Category Archives: Inscriptions

Questions & Crosses

The Greek philosopher Socrates was known during the days of the ancients in the fifth century B.C. to be the wisest man in the world. Unfortunately, he met his fatal end by being condemned to death by a court of five hundred jurors. He was subsequently consigned to a suicidal death by drinking the executioner’s cup of the deadly hemlock poison. Socrates’ only “crime” was that he asked too many questions, and by asking too many questions he forced his intellectual and political peers to question any absolutes that they considered to be concrete truth. So really, why would someone who was considered to be the wisest man in the world end up condemned by a court of contemporary jurors simply because he asked questions concerning the beliefs of those who thought that they knew all the answers?

The Jewish Messiah Jesus was known in His days of the first century as the wisest man who ever walked across the face of the earth. He was the greatest teacher of moral integrity of all history—Christians know this. But He too by those of His time was condemned to death by both the contemporary religious leaders and the occupying Roman government of Palestine. But why did Jesus meet the same end as Socrates, having also forced to “commit suicide” on a cross outside Jerusalem? Unfortunately, He too asked to many questions that forced people to confront the very soul of their religious beliefs and behavior.

The fatal mistake of both Socrates and Jesus was that they asked too many questions, questions that forced individuals, or groups of individuals, to seriously consider the validity of what they considered to be either truth or moral. And worse yet, we wonder why would some people who were supposed to be either intellectual or spiritual leaders of the people, would behave so hypocritically? The questions of both Socrates and Jesus unleased a vile eruption on the part of those who were suffering from the indigestion of their own misguided religiosity, or in the case of Socrates, unprovable philosophical conclusions.

Both Jesus and Socrates directed questions to the hearts of those who already harbored damaged souls, and thus, the two thinkers became the opportunity for corrupted souls to unleash their venom on those who would dare question their thinking, whether philosophical or religious.

Socrates believed that in determining the validity of any truth, the truth itself must be approached with a series of questions, each question being asked to force the one who is interrogated to self-judge for himself what he considered to be the truth or a final moral standard.

By being persistent in asking challenging questions, the individual or group is forced to eliminate all alternatives to that which one considers to be the final truth or moral. In this systematic persistence of asking questions, the Socratic method of inquiry was establish, which method later gave Socrates the honor of being considered “the father of political philosophy.” The Socratic method of questioning is what defines the existing legal system of the American court.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the Socratic method for determining truth or moral standard falls far short of that truth or moral standards that are maintained and revealed by a Higher Authority, which Higher Authority Socrates failed to discover. He simply saw the assortment of inconsistencies in religion through the interactive Greek gods of Athens who seemed to function only on demand of those who believed in them.

Socrates simply concluded that there was no such thing as a final authority in matters of faith. And if there were no God, then he was right. For him and the Greeks, there was only this catalog of gods who had been created after the imagine of desirous men who sought to play with the imagination of men’s minds. All such religious thinking only presented the opportunity for someone as Socrates to drive into hysteria those who believed in the gods.

Therefore, Socrates was accused of asking too many questions about the imagined gods who supposedly had for centuries playfully interacted with mankind. He was thus endangering the youth of his day, for he motivated them to ask questions concerning the traditional beliefs of the fathers, and the moral political system that was prevalent in Athens. His questions undermined any religious heritage that may have been given by the gods. He was thus accused of asking too many questions of religionists and politicians, and especially asking questions to which he himself gave no answers. This system of learning, therefore, set him at odds with the religious, philosophical and political establishment of his day. His questioning thus doomed him to a fateful end.

Socrates wrote nothing throughout his entire life. We think that he did not lest his writings be questioned and he be found in some contradiction of what he previously questioned. But in reference to his quest for truth through systematic questioning, to him, no truth could be considered concrete, and thus written down in the permanency of literature. So Socrates responded to his critics, “I know that I know nothing.” And if one knew nothing, then there was nothing to write. He was on an endless quest for truth through systematic questioning. In the end, he simply concluded, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

It seems that Jesus was not unfamiliar with Socrates, whose method of systematic questioning made its way from Greece to Palestine three hundred years later through the writings of one of Socrates’ most famous students, Plato. At least the apostle John many years after the death of Jesus was familiar with the writings of Plato, for when John searched throughout the Greek dictionary in order to write concerning the incarnation of God, there was only one word in the entire Greek dictionary that he could use in reference to God Himself coming into the world of humanity. John thus wrote, “In the beginning was the Word [Gr. logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).

The Greek word logos was the best word, if not the only word in the Greek dictionary, that John could use to define how a “god” could incarnate into the affairs of the world. And it was Plato, the student of Socrates, who had three centuries before defined for philosophy the “logos” to be the word that should be used in reference to “the gods” intervening (fellowship) in the affairs of man. If John wanted to use only one word to explain the incarnation, it was the Greek word logos. So that he might not be misunderstood, in the same text of the preceding statement, John explained, “The Word [logos] was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). This is what set the stage for the irreconcilable confrontation between religiously broken souls and Jesus’ call for the broken to look beyond Him as the Word, to the fact that He was indeed God in the flesh.

These were considerations that Socrates forced “believers” in gods to reconsider. Plato simply put the matter into words, or at least, one word. So back to the point of comparison. During his final trial—and see if you do not recognize this today—Socrates accused his five hundred prejudiced jurors, who sought to impeach him, that they were more worried about their careers and political ambitions than they were about damaging their souls with an unjust condemnation of him. As all prejudiced judgments, what they would cast upon him would even further damage their souls. The point being, that through the injustices by which they were about to vote in reference to his fate, their vote of death would validate the fact that damaged souls could act no differently. With every prejudicial judgment, damaged souls only sink deeper into the abyss of injustice and the twisted irony of hypocritical judges.

Their unjust trial and judgment would continue to damage their souls because of their deep seated prejudices to condemn him were not based on their search for truth, but on promoting their own political agendas. Whatever judgment they made, therefore, would be prejudiced, and thus the revelation that their souls were deeply damaged morally. (Does this remind you of any contemporary circumstances?) Jurors with damaged souls render few fair verdicts.

Jesus fell victim to the same fate that was poured out by the damaged souls of Socrates’ court. As Socrates, Jesus asked too many questions. On one occasion, the religious court asked Jesus in reference to His plucking of grain on the Sabbath, “Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Mt 12:2)—of course, this was not a violation of the Sinai law, only their self-imposed religious law.

But Jesus in turn questioned this court of religiously damaged souls in order to make them face up to their own hypocritical inconsistencies: “Have you not heard what David did … he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread?” (Mt 12:3,4)—now this was against the Sinai law. The religious jurors, however, justified David who actually violated the Sinai law, but they condemned Jesus because He questioned them about justifying David, who did violate the Sinai law, but condemned Jesus by violating some of their religious rites, rituals and ceremonies that they had invented for themselves.

And then on another occasion there was the case when Jesus, as Socrates, asked a question of the religious court of His day in order to reveal their broken souls. He asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Mt 12:10). The damaged soul of the religious leaders was on this occasion again revealed because the religionists, without answering, “went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mt 12:14).

Religious courts do not like to have their honored religious rites, rituals and ceremonies questioned. The jurors of such courts especially do not like their morals questioned. Such questioning of long held norms more often reveals the fact that one’s religious heritage and accepted behavior are based only on traditions, or the pronouncements of Diotrephetic leaders. Such theologies exist among religious adherents because people are often compelled to base their faith on biblically baseless mandates that are cried out from podiums around the world by persuasive religious propagandists.

Socrates questioned all such morals and traditional heritages by which men determined that which was true. In the case of religion, he questioned the inconsistencies of the religionists of his day who manufactured gods after the imagination of spirited people who had the gift of persuasion, and thus could talk the people into believing anything. Jesus did the same in questioning such religionists. He exposed their beliefs by leading them to self-examining their own thinking. Their concept of God was found lacking because the one true and living God was standing incarnate right there before their eyes.

Throughout His short ministry, Jesus continually questioned the religious establishment. On one occasion He questioned His religious judges, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil?” (Mk 3:4). By this time in His ministry, the self-righteous religious judges could say nothing to such a pointed and direct question. So, “they held their peace” (Mk 3:4). Their frustration was building, and Jesus knew this. In this way He was taking Himself to the cross, for He knew what damaged souls would eventually do if they were forced to realize the inconsistent theologies of their own religiosity, but especially the evil of their own hearts.

By the time in His ministry when Jesus started introducing the truth that He was God in the flesh, His continual questioning had embarrassed His adversaries so much that they remained silent. Eventually, they would lash out at Him. Their initial silence, however, revealed that they were religious judges with damaged souls, for only those with damaged souls would reject the incarnate Son of God who stood in their midst. Therefore, because they were morally damaged, it was not possible for them to see the Father through the Son.

When inquisitive minds question matters of tradition and heritage, especially matters of religious tradition and moral standards, those with damaged souls will lash out with fury, no matter how sincere they might claim to be in their religiosity. Since religion exists because of biblical ignorance, zealously religious people will often be the first to lash out at those who ask questions that force religionists to validate their beliefs and behavior with a Bible book, chapter and verse. It is at this time that inquiring individuals should be looking out for a cup of hemlock, or possibly the echoing sound of a cross being built.

We know the conclusion to the life of Socrates. Instead of fleeing to safety from His opposition, as did Confucius, he willingly took the cup and drank the poisonous hemlock. And Jesus did the same. He too drank the poisonous “cross” in order to crucify Himself for the salvation of those who did believe. We must not forget what He said in anticipation of the cross: “I lay down My life for the sheep … I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10:15,17,18). He could have called on legions of angels to deliver Him from the fate that was handed to Him by the unjust judges. Instead, He “swallowed” death on the cross in order that one day death might be swallowed up in our victory.

Yes indeed, the religious court of Jesus’ day sent an innocent man to crucify Himself. All the jurors voted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” So He relinquished to their cries and drank of the cross for us.

Jesus wrote not a word during His life. Only His immediate disciples recorded His life and word in which we grow. As His disciples, we write with the dedication of our lives that He is the greatest intellectual who ever set foot on this earth, and now, the greatest King who reigns over all this earth.

By our love for one another, people understand that we are not those with damaged souls, but the church of those who have responded with love and gratitude to the grace of the One who allowed nails to be driven through incarnate hands and feet on our behalf (2 Co 4:15; 5:14). Our faith in Him, therefore, is not shallow, for faith is only kept shallow by some damage in our souls that seems to persist.

We must continually remind ourselves, however, that all the damage that we may have brought on our souls in the past has now been healed by His grace. Therefore, in forgiving ourselves as He forgave us through the cross, our faith continues to grows deeper. It goes deeper as we grow in grace and the knowledge of Him who revealed this grace to us (2 Pt 3:18). We will not, therefore, damage our souls again by heaping unjust judgment upon another who is likewise struggling to keep his or her soul clean with the blood of Jesus (See Mt 18:21-35).

There is moral truth to the truth of the Socratic method of inquiry that has permeated thinking since the days of Socrates, and then Jesus. It is the imperative of every disciple to ask questions concerning the “why” we believe or behave in this or that way. If we ask the questions, and all that comes in return from the religious establishment is the reply, “This is simply what we have been handed to us by our fathers, and thus we will continue to believe,” then it is time for further questions. If at the end of our systematic questioning we do not receive a Bible book, chapter and verse in answer to our persistent questions, then the one giving us answers is caught up in religion. It is then time for us to cuddle our Bibles in our hands and move on.

As with those who finally led to the end of Jesus and Socrates on earth, questions will engender frustration, if not outright rage. Therefore, if we still hammer away with questions about why we religiously do this or that, the outcome is not always pleasant. Socrates was forced to drink the hemlock. Jesus was forced to carry His cross to Calvary. And we would supposed that those today who cannot give Bible book, chapter and verse replies to all our questions concerning faith, they will do as Diotrephes who loved power more than Bible, even more than the apostle of love, John. Because his soul was damaged, as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, with a thirst for power he kicked every questioning “Socrates” out of his cloned monastery of religious robots (3 Jn 10).

The behavior of philosophers today is no different than the philosophers of Socrates’ day, who did not want their political social order disrupted by someone who was persistently forcing them to answer questions that made them go deep into their souls concerning what they believed was the foundation of their moral and political views. Socrates was an outsider in reference to the religious, philosophical and political establishment. And because he was, there was no place for him in their establishment. Jesus came into and became the same in the religious establishment of His day. Because both asked too many questions, both had to be eliminated.

The behavior of some religionists today is no different than the hypocritical antagonists of Jesus’ day who likewise did not want their “Jewish religion” to be disrupted by someone who persistently questioned their inconsistent theologies and religious leadership (See Gl 1:14). The religious leaders did not like being forced to see the hypocrisies of their own behavior (See Mt 6:2,5,16; 7:5; 15:9; 22:18; 23:13-15,23-29).

Jesus’ persistent questioning forced the religious leaders to answer questions that revealed the inconsistencies of their thinking and hypocritical behavior in reference to their own teachings. They were thus embarrassed before the people. The cross was subsequently the only answer for their embarrassment.

Therefore, the extreme frustration of the religious leaders come to a climax. Jesus’ questions forced them to be the judges of their own souls, and to face the inconsistencies of their own theologies. In fact, those who were persistently questioned by Jesus became so frustrated that they eventually schemed to commit murder. Such a scheme proved that they were indeed damaged souls of the lowest level. Therefore, Jesus’ judgment of them was validated: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (Jn 8:44).

And so it is today. If you ask too many questions of the guardians of the religious establishment, and do not receive book, chapter and verse answers for your questions, then there will probably be handed you a cup of “hemlock” disfellowship, or possibly a cross which you can carry outside the church house, and nail yourself thereon. Questions presented to those who seek to defend biblically unsubstantiated religious heritages will engender great hostility. Depending on where you live in the world, it might be written of you in your questioning the religious establishment, as it was in the final hours of the life of Jesus: “Now the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him” (Lk 22:2).

Pandemics

This Inscription may save your life, and many others around you.]

History has forever labelled it the “forgotten pandemic.” It appeared first in America in the spring of 1918, at the time when history was about to draw the curtain on WW I. It was a time when the American government, as well as all governments of the Allied Forces, had hushed all negative news broadcasts that might discourage the people from supporting the Allied fighting forces in Europe in their defeat of Germany. Therefore, all news media, except for Spain who remained neutral during the war, could not report to the world a plague that was sweeping across the face of the earth.

Unfortunately, the Spanish media alone went public to report the pandemic scourge that was killing millions of people around the world. This was the influenza pandemic. And because only the nation of Spain was broadcasting the devastation of the pandemic through their news media, the plague was eventually labelled the “Spanish flu.”

Today, no one really understands the origin of the influenza virus and why it would eventually claim from 50 to 100 million lives worldwide. Some virologists have suggested that it originated in the deplorable conditions of the trenches in Europe when the Allied Forces were deadlocked in fact off against the Germans in WW I between 1914 and 1918. Others have suggested that the first outbreak was in the Shanxi Province of China in 1917. And then some have suggested that it originated at the American military base of Camp Funston, Kansas in early 1918. A Kansas health official reported that 40 soldiers in the camp had died from some mysterious strand of a vicious flu virus. In the spring of 1918, hundreds soldiers from this military camp were eventually shipped to other camps, and then onto crowded ships that transported them overseas to fight in the war.

It was from both Europe and America that the virus spread like wildfire around the world in only a few months. In one religious newspaper in South Africa, one of the religious leaders of the country reported, “People died by the thousands. It has not yet been fully determined how many died as a result of the sickness [of influenza]” (Pentecostal Holiness Advocate, Apr. 3, 1919). In fact, during the two-year long pandemic more people died in America, about 675,000, than all the American soldiers who died during WW I. Because the reports of the pandemic were kept under wraps in America during the final days of the war, some thought that all the deaths were only the result of the common flu virus. However, it was everything but common.

Though this flu virus by September 28, 1918 had been reported to be spreading at pandemic light speed around the world, on that day the leaders of the city of Philadelphia went forward and conducted the Liberty Loan Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They had decided to carry on with the parade because it was an event where tens of thousands of people could come together in a mass crowd of celebration, especially in celebrating of the coming signing of the armistice to end the war that would take place in France two months latter on November 11, 1918. However, within ten days after the event, 1000 Philadelphians were dead. 200,000 were sick and confined to beds. By March of 1919 over 15,000 had died from the virus.

In contrast to the behavior of the leaders in Philadelphia, the civic leaders of St. Louis, Missouri shut down all their theaters, schools, and banned all public gatherings, including churches. As a result, at the peak of the pandemic the city suffered only one-eighth of the number of deaths that occurred in Philadelphia.

By the summer of 1918, the pandemic was raging across America. In the month of October alone in 1918, it was reported that 195,000 people died across America because of the virus. Civic leaders vigorously reacted to the mounting death rate by asking the public to refrain from hand shaking, wear masks and also discontinue all public assemblies, including church assemblies. In fact, in San Francisco, California, the civic leaders were so serious about the pandemic that citizens were fined $5.00 if they were found in public without a face mask. At that time that amount would be equivalent today to a few hundred dollars. Those who did not wear a face mask were mockingly called “mask slackers.”

In response to the pandemic, churches of America were called on to terminate their assemblies for the safety of the members. Thousands of churches throughout America subsequently complied with this request because the church was the true beacon of love in society. And in order for the members to love one another, they had to distance themselves from one another. By discontinuing their assemblies they revealed that they truly did love one another. However, though gathering together is certainly a signal of Christian love, during pandemic, assemblies actually revealed a lack of love for one another.

This call to restrict assemblies also came to the people of central Kansas where my forefathers almost fifty years before had homesteaded the area. One of the churches that had been established by the pioneering Christian homesteaders was the Peace Creek church of Christ that was only a few miles from where I grew up on a farm in central Kansas. The Peace Creek church building itself was about ten miles (about 15) kilometers) from the nearest town of Sylvia, Kansas. (Please read of the history and work of the Peace Creek church in the book, A Prairie Beacon by Grant M. Clothier and Jeanie Clothier Montford. Find it on Amazon.)

After several people of central Kansas had succumbed to the influenza virus, the members of Peace Creek decided to close the doors on their assembly. And such they did for about three months. They conformed to the best understanding that the health authorities had at that time concerning the spread of the virus through the air when people spoke to one another in close proximity, or coughed or sneezed. I have always thought it interesting that these farmers out on the plains of Kansas were willing to educate themselves as much as possible about a pandemic, and then take action to do their part in stopping the spread of the virus.

In order to impede the virus through human to human contact, the Peace Creek members, as well as thousands of other churches across America, decided that as churches they would protect themselves from one another by terminating their assemblies. The members, therefore, went into isolation to their own homes and stayed there in lockdown with their children. Unfortunately, the virus had already struck down one of the leading members of the Peace Creek church, leaving a widow and eight children without a breadwinner for the grieving family. This was a common scenario that was repeated thousands of times throughout America in those days. But the members of this church, as well as thousands of other churches across America, closed their doors in order to save their lives.

By the summer of 1919, the influenza pandemic was subsiding. Virologists assume that so many people had died from the virus, that only those who remained alive by survive the virus by developing an immunity to the virus. The immunity thus prevented the continued spread of the virus. The virus had no place to go. It had run its course.

Nevertheless, the “Spanish flu” virus still lingers with us today through mutated variants of the original virus. Because flu viruses quickly mutate, they have a tendency to bypass immunity and carry on throughout history. An effective vaccine against the influenza virus was not discovered and made available until 1938, and then it was initially given only to military servicemen who were going into WW II in Europe.

We are fortunate today because several vaccines have now come on the market to stop the present pandemic, and its variants. It would certainly be unwise, if not irresponsible, to advise people not to be vaccinated. If you are one of those who have voiced your apprehensions about being vaccinated, please keep in mind that your unwise advice may be gossiped to hundreds of other people, who respond by not being vaccinated because of your apprehensions. If a thousand people refuse to be vaccinated South Africa because of your apprehensions that you have voiced to others, two to three of the one thousand who took seriously your advice will be infected and die. This is true because two to three people out of every one thousand people die in South Africa from the present pandemic virus.

The problem with any virus is that some people can have the virus, but be asymptomatic for days before any indications arise that one is infected. While one is asymptomatic, he or she can be infecting others. With the influenza virus, one might not show any symptoms, but eventually come down with the usual chills, fever, fatigue, and then recover. The Spanish flu virus was so vicious that one could be dead from the virus within a few hours, and at the most, a few days.

So now you are asking me why all this discussion about the 1917-1919 influenza pandemic that took so many lives throughout the world? The problem is that many in the religious world today are becoming victims of a new virus because they are victims of some of their religious behavior and some unfortunate interpretations that are associated with their particular religion, specifically in reference to the practice that they continue unrestricted assemblies. It might be good here to point out some of these scenarios where some might find themselves testing God. James said, “Let no man say when he is tempted [tested], ‘I am tempted [tested] by God.’ For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does He tempt [or test] any man” (Js 1:13).

We need to pay close attention to James in reference to the present pandemic that is upon us. God does not test us by leading us into evil, nor does He test us by inflicting suffering. At the same time, neither can we test God by thinking that we can lead Him into doing evil (suffering) to us. We are testing God if we unwisely put ourselves into a situation where we suppose He is going to work some miracle to deliver us directly from our own foolish behavior. When dealing with evil and suffering, all such happenings in the fallen world must be accredited to Satan, who goes about as a roaring lion. He continually seeks permission from God, as in reference to Job, to do some evil in this world or cause some suffering. We would advise that this is a time for all of us to read the book of Job. If we willingly endanger our health while thinking that God will heal us, then we are testing God. It is like a smoker asking God to heal his or her lung cancer.

Nevertheless, when we do suffer from the plagues of this material world, we pray fervently that God would heal us (Js 5:13,14). But if God does not bring recovery, we will not blame Him for directly inflicting us with suffering. It is simply a simple faith to blame God for that which is in this world through the work of Satan.

We must continually be positive about these matters, as was inferred by Isaiah: “For when Your [God’s] judgments are on the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Is 26:9). God will take responsibility for all the “judgments” that inflict the world, though the pandemics, with God’s permission, originate directly from Satan. The blessing of the pandemics, however, is that people of true faith move closer to God. It was the same James in the same book who introduced his theme with the words, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the trying of your faith produces patience” (Js 1:2,3).

If we foolishly do not take all the precautions that we know to guard ourselves from evil and suffering in this time of a pandemic, then we will possibly be infected with a virus that will cause us much suffering, if not death. If we behave foolishly, then we cannot blame God by saying that He directly infected us with a virus, and thus He must be held directly responsible for our suffering, and possible death. Also, if we are infected with the virus, but continue to blame God for not healing us, then we are blaming the wrong entity. Evil and suffering are the business work of Satan.

We cannot test God by putting ourselves in a situation where we can be infected, and then presume that God did not protect us from infection when we are tested positive for the infecting virus. We cannot test God with such foolishness. Satan is roaming about as a roaring lion, and if we step into to his realm of roaming, then we open ourselves up to be “bitten” by a pandemic virus. Sometimes we are “bitten” even though we make all precautions to stay safe.

However, we are not so foolish as to step off a high building and think that God will protect us from the law of gravity. We cannot be so foolish as to place ourselves in harms way of a virus and think that God controls all those viruses so that they will not infect us. If we do such things, we are foolishly testing God.

We will not be involved in such mockery of God. We enshrine one particular statement of the Holy Spirit that came through the pen of Paul’s hand: “Be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap correction” (Gl 6:7).

In reference to this, and all pandemics, many preachers are sitting between a rock and a hard place on this matter. In fact, some have even involved themselves in testing God—those of you who live in Western countries will probably not understand what I am going to advise here for some of our preachers who live in the developing world. My advice is that many preachers need to take another look at what they are doing in reference to the assembly of God’s innocent flock.

Here is the dilemma. There are hundreds local preachers who have faithfully worked hard to establish churches in their communities. In the past, and on every Sunday, the members of these churches have faithfully assembled and taken up a contribution to support their faithful preachers and their families—this story could also be told of those who lived over one hundred years ago during the influenza pandemic.

As in any pandemic, people die in the thousands worldwide. Friends, relatives and members of the body of Christ are almost daily laid to rest in graves, some who could have possibly not have faced this fate if someone had behaved sensibly as those members of the Peace Creek church and hundreds of other churches in America during the influenza pandemic.

Health officials around the world today have faithfully sought to function for the safety of the people. So when the health officials of a particular nation mandated that all public assemblies be shut down in order to abate the pandemic and protect church memberships, many preachers around the world lost their weekly income. If they had no garden to til for food, then their families often went into destitution. If they were urban preachers, they could have no gardens to feed their families.

So what some of these preachers have done is to behave unwisely. They have continued to call their members together in the close assemblies of small church buildings with little ventilation so they could take up a contribution for food for their families. The result has been that members have infected one another with the virus and people have died. I am personally acquainted with several cases as this. Some of our preachers are thrown into the lion’s den by infected members calling them to funerals, praying for members beside deathbeds, counseling in times of grief, etc. It is unfair and unwise. In Africa we do not have Zoom. We do not have internet communications. There is no live-streaming in the village. We are often in a village where people just die like they have always done throughout the centuries.

But in the preceding scenario some preachers have become Grim Reapers, that is, for the sake of the contribution they have presented the opportunity for the virus, and subsequent death, to spread among the members because they needed the weekly
contributions from the assembled members in order to feed their families. They thus loved their families more than the health of the members.

Those of you in the West need to keep in mind that we live in Africa, and India; in the developing world where living is often from day to day. Therefore, before you are too harsh with these preachers who continue to call the members of the church together into small church buildings with little ventilation, for which they struggled to piece together with a few bricks and sticks, we need to understand that this is their world.

Some in the West helped them to build these confined premises, and thus do not want them to stand empty during this dreadful pandemic. Some are intimidating the local folks to continue to meet in something that has become a hall of death. Pictures are thus posted on social media to reaffirm the supporters that meetings are still taking place, and often with little social distancing. Therefore, before we criticize the preacher for reporting back that he had no one in attendance on Sunday morning, we must think again about requiring him and the members of the church in his area to do a most unwise thing in reference to the present pandemic.

Even in houses in the cities, the same scenario has developed. I recently had one church leader come by and boast that he had thirty-five people present in the assembly of his house last Sunday—and yes he was given this same lesson of exhortation I am now writing to you.

Thousands of preachers throughout the world are living in these dire circumstances and calling the members of the body to continue to assemble in small “coffins” with little ventilation wherein the virus has every opportunity to migrate from one victim to another. These cases are primarily in rural situations as in those days back in 1918 when the Peace Creek church shut down their assembly. Those farmers had enough sense to follow the instructions of their health departments, and thus, not offer the opportunity for the influenza virus to spread in the public gatherings of the churches. They also had enough knowledge of the Bible to understand that God gave no law concerning assemblies that would endanger the health of His people.

Nevertheless, there may be some differences between then and now. The Peace Creek members, and many other churches in those days, had no full-time preacher who depended exclusively on the contributions every Sunday to survive. Unfortunately, some preachers of rural Africa and India have made the mistake of making themselves “full-time,” and thus subjugated themselves to depending on the weekly contributions of the saints. Therefore, when an assembly is closed down, so also is closed down the income of a family.

The result of all this is that there are thousands of “full-time” preachers in the developing world who continue to unwisely call their members together into an environment wherein the members are infected with the pandemic virus of today. Some of these preachers seem to be more concerned about the weekly contribution than they are about the safety of the members. And the fact that they have harped for years to the members that unless they “give to God, God will not give to them,” they must come together and make their contributions in order that God continue to bless them.

And then there are those preachers who have for years been teaching an erroneous legalized system of assembly and worship. They have convinced themselves, and those who attend their assemblies, that there is no true worship if the members to do assemble together in order to perform five legal ceremonial acts of worship, with focus on the act of contribution. They have failed to understand that Paul and Silas were truly worshiping alone as two Christian prisoners in a Philippian prison.

Some preachers have taught for years that unless members come together and legally perform their acts of worship, then no true worship has transpired. To them, the church ceases to exist if there is no assembly of the members—I am not making this up. There are thousands of preachers out there who have for years preached this message, and thus they have made the members feel guilty if they did not regularly show up on Sunday morning for their ceremonial worship, and thus make the contribution. And now, many of these members are sitting at home alone in lockdown on Sunday morning at 10:00, feeling that they are out of touch with God. Again, I am not making this up.

Fancy terms have been added to theological discussions on this matter. One can worship in his or her house, but then there is the official “corporate” worship of all the members on Sunday morning. If one does not attend the official “corporate” worship, then he or she has not truly worshiped God in spirit and truth. And if one seeks to worship with his family and friends in a house when there is a “corporate” worship going on in town at the same time, then one has supposed “left the church.” Of course this is all theological nonsense.

This terminology and theology developed many years after the existence of the rural Peace Creek church, which church of members—according to the thinking of these modern-day theologians who master in the subject of assembliology—supposedly gave up their “corporate” worship in order to worship as families in their homes. They subsequently and supposedly terminated the existence of the church in the Peace Creek community.

However, did the Peace Creek really cease to exist as the church in the area of Peace Creek because the members ceased to assemble for some “corporate worship”? According to some, their worship was also supposedly not “true” until they were all able to come back together again into one assembly three months later after the pandemic.

You might think that I am setting up a straw man against some who differ with my point. But I assure you that almost no week goes by when I do not read on social media the outcry of some assembliologist who seeks to keep the people together in some assembly in order to continue “the church.”

On the positive side of these matters, one of the blessings of the pandemic is that it has forced people to take another look at the assembly instructions concerning the church. Isaiah was right. Hard times make us think.

Nevertheless, we are in an era where the present pandemic will be spread among millions who unwisely persist in maintaining their unfortunate understanding of the assembly of the saints. I asked a north Malawian church leader about what the members of the church were doing in northern Malawi. He replied, “The members are carrying on as usual in their assemblies.” And then recently on the news one of the doctors of the association, Doctors Without Borders, said of Malawi, “The pandemic will soon hit hard in the country of Malawi,” as it will in all those countries where people walk in ignorance of the infectious nature of the present virus.

What the Western world does not understand about Africa is the ingrained fatalism that permeates the thinking of the typical African. Africans have been dying from diseases for centuries. Influenza, Ebola, AIDS, and now Covid; “we just die” as one brother told me. The most recent cause of death is just another pandemic that will take thousands of lives, even as the Spanish flu did a little over one hundred years ago. The lack of education on these matters, combined with a fatalistic view of life, will lead to a great number of our brothers and sisters going on to glory before their time.

It is the responsibility of church leaders in these times of a worldwide pandemic to act wisely in order to protect God’s people. This virus is not going away anytime soon. Therefore, it is a time to hunker down and pray for the Lord to come and deliver us from this Satan infected world. I am ready to go up directly to the arms of Jesus when He is visibly revealed with His mighty angels. Until that time, however, I would just as soon not have to met Him via some Covid grave, though regardless, the final destination will be the same.

[Share this note around the world. You might save some lives. If you need help in straightening out some twisted scriptures on the assembly of the saints, download free Book 103 of the Biblical Research Library from the following website: ]

http://www.africainternational.org/files/Book103.pdf

Real Lockdown

[The theme of the following does not actually fall into the definition of the “Inscriptions,” but since I am completing a book on the DICKSON DIARIES, I thought the scope of the following message might teach a very important point that folks today should consider, and thus, count their many blessings that they often take for granted.]

The usual—as in every winter of midwestern America—a great monster of a winter blizzard was bearing down upon us in the old farmhouse. At the time of the relentless onslaught, it was just a few degrees above freezing Fahrenheit, that is inside our old farmhouse in central Kansas that had absolutely no insulation. It was the same in all those farmhouses that were built at the turn of the last century. And because of the cooking and human humidity, ice froze on the inside of the windows. Because there was only a thin layer of wood on the outside of the wall studs, and plaster on slats on the inside that stood as a barrier between human flesh and those miserable conditions outside, we could only sit there cocooned in cotton blankets. We sat there listening to the howling northern monster coming through the trees that our father had planted years before on the north side of the house in order to somewhat cushion the house and those frail human occupants from those invading “Northerners.” In all this typical winter blizzard, we believed we were all fine in such a lockdown. Sometimes we were mostly inside that house for weeks, busying ourselves with our own entertainment.

Thankfully, and without any prodding by our father, we three brothers had during the fall chopped and gather enough fire wood to stoke a homemade furnace in the basement. Our father had knocked the end out of two fifty gallon drums, welded the two opened ends together, welded on legs, and then cut a log-size whole in one end into which we would faithfully, as railroad engineers, stoke the fire with wood. This was the main heater of the old farmhouse because it was in the basement. Convection would take its life-preserving heat to the second floor, and then on to the top floor where we slept in somewhat refrigerated comfort. On the intermediate floor there was an added diesel-burning heater that was likewise laboriously puffing away in the living room. With the two sources of survival running full blast, and with winter sweaters cloaking our tender bodies, we could survive any demon out of the north during those cold winter nights in central Kansas.

When one of those Northerners came through, the temperature outside our survival cocoon would plummet to as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 Celsius), and sometimes much colder. I remember—I do not know why I remember this—that on one winter night the weatherman reported that it was colder in Goodland, Kansas for the day than any place on the entire northern continent of America and Canada, even in Alaska. It was -17 degrees Fahrenheit (-27 Celius). We somewhat took pride in that historical fact of Kansas cold, for it toughened us to live longer—people who live in colder climates live longer. I also remember that for three years from 1960 to 1962 there was very little snow. The reason I was told that there was little snow was that it was too cold to snow. And indeed it was simply fridged during those years.

But back then we did not know how good we had it. When Kansas was first settled by the early pioneers in the middle 1800s, including the Dicksons, there was no fire wood in those regions. In our day when we cut firewood for the blast furnace in our basement, we were cutting wood from trees, particularly Cottonwoods, that had been planted in central Kansas when time turned the calendar to the 1900s, and specifically when America went through the great tree-planting, job-creating New Deal of the Great Depression. But back in those pioneer days of the 1800s, there were only “buffalo chips” to burn. And if you do not know what a buffalo chip is, it is, or was, the sun-dried mature of the buffalo herds that had wandered throughout the region. Little did those buffalos know that they deposited survival possibilities for a future civilization by relieving themselves of “fire wood” for settlers who would later follow in their footsteps. Once dried in the sun, the manure made good “fire wood.” At least one advantage of the old sod houses was that they had tremendous insolation, and thus a little heat from the buffalo chips would allow the occupants to survive. So in my day in growing up on the farm, we really had it good. At least we could cut existing wood and not wander around the Kansas plains searching for and picking up dried buffalo manure.

So what do humans do in such conditions? They go into real lockdown. These were the days before central heating was installed in homes in the northern hemisphere. These were the days before anyone ever heard of insulation. These were the days when vehicle batteries were so cold that they could barely start an engine. If a cold snap surprised the diesel fuel industry, the diesel fuel would congeal and not flow through the fuel lines because the oil companies did not have time to put a special additive in the fuel in order that it not become like jelly in frigid conditions. Those were the “good ole days” only because we were totally ignorant of any better days.

Now suppose you lived in such conditions for three to four months out of every year. I remember what we did in those lockdown days, which conditions are now almost totally foreign to those today who “suffer” through a few weeks of lockdown during a pandemic. I can remember that during the “winter lockdowns” we played a lot of monopoly, and then spades, hearts and bridge with cards, and then dominoes, and then whatever board game we had in the house. I am not certain, but I believe that the creativity of many people inspired the creation of games during those years that later made them a great deal of money when the games were sold on the market.

Sometimes we would just dream up some game, like sliding down the staircase on a mattress, or roller skating in the basement. We had no television, and rarely listened to the radio. There were more exciting things to do than idly sitting in front of the TV or listening to a radio. For example, my bother and I once made a sand box in the basement of the old farmhouse wherein we crafted our own tractors and vehicles out of wood and Coke bottom caps for wheels for our miniature farms we carved out of the sand. My oldest brother had his trains with which he played endlessly. In other words, we busied ourselves with ourselves. Being alone was not frightful.T

here was no such thing as video games or computers, or even Zoom. No telephone. Well … we had a telephone, but the ice in the middle of the winter often collected on the telephone lines and subsequently brought down the lines. We were out of touch with the world, and the house itself became our only world. We were isolated in an icy world, and sometimes snow drifts behind the farm buildings were so high that you could dig a cave in them. Because we were in such isolation, we created our own little worlds. I must confess that I do not ever remember being bored. The winter lockdown forced the development of our creativity, and thus we entertained ourselves. Those were the days when family members were interdependent, not disconnected from one another during the week with countless individual activities of people outside the immediate family.

Other than going out to the barn dressed with coats, clothes and shoes that almost weighed as much as our bodies, we fed the cows, and then scurried back to the house. When we came in from the cold, we welcomed the warmth of the lockdown, realizing that if we were stranded outside, we would certainly end up being just another ice cycle.

So for all those depressed grumblers out there who complain today about lockdowns during pandemics, I would suggest that you be thankful that every winter you do not have to go about chopping wood, or even worse, scavenging around the prairie collecting buffalo chips. Nevertheless, I can remember that when I left the farm I told others that I did not want to ever be cold again.

“Professor Grace”

In the letter of 2 Peter, the apostle Peter wrote to Christians. When he concluded this letter, he encouraged those to whom he wrote to grow in their knowledge of the grace of God: “Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pt 3:18). By growing in our knowledge of the grace of God, grace becomes our instructor as to how we can live a spiritually abundant life (See Jn 10:10).

We must allow the grace of God that appeared on earth through the Son of God to teach us how to live a better life. The Holy Spirit instructed,

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age” (See Ti 2:11,12).

The gospel of God’s grace must be our teacher as to how we should live. Grace teaches us how to live a better life. It is for this reason that Christians must continue to grow in their knowledge of the revelation of the grace of God that was revealed to humanity through the appearing of the Son of God in this world.

The apostle Paul’s desire to go to Christians in Rome illustrates the mission of teaching grace in order to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We must allow the grace of God to teach us how to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. This teaching on the subject of grace is necessary in order that we live righteously and godly in this present world.

Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome that he planned to go to them in order to accomplish the mission of producing spiritual fruit in their lives. He explained that he wanted to go to them “so that I might have some fruit among you also” (Rm 1:13). His motivation for going to the Roman disciples reveals how he would produce this spiritual fruit: “I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise. So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you [Christians] who are at Rome” (Rm 1:15).

Paul’s primary motivation to go to Rome was to preach again the gospel of grace to the believers in Rome, not unbelievers, though he would take every opportunity to preach the gospel to unbelievers. However, his primary objective in going to Rome was to produce spiritual fruit in the Roman Christians as they continued to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This means that we must always allow ourselves to be taught the gospel of God’s grace. It is through study of the gospel of grace that we are motivated to grow in the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

Paul continued to explain what would cause spiritual growth in the hearts of the believers in Rome: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Rm 1:16). We often quote this statement in reference to preaching the gospel to unbelievers. But in the context of Paul’s desire to go to Rome, he made the statement in reference to preaching the gospel to believers in order that the power of the gospel continue to produce spiritual growth in the lives of the Christians in Rome.

The gospel is the power by which God produces spiritual fruit in our lives. In other words, the more we grow in our understanding of all that God did for us through the gospel of His Son, the more we are motivated to respond with gratitude for what Jesus did for us. All things that God did for us through Jesus causes thanksgiving for the gift of His Son (2 Co 4:15). It is in this context that Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ compels us” (2 Co 5:14). God’s love for us through Jesus compels us to grow spiritually as we emulate His love for us in our love for others (See 1 Jn 4:7-11). The more we study the good news of the coming of the Son of God into this world for us, therefore, the more we grow spiritually in response to God for giving His Son for us (See Jn 3:16). It is for this reason that we, as believers in Christ, must grow continually in our knowledge of the gospel. The more we understand the revelation of the gospel of God’s grace, the more we are motivated to grow spiritually.

Nation Healing

NATION HEALING
– A Short Story –

What is unfortunate about losing moral standards in a society is that the society as a whole does not realize the loss of the standards one by one throughout its decades of existence. But on the other hand, sometimes events occur in a society that remind us of the loss of those essential moral codes that are necessary in order to preserve a healthy society. When we recognize the loss of a particular moral code, it is almost impossible to restore it because society as a whole has moved on.

In 1994 the country of South Africa could have imploded into a blood bath of civil war. If it were not for one personal moral code of one man in reference to his thinking and behavior, the 1994 first all-racial election of the country could have gone terribly wrong. But because of a specific godly moral principle of this one man, a country was spared a civil war, and a people marched into a peaceful transition of power.

Before we speak of the preserving moral principle of this one man that saved South Africa from tragedy, we must first review a brief history of this man. History determines who we are, and thus history had made this man who he was for the right time in history. Nelson Mandela was the first all-race elected president of South Africa in 1994. He had spent almost twenty-seven years in prison, and then as “fate” would have it, he came forth from behind the closed bars of a prison cell in order to transition a divided country into a new and exciting future.

About two years after his historical election, and before his moral principle had time to graft itself into some of the more radical groups of his political party, the rumor went out one day that Mandela had died. Because Mandela’s moral principles were such a stabilizing factor in the transition of power to a different political party, those of the former dominant and ruling party went into hysteria. In fact, some of the farmers (Boers) had formerly organized themselves that if Mandela were to die, they would assemble armed groups at designated farms in order to mount, not a resistance, but a defense for their wives and children.

These same people, the Afrikaners, had about one hundred years before had a bad experience during the Anglo/Boer (farmer) War. In order to bring that war to an end, the newly appointed British Commander Kitchener rounded up the wives and children of the Boer soldiers and interned them in “concentration camps.”

In these camps at least 25,000 women and children perished from diseases because of the lack of sanitation. When news of the “concentration camps” of Kitchener eventually filtered back to the people of England, the British people were horrified. The British people then went into action for the people of South Africa. Through pressure that was brought on British politicians in England, the British army general Kitchener was told to negotiate peace with the Boers. The feeling of resentment that this tragedy produced lingered on for a century in South Africa among Afrikaners. (We are reminded that the atrocities of war do not easily fade away in the memories of the people after the signing of peace accords.)

So you can imagine that as soon as the rumor was spread throughout the country that Mandela had supposedly died, many of the “Boer brigade” went into action in order to resist retaliation that they had supposed would be launched against them for their own sins of the past. They had erroneously projected their oppressive government behavior of the past on to the future government of the African National Congress (ANC). They believe—and probably correctly so—that the stabilizing character of Mandela would preserve the country.

At the time, we remember that fear was in the air. Guns were secured, and loyalists to the former government organized at designated farms in order to fight off any attempts to make war against them as the former government. It was a time for serious protectionism against any imagined retaliation because some of the now ruling party still harbored a spirit of retaliation against the loyalists to the former Nationalist Party government that had implemented apartheid (separation) policies against the new ruling party.

But the retaliation never had an opportunity to happen. Within a couple days after the supposed death of Mandela was rumored here and there throughout the country, it was immediately squashed. Realizing the sensitivity of the moment, Mandela immediately appeared alive and well on national radio and television. Everyone subsequently took a deep breath, and the armed brigades who sought to defend and protect their families went back home to their tractors and plows.

They did so because everyone knew that if the one godly characteristic of Nelson Mandela did not prevail, and eventually make its way into the culture of the new South Africa, a nation would not be spared national tragedy. At the time, we were all awe struck to first realizing that the smooth transition from the past into the future depended on the character of just one man. And because it did, a new South Africa was born.

This personal characteristic of Mandela that was so crucial to the preservation of a nation that was in traumatic transition was vividly portrayed in a Clint Eastwood produced Hollywood film in 2009 entitled Invictus. The script writers knew that the film, staring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, had to portray accurately on screen this historical transition that depended on the principle character of Mandela. The film was about the election and transition of power from the former Nationalist Party government to the newly elected ANC government. Of all the scenes of the film that beautifully portrayed the election and transition of power, one significant scene was embedded in all our minds. It was a scene that would serve well for all government officials throughout the world who would seek a smooth transition of power after any elections in their countries.

In a particular setting, the script writers brilliantly brought forth the character of Mandela. The descriptive scene in the movie took place only a few weeks after the election. The newly elected president, Mandela walked into the administration offices in Pretoria, the capital, where sat all the staff of the former Nationalist Party government of President F. W. de Klerk. There was total silence in the room as every eye was transfixed on Mandela’s humble, but commanding presence. A dropped hair could have echoed throughout the chambers. As all eyes were fixed on the giant stature of Nelson Mandela, he made a panoramic glance around the room. While sensing the tension, he essentially said to everyone, “Though I am the newly elected president of the country, we need your help. I want to invite everyone in this room to please stay on and help us transition this nation into a new future.”

No one was to be fired. No one was to be replaced by any favorites of the ANC Party as a repayment for those who were loyal to the former government. Mandela was wise enough to know that the powerful economic status of the past must be preserved for the sake of the future. We remember that one woman of the former government, Zelda la Grange, did stay on and remained Mandela’s personal assistant unto his death.

The script writers of Invictus revealed the character of Mandela. It was a character that saved a nation in order to work toward the building of the new and better “rainbow nation.” This single godly character of forgiveness that made it possible to spare South Africa from a blood bath in the transition of power is identified throughout the Bible, and in particular, in a New Testament quotation of an Old Testament statement: “Their sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (Hb 10:17; see Jr 31:34). Mandela imposed on himself the godly principle of forgiveness. He refused to react in retaliation against the sins of the past government, He moved on with a spirit of forgiveness.

Nelson Mandela has subsequently gone down in history as a forgiving person. During those years, there seemed to be no end to his willingness to forgive the sins of others in the past. Though he had previously spent years in the prison of the former government for his political views and actions against an oppressive government, to him there was no justification for resentment and retaliation. Forgiveness, not retaliation, was deep in the recesses of his soul. That moral virtue saved a nation.

Mandela’s spirit of forgiveness was a good example for others who would seek to implement a paradigm shift in a government that represents two vastly different societies within one nation. Mandela spoke for all Africans on the continent in reference to this particular personality principle of forgiveness. And in order to reveal his lack of thirst for retaliation through power, he set the example for a nation to go forth for the people. Those politicians who have suffered the ordeal of losing an election would do themselves a favor by researching the character and behavior of the late South African President Nelson Mandela.

One thing that Mandela did in order to emphasize the point that elections should not be about power, was that he made a decision to be in office for only one five-year term. And during this term, he asked the former president of the Nationalist Party he had defeated in the election, F. W. de Klerk, to co-president the country with him through the transition, which thing de Klerk did for two years. After two years, however, de Klerk moved on to rebuild the Nationalist Party. Mandela later said that he wished that de Klerk would have stayed with him longer as co-president.

Mandela did not want to endanger in any way the strong economy that the previous Nationalist Party had built over the last several decades. Neither was it his desire to presumptuously make any claim for the existing strong South African economy—he was in prison during those years of nation building. He was wise enough to know that if the country was to go successfully into the future, then the new ANC government had to preserve the economic strength of the past government.

De Klerk later stated, and correctly, that any healthy democracy cannot survive as a one-party state. There must always be a vibrant opposition to any ruling party if a nation is to survive as a democracy. Otherwise, the one-party state becomes dictatorial and oppressive to the people. The politicians of one-party states are only fooling the people if they assert that they are a democracy, but at the same time, do not allow a two-party state to exist.

Mandela was a forgiving president for the people, by the people, and of the people. His legacy was his spirit of forgiveness. He lived long enough for many in the country, who did seek retaliation, to have the opportunity to calm down, grow up, and move on in building a new South Africa. This spirit of forgiveness was expressed by one of the ANC party members—a brother in Christ—who had been locked up in jail for three months by the former government during the campaign of 1993. He was never given a reason why he was jailed.

A few years after the 1994 election, he was once touring the South in America. He took a tour through one of the museums that staged the relics of the former years of America in the South, particularly during the years of the marginalization of African Americans. The curator of the museum was giving his normal presentation of all the injustices against African Americans before they too were given the right to vote. After the curator had carried on for some time, our former jailed ANC party member innocently raised his hand and asked, “When did all this discrimination carry on in America?” The curator replied, “This all took place in America during and before the 1950s.”

Our ANC brother was somewhat taken back. So he politely responded to the curator, “We suffered all these injustices in our country up until the release of Mandela from prison and the 1994 election that was only couple years ago. But we have all forgiven all that systematic discrimination and moved on.” The spirit of Mandela had prevailed, and the curator had little to say in response.

As we have said before in other documents, we would not have wanted to live in any other country of the world during the transition before and after the 1994 election than in South Africa. It was indeed a thrilling time to experience the birth of a new nation that will carry on into the future. When the virtue of forgiveness prevails, any society that may have lost that cultural trait can upon restoration experience a beautiful metamorphosis into a new world.

Those days were indeed times to witness national forgiveness in action. There was no time for a spirit of retaliation to be revealed through post-election marches and building burning. It was a time to burn divisions, build cultural bridges, and march for national forgiveness and reconciliation. If a people cannot forgive the sins of the past, then certainly they can no longer claim to be a “Christian nation.” They have forgotten the number one moral standard that defines those who would walk after the character of the God in whom we believe.

You can now understand why we use the word “godly” in reference to this reconciliatory character of a leader who took his nation into a new world order for the people. Leaders who do not have this reconciliatory spirit are not fit for leadership. If their thirst for power, respite and retaliation compels them to spew out hatred and revenge on those of the past government, then they have lost their moral compass, if indeed they had a godlike spirit before their election into power. Likewise, if the old outgoing leadership portrays a spirit of unforgiveness after being voted out of power, then they should never have been in power in the first place.

We are of those after the One who set the character for all those who claim to be Christian. The last words of our “President” (King) who was voted out of a office on earth by the “political religionists” of the Jews of His day set the moral standard for our character forever: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). This defined the character of the early disciples. As Stephen laid down his head in sleep from thrown stones of retaliation from the “political” opposition, he cried out, “Lord, do not lay this sin to their charge” (At 7:60). We know that we have morphed into a godly moral paradigm when we say this in reference to those who have or will oppose us. If we would claim to be of Christ (Christian) in any way, then we must be known for being those of a forgiving spirit.

Godly means that we live after the behavior of God. And in reference to the behavior of God, it is by grace that we receive an unlimited measure of His forgiveness. We will never forget that “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). “For if you forgive men their trespasses,” our Lord Jesus said, “your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Mt 6:14). Paul emulated for all of us the character that should be typical of every person who would claim to be a disciple of the Son of God:

“To whom you forgive anything, I forgive also. For indeed what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven in the presence of Christ for your sakes” (2 Co 2:10).

One Body

Acts 12 is a good example of what happened in Jerusalem surrounding Herod’s efforts “to harass some of the church [ekklesia]” (At 12:1). What this effort on the part of Herod did for us is that it gave the historian Luke the opportunity to observe the early disciples’ function as the one organic body of Christ in a particular city.

At this time in the city of Jerusalem—about ten to twelve years after the events of Acts 2—the number of members of the church in Jerusalem could have been from 25,000 to 30,000, some historian estimate more. Since there was no place of common assembly for this number of members, the members met in the houses of the members that were scattered throughout the city.

Now notice carefully how Luke detailed Herod’s ambitions. Herod’s goal was not to harass some of the “churches” (plural), but some of the entire body of believers, the church. There was no such thing as approximately 1,000 autonomous “churches” throughout the city—assuming about twenty-five members meeting in one house assembly. There was only one church, but hundreds of assemblies. This is significant in reference to the organic function of the universal body of Christ. In this case, Luke’s account of this matter details that there was always only one church in any particular city that is mentioned in the book of Acts. There was no such thing as individual autonomous “churches” in the cities that are mentioned in the New Testament.

In order to accomplish his sinister deed, Herod arrested Peter. On this occasion, the whole church, that is every member in the city of Jerusalem went into prayer action. “So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was earnestly made to God for him by the church” (At 12:5). Again, reference was not to autonomous “churches” throughout the city of Jerusalem. Emphasis was on the one body, the one church in Jerusalem, though at the time the members were assembling in an estimated one thousand homes throughout the city.

The prayers were made, and God subsequently answered the prayers by sending an angel to fetch Peter out of jail (At 12:6-11). Once out of jail, Peter then went to only one house where there were disciples meeting in prayer for him (At 12:12). After some persistent knocking in order to be allowed to enter, Peter eventually explained all that had happened, and now he was free. But after encouraging the disciples who were meeting in that specific house, the house of Mary, Peter then said, “Go tell these things to James and to the brethren” (At 12:17).

There were other brethren of the church in Jerusalem who were not praying in the house of Mary. “The brethren” were scattered to houses throughout the city. Even after meeting in the house of Mary, Luke wanted to emphasize this point by recording, “Then he [Peter] departed [from the house of Mary] and went to another place [house]” (At 12:17).

At the time, the members of the church in Jerusalem (singular) were meeting in the homes of members throughout the city. All the members in many houses were offering up prayers as one organic body on behalf of Peter. Not all the members in the city of Jerusalem could assemble in the house of Mary. Nevertheless, it was still the church in the entire city that Herod set himself to harass. In this case, it was the one church functioning as one organic body in prayer. There was no such thing as autonomous church groups assembling throughout the city of Jerusalem. There was only one church in the city, and the members of this one church functioned as one body in offering up prayers for Peter to receive a “get out of jail free card,” which thing the angel became.

[I will republish a forthcoming book on this subject in a few weeks.]

Ours Is The Victory

The true personality of an individual is often revealed when he or she is thrown into an environment of hard times. During normal times, the person we seek to present to the public is often hidden under the cloak of a smile or soft tone of speech. Hard times, however, usually remove all the masks and people see us for who we are.

Sometimes it is through smooth and fair speech that some seek to conceal their true character or ambitions. At least this was in the mind of Paul when he wrote in Romans 16:18, “For they who are such serve not our Lord Christ but their own belly, and by appealing words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the innocent.”

Times of social chaos brought on by war or pandemics in society often bring out our true character, whether good or bad. It is during such times that the true character, or aspirations, of an individual are revealed. When a society is in social turmoil, the flaws that are embedded within a particular society as a whole are likewise brought to light. When discussing times of social chaos that afflict humanity at different times throughout history, it would be good to identify some of the character skeletons that are now coming out of the closet in these times of pandemic fear and lockdown. It is very interesting to see the true character of some societies during these times of social chaos. It is often quite unnerving to witness the social imperfections that rise to the top and present themselves through political ugliness and street riots.

On the other hand, there are some good things that are being revealed during these times when trials, both natural and political, are cast upon us as members of our society. We must not forget, therefore, that pandemics (hard times) reveal the best that is in people, but sometimes the ugly. Nevertheless, we often notice more the negative social behavioral traits that are revealed, while at the same time, we overlook those good things that also arise to the occasion.

When the Holy Spirit said, “All things work together for good to those who love God,” He was encouraging us to be optimistic (Rm 8:28). We must always look for the good that is emerging out of any worldwide calamity that may befall us during any time of social chaos. After all, trials that we face in times of social chaos are an opportunity to do as Jesus said we should do: “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16). This is exactly what Peter admonished his Jewish readers to do when God would eventually visit (judge) national Israel in A.D. 70:

“Keep your behavior honest among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers [as supposed Jewish insurrectionists], they may, because of your good works that they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation [or, judgment in A.D. 70](1 Pt 2:12).

We must always keep in mind that social chaos, whether triggered by wars, natural disasters or pandemics, is an opportunity for society to sort through the old order in order to formulate a new. Revolution in a particular society reveals that the people are seeking to discard the old order to find something new. Revolution is often the social mechanism for change within a society.

Though those who are involved in the immediate social chaos (revolution) may not know what new paradigm will come out of the social chaos, at least the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:28 encouraged Christians to be incurable optimists during such times. Hope must never be lost, regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. The beautiful thing about being on the side of Jesus is that we will always transition through whatever new normal that may arise out of any social chaos. We will victoriously transition because our minds are focused on those things that are above and not on those things that are on earth (See Cl 3:1,2). This is the foundation upon which John wrote in the theme verse of Revelation:

“These will make war with the Lamb and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. And those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful” (Rv 17:14).

When we view the present social chaos from the heavenly viewpoint of God, it is then that we can do as James, who at the time of writing, addressed his epistle to an audience of predominantly Jewish Christians who were about to enter into a decade of extreme social chaos. The social chaos of their time would produce a total meltdown of the Jewish society in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Therefore, when reading what James wrote, we understand that he was not writing to those who were in some comfort zone. He was writing to those who were in the consummation of a national heritage that had existed for over two thousand years. So James wrote to his fellow Jewish readers, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials” (Js 1:2). Our present social order may come to an end, as it did with the Jewish heritage of James and his immediate readers. But during the transition from the old to the new, King Jesus would still be leading victorious saints through all the social chaos of the transition.

The trials about which James wrote were more than individual hard times. Those to whom James wrote were at the beginning of the end of national Israel. The lives of the Jews would never be the same after they transitioned through the destruction of national Israel. It was a time, therefore, when the two millennia old Jewish heritage was going to be transformed, if not in many ways come to an end. Nevertheless, because their minds were focused on the unchanging reign of King Jesus, Jewish Christians had nothing to fear. On the contrary, they had everything about which to rejoice because Jesus could never be unseated from His throne by any social chaos that would transpire on the earth.

Christians today can likewise have all hope and joy because they know that during times of social chaos Jesus is still King of kings. He is still Lord of lords. He is still on His throne with authority over all things (Hb 1:3). Regardless of what social paradigm in which Christians may find themselves at any time in history, they can count their trials with all joy because their faith is their victory (1 Jn 5:4). They can do so because they know the final outcome of all things. Therefore, times of social chaos are an opportunity for each one of us to remember who is still the King of the universe.

“Please Take Me!”

So in thoughtful preparation for an anticipated journey to do some filming for a dynamic new series concerning our spiritual connection with King Jesus, I delicately lifted my Canon camera out of its carrying case in order to recharge the battery and check the memory card. As usual in my office, there was this faithful fluffy creature looking with a forlorn stare at me from the floor. Because of previous unfortunate experiences on his part, he was evidently anticipating that something was up. And what was up was him being left home alone. Nevertheless, ignoring the forlorn stare of our critter, Marmalade, I briefly stepped outside the office for a moment in order to place the battery in the charger.

I was not gone for a couple minutes before I returned. When I entered the office, I found sight of a beggar about which numerous imaginable captions could been inscribed. You can scribble your own about the above pathetic photograph I had to click off with the camera. The picture could assume countless thoughts that were going through Marmalade’s pleading cat mind. Maybe he thought, “Please, don’t leave me again.” “See, you have room for me. I can fit anywhere” “If you leave me, I will have to stay home with mother, and that can be quite boring.” “See! See! I will take up no room at all, so please don’t leave me behind.”

Ever since I took that photo I have assumed my own captions. It did stimulate a flashback to my youth when I was about five or six years old on a Kansas farm. My brother was almost two years older than me at the time. Our father was farming some fields that were about a forty-five minute drive west of the farm house. He would load up the truck early in the morning, hitch up the trailer with needed farm equipment, and then my brother and I, after we realized that it was time for adventure, started our individual routine of begging to go.

“Please don’t leave me,” each one of us pled until our father eventually relinquished to the pleas of only one of us. For safety reasons and space in the cab of the truck, he could take only one of us. And besides this, when he returned at the end of the day, it would be far into the night hours. Nevertheless, to this day I can remember how despondent I was when I was not the chosen one, and thus, had to be left behind.

When my father returned home far into the night, I had long gone to bed. But I remember that those were boring days when I simply wandered around looking for something to do. And picking vegetables out of the garden all day long with your mother was not that exciting. Those were the days before X-Box and video games. And without a television, it was difficult dreaming up something to do by one’s self all day long.

As small children, we have this inborn urge to always be taken, never left behind. Sometimes we just want our Father to reach down, pick us up, and take us wherever, regardless. Maybe I have become somewhat sentimental in my old age … or senile—Martha keeps reminding me it is probably more of the latter.

For some reason, I also remember when I was four years old, and having just visited Longwood’s Clinic on a side street of Stafford, Kansas, my father, mother and I were walking from the clinic on East Main street. We were walking toward the main intersection of the small “town” (village) of about 2,700 people. As we approached the bank on the corner, I look up at my father as a four-year-old and pleaded, “Can you carry me?” My father looked down and said, “Can’t you walk?” But with four-year-old pleading eyes I looked up and lamented, “Yes, but I’m tired.” So without further ado, I was picked up and into his arms. I was taken up into his arms and felt reassured that there was strength present who could carry me in my time of need.

After the apostle John had written a lengthy revelation concerning the horrendous times that were about to come upon his readers in a few years, he was personally exhausted about what had just been revealed to him through visions. He was exhausted. So he subsequently fell down before King Jesus after he had dotted the last thoughts of an extremely prophetic dissertation of tribulations through which the early disciples were about to go. John scribbled the last revealed words of King Jesus to all humanity on earth: “He who testified these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly’” (Rv 22:20).

The King wanted to reassure the now exhausted scribe, but also remind His disciples for ages to come, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places … I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself [in my arms], so that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn 14:2,3). John’s response to the King at the end of the book of Revelation was sublimely inspirational. His recording of what he cried out in reference to the presence of King Jesus was inspired to be written for our encouragement in times of social turmoil. After seeing all the graphic visions of judgment, John simply burst out on the isle of Patmos with a statement that has reverberated down through the centuries unto this very day: “Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rv 22:20). That response should be continually on our lips in prayer.

In the desperation of our times, we feel the same as John. If the sin and sickness of this world is the way it is going to be until King Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels (2 Th 1:6-9), then we too cry out in prayer, “Come now, Lord Jesus.” Take us up into your arms and take us home to another land. Don’t leave us in a world that is infected with so much sin and sickness. And surely, in due time, this will transpire … better sooner than later. We know that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and the trumpet of God” in order to take us up into His arms for eternal residence in a place that has been prepared just for us (2 Th 4:16). We all, therefore, would respond in chorus with John, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” Don’t leave us behind! I agree with Goldsmith who wrote, “For here forlorn and lost I tread.”

The Main Point

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.

[The book will be coming out within a month.]

The Final Shaking

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.”

[Next chapter: May 7]