Those who are keeping up with us on the tremendous outreach media ministry of using smartphones, need to be informed concerning the awesome developments of this ministry.
1. A WORLDWIDE/CYBER SPACE CONNECTION: The phenomenal news is that director, DENVILLE WILLIE, has now registered and enrollment over 600 people. This is the first contact group of registered individuals. However, this group does not include the hundreds, if not thousands, of people who are registered with the initial recipients of Denville’s registration. We speculate that the number of registered recipients of the lessons goes into the thousands.
2. NAME CHANGE: You will notice on the billborad that is pictured that we have changed the name. We have gone from “international” connection to GOSPEL Connection. This name better reflects the goal of the ministry. The teaching that is made available through smartphones focuses on the gospel, and how we can better continue what the apostle Paul did in reference to the Roman disciples in Romans 1:13-16. He sought to travel to Rome in order to educate the disciples there more in the gospel. That is exactly what the GOSPEL CONNECTION seeks to do with smartphones throughout the world. Paul’s travel to Rome was slow, whereas our travels throughout the world go forth literally at light speed.
3. SMARTPHONE CLASSROOMS: The internet has almost made resident Bible schools very limited in reference to Bible training in the thousands. No longer does one have to travel to a school facilitity in order to receive Bible teaching. By enrolling with the GOSPEL CONNECTION network, gospel teaching comes directly to you on your smartphone. THIS IS JUST FABULOUS! (All we need is a school bell to let you know that there is an incoming gospel Bible lesson on your smartphone.)
4. SCHOOL LIBRARY: The Biblical Research Library will continue to “have on the shelf” all the books of the GOSPEL CONNECTION. All these books can be download free. Just go to the website that is listed and download all the books you can read. You are free to make hard copies of any book in order to distribute to friends and students.
YOU CAN HELP. Please forward this Facebook News Release on to your friends. All the lessons that are released through the GOSPEL CONNECTION are also posted on Facebook. However, please keep in mind that almost all those who are registered with the GOSPEL CONNECTION, do not have a Facebook site. Nevertheless, through Facebook advertisements we will continue to send out notices concerning the ongoing development of this fantastic worldwide outreach.
REGISTER NOW! You CANNOT register through Facebook. You MUST REGISTER DIRECTLY by using the phone numbers that are on the billboard advertisement.
Two container shipments of over 270,000 Encyclopedic Study Guide Handbooks have now arrived in Nigeria (pop. 215,000,000). Two distribution centers are being set up in order to distribute the Handbooks nationwide. The two national distributors are the following:
This distribution is EXCLUSIVELY for the nation of Nigeria. If a Bible school or church would like to partner in the distribution of the Handbooks to all religious groups and Bible schools within Nigeria, then they must contact directly either brothers Ekaiko or Uchechukwu for information concerning conditions for distribution. (These two national distributors will also readily receive any contributions because of the tremendous expense of importing the Handbooks into Nigeria from South Africa.)
Please help in the distribution: Please share this notice with anyone who might be interested in helping brothers Ekaiko and Uchechukwu in this distribution effort to reach the nation of Nigeria. As an evangelistic outreach, all of us are trying to get the Handbooks as a Bible study road map for all religious groups. As a textbook for Bible schools, we seek to distribute the Handbooks to all Bible schools of all religious groups throughout the entire nation of Nigeria.
CUSTODIANS OF CONTINUED RESTORATION If in one’s personal study of the word of God he discovers truth that is contrary to the accepted theology of his present religious heritage, then it is incumbent upon him to teach what he has learned through his studies. If he does not do this, then the blood of those whom he would teach is on his shoulders (Ez 3:18,19). This responsibility is the inspiration for restoration, and thus the heart of our continued call for a restoration to the authority of God’s word.
However, we must regularly remind ourselves that the curse of any restoration “movement”—we do not really like the word “movement” in reference to faith—is that such movements seem to always circle around. They circle around and become the very form of religion that the fathers of the “restoration” originally fled.
We would judge the Pharisees on this point. Centuries before the coming of the incarnate Son into this world, Israel turned from the word of God in order to create religious beliefs and behavior after the religions around them. By forgetting what their Bibles taught, they established their own idolatrous faith (Hs 4:6). As a result of their apostate deed of turning from the word of God, they were subsequently scattered by God throughout conquering nations, first by the Assyrians (722/21 B.C.), and then by the Babylonians (586 B.C.).
Nevertheless, God promised to the scattered that a repentant remnant of all twelve tribes of Israel would eventually be restored to the land of Palestine, though the land of their fathers to which they would be restored would be governed by foreign empires. Regardless of this, however, they would be blessed in the land if they restored themselves to the word of God (See Dt 30:1-10; Ez 6:8; 14:22).
From the time of their last return to Palestine in 444 B.C., it was four centuries before the incarnate Son of God arrived on the scene. By the time of His arrival, the religious leaders of Israel, however, had again hijacked the faith of the people. They were so effective in this that the Holy Spirit revealed through Paul that the religious leaders had created the “Jews’ religion,” which we commonly refer to as Judaism (Gl 1:13,14). This was a legal-oriented religion that was based on the authority of traditional interpretations of the Sinai law, with the added religious rites and ceremonies the Jews had accumulated over the centuries. Except for references to the Sinai law, Judaism was a compilation of a host of religious traditions that the Jewish leadership considered to be binding as law, and thus, the identity of Judaism (See Mk 7:1-9).
Judaism took centuries to develop into a religious system that even opposed the incarnate Son of God. The Jewish restoration movement of the remnant of Israel eventually turned against the God who had brought the captives out of the bondage of foreign nations. And finally, after four centuries of religious heritage building, the restored remnant even crucified the One for whom they were restored to receive as the Messiah and Savior of the world.
(Legalized restoration movements will usually crucify those who call for a restoration to the authority of the word of God within the confines of an established religion. The leaders of the movement will often adopt a catechism of theology that should not be questioned or attacked by anyone who might have Bible questions about certain beliefs or behavior.)
Israel’s legalization of their restoration after their return to Palestine was no different than all legal restorations since that time. Restoration movements are often stimulated by sincere Bible students who renew continually their desire for Bible authority in all matters of faith. In their studies, sincere Ezras and Nehemiahs of the restoration will discover points of truth that have been ignored or violated by the religion in which they find themselves. And herein is embedded a danger.
In the early years of a restoration focus is usually on legal points of difference between the existing theology of a religion and Bible truth. What the early restorationists often do not understand is that in their legal opposition to erroneous theology, they invariably establish a legal road map to direct sincere people out of the quagmire of past ritualistic religion. But in establishing a legal system to escape legalized religiosity, a canonized legal theology often comes out on the other side of the movement. The movement subsequently becomes just another legal religion. The zealous followers of the movement thus circle around from one legally defined religion to establish their own legally defined religion.
Essentially, the justification for the fathers’ flight from traditionally defined religion was usually based on establishing Bible authority in all matters of faith. The fathers of the restoration movement discovered points of difference between the Bible and the unbiblical traditions that were bound on adherents. They discovered that what was bound was nothing other than matters of opinion and tradition, with an assortment of religious rites and ceremonies mingled in with the religious behavior of loyal adherents.
Unfortunately, as stated before, the fathers’ original restoration was often based on a legally defined road map of proof texts that moved them and their followers to establish another legally defined religion. Instead of founding their “movement” on the gospel in order to establish unity among believers, they established a systematic legal theology to which all adherents of the movement must confirm in order to be considered faithful. The restoration, therefore, was established on law, not gospel. Legal restorationists often forget that we “are not under law, but under grace” (Rm 6:14).
In these two millennia since the cross, grace and gospel in religious restoration movements are often minimized in religious debates in order to establish points of doctrine to which adherents can come together to produce some sense of unity within any particular movement. And because of this, the supposed restoration movement to a gospel oriented-church eventually circles around to become just another denominated church that is validated by a legal catechism of doctrine, rather than the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The hermeneutic, or system of Bible study in legal restorations, is often a misguided effort to establish a doctrinal outline by which the adherents of a particular movement can be identified. But in reality, legal hermeneutics are more often an effort to establish some system of theology to produce an “intellectual unity” that is based more on the mental skills of noted interpreters, than the simple gospel. If our faith is established in this manner, then we will end up in a movement that is quite denominational. The hermeneutic is inherently divisive because in the theology of the movement, religious rites, rituals and ceremonies slip into the behavior of the people as law, and thus, divide believers in the gospel from one another. This is what happened among the Christians in Galatia who ended up biting and devouring one another because some were preaching “another gospel” (See Gl 1:6-9).
The preceding happens when the gospel alone is not established as the foundation upon which the church is built and united (See Mt 16:16-18). We must remember that we are one man IN CHRIST, not one man in doctrine (See Gl 3:26-29). We are reconciled in one body by the cross, not by a common belief in a catechism of doctrine (See Ep 2:14-16).
Unfortunately, if there are any gospel-oriented prophets who would rise up to continue a valid restoration among the people, and by doing so, inherently contravene some point of the legal catechism of the heritage of the now denominated religion, these prophets are often nailed to crosses in order to preserve the movement and keep the theology of the movement pure of “false doctrine.”
True leaders must look in their own hands an find a Bible, not a hammer and nails. If our gospel is to defend the heritage of the fathers, then we know that the original fathers of the movement have been betrayed.
In the final years of a restoration movement, the “hammer-and-nail” defenders are actually promoting a heritage that has digressed into just another religion. The failure of a restoration is identified by the efforts of “hammer-and-nail” crusaders who seek to defend a legalized theology, and not the gospel, which gospel foundation has long been forgotten within the movement. As in the final years of Israel’s apostasy, the religious leaders put to death those prophets who spoke out against the established religion of the day (See Hb 11:32-39). They eventually put to death the One who came to reveal the gospel to the world.
People of faith know that they are a part of a failed restoration movement when they no longer subject themselves to the final authority of the word of God in all matters of faith. They know that they have failed when the gospel is not the foundation of their faith.
If we are not motivated primarily by the truth of the gospel of the incarnate, crucified, resurrected and reigning Son of God, then our attempts to restore the body of Christ that is founded on the gospel will fail. We must not forget that it is the gospel that is the power of God in our lives (Rm 1:16). When we search for this gospel in our Bibles, the more we learn about the gospel, the more God’s power is released to continue the restoration of the Son of God in the lives of people.
Crosses are often reserved for those who would question the heritage of any particular religious group. When there are those with hammers and nails among the leaders of any restoration movement, then we know that that “restoration movement” has gone astray. Just ask Jesus about this matter. It is for this reason that we would exhort the reader to read again 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
SUBMITTING TO GOVERNMENT We took a picture of a “Covid-19 Occupancy Compliance Certificate” that is posted in one of our restaurants here in South Africa. The local health inspection officer previously visited the restaurant, judged that the seating capacity was 48. In compliance with the laws of the national health department, the local health inspector calculated that the seating capacity of the restaurant was now 24.
In a similar manner, at the beginning of the pandemic, each food store was given a number of people who could be present in each store at any one time while customers shipped for essential food items for the week. Someone was thus standing at the entrance of each food store handing out numbered tags. Once all the numbered tags were distributed, then no other customers were allowed to enter the store until someone left the store, and handed back his or her numbered tag. The population submitted to these temporary government mandates in order that all of us as a society be where we are today. As Christians, we submitted in order to escape the judgment in time of the Covid-19 virus. (The “judgment” of Romans 13:1,2 is not a reference to the end-of-time judgment.)
Because the population of South Africa collectively submitted to the mandates of the government for the survival of the people, the people of South Africa are essentially delivered from the fourth wave of the Covid pandemic, for all the citizens willingly submitted to the advice of the government health department during the pandemic. By the first of February 2022, the populace of South Africa will be well on its way to some normality, and thus free from many of the government restrictions that were followed by the people during the pandemic.
It seems that the whole world is watching South Africa quickly move out of the fourth wave of the pandemic, but they do not understand why. This will take some explanation on the uniqueness of the South African government and culture. While the American and European West obsess over being restricted, and thus supposedly losing their freedoms, the populace of South Africa complied with their government for the sake of the collective, a cultural value that is somewhat void in the West. The populace of South Africa agreed to be restricted in order to regain their freedom after the pandemic.
A movie was once produced many years ago that could be somewhat prophetic of the present worldwide pandemic scenario. The setting of the movie was based on a supposed third world war that had transpired in the world, which war almost wiped out mankind on earth. It was concluded, by the survivors that human emotions had driven the people of the world to go to war with one another in order to settle a dispute.
Therefore, in order not to go to war again, a powerful psychological drug was developed to suppress all human emotions. The state mandated that the drug had to be taken every day by every citizen. If one missed a day in taking his medication, the emotional part of the brain would start to arise again within the human mind. According to the autocratic leaders of the surviving city-state, that would not be good. Therefore, they supposed that human emotions would lead to another world war where the existence of all humanity would again be endangered. But in actuality, the leaders had gained power during the war, and subsequently, they did not want to relinquish that power after the war.
In order to prevent another world war, the autocratic leaders of the now totalitarian city-state, convinced the people to take their daily emotion-suppression medication. As a result, there was an “equilibrium” of emotionality among the people. The movie was subsequently entitled, Equilibrium.
The problem was that one day one of the law-enforcement officers of the state forgot to take his daily medication, and subsequently, he started to experience some emotions. And then he missed another day. To him, and all those who had refused the medication–and were now living underground–it was a decision between making a choice and enjoying freedom, or submitting to a totalitarian state whose citizens walked around like emotionless zombies doing their commanded duties.
The movie Equilibrium was first released in 2002. That was twenty years ago! In many ways, the movie may have been prophetic of our times. Therefore, when vaccinations are available for a population to escape a pandemic war, the vaccination must still remain in the freedom of individual choice. Governments may mandate vaccination standards, but this is not within the realm of Divine authority, lest we create the “vaccinated church” and the “unvaccinated church.”
However, in reference to the authority of the state to mandate that which is good for the whole of society, in a democracy we the people often relinquish into the hands of our government the power to determine that which is good for the whole. If we do not do this, then we have no democracy. We will loose our freedom of choice in a society of totalitarian rule. Nevertheless, if we would be citizens of a healthy society in a democracy, we as a collective of society must relinquish some of our personal freedoms for the sake of the survival of society as a whole.
When our freedoms are slowly eroded away by state coercion, the story never ends well. In a democracy, the state is composed of politicians, and with politicians, remaining in power is often more important than the individual freedoms of the individual citizens. In fact, this thirst for power corrupts the morals of the politicians. It is for this reason that politicians in a democratic state are often known for being liars. They are such people in order to stay in power. It is just an inherent flaw of democracy. On the other hand, autocratic dictators in a totalitarian state will often say the truth more often than a power-hungry elected politician in a democratic state.
Moral decisions are the responsibility of Bible-obedient children of God. Unfortunately, we have too many autocratic politicians in the state who thirst only for power, regardless of the freedoms of the individual citizens of the state. Sir William Wallace (portrayed by Mel Gibson) in the 1995 released movie, Braveheart, is still right when he cried out at the end of the movie before his execution, “FREEDOM!”
OK, so you would like an example of the leadership of South Africa as to why the fourth wave of the present pandemic is closing, and at the same time, the rest of the world is still struggling in the midst of this wave. Here is one reason why: A great political meeting of people was recently scheduled for a visit of the President of South Africa. The mass gathering was composed of those of the President’s constituency who had voted him into office.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa subsequently arrived at the place of assembly. Before he was allowed out of vehicle, his security personnel, as usual, first entered into the assembly hall where all the people had gathered. However, the security personnel returned to the vehicle in which the President was seated, and informed him, “This is not a legal assembly. There are too many people who have gathered. There is no social distancing because of the mass number of people, and many are not wearing face masks.”
President Ramaphosa replied, “We cannot attend this illegal assembly,” and thus his motorcade moved on. This is leadership, not a thirst for power that would violate the very mandate of the South African Health Department that put restrictions on the number of people who could gather in assembly halls of various sizes. This example is one of those reasons why South Africa is rapidly moving out of the fourth wave and on to some normality. It is a matter of leadership, not playing politics by narcissistic political figures who are looking for opportunities to exert power. It is leadership of a population of people who are willing to forego some of their freedoms in order to eventually be set free from an unseen enemy.
(Boris Johnson should have called up Cyril Ramaphosa before he accepted invitations to all those parties.)
REASSURANCE IN TIMES OF TURMOIL If we view the present pandemic from a biblical point of view, we should find some encouragement. However, the pandemic should not be an occasion for Bible believers to take out of historical context specific statements of hope in the Bible that were directed to initial individuals and audiences who needed encouragement in times of local tragedies. Specifically, we must not be prophetic thieves to steal away from local first century Christians those prophecies that were originally spoken to encourage local believers directly, but only us indirectly.
It is for this reason that Christians must be cautioned about what they encounter on the worldwide social media today, the messaging of which can reach even to the young village dweller in the bush of Africa. Some innocent minds are often in cellphone contact with an encyclopedia of theological nonsense that is spewed around the world by those who would seek to arouse hysteria during a worldwide pandemic.
For example, the prophecy of Jesus in Luke 21:23-25 is a commonly misunderstood prophetic statement that Jesus made specifically to first century Jewish Christians. He made the prophecy in order to explain to His immediate audience that in the lives of their children and grandchildren in the years to come, God would be working in a local tragedy that they would personally experience.
With this understanding in mind, Luke 21 was originally a message of reassurance to those believers in His audience to whom He initially delivered a prophecy concerning the termination of their Jewish persecutors. Jesus’ message was that in the midst of any tragedy, the believing Jesus must not forget that God is always in control. In their case, He would bring judgment upon national Israel because of the unbelieving Jews’ rejection of the Son of Man (See also Mt 24; Mk 13:14-20).
A few extracts from the prophecy of Jesus’ message to Jewish Christians at that time is central to our discussion in the context of modern-day prognosticators who misapply the Luke 21 prophecy. Around A.D. 61/62, Luke, the scribe, eventually recorded in writing Jesus’ spoken prophecy. This was about a decade before the time of the fulfillment of the prophecy in A.D. 70, that was about thirty years after Jesus originally made the prophecy.
In A.D. 70, the Jewish world was about to come to an end within the Roman Empire. For unbelieving Jews, this end seemed to be the end of the world. Therefore, because the events of A.D. 70 would affect the Jews throughout the world of the Roman Empire, Jesus prophesied during His earthly ministry years before a message of reassurance for believing Jews. His message was in view of the fact that the immediate unbelieving Jews to whom He first prophesied the end of national Israel, who subsequently rejected Him as the Son of Man (the Messiah), would themselves in about four decades meet their judgment. So in order to prepare the Jewish Christians of Palestine for a social trauma that was going to take place in about forty years after the ascension, Jesus embedded a message of hope in His prophecy of the termination of the Jewish State, and specifically, Jerusalem and the temple.
So with the liberty of our following parenthetical interpretive inclusions, notice what Jesus prophesied concerning the children and grandchildren of those Jews who personally rejected Him as the Messiah. Their children and grandchildren would experience the following:
“But woe to those [unbelieving Jewish women in Jerusalem in A.D. 70] who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days [of Roman’s besieging of Jerusalem]. For there will be great distress in the land [of Judea] and wrath upon this [Jewish] people. And they [the future children and grandchildren of Jesus’ generation of unbelieving Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword [of the Romans]. And they [the survivors of the destruction of Jerusalem] will be led away captive into all nations [over which the Romans rule]. And Jerusalem will be trodden down [with every stone overturned] by the Gentiles [Romans] until the times of the Gentiles [the Roman Empire] are fulfilled.”
We must keep in mind that by the time the preceding events occurred in Judea, Christian Jews had already left Judea and Jerusalem (Compare At 8:4). The letters of Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, and Jude were all letters that were written in the middle 60s to warn Christian Jews to stay away from Jerusalem when they began to witness the “signs of the times” surrounding the end of national Israel in A.D. 70.
The preceding calamity that eventually came upon national Israel in A.D. 70, was the end of the Jews’ social and political influence within the Roman Empire, though the Jews’ religious beliefs carried on, even to this day. However, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in A.D. 70 seemed that their world had fallen apart because God allowed such to happen to His supposed chosen people after they rejected and killed His Son (See Mk 12:1-12). They had not accepted the incarnate appearing of the Son of Man. National Israel rejected the Son of Man by not accepting the new nation of Israel, the body of Christ, that was established on the day of Pentecost in A.D. 30.
In the context of the Luke 21 narrative, Luke turned to common metaphors that were used in Old Testament prophecies in reference to kings and kingdoms. His Jewish audience would understand the meaning of these metaphors. The “sun” was commonly used in prophecy to represent the king of a particular kingdom. The minor heavenly lights of the “moon” and “stars” represented tributaries of a kingdom, or the satellite nations that were under the control of the king of the empire. We must keep in mind, therefore, that when such metaphors were used in prophecy, focus was not on the literal sun, moon and stars, but on their dominance of light in the darkness of space.
The metaphorical meaning of the sun, moon and stars of the Luke 21 context were used in reference to the vast network of satellite nations that functioned under the control of the Roman Empire.
At the time of the conclusion of the first century, Rome was continuing to expand throughout the Middle East and into Persia. Regional kingdoms in Europe, the East, and North Africa were likewise succumbing to its military dominance. Therefore, at the time of the fall of national Israel in A.D. 70, the Jewish nation was only one of many social population groups that needed to be subjugated to the control of Rome. So Jesus continued, and Luke thirty years after Jesus in A.D. 61,62, recorded, the following:
“And there will be signs in the sun [regional kings of the Roman Empire], and in the moon [the regents of nations], and in the stars [the generals and governors of Roman dominated nations within the reach of the Roman army]. And on the [inhabited] earth [world] of Rome, there will be distress among nations [that Rome will militarily dominate] and perplexity at the roaring of the sea [populations] and the waves [turmoil among the populations].
John’s metaphorical use of the word “sea” in the visions of Revelation defines that the populations (citizenries) of the nations is intended. There is always sociological movement in the populations of every nation, just as waves and currents of the sea constantly shift and move the waters of the sea. Therefore, when an invading force, as Rome, moved in to conquer, the raging waves of the people reach their climax. It is during these times that “men’s hearts will be failing them for fear” (Lk 21:26). In A.D. 70, there was great fear among the Jewish people when Rome launched her war against national Israel. It was the same fear that permeated the hearts of every citizen of every nation at the time Rome launched her military attacks against the Jews.
Of course, the heaven in which God dwells is unshakable. Therefore, Jesus referred in the Luke 21 context to the “heavenly” rule of nations on earth that would be shaken by the invading forces of Rome. It would be at this time that the presence of the Son of Man (Jesus) would be confirmed to every Christian, for believers would conclude that King Jesus was in control of all these things, just like He said during His earthly ministry (Mt 28:18; see Hb 1:3 that was written just prior to the destruction of Jerusalem). In the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the believing Jew would subsequently conclude that King Jesus had come in judgment of Israel for rejecting Him as the Son of Man, the Messiah and Savior. It was exactly as He prophesied.
Old Testament judgment language is found in Luke 21:27 when the word “coming” was used by Luke in reference to “the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” In Matthew 24:27, and in the same prophecy, Matthew used the Greek word parousia. This word means “presence.” Therefore, the “coming” of the Lord in time in judgment was a sign of the presence of the Lord.
The “coming of the Lord” in Old Testament prophecies was a sign of judgment upon the nations. In the judgment, the presence of the Lord was revealed. The Lord came in judgment upon nations, and in the context of prophecy, the nation upon which the Son of Man would come in the prophetic judgment of the Luke 21 and Matthew 24, was national Israel. This was a coming of the Lord “in time,” whereas there will be another coming of the Lord at “the end of time.” The coming of the Lord in time, therefore, is always prophetic of the coming of the Lord at the end of time. But we must not forget that the coming of the Lord in the context of Luke 21 and Matthew 24 is in reference to judgment in time.
Jesus gave, and Luke, Matthew and Mark recorded, a final and specific note of encouragement for the local Jewish Christians who would suffer at the hands of the unbelieving Jews. Unbelieving Jews would persecute Jewish Christians from the time of the cross to the conclusion of national Israel in A.D. 70. However, when the immediate believing Jews’ children and grandchildren, forty years after the initial spoken prophecy of Jesus, saw all these events (“signs”) transpiring in their world, it would be a time to look up and realize that all things were still under the control of the resurrected and ascended King. Great comfort went out to the Jewish Christians of Palestine at the time of fulfillment because Jesus prophesied that the persecuting Jews would in the event eventually be silenced. The Christian Jews at the time of fulfillment in A.D. 70 were thus “redeemed” from their persecutors.
Unfortunately, during the “time of the Gentiles,” Rome would by the end of the first century, and into the second through the fourth centuries, launch an onslaught of persecution against all Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles. This would lead us to the encouraging prophecy of Revelation in order to find hope in the eventual Divine judgment of the Roman Empire. John would prophesy that even Rome’s persecution of Christians throughout the second to the fourth centuries would also come to an end (Rv 17:14). Therefore, in fulfillment of John’s visions, the coming of the Lord as King of kings would again be perceived.
As during the time of all wars and pandemics, it is always time to find hope in the fact that King Jesus still reigns in heaven with all authority. He is still King of kings and Lord of Lords. This was true throughout the great influenza pandemic of 1917/1918 when millions died around the world. It was true in the 1300s during the Black Plague pandemic when millions died. Great human tragedies have thus occurred before our present pandemic. However, God does not, and will not, use a pandemic as a sign of the end of the world. He used pandemics in Israel in order to drive people to repentance. He so used such to punish and to turn Israel to repentance (Study Nm 21:4-9; Dt 32:23-27. In the context of these passages, throughout the history of Israel God would and did use suffering and national tragedy to return His people to Him and His word.).
Nevertheless, our hope is in the fact that throughout all human tragedies, some of which were recorded in the Bible, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit remain true to believers. After “experiencing” the visions of Revelation, John responded, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rv 22:20). In view of the present worldwide pandemic, we too, as always, include that request in our prayers.
It is not that any one pandemic is a sign of the end of the world. Bible students have proclaimed hysteria in the midst of all pandemics of the past. Unfortunately, the only people to become frightened are those who believe in the Bible. But most people today do not believe in the Bible. It is only that during a pandemic the thinking of Bible-believing people is driven beyond this disease-cursed world in hope of being in the presence of the Lord where never again a tear will flow from a sorrowful eye (Rv 21:4). But in reference to unbelievers, everything just carries on as though there will be no finality to the things that presently exist. “But as the days of Noah were, so also will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Mt 24:36).
In this way, we, as Bible believers, interpret the present pandemic. It would be a judgment of God in time in order to encourage repentance. But only those who believe in God will repent. The rest of the unbelieving world is oblivious to the judgments of God in time. So as God dealt with Israel, so also He would deal with us in an effort to keep us focused on King Jesus. We must connect the dots on this matter. If we understand that the present pandemic is an in time judgment, then it may be that we need a restoration to the word of God among ourselves (Hs 4:6).
God certainly brought a worldwide judgment on the civilization of Noah’s generation. But since every imagination of humanity then was continually evil, God was justified in the flood to wipe that generation of unrepentant unbelievers from the face of the earth (Gn 6:5). We pray that God will not have to bring the civilization of today to such a climatic conclusion. In pandemics we see God purging religion out of us in order to restore us to the word of God.
So God interrogated Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” (Gn 4:9). Why would God ask such a question if we are all free from one another and independent? Can we not be free from one another in order to do our own thing, regardless of the interests OF our fellow citizens? Would we have any social freedoms if we were continually looking out for the interests of our neighbors? The fact that God asked this question of the murderous Cain infers that we are responsible for the well-being of fellow citizens, and thus we are our brothers’ keeper. So Cain responded to the inquisition, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gn 4:9). Yes you are, Cain!
In the context of the church, the Holy Spirit mandated, “Let each one not look out merely for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Ph 2:4). In fact, the Spirit had introduced this mandate with the statement, “In humility of mind let each esteem others better than themselves” (Ph 2:3). Yes, we are our brother’s keeper as citizens of civilization.
It is today as it was a few decades ago when the American government finally came to the conclusion that it would mandate the law that people wear their seat belts when riding in a moving vehicle. Most countries of the world today have followed after the same mandate. When the law was first established, however, some people grumbled. They complained, “I have the right to make a choice as to whether I will or will not wear a seat belt in my own vehicle.” But they were wrong. Sometimes, dead wrong. Such people were thinking selfishly.
The reason for the law was a matter of protecting and benefitting society as a whole. If one did not wear a seat belt, and was subsequently involved in a moving vehicle accident on the road, then he or she could be thrown from the vehicle and seriously injured. He or she would thus be rushed to a hospital, and nursed back to health, that is, if he or she was not initially killed in the accident.
Now the question is, Who pays the hospital bill? Or, who initially paid for the ambulance, the doctors and nurses, or even the hospital in which the anti-seat belt person was nursed back to life? The answer is that society as a whole paid the bill for all the medical services. Society even paid most of the bill for the anti-seat belt victim because he or she could not in a lifetime pay the high cost of insurance premiums for his own medical expenses. All of us as a society, therefore, had to subsidize the hospital bill of the anti-seat belt wearer. And for this reason, society as a whole, through the government of society, said that everyone, when in a moving vehicle, must wear a seat belt.
In order to be a member of society as a whole, citizens must be willing to give up some of their rights . . . freedoms . . . in order to be a keeper of society as a whole. And when speaking specifically of Christians, it is incumbent upon every member of the body of Christ to “not look out merely for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Ph 4:4). As members of the body of Christ, we are our brother’s keeper. If we are not looking out for the interests of our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we are behaving selfishly. We are considering our “rights” above the interests of the whole body of Christ.
Smokers have always been very selfish people. They are more concerned about their right to freely smoke cigarettes over the rights of the people who must breathe in their smoke after they have exhaled. As a smoking father puffs away on a cigarette in his own home, the lungs of his young children are being damaged for life. He is a selfish father.
We have thus been vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus for the benefit of the brothers and sisters into whose presence we come in any formal or non-formal setting. We wear a face mask in one another’s presence in order to guard our brother or sister against asystematic Covid carriers among us. We socially distance ourselves from one another for the interest of one another. And if lockdown is necessary to detour the pandemic, then in our own homes we confine ourselves We are thus not selfish, trying to exercise some rights or freedoms we think we have that encourage us to ignore the interests of the body of members, and society, as a whole.
On the contrary, we are trying to be our brother’s keeper during a pandemic that is ravaging the world. It is thus not a sacrifice of our individual rights or freedoms to be vaccinated, but a manifestation of our love for one another. We vaccinate ourselves for the sake for the community in which we live, but also for the safety of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Our vaccination is not a total guarantee from being attacked by the Covid virus, but at least it reveals to you that we are doing the best we can to protect you if we are tested positive.
Through the apostle Paul the Holy Spirit thus admonished, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, so that you DO NOT GRIEVE AS OTHERS WHO HAVE NO HOPE” (1 Th 4:13). There . . . the Holy Spirit said it. The grave site scene of a dearly beloved Christian must be far different than the same scene at the burial of an unbeliever. Living Christians “do not grieve as unbelievers” in the death of their loved ones.
Consoling Christians must not be accused of being hard-hearted when they exhort the grieving with these words from the Holy Spirit. If our grief at the death of a Christian brother or sister is no different than that of the unbelievers, then we have a problem with our faith in the fact that the one who went down into the grave will come out again dressed in a glorious body. Our challenge at the death of a disciple, therefore, is how to salt our grief with hope. And in so doing, there is a sense of victory as we lay our loved ones in a tomb that will eventually be broken open.
There will be grief for the moment. The admonition of the Spirit allows for this. A simile is used with a negative concerning the occasion. The phrase reads, “not grieve as.” There is grief, but it is not as those unbelievers who have no hope beyond the grave.
The burial of a saint is only a temporary transition of the body. The body must transition through the dissipation of the body into dust in expectation of the heavenly body that will eventually dress our souls with a body from God. Therefore, in our hope “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our house that is from heaven, if indeed clothed, we [in the state of our disembodied souls] will not be found naked” (2 Co 5:2,3).
When Jesus comes in the clouds, He will bring with Him all those souls of departed saints who have had the privilege of escaping this world that is infested and infected with sin and sickness (1 Th 4:14). So the Holy Spirit concluded the matter, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Th 4:18).
So it seems that Zeus, the chief god of the Greeks, was guilty of a little hanky panky (“infidelity”). Among the many servants of the heavenly palace, his eye had been lured to one particular young damsel named, Galinthias. All was fine until Hera, the wife of Zeus, discovered the hidden unfaithfulness. Since Hera could not take her anger out on the chief god of Greek mythology, she turned her attention to the compliant Galinthias and cursed her in order to impede the birth of her illegitimate child. Hera turned the servant girl into a black cat. This may have been the beginning of all “black cat theology.”
Nevertheless, the child was born, and thus came into existence in the minds of the Greeks, the god Hercules. But don’t fret concerning the fate of Galinthias. The Greek goddess of witchcraft took in the adulterous servant girl, now a black cat, and employed her as her own servant. Unfortunately, black cats thereafter have had to live with the curse of this superstitious mischief among the gods. “Black cat theology” is still with us today.
In some cultures today, the unfortunate black cat is often considered an omen of evil that is associated with witchcraft. Some have believed that black cats were the very embodiment of witches themselves. And so you might think that you are innocent of all this babble about black cats. If so, then we will pay close attention to your walk along a pathway or sidewalk when a black cat crosses your path. If you waver in your stride, or even have the slightest disturbance in your thoughts, then we will know that you too are still a victim of “black cat theology.”
Superstition is belief that has no evidence. Greek mythology is based on all sorts of superstitions. In fact, mythology itself is founded on vivid imaginations that have run wild in the absence of a knowledge of the one true and living God. It is for this reason that mythology affected the behavior of the Greeks because they had little or no knowledge of the one true and living God. Greek lives were controlled by the gods they had created after their own imagination. They did this or that in view of pleasing the gods, or escaping some punishment of a mischievous god. It was a society that was ruled by “black cat theology.”
A little over two thousand years ago a representative of the true and living God stepped into the capital where “black cat theologians” were gathered to babble about their beliefs and behavior in reference to imaginations. The common subject of debates among these “preachers” from throughout the ancient world was to babble about their “black cat theologies” or some new thing (See At 17:18-21).
Nevertheless, this particular day, the traveling preacher stood up in the lecture hall of Mars Hill and shouted out with a strong voice, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious [superstitious]. For as I passed by and observed your objects of worship, I found an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown God’ (At 17:22,23).
For the first time in the history of the Greeks this messenger from the true God established a contrast between the beliefs of the “black cat theologians” and the truth of a God whose gospel to mankind was based on the resurrection of His Son from the dead (See Hb 11:1). It was now time for all “black cat theologians” to step aside and hear a message about a living God who was not the product of vivid imaginations.
You might claim that you are unmoved by some relics of your own beliefs in “black cat theology.” This may be your personal conclusion, but the recent pandemic has rattle the faith of millions of people around the world. It seems that many folks have dipped into their former superstitions in order to blame some “demon” who supposedly causes this or that as people struggle for their last breath in emergency rooms around the world. In fact, in a recent conversation with an elder of the church on the other side of our country, he remarked, “It seems that religious leaders across the country have ascended to their pulpits in order to proclaim some superstitious reason for all this social turmoil.” “Black cat theology.”
In one case it was assumed that if one was injected with the vaccine against Covid, he or she would turn into a horse. In another case, someone contacted me from the other side of the world and ask, “What is the mark of the beast? My friends are telling me that if I am vaccinated against Covid, I will be receiving the mark of the beast.” “And thus,” she continued, “they said that they could not associate with me.” “Black cat theology.”
Taking medication, receiving vaccinations against diseases as polio, or just eating certain foods is the personal choice of the individual. But when such is either done or shunned for religious reasons, then it becomes “black cat theology.” Nevertheless, until that time when a new convert puts away his “black cat theology” in reference to eating meat, for example, those who are strong in the faith should exercise love and patience (See 1 Co 8). But at the same time, it is assumed in the Holy Spirit’s exhortations on this matter that the “weak brother,” who eats meat in respect to some religious superstition, as he previously did in respect to some foods in his former life of superstitious behavior, he must grow out of his “black cat theology.” In fact, the Holy Spirit said on such matters as food, “For it is a good thing that the heart be established by grace, not with foods” Hb 13:9). “Therefore,” continued the Spirit in another context, “let no one judge you in food or in drink” (Cl 2:16). Attaching spiritual or religious significance to foods, to idols, or even to vaccines that might prevent us from certain diseases, is “black cat theology.”
An even more subtle belief of “black cat theology” is the tempting of God with a faith that is contrary to science. So against the science of gravity, a foolish man of “faith” preaches from his pulpit to his friends on the top of a one hundred story building, “You must have faith. God will protect you.” So against the science of gravity, he leaps off the building in order to reveal his faith in God to protect him. As he passed floor fifty, it was heard that he yelled out, “So far so good.”
Assuming that God will protect us when we walk in violation of the laws of nature is tempting God to do evil by catching us on the final floor (See Js 1:13). If we willingly walk contrary to that which science provides to protect us, assuming that God will not allow us to fall victim our own neglect, then we are participating in “black cat theology” in reference to faith. If we knowingly place ourselves and our family in a situation of danger, while knowing that there is an opportunity to avoid that danger, then we are tempting God to do for us that which we should be doing for ourselves. This is the faith of “black cat theology.”
If we do this or that in our lives on the basis of superstitious beliefs, then we have allowed ourselves to promote “black cat theology.” It is for this reason that Christians grow in their knowledge of the word of God (2 Pt 3:18). They study zealously in order to sift out of their minds those former superstitious beliefs that are associated with “black cat theology.”
So you can judge for yourself on this matter. The next time a black cat crosses your path, take a moment to consider the fact that you may still be subservient to some beliefs of “black cat theology.”
The advantage of a Bible-based world view is that one’s responses to current events can always be sifted through eternal principles that do not change. People today respond to the word of God as they did four thousand or more years ago. God-fearing people from the beginning of time have responded to any revelation from their Creator in reference to the times in which they lived. I reserve the right to do the same. My understanding of matters that must be understood through deductive interpretation may differ from yours. However, those fundamental principles that permeate time need no interpretation, and thus, with these fundamental principles of the Bible in view, I have laid the foundation upon which I seek to respond to current events and religious discussions.
SINGING DEFINES THE DEMEANOR OF GOSPEL LIVING Some Bible students often read the behavior of their modern assemblies into the “one another” relationship passages of the New Testament. This practice could be defined by the Greek word, eisegesis, that is, reading our modern-day definition of works and words into the works and words of the Bible. This is probably one of the most violated principles of Bible study that we encounter today, particularly in reference to the subject under discussion.
Two passages that are often misunderstood in the preceding manner are Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16:
“… speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ep 5:19).
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Cl 3:16).
It is often assumed that these two passages refer exclusively to an assembly context of the church. Subsequently, it is then assumed that singing is an “act of worship” that validates an assembly as true worship. The result of this unfortunate hermeneutic is to use these two passages a mandate to add another “act” to a codified ritual that must be performed during the Sunday morning assembly in order to determine if a church exists at a particular location. There are three reasons why neither passage is teaching this assumption in their original context.
No assembly context: Nowhere in the context of either passage is the Sunday assembly mentioned. It is just not there. Such a time for singing is only assumed by those who read their present religious assembly pattern into the biblical context of each passage. Such is done in order to use the exhortation to sing in these passages to validate the assumption that singing in an assembly of the saints during the “worship hour” on Sunday morning is an “act of worship.”
But when we consider the preceding assumption in the context of both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, we must conclude that Paul was discussing the life-style relationship that must be characteristic of every Christian anytime and anywhere. In the context, exhorting one another through song was one of the manifestations of our relationship with one another.
True, singing can take place during the general assembly of the saints on any occasion, but not exclusively during an assembly. Anytime and anywhere Christians are together with one another they can break out in song in order to exhort and teach one another. If there were only two Christians who have come together, then they can still fulfill the mandates that Paul wrote to the Ephesians and Colossians.
Singing everywhere and anytime: The singing that is mentioned in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 does not demand that singing take place during every encounter that Christians have with one another. Assembly does not mandate singing. This would include the general assembly of Christians on the first day of the week, as well as times when two or three Christians might encounter one another anytime and anywhere. All that is said in the passages is that Christians exhort and teach one another through the medium of vocal singing. Neither the occasion nor the context of the singing are mentioned in reference to when the saints might carry out the exhortations to encourage one another through song.
Now this brings up a very interesting point in reference to assemblies and singing. Is the mandate of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 to be carried out on every occasion when Christians come together? And if an assembly does not include singing, is such a valid assembly?
We would have to conclude that Paul did not mean that Christians must sing to one another every time they encounter one another. If they encountered one another on the street or in the field, they would not have to break out in song in order to relate with one another. If they encountered one another in a corporate business meeting, they would not have to start singing in the presence of the unbelievers who were present.
So what if Christians encountered one another at 10:00am on a Sunday morning? Would they be under a mandate to sing to one another in order to validate their encounter as an “official assembly”? If Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 refer to the daily living of the Christian—and they do—then we must assume that two or three Christians do not have to break out in song when they meet one another on Monday morning at 10:00am, or while working on the job throughout the week.
Now if Christians encounter one another on Sunday morning, the exhortation of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 does not change in meaning or application. The point is that Christians can meet together and not sing, as they can meet together and not study the Bible or pray or take up a contribution. There is thus no mandate in the Scriptures that assumes that worship takes place when certain performances, including singing, are acted out. An assembly of the disciples is thus not validated as such when a particular system of rituals is performed. Singing, therefore, is generic in the gospel life of the Christian, not specific in reference to being legally performed in order to validate a Sunday assembly.
It is natural for Christians to sing when they are together. When they come together on any occasion, it is only natural for them to speak to one another in song as they sing praises to God. While in prison, Paul and Silas behaved in this manner in a Philippian jail (At 16:25). There was no “official assembly” application to their singing in that jail house, neither did their singing validate an “official” assembly because they sang. They were simply praising God while in chains in the darkness of a prison. After the singing, there was no “closing prayer.”
What Paul was discussing in the context of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 was the nature of the behavior of Christians in their relationship with one another and God at all times. Paul was not giving a mandate that would become a legal code of identity to determine an “official assembly” of the saints. Christians must exhort one another through song, but they do not have to do so every time they come together.
Is it natural in their behavior to sing when Christians come together? Absolutely! But mutual exhortation through song was never given in the New Testament as an act by which some concept of an “official assembly” of the saints was to be identified or validated. Neither was singing given as a validation that worship takes place. Singing spiritual songs to one another is the result of a gospel-obedient heart, not a manifestation that an assembly must validated as true because an act of singing has been legally performed.
Mediums of teaching: Both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 explain that singing is a method of communication by which the saints can edify and teach one another. When we teach and admonish one another through song, we are not worshiping one another. Worship, therefore, is not inherent in spiritual songs. Spiritual songs can be used to teach spiritual truths, which they should. But when one is teaching others a spiritual truth through song, he or she is simply doing as the preacher who teaches spiritual truth by communicating truth in the words he speaks from a podium. Therefore, singing is not a signal to proclaim that an “official assembly” of worship is being conducted. Singing is simply a signal of the Christian demeanor of life seven days a week by which truth is proclaimed. Christians can, and should, bring their spirit of singing together in an assembly by which every attendee gathers together to sing praises to God in worship.