Friday, April 26, 2013

OSAS vs The Spirit of Grace

Because the children of Israel were rebellious and stiff-necked while God led them through the wilderness, Moses longed for the day that the same Spirit of God that rested on him could also rest on the people (Numbers 11:29). Without the Holy Spirit, the people were doomed to rebellion and as a result many of the Israelites perished in their iniquity and lack of faith to the extent that only the next generation could enter the promised land. However, Hallelujah that the day that Moses longed for was fulfilled! God in his grace and love sent us the Holy Spirit, without which we would have no hope.

John the Baptist said I baptize you in water for repentance but one who is coming after me will baptize you in the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7 Jesus said "that unless I go", the Comforter, the Holy Spirit cannot come to you. In Acts 19, Paul was concerned about the believers in Ephesus. Although they were baptized in water and believed in Jesus, they did not yet receive the Holy Spirit. Why was the Holy Spirit so important?

The receiving of the Holy Spirit was the beginning of God's reconciliation with man! Before God had no choice but to withhold his Spirit due to iniquity. Sin is an abomination to God and he can't even bear to look at it (Prov 6:16). But Jesus' death was the perfect sacrifice and his shed blood allows God to passover our former lives in sin. So after Jesus went up, the Holy Spirit could come down.

Whenever we have sin in our lives, the Holy Spirit convicts us of it and leads us to repentance. Repentance is more than saying "I'm sorry", the greek word metanoia means a change of heart or mind. With this in mind if our heart is not turned to the Lord and our mind is not changed then we will perish just like the Israelites who rebelled and complained against God in the wilderness.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
While the Holy Spirit is faithful to us, God is a gentleman and he will never violate our free will. We can reject the Holy Spirit either knowingly or unknowingly based on our choices. In Hebrews 10:26-30 Paul shows how believers can outrage the Spirit of grace:
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth,there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay"
How then do we overcome sin and cooperate with the Holy Spirit? It's by following the desires of our spirit and not our flesh.

Romans 8:1 (KJV) says
"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
That last phrase is dangerously left out in the NIV and the Recovery Version. However the original manuscripts have that phrase!

Paul goes on to say in verse 14:
"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God."
Now the remaining verses concerning the spirit versus flesh make so much more sense:
"For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace."
"But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law." Galatians 5:16-18
If we walk according to the flesh, we will sin to gratify the desires of the flesh. The Apostle John relates those those who practice sin as children of the devil:
"Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil." 1 John 3:8
It's sober warning because if we become of the devil through practice of sin, then we will meet the same fate as him.

John continues:
"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God."
There's so many other warnings throughout the whole bible that echo this. One of the more prominent ones is when Paul warns the believers in Ephesians 5 and again in Galatians 5 that those who practice sin will not inherit God's kingdom. 

This is what it means to me to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. It is in all things to be led by the spirit of grace that God gave to us freely (hence grace) and to put to death our flesh so we will never gratify its desires, knowing full well how close we still are to hell. This is why Jesus said you cannot be my disciple unless you pick up your cross and follow me. Taking the cross daily is required and not optional.

We receive the Holy Spirit because we have been reconciled to God through Jesus. With his Spirit, we also get God's life and that life will transform us and save us so that we become like Jesus-- so that we can stand with confidence on the day of judgement.
1 John 4:17
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.
That said, we still have free will choice whether or not to cooperate with the Holy Spirit. Have you ever wondered why in the Lord's prayer, Jesus said "lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:13)? If eternal security is a true doctrine, then that prayer wouldn't make any sense because once you're saved you're always saved. But because Jesus loved us, He gave us this way to pray so that our souls could be preserved.

We see this again when Jesus tells Peter that Satan has requested to sift his soul (Luke 22:31). Jesus goes on to say that He prayed that his faith would be strong-- implying that God didn't spare Peter but granted Satan his wish, just like He did with Job! But Hallelujah we have nothing to fear because greater is He that is in us than the one in the world (1 John 4:4). And we are thankful to Jesus because He is our heavenly high priest that is interceding and praying for our faith to be made strong, just like he did with Peter. Peter though he failed horribly earlier, was eventually able to overcome Satan's testing, becoming one of the pillars of the church as an apostle, and persevere in his faith in Christ until the day of his martyrdom.
Matthew 24:13
"But the one who endures to the end will be saved."

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Where the body is, there also the vultures will be gathered

If you had to pick the most enigmatic statement Jesus ever made, it wouldn't be a stretch to say it was Luke 17:37. It's the last verse in this passage:
I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord? And he said unto them, Wheresoever the body is, thither will the eagles be gathered together. (Luke 17:34-37, KJV)
I read many commentaries on this verse, but none of the answers seemed to make sense. Many have remarked that the body or the corpses are in reference to antichrist's armies being destroyed at Armageddon (side note: NIV and many other translations say vultures instead of eagles, however the Greek word aetos used here can also refer to eagles or other large birds of prey). In the context of the preceding verses in Luke 17 this explanation seems really out of place since Jesus was talking about people being taken and others being left behind while working or sleeping-- something that's really hard to relate to the aftermath of a serious battle.

For a month, I asked the Holy Spirit for understanding concerning Luke 17:37 and a similar verse in Matthew 24:28. Finally, just this morning around 5am, I believed I have finally received an answer while praying in bed and would like to share it here! Since these verses may have implications on the timing of the rapture -- whether it's post or pre tribulation, I don't want to get into that controversy right now. However I must be faithful to what I have received, so I ask those who believe that the rapture is post-tribulation to keep an open mind since the implication of my interpretation may imply that there will be a pre-trib or pre-wrath rapture. As a disclaimer: I am currently leaning towards the belief that there will be both-- a partial pre-trib rapture of overcoming saints signified by the barley harvest preceding the Feast of First Fruits in the OT, followed by a post-trib rapture of the remaining majority of Christians signified by the wheat harvest in the OT leading up to the Feast of Tabernacles, or sukkot. 

Some bible commentators have remarked that the eagles refer to the saints, or those who 'wait' upon the Lord in reference to Isaiah 40:31
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
If the eagles are referring to the saints, what are they doing around a body or carcass? (side note: Matthew 24:28 substitutes the word body for carcass which is ptoma in Greek). It seems like a pretty gruesome picture and it's what I asked the Lord this morning that led me to the following and the picture is so clear once you see it!

In Luke 17:37 the word used for body in Greek is soma (Strong's Greek word 5393). soma means living body and it is the same word used for body in Luke 22:19 when Jesus says
And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
What does Jesus mean by his body being given to us? In John 6:54-56, Jesus makes a statement that caused many of his followers to be stumbled and leave him:
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them.
Now imagine if we were to literally carry out what Jesus is asking of us here. Picture in your head a scene where many are gathered around the body of Jesus and are eating his flesh and drinking his blood. You could almost relate it to a gathering of vultures around a carcass-- the same picture Jesus gives in Luke 17:37 and Matthew 24:28!

What does it mean to eat Jesus' flesh?  In John 1:14, the "word [of God] became flesh". We know from John 1:1 before Jesus became a man, He was the word of God. In Matthew 4, Jesus likens God's word to food by telling Satan, "Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God". The link between Jesus as food and God's word deepens even more in John 15:6-7 when Jesus relates abiding in His word as the key to eternal life:
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
This goes on to show how important it is for us to 'abide' or live on God's word. God's word is our true food and without it we will truly starve to death. However, since Jesus, who was the word of God, became man, we can not only eat God's word, but we can also eat Jesus! This is why in John 15:7, Jesus says "if you abide in me AND my words abide in you" and in John 6:35, Jesus declares:
I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
I feel that a big burden of Jesus' ministry was trying to reveal this mystery, that He alone is our true life source. So in order for us to truly live, we have to follow Jesus wherever he goes, because He is our only food supply and without him we cannot live. This is exactly what is described by Revelation 14:4 regarding saints who follow the Lamb wherever he goes!
These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb.
Furthermore, the Lamb can be a likened to a body in Revelation 13:8 as "the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world." Just as the saints follow the Lamb wherever it goes, so do the vultures or eagles flock to the carcass to feed on it in Matthew 24:28 and Luke 17:37.  Jesus is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6), without Him we cannot live!

Bringing things back to Luke 17:37, the disciples ask "Where Lord?" because they wanted to know where the men and women who were 'taken' in the preceding verses are. So Jesus in answering this question responded "Where the body is there the eagles will also be gathered." We have clearly shown that the body/carcass refers to the Lord Jesus, or the Lamb of God who was slain. So we now have the answer to the disciples' question. Where are the men and women taken to? We know that the Lamb of God is in heaven from Revelation 14. Thereby the eagles, or the saints, are taken to heaven!

So what Jesus is describing in Luke 17:34-36 is the taking up of the first fruits of God (Revelation 14:4) who by waiting on the Lord, mount up on eagle's wings into heaven (Isaiah 40:31) and follow the  carcass which is the "Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world" wherever it goes.  Jesus is giving us a promise that by waiting on Him as a faithful bride, he will leave an open door for us as he describes in Revelation 3 and Isaiah 26 to be with him in heaven until the indignation  passes (Isaiah 26:20). This is one of those times when we just have to take a moment to marvel at the beauty of God's word and say Hallelujah!