order to endanger her own life for others. The aged gray-haired nurse replied, “It was not a matter of making a decision. It is who I am. I do not want to live in a selfish society, and thus I must live selflessly.”
My wife and I have one of these selfless heroes as a daughter. You have to have personally had one of them in your home in order to understand who they are. I would briefly say that these Nightingales are who they are because they can be no other way. For example, I remember coming home one afternoon when Cindy was fifteen years old. She had taken off all the screens of the windows of the entire house and was cleaning the screens and washing the windows. I asked this fifteen-year-old why she was doing this. She simply replied, “They were dirty.” Nightingales see a need, and then they cannot help themselves but show up.
Our Nightingale was evidently born this way, and then maybe picked up a work ethic from her parents along the way to her present profession. She always had to be doing something, and the something was not for herself, but to release her heart on others. She, as so many other nurses throughout the world, have big hearts that move them to eventually find expression in becoming nurses. So Cindy secured her own student loan, enrolled in nursing school, and set the course of her life to join the millions of like-minded nurses out there who cannot help themselves. “It’s just the way they are.”
In the very unique work that Cindy and others like her presently do as nurses, is truly a frontline business. She is not held up in a hospital, but on the road to patients who have been given into her care, which patients have been diagnosed to have only months to live. Often in the middle of the northern winter nights of the state of Wisconsin in America, she will receive a call from a family member. On the other end of the line is the plea, “Come quickly!” For these missions it does not make any difference if there is a foot of snow on the road. She is into her 4 X 4 Dodge Ram and headed for the finality of someone’s life. Sometimes she arrives in time, sometimes not. When she does not, she must pronounce and record a death, and then call for the coroner. This has been Cindy’s life, and many other nurses like her, day after day, and year after year.
We are in lockdown at this time in South Africa. Before this time came, daughter Cindy would contact us and ask if we are doing this or that in order to protect ourselves. But not once has she complained about her own situation of ministering to the dying on the frontlines. I once said to her, “Cindy, you minister to the needs of more people than any minister I know.” While preachers sometimes enclose themselves in their white castles, tens of thousands of nurses like Cindy sink their hands in the sicknesses of humanity. The ministry of nurses reveals the very core of human empathy. These soldiers of the medical field minister to the people while the rest of us just keep their phone numbers on speed dial.
Though we have not been in the company of our Nightingale for over three years, the last thing she wants us not to do is get on some airplane, or board a ship and come to her side on the other side of the world. She has yearned on the telephone for a parental encounter, but we all know that we all must put ourselves on hold until we pass through this time of separation until the war is won.
Therefore, as you hug your children in the security of your home in lockdown, be grateful. There are thousands of mothers and fathers throughout the world today whose sons and daughters work on the frontlines of the Coronavirus War as caring nurses. As ourselves, many mothers and fathers around the world are more than willing to offer their children on the altar of sacrifice on the frontlines in order that this war be won. This does not mean that we parents do not yearn to withdraw our children from the frontlines and hug them close in our own lockdown. We simply understand that great sacrifices are needed in order to conquer overwhelming enemies of civilization.
As in the case of many others who are the parents of these frontline heroes, we can only offer endless prayers that our Nightingales not be personally attacked by the invisible enemy. But if you are in the vicinity of our Nightingale of north Wisconsin, you can be assured that she is only a phone call away. And if you call, she will be in her Dodge Ram and on her way down snow-covered roads to your bedside.
You are asking us why she and thousands of other nurses like her put themselves in peril for others? We do not know about the others, but we do know that is the way God made Cindy. Neither she nor her parents want to live in any world that is selfish.
So you might have asked who such a person as Cindy would marry. An English Nightingale, of course. Jonathan, who studied to follow in his parents’ footsteps in the medical field, is now working as a dermatologist, seeing over fifty patients a day. He is the product of two Nightingales of England. They are all a tribe of exceptional people who just cannot help themselves.
The Holy Spirit had something to say about this concerning all of us: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another” (Rm 12:10). “In humility of mind let each esteem others better than themselves” (Ph 2:3). I am sure He was talking specifically about nurses.
This is incarnational living as Jesus in spirit in heaven, who said to His Father, “I am going to the frontlines to win this war of sin” (See Ph 2:5-8). Our hats are off to all the Nightingales who are directly and sacrificially engaged in the world war against the coronavirus, as well as those who are parents of those valiant medical soldiers.
[If you are in lockdown, why not download a free book from the Biblical Research Library:
I WILL RETURN TO THE SERIES ON THE GOSPEL ON MARCH 30.
[I thought it good to put an interlude here in the ongoing blog series. For those who are in quarantine, maybe this blog will offer a serendipty to all that you are going through in isolation.]
CORONAVIRUS WILL SAVE LIVES We cannot help ourselves. We are incurable optimist, and certainly believe, “All things work together for good to those who love God” (Rm 8:28).
When national Israel was at the brink of total devastation, and the loss of over one million lives in a matter of months, James had the audacity to write the following to Jewish Christians only about five years before the national disaster of A.D. 70: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (Js 1:2).
If we did not credit this statement to the Holy Spirit, then the world of Jews at the time would have had a right to mock the preposterous writer and his words as they stood on the walls of Jerusalem and witnessed the Roman army surrounding Jerusalem in A.D. 70. And when the stench of dead bodies filled the air as they cast their loved ones over the wall into the camp of the Roman army, the words of the prophet James would ring with insanity. But for those whose citizenship is far beyond stock markets and viruses, and important religious centers, his words reverberate every day to the inner most sanctuary of our souls.
So we are very optimistic in reference to the present attack of the “invisible enemy” (coronavirus) throughout the world. We live in a world that is at war. But we are fighting against an enemy that cannot be detected with the human eye. So how can we make such an audacious statement that this virus will eventually lead to the saving of tens of thousands of lives? Just do the math.
First consider the annual deaths that are caused by influenza (the common flu). In 2019 alone there were over 16,500,000 people in AMERICA alone who contacted influenza. Of that number, over 34,000 people died. The year before in 2018 the numbers were worse. Over 61,000 people in America died of the common flu in 2018. This number of deaths was still in view of the urge from the medical community to get a “flu shot.” Unfortunately, most of the millions who were infected did not get the flu vaccination, and consequently, many of these who contracted influenza died. Now think for a moment. Over 34,000 people died in America of influenza in 2019 WITHOUT ALL THE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES THAT HAVE NOW BEEN IMPOSED ON SOCIETY.
At the end of the year, watch the figures and do the math. There is presently an obsession about reporting every day the number of people infected with coronavirus. The number of deaths in America are also reported. And noticeably, the number of deaths continues to rise. In the middle of March 2020, about 100 people had died of coronavirus since the beginning of the year.
But compare that number with the number of deaths we have recorded in reference to influenza in 2019. On the average, 2833 people died EVERY MONTH in 2019 of influenza. But from the beginning of the year unto this date in the middle of March, people are almost hysterical about the 100 precious people who have died of the coronavirus. If we were comparing this number with influenza deaths since January, instead of the 100, this number would be about 3675 by using 2019 figures. Every death is a tragedy. We are not comparing death spread sheets, but in some way we must compare the numbers in order to see in all the tragedy sometime marvelous that is happening.
Now when we come to the end of 2020, there is a figure for which you must search, if indeed the news media will report it. Maybe no one will make the comparison, and no one will do the math. Being honest and straightforward about these matters does not sell newspapers, or inspire viewers to watch their favorite TV news.
Nevertheless, we are anxiously awaiting to see the figures in order to compare the combined deaths from both influenza and coronavirus for the year 2020 with the deaths of influenza alone in 2019. If you want a prophecy from us, we can at least assure you that the combined number of deaths from influenza and coronavirus by the end of the year will be SIGNIFICANTLY SMALLER than the number of deaths from influenza alone in 2019, especially 2018. Just watch and see.
The reason for this is simple. Consider all the health precautions that are now sweeping across America in order to deter the spread of the coronavirus? It is almost incredible as people in fear are obsessing on how to do now what they never considered doing during 2019.
The 34,000 who died in 2019 never made any headlines. And we would think that in 2018 the 61,000 people who died from influenza would have made the news and inspired some of the cleanliness motivation that are witnessing today. Somehow, the deaths from coronavirus are posted on the daily news like a sports scoreboard. Toilet paper stocks have gone of the charts. Life-styles are changing and we will never be the same. This is even good news.
All the health precautions that are now being implemented by society will also GREATLY curb the spread of the common flu. This will not only happen in America, but around the world. For example, Martha and I had to go into the big city and do what small-town people must do on a trip to the city. We first went to the medical clinic for a doctor’s appointment. At the clinic we were met at the door by two people at a table with hand sanitizers and a tablet on which we had to write our names. Our hands were sprayed for us in order that we vigorously scrub them. We then went to the food store. Sure enough, there was stationed at every entrance someone with a bottle of hand sanitizer, spraying our hands before entry into the store. And then we went on to the government offices, and there they were again. A young man was stationed at the entrance with the usual hand sanitizer with which he anointed our hands abundantly before we entered.
Since South Africa has not been known for such cleanliness, we wonder how many thousands of lives will be spared this year from contracting influenza virus? Bus stations and taxis are cleaning themselves up in fear of the coronavirus. Such diligence will lead to the saving of thousands of people who should have been cleaning themselves up long before this plague arrived from China.
Therefore, keep an eye out for the combined deaths from coronavirus and influenza for 2020. We think that by the end of 2020, the combined number of deaths from coronavirus and influenza will be significantly lower than 2019. This will be good news! My father died of influenza. If he were alive today, and many of his generation who likewise died from influenza, he would probably still be alive by the end of December 2020 because of all the health precautions that are now being implemented. But if your aged father and mother are alive today, you can count it all joy as we continue in this war with millions of the enemy we cannot see.
You can be assured of one thing. Many of our grandfathers and grandmothers will be alive at the end of the year who normally would have fallen in battle against influenza sometime during this year.
Can God command things to be done, which things when obeyed, can become the identity of religion? For the sake of clarity, we need to ask this question from another perspective. Are there some things that God has commanded in the past, which if obeyed today, we would be considered religionists? Certainly! If one has a difficult time answering, or understanding the preceding questions, then the problem may be that one is having difficulty separating the Sinai law that was given to the nation of Israel, from the law of faith and grace under which Christians now live. In fact, if one does not understand this, then he or she could be preaching the “other gospel” about which Paul warned the Christians in Galatia (See Gl 1:6-9). Therefore, a few examples are in order. If we bind on ourselves and others that which God considers void, even though He initially commanded such to be done, then we are religionists if we practice these things today. In doing such, we have brought into our faith and grace a system of meritorious law-keeping that is contrary to the gospel of grace. Consider the rite of circumcision. Circumcision was commanded both to Abraham and Israel as a nation (See Gn 17; Ex 12:44,48). Circumcision was a command of the Sinai law, and thus, when one was born of a Jewish family under the Sinai law, he was to be circumcised the eighth day after birth. But the law that required circumcision was nailed to the cross (Rm 7:1-4; Cl 2:14). Christians today are not required to be circumcised in order to conform to the law of circumcision. In their obedience to the gospel, they were made dead to the Sinai law. Some Jewish Christians in the first century did not understand this. They sought to bind the rite of circumcision on the Gentile disciples in order that the Gentiles be saved. In fact, they taught that “except you [Gentiles] are circumcised after the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (At 15:1). These Jewish teachers became religionists when they bound on the disciples something that was a part of the Sinai law that was at the time void. They were binding a religious code on those who had been made dead to the law of circumcision through their obedience to the gospel. Therefore, the Holy Spirit stated that those who were preaching the law of circumcision were preaching another gospel (Gl 1:8). Paul comforted the Gentile Christians of Galatia by writing, “If anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Gl 1:9). These are serious words. In fact, by the time Paul arrived at revelation from the Spirit in Galatians 5, the Spirit directed his hand to write, “You have been severed from Christ, you who seek to be justified by law. You have fallen from grace” (Gl 5:4). In other words, if one would bind on Christians today that which is not bound by God, then that person is severed from Christ. Religion is defined as a system of rites and ceremonies that are required to be performed by any religious establishment in order to be saved. Even if the rite or ceremony were once a requirement of the law of God, when that law of God was made void, so also were the precepts of that law. Once void, any rite or ceremony of the law becomes a religious ordinance if bound on Christians. To bind such on those who are now under the law of faith and grace would be turning the people into a religious sect. Therefore, those Jewish Christians in the first century who bound circumcision on Gentile Christians as a rite to be saved had fallen back into the bondage of the Jews’ religion from which they had been set free by their obedience to the gospel. They were subsequently changing the gospel of freedom into the bondage of religion (See Gl 5:1). This brings us to another illustration that should make us cautious about becoming religionists by binding that which may have initially come from God, but was made void when it was supplanted by God’s revelation of the truth of the gospel. When Paul came through Ephesus on a mission journey, he encountered about twelve disciples who were meeting in someone’s home in the urban area of Ephesus (At 19:1). Upon his initial contact with these disciples, he asked them concerning matters of the Holy Spirit. They replied, “We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit” (At 19:2). Paul’s obvious reply was, “Into what then were you baptized?” (At 19:3). They responded, “Into John’s baptism” (At 19:3). The baptism of John was certainly from God. In fact, “John came in the wilderness baptizing and preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mk 1:4). But between the time of John’s ministry to introduce the Son of God into the world, and about twenty-five years later when Paul encountered the disciples in Ephesus, John’s baptism became a religious rite if people were so baptized after the cross. John’s baptism was supplanted by baptism in the name of Jesus Christ on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30. If it was bound as a religious rite after Pentecost, then it would make those who obeyed it disciples of a religion, but not Christians. Luke recorded in Acts that there were about twelve disciples whom Paul encountered on the Ephesus visit. We could assume that one or two of the group had initially encountered John years before on a visit to Judea, or possibly were baptized by Apollos who initially knew only the baptism of John. Apollos then possibly left them, and rushed on to Corinth (At 18:27; 19:1. Apollos had been teaching the baptism of John, but was corrected by two tentmakers in Ephesus (See At 18:24-28). He may have left the disciples that Paul encountered when he went on to Corinth. This may have been a possibility, but we feel that it was not in the nature of Apollos to leave the twelve walking in what had become at the time only a religious rite. Apollos had been preaching a religious rite out of ignorance because the baptism of John had been supplanted by baptism in the name of Jesus on Pentecost about twenty-five years before. Nevertheless, his ignorance of what was required by God after Pentecost was no excuse to change what he believed and preached at the time he arrived in Ephesus. The twelve Ephesian disciples were sincere when they heard that they must be baptized with John’s baptism in order to receive remission of sins. They were sincere religionists. Whether they heard this message from one or two of their number who had encountered John the Baptist many years before, or from Apollos, John’s baptism had been supplanted with baptism in the name of Jesus. By the time the twelve disciples heard of John’s baptism, it had become a religious rite, a rite that had originally come from God. But at the time God revealed this baptism to John, it was not a religious rite. It was a commandment of God that had to be obeyed if one wanted to receive remission of sins, and thus, fulfill all righteousness (Mt 3:15). But by the time Paul encouraged the twelve disciples, John’s baptism, as circumcision, were only religious rites. If one obeyed either with the belief that both were necessary for salvation, then he or she obeyed another gospel. (Those who teach tithing according to the Sinai law, as opposed to gospel-inspired giving under Christ, need to seriously consider this point.) Only baptism in the name of Jesus is valid today. We know of a great number of people who have made their own self-declaration that they were saved, thus supposedly receiving remission of sins upon the basis of their own claim. They then made baptism a religious rite to be obeyed in order to conform meritoriously to a system of the faith that is promoted by a particular religious group into which they were initiated through baptism. Instead of knowingly being baptized in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins (At 2:38), they had declared their own remission of sins, and thus, assumed their salvation before any baptism for the remission of sins in the name (authority) of Jesus. After their self-declaration of remission of sins took place, they were then baptized as a religious rite of the church to which they presently belong. We must ask ourselves that if we make baptism a religious rite we perform following our own self-declaration that we are saved, then is this baptism for the remission of sins? If we have remission of sins upon the fact of our self-declaration of salvation, then why would we be baptized? If we were baptized, then were we not baptized as a religious work of merit? Some have been baptized as a meritorious work of law. If we made our own self-declaration of salvation by “receiving Jesus,” “bringing Jesus into our lives,” saying some “sinner’s prayer,” and then were baptized, then we may have made our own baptism a religious rite, or simply a work of law. If we did, then we are religionists who made a self-declaration in reference to our salvation. Our obedience to the gospel in baptism was not in response to the gospel of the incarnate Son of God who declares the remission of our sins upon our response to the gospel in baptism. We must not forget that baptism is not a meritorious work of law. It is a submissive response of gratitude because of one’s understanding of the incarnate sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross. This is exactly what Paul meant when he wrote, “You are not under law [of baptism], but under [the gospel] of grace” (Rm 6:14). “And if by grace [you are saved], then it is no more by works [of merit or law], otherwise grace is no more grace” (Rm 11:6). “For by grace you are saved through faith [in the gospel of God’s grace]” (Ep 2:8). We are not saved because we have been legally immersed in water. The action of immersion is not a work of merit by which we can put God in debt to save us. If it were, then no apostate Christian would ever be lost. He would be saved on the merit of his baptism. Paul rebaptized those in Ephesus who had obeyed John’s baptism, which baptism was relegated to a religious rite when the gospel was first preached twenty-five years before on the day of Pentecost (At 19:5). We would suggest that anyone do the same if they feel that they made baptism a religious rite because they had before their baptism declared their own remission of sins. They were baptized under the authority (name) of the wrong person, and thus, not in response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They became their own self-declared authority for the remission of their own sins. But it is God who declares our remission of sins, and subsequent salvation when we are baptized into and under the authority of Christ (At 22:16; Rm 6:3-6; Gl 3:26-29). Each person must be his or her own judge of this matter. It is not our place to judge the hearts of people. We can only read what is stated in the New Testament in reference to the purpose of baptism in the name of Jesus for the remission of sins. If one does have questions concerning his or her motives for being baptized many years ago, then it would certainly be wise to be baptized again for the right motives in order to have a good conscience toward God. You be your own judge. At least when the Ephesians recognized that they did the wrong thing, in their sincerity, they corrected the matter. When we speak of baby baptism, a whole new set of problems are uncovered. But it is appropriate in the context of the Ephesian situation to remember that the Ephesians individually heard and were baptized as adults into John’s baptism. Then they individually heard and responded to Paul’s teaching that they be baptized in the name of Jesus. No parents made any decisions or declarations for them. No parents baptized them with John’s baptism. No parents immersed their babies in the name of Jesus. If one cannot get the point on this matter, then certainly one cannot understand that baby baptism is nowhere in the New Testament. But if one was “baptized” as a baby, and gets the point of the Ephesians’ freedom to choose concerning their salvation, then he or she, if baptized as a baby, should find someone, and head to the water in order to be truly baptized in the name of Jesus. Just keep in mind that your parents out of their ignorance were practicing a man-made religious rite and ceremony. When they handed you over as a baby to be sprinkled or immersed, that was not your voluntary decision. It was theirs. It was theirs in order that they conform to the religion of their fathers. Baptism in the name of Jesus must be your decision. We would urge people to be like the Ephesians. When you learn something new, just do it. DOWNLOAD AND SHARE THE FOLLOWING BOOK ESCAPE FROM RELIGIONhttp://www.africainternational.org/files/Book%2076.pd
The New Testament letters are just as alive and relevant today as they were when first written two thousand years ago. In order to discover and appreciate these documents, it is necessary to understand them in the historical context of the first recipients. When we understand that the initial recipients were ordinary people who lived in situations that were similar to our situations today, then the letters that the Holy Spirit penned to the early Christians come alive for us today. We are ordinary people who thirst for encouragement when we go through trying times. Letters as James and Jude come to life in our own lives when we understand that the message of encouragement that was written two thousand years ago to recipients who were going through trying times, are also messages of encouragement for us today.
The letter of Jude is a good example of how historical Bible study illustrates how the New Testament letters are as relevant today as they were when first written. Jude wrote in the historical context of the turmoil of national Israel to which Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24. The fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24 (Lk 21) concerning the consummation of national Israel in A.D. 70 was less than five years away when the Holy Spirit directed the hand of Jude to write a brief document to alert Jewish Christians throughout the Roman Empire. At the same time, the Holy Spirit through James wrote to the Jews a more lengthy letter with similar thoughts. James’ inscriptions were also directed to Jewish Christians who were scattered throughout the Empire (Js 1:1).
Both James and Jude were preparing the Jewish Christians for the onslaught of Rome to settle the “Jewish problem” of the Empire. It was a problem of radical Judaism that had been building over many decades. These radical insurrectionists wanted to throw off the oppression of Rome in order to enjoy their own national independence. They hated Caesar and they hated Roman oppression.
However, regardless of the efforts of the zealot insurrectionists, the Romans continued throughout the years to execute would-be messiahs who called the Jews to unite in national rebellion against Rome. Many years before Jude wrote, some Romans believed that a Jew from the city of Nazareth was asserting Himself to be a “king of the Jews.” Some of His disciples also believed that this Nazarene was the Messiah who would reign on earth in order to restore national Israel. For this reason, some during His ministry attempted to make Him a king against His will (See Jn 6:15). The Romans, therefore, nailed this self-proclaimed Messiah to a cross outside Jerusalem about thirty-five years before both James and Jude wrote their letters. In the middle 60s, therefore, James and Jude wrote in order to remind all Jewish Christians that the coming of the Lord in judgment on national Israel was at hand (Js 5:7,8).
Both James and Jude, who were the earthly brothers of Jesus by Joseph and Mary, were called specifically by the Holy Spirit to warn the followers of their older crucified brother. The two brothers wanted to remind their readers that Jesus had indeed prophesied thirty-five years before what was about to transpire in the lives of His disciples. They had accepted their older brother as the Messiah and Son of God. And now, the two brothers wanted to exhort the disciples of their older brother that nothing was out of control as they transitioned through the social chaos that all of them were about to experience.
Before the days of impending chaos, one messiah after another was subsequently chased down by the Romans, and eventually killed in battle, or caught and crucified on a cross (See At 21:38). But at the time the two brothers, James and Jude wrote, things had heated up to a social breaking point. Rome thus made a determined decision to solve the problem of Jewish radicalism once and for all. So the Roman army organized and started a march toward Jerusalem. When the signs of the end were in view, James and Jude immediately sat down in some quiet place and allowed the Holy Spirit to reveal a message to all Jews, specially Jewish Christians. It was the worst of times for national Israel, but the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24.
But this is not our primary point. We must historically infuse ourselves into the social and political chaos of those times in order to understand the behavior of those who would rise up against the civil authorities of the day, specifically the government of the Roman Empire. We must assume that the Holy Spirit wrote through James and Jude a message that would identify those who would set themselves against the rule of law. In our application of this message to our own selves today, this helps us to identify those in a democratic society who are taking their nations in the way of ruin by twisting the application of both moral and constitutional law.
Every government goes through those times in which there is a chaotic movement within society that thirsts so much for power and change that proponents of the movement are willing to go to extreme measures in order to gain control of the government. This is the inherent social “disorder” of all democracies. In a democracy there is a constant struggle for the power of the government in order that a particular political party might impose the party’s social and economic agenda on the populous as a whole. There is thus a perpetual confrontation within democratic societies that lends itself to producing levels of conflict as one party seeks to gain power over all other parties.
In those monarchies of the past that were led by some king, the resistance simply assassinated the presiding king, and then a new king took over. But in a democratic society, the entire society will divide itself into political parties who launch endless attacks against one another in order to gain power. In our “modern” societies there is usually no assassination of kings by guns and swords. However, there are constant assassinations with the lies that one party would launch against another. The lies are issued in order to discredit the leaders of each party. Fake news subsequently flourishes throughout the media of the society. So it was in reference to the execution of Jesus. Lest the executed, and supposed King of the Jews, become a martyr of another sect of Jewish rebels, there was fake news spread abroad about the missing body of the supposed national King Jesus (See Mt 28:11-15).
This is where the Holy Spirit, specifically through Jude, would have something to say. Those Christians who live in democratic societies today need to listen up while the Holy Spirit moved the pen of Jude across a parcel of papyrus in order to forewarn the Jewish Christians of those unbelieving Jewish zealots within the society who were recruiting all Jews, as well as Jewish Christians, to join the resistance against Rome. The Holy Spirit wrote a stern document in order that the Jewish Christians identify the heart and behavior of those who were seeking to rebel against the rule of the law of Rome. We can identity some of the very same characteristics in the politicians of your own country.
Jude began with a series of pronouncements by which the faithful could identify the leaders of the arrogant resistance: “I want to remind you, though you once knew this” (Jd 5). Since the word “knew” is in the past tense, it seems that Jude’s readers had forgotten what his older brother had prophesied in Matthew 24, as well as God’s harsh judgment that He brought upon insurrectionists. Some Jewish Christians may have been caught up in the emotion of the radical resistance to the point that they simply forgot that being a disciple of Jesus meant that one must submit to the authority of the government in which he lives (See Rm 13:1-7). But in the context of the statement, the Jewish Christians forgot to read their Old Testament Bibles. So Jude reminded them of three examples of those who resisted the authority of God.
Jude first reminded his readers of the example of the arrogant resistance of those who acted against the God-ordained authority of Moses. This case happened immediately after Israel was delivered from Egyptian captivity. In this case, the resistance could not accept the authority of one man over Israel. Before the establishment of “constitutional law” for Israel at Mount Sinai, there was a rebellion against the authority of the one who would be the example of another authority who would eventually rise up in Israel centuries later (See Dt 18:15,18,19; At 3:22,23). But in the rebellion at the foot of Mount Sinai, the Lord “destroyed those who did not believe [obey]” (Jd 5). In order to cleanse the newly established Israelite nation, Korah and his cohorts, with their following, had to be purged from the society of Israel (Nm 16).
Jude then went on to the fallen angels who rebelled against the authority of the archangel Michael who was God’s ordained authority over the angels. Because of their thirst for power, some angels, led by Satan, rebelled against the established authority of the day (See Rv 12). These rebellious angels sought to “impeach” the established God-ordained order of authority in order that they might seize control of the order of angels. But their thirst for power resulted in their being cast down to “everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day” (Jd 6).
And then Jude advanced into the moral behavior of those who seek to deliver themselves from any restrictions of moral behavior. These were “ungodly men who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness” (Jd 4).
Jude spoke of those whom we would define as “liberals,” or the far left. Liberals seek to establish their own moral codes on the populous. In the example of Sodom and Gomorrah, the citizens of the cities gave themselves over to all sorts of sexual dysfunctions (Jd 7). It is simply the moral philosophy of the liberal to reject any moral standards by which the people should conduct themselves in their social relationships. Their rebellion against authority reveals itself in their desire to live a life of unrestricted moral behavior. They will elect to office in their democratic society those who live contrary to the moral codes of God. The constituents will, as Sodom and Gomorrah, elect those who live according to their own dysfunctional codes of morality.
When societies change in reference to their conservative moral codes of the past, the society as a whole rejects any standard of moral codes. This change is often reflected in the attitude of the majority of the society who vote against the traditional standards of law that were handed down by the fathers. As the moral behavior of the society changes, the society seeks to change the leaders who would promote their own moral behavior. In this way, constitutions must be revised as a nation “progresses” throughout the decades. The populous must change from conservative moral values that are defined by Divine standards. This is why the liberals of a society are referred to as “progressives.” They want to progress beyond the restrictions of any standards of morality.
In a constitutional society of law, the morally dysfunctional will seek to change the “constitution” of their government in order to justify the means by which they would resist the existing government. In the case of the American society, many of the people would even consider electing for president someone who lives in a same-sex “marriage” relationship. This is a relationship that is contrary to the moral code of the fathers of the nation who defined marriage to be between a male and female. “Marriage” is now redefine, and thus, civil law must be changed in order to establish the new moral order. We must now vote into office those who reflect our definition of the new marriage order. In reference to abortion, murder is defined as “abortion” of individuals who are physically aborted, but can be murdered (left on a table to die) after the abortion.
Jude then goes on to identify the behavior of those who were “progressives” in rebelling against the authority of Rome. His description of those who have given themselves over to resist rule by law, whether moral or civil, is fitting for all those of all time who would put themselves in such a situation. If anyone has reflected on the present moral digression in the American society, it is easy to identify the behavior that the Holy Spirit revealed through Jude’s hand in reference to those who were against the God-ordained authority of Roman government.
Notice how the Holy Spirit identified those who were “progressives,” specifically against the authority of civil law. These progressives were identified by three specific characteristics in belief and behavior in reference to law: (1) They are dreamers who “defile the flesh.” (2) They “despise dominion” (authority). (3) They “speak evil of dignitaries” (the officials) (Jd 8).
When a society is morally and socially imploding, the preceding three behavioral principles characterize the society. If the society is a democracy, then the people will reflect their beliefs and behavior in the politicians they elect into office. Those who despise authority in their own lives, find it easy to recruit and rail against the ruling establishment of the country, specifically the king or president. In their personal lives, their rebellion against authority is revealed in their rebellion against the moral codes of the past.
These are as those who lived before the day when God purged the earth with the flood of Noah’s day. There were those during those days who professed to be wise, but in their arrogance, Paul said that they became fools (Rm 1:22). Paul explained: “Because even though they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful. But they became vain in their imaginations and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rm 1:21). David said that the fool has said that there is no God (Ps 14:1). But in the historical context of Noah’s day, the fool is the one who says that there is a God, but has no fear of living an ungodly life.
Those of Noah’s generation carried on with the foolishness of their common behavior in order to promote their twisted religiosity. They professed a false humility, while at the same time, they despised the established dignitaries of the day. They were religious hypocrites in their presumptuous religiosity. They thus reaped the judgment of God: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rm 1:18).
When people reach the moral low of despising the rule of law, whether moral or civil, it is then that God will give them over to uncleanness “through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies among themselves” (Rm 1:24). We seem to forget that the identity of a society that has no respect for the authorities of the day is first revealed in the immoral behavior of the people within the society. As in the days of Noah before the flood, and Jude before the destruction of Jerusalem, moral digression proceeded the eventual judgment of God.
Jude wanted the Jewish Christians of his day not to be deceived by those who professed a zealous religiosity for national Judaism in order to recruit others to join in their rebellion against Roman authority. He wanted his fellow Jews to know that the recruiters to Jewish nationalism “speak evil of those things that they do not know” (Jd 10). In their hearts, the Jewish insurrectionists were as brute beasts who promote corrupt interpretations of the Sinai law in order to prove their rebellion against Rome. Jude wanted to exhort the faithful disciples concerning the behavior of these radical “progressives” in their midst. They must not be deceived by the radicals’ supposed adherence to the Sinai law, which in this case was their manufactured interpretations of the law.
Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain [assassinations] and have run greedily after the error of Balaam for reward [greed], and perished in the rebellion of Korah [who rebelled against the God-ordained authority of Moses] (Jd 11).
These rebellious Jewish radicals had actually come into the fellowship of the disciples. They sat right there in the love feasts (Jd 12). They were “feeding themselves without fear” while they spoke of rebellion against the law of the state (Jd 12). They exalted themselves with their great promises of an independent freedom from the oppression of the evil Nero who was Caesar of Rome at the time. They were clouds who promised rain, but were without any fulfillment of what they presumed. It is as a radical liberal in government who makes endless promises of free everything at the expense of the rich. They are those who make vain promises in order to deceive the hearts of the populous in order to gain their vote.
But Jude described these deceptive political and religious charlatans with the following words:
They are raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering starts for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever (Jd 13).
If we did not have Jude’s document around for two thousand years, we would certainly assume that he wrote these words about many chaotic situations in societies throughout the world today. We would assume that he had some modern-day politicians in mind when he concluded with the following statement:
These [politicians] are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts. And their mouth speaks great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage [of votes]” (Jd 16).
If we could add an interpretive statement to what Jude said here, it would be that we can sometimes identify our leaders by the dogs nipping at their heals.
Two millennia ago there were two despondent men returning home on a long road out of Jerusalem after the Passover of A.D. 30. They were exhausted, bewildered, downcast and totally confused. Their joyous expectations of an independent national Israel free from Roman occupation had just be dashed. Their return home to inform their wives and family of the tragedy they had just experienced on a hill outside Jerusalem was not good news. They were thus surely discussing how they would break the bad news to their families.
Unexpectedly, another gentleman meandered up and joined them on the way. He entered into their discussions. The stranger asked, “What manner of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk?” (Lk 24:17). The two despondents were shocked at the question. It is interesting to note carefully what, Luke, the historian, recorded about the mental state of these two discouraged hopefuls: “And they stood still, looking sad” (Lk 24:17). We must not forget the historian’s explanation of the despondent mood of these two men, as well as all those who had placed their hopes in a Nazarene who had just been executed on a cross back in Jerusalem. To them, and the rest of the hopeful followers, there was no good news (gospel) in the execution of their hopeful leader whom they supposed would be the new crowned King of Israel.
So the party of three men continued on their way toward the small village of Emmaus. One of them, Cleopas, then questionably responded to the stranger who had joined the despondent party of two, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem and have not known the things that have come to pass there in these days?” (Lk 24:18).
There had been hundreds of thousands of Jewish visitors in Jerusalem for the annual Passover/Pentecost feast. And now these two, discouraged about the execution of their hopeful liberation leader, did not even wait around for the closing Pentecost feast that would be conducted on the fiftieth day after the execution on Passover. They simply headed on home to inform their families of the bad news.
Everyone in Jerusalem had either heard or witnessed the Roman execution of the would-be King of the Jews. For all those who accepted this Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah of Israel, there was no good news (gospel) in the execution. The best hope that they could muster up was that He would become a martyr in the religious history of Israel.
To the two disillusioned disciples on the road to Emmaus, all their dreams had just been nailed to a cross. They confessed to the stranger who had joined them on the road that this Jesus of Nazareth “was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk 24:19). But then, they related to the stranger, the religious leaders “delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him” (Lk 24:20). There was no good news in this crucifixion of their would-be Messiah and King.
And then the two men made a statement that could have been made by every nationalistic Jew who became a disciple of this crucified King: “We were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel” (Lk 24:21). Their hopes were all nationalistic. Their hoped for “redemption” was all about being delivered from Roman occupation. As all those dispersed disciples of the day who were on their own way home, there was no gospel message in the execution of the hopeful King of national Israel. Their hopes of being nationalistically redeemed from foreign occupation in order to enjoy the glories of a kingdom as those back in the days of David and Solomon were all crushed. There was no inherent good news at all about the execution.
These two sad disciples were only two examples of thousands of nationalistic Jews who had put their hopes in Jesus of Nazareth to be the messianic king. They hoped that it would be Jesus who would deliver to Israel their lost independence as a glorious nation. To many of them, Jesus was at least a good friend who worked many mighty works, taught many good things, and gave hope to a Roman-oppressed society of Jews throughout the Roman Empire.
Everyone had put their hopes in this Deliverer, this Messiah who would restore Israel to be free as in her former days of glory when King David and King Solomon led the farming communities of Israel to be a noted united nation among the nations of the world. Israel was great back in those days. And then, inspired by the leadership of this Jesus, they would all “Make Israel Great Again!” But their hopes were all dashed to the ground as each drop of blood drained from the nail-pierced hands of their would-be king. There was no known gospel in that cross.
But this was not the end of the story!
[Wait for the forthcoming book to complete the story.]
We were all young and innocent and not quite in our teens in the 1950s. We were vulnerable country people who knew little of the world outside the county in which we lived. Going to another town (village) fifty miles away in another county was an adventure into another world. You may not believe it, but we had no television and hardly ever listened to the radio, of which there was only one on the farm. We were too busy with the exciting life of farming fourteen to sixteen hours a day, to be interested in televisions or radios.
During the school months, a school bus would come by our farm house and picked up us children for a forty-five minute drive to town (village) where we all went to a small school. Preston, Kansas was a town of 265 in population. You can imagine how vulnerable our minds were to things that we did not understand outside our small village.
And then we had an experience at school one day that opened our minds. When we arrived at school, something happened that educated our young innocent minds for the rest of our lives.
The school principals throughout central America in those years realized that the young minds in their small rural schools needed every opportunity to be educated concerning things outside their small communities. Therefore, they would invite special guest educators to visit their schools in order to teach for a day on subjects that were not a part of our regular curriculum. These special educators offered a tremendous opportunity for all of us to learn of those things that were outside our isolated cocoon of rural America.
Because our minds were so innocent and vulnerable, if not naive, one particular educator in the field of psychology offered his services to schools throughout middle America. Our school principal took the opportunity to invite this psychologist to come to our school in order to educate us rural farm children in the phenomenon of mind control. This special guest lecturer informed all of us in the science of hypnotism, or as it is called in the field of psychology, mind or thought suggestion.
Before his demonstration of hypnotism began, he clearly explained to all of us the practice of suggestive thinking. He explained how the mind could be convinced to have no pain in specific parts of the body, or to have pain. In his field of psychology, this was called psychosomatic healing. In other words, it was the power of the mind over the physical body. One could actually think himself to be without pain, and thus we psychosomatically healed.
The visiting psychologist also carefully explained that individuals could be convinced to submit to the suggestions of the one who would hypnotize them. He was cautious to explain that hypnotism was simply mind control by one individual over another. There were no abnormal lasting effects. He also explained that the one who would be hypnotized must willingly make a decision to submit to the suggestions of the hypnotist. In those days in the middle of the Cold War, no one could be “brain washed” against his or her will. To be so brain controlled, one’s will would first have to be change.
It was then time for him to demonstrate all that about which he educated us in reference to hypnotism. He informed us that not only could individuals be hypnotized, but also entire groups at the same time. In order to demonstrate how groups could be brought under the suggestions of a skilled psychologist, he called about six or eight of our fellow students to the stage. He sat them down in chairs, facing all of us who were gathered in the auditorium of the school.
And then his demonstration (performance) proceeded. After he had relaxed the willing volunteers, it took him only a few minutes to take them into a “hypnotic sleep.” However, one of the students did not go to sleep. The lecturer then made a statement that stuck in the minds of all of us. He said, “One can be hypnotized only if he or she is willing to be hypnotized. No one can be hypnotized against his or her will.” In other words, one had “to believe” in the hypnosis before he or she would submit his or her will to the will of another person. (Is this sounding familiar?)
Now the show began. He asked these willing friends of ours to do all sorts of things that the rest of us thought were hilarious. He took the volunteers on a fishing trip. They all cast their lines into the water and reeled in supposed fish. He ask them to jump up and down, kneel on the floor, lay on the floor, stand at attention, light a pretend cigarette and smoke it. He would push on the foreheads of some and they would fall back into the arms of others. The enthralling show went on with a number of other requests. We were not only fascinated, but in some sense stunned to realize our own vulnerability.
As the rest of us uncontrollably laughed at times until our sides hurt, those who were “under his spell” did not laugh, neither did they crack a smile. They were in another world under the spell of the psychologist’s suggestions. To those willing volunteers, it was as if the entire auditorium of students was not there with all their laughter.
And then the “show” was over and all the volunteers were awaken and asked to return to their seats. The psychologist then explained to all our innocent minds that we must always be careful to guard ourselves against those who would seek to take control of our minds by changing our wills. If we were willing to be controlled, then we would submit to a great deal of foolishness throughout our lives. So the visiting psychologist warned that we should not allow others to control us with any thoughts that conflicted with the reality of truth.
And so we heeded his admonition. By informing young minds in small rural schools in middle America, minds were prepared for a world of deceptive religious practitioners who paraded themselves about from one church to another with “hypnotic trances” in order to make people believe that the Holy Spirit was at work. But in the thinking of the rural Kansas farmers of those days, we were all educated in the fact that the healing of the religious practitioners was simply psychosomatic “healing,” and the claims of the “snake handlers” of the time were all “hogwash.” Those farmers have not changed their minds on the matter even to this day.
Since the days of our innocent youth, we have experienced the same hypnotic demonstrations that were taught across rural America over a half century ago. The scene of the performances, however, has changed. The performances have moved from school auditoriums into packed church houses. The practitioners have also changed from trained psychologists to religious prognosticators who prey on the minds of the innocent.
The environment of such performances is no longer in the field of the science of psychology, but now in the field of deceptive religion. Religious prognosticators have hijacked the phenomenon of hypnotism in order to captivate thousands of innocent minds who willingly bow down to them in assemblies of hyperventalated emotionalists who have long forgotten the reality of the word of God. On the contrary, people come to “healing assemblies” (performances) in order to find relief from some pain or evil spirit they are struggling to overcome.
Thousands of deceived subjects have subsequently submitted willingly to these fake healers around the world. People come to assemblies for healing, not to hear the gospel of the incarnate Son of God. Adherents are no longer called into assembly to exalt the Son, but to find some psychosomatic healing.
Unknowingly, that psychologist who came to our small school on that day years ago prepared all of us for a world of religious frauds who seek a following from misguided and deceived prey. These are those who devour the innocent and vulnerable, who are primarily in underdeveloped countries. Thousands show up at their “miracle meetings.” Millions turn on their televisions and willingly believe all the nonsense these fake healers propagate around the world. When these fake healers call on faith from those who seek to be “healed,” they are calling on the willingness of deceived minds to submit to their skills in group hypnosis. Masses of people subsequently fall before them.
The incarnate Lord Jesus Christ has now been moved to a seat in the auditorium. With Him are all the spectators who must now observe the performance of charismatic miracle workers who pose to unleash the power of the Holy Spirit on the stage of the world.
As young children over a half century ago, we had the advantage of being taught by wise educators of yesteryear. Unfortunately, millions of people throughout the world today have been cheated by not being educated in the psychology of hypnotism, or suggestive thinking. If thousands around the world had been so educated as we were, then there would certainly be less nonsense performed in the religious world by those who go about as devouring lions preying on the innocent for the sake of money.
But Satan would have his way. There are countless millions of deceived people who would eagerly give their will and money over to the masters of deception who masquerade themselves as apostles of Christ. It is all as the Holy Spirit warned us two thousand years ago:
“And with all deception of wickedness among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion so that they should believe a lie, that they all might be condemned who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Th 2:10-12).