What is the Rapture? Part II

(For part one of this series, click here: What is the rapture? Part I )

Matt, Josh, and Sarah, Ben Kaplan’s medical students, were excited. The time of their weekly meeting with Ben had finally arrived.

“So, Dr. Kaplan, we’re raring to go! Tell us more about the rapture, please,” said Sarah.

“Sure, Sarah,” said Ben. “Let’s start with a short recap. Let me read again the 3 verses in the Bible that most obviously talk about the rapture:

“For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 (ESV)

“As we said last time, because they happen so closely together in time, we’re going to refer to the raising up of both groups, the dead in Christ and the we who are alive, as the rapture. And because the rapture and the tribulation are closely related, we are going to talk about the tribulation today.

“There is coming a time of great tribulation on the earth. The tribulation occurs after the rapture. So when believers are raptured they are saved from entering the time of the tribulation. Although the world has one heck of a lot of tribulation now, The Tribulation will be much worse than any tribulation that has ever happened so far. It will last 7 years and it will be a time during which God pours out His wrath on this planet. The wrath and accompanying judgements will be concentrated and extremely severe. The 7 years of The Tribulation are divided into two equal periods of three and one-half years each. The second half of The Tribulation is even worse than the first half. For that reason it is sometimes called The Great Tribulation and another name used to describe this second half of The Tribulation is The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah.

“Jesus talked about The Great Tribulation in the 24th chapter of Matthew. Matt, please read verse 21, spoken by Jesus,” said Ben.

“Sure, Dr. Kaplan.”

21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. Matthew 24:21 (ESV)

“Dr. Kaplan, hasn’t there ever been a time like this already on the earth? What about all the natural disasters and mass murders that have occurred right up to the present time and are still occurring? What about Hitler’s Holocaust and other episodes of genocide since then? ” asked Matt.

“Matt, The Tribulation has not yet occurred and we’ll prove that a little later in our discussion when we talk about something called The Abomination of Desolation, but for now, I’d like you to just keep in your minds the idea that The Tribulation will be bad beyond anything we can even imagine right now. We, the 4 of us here together today, do not want to go through that period of time and, praise God, He has ordained that we will not go through it. He will catch us up from the surface of the earth to meet Jesus in the air, along with our dear departed brothers and sisters who accepted Jesus when they were alive. They will be resurrected, ” said Ben. “Let me read that to you again from the Bible,” said Ben.

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (ESV)

“All of this will happen in the blink of an eye, essentially instantaneously,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, how do we know when the rapture will occur? I know that you read 2 other verses last time, telling us that God is going to deliver us from future wrath. The Tribulation is that future wrath, right?” asked Josh. “But if that’s the correct interpretation, can you prove that to us?”

Sarah spoke up. “Amen, Dr. Kaplan. I’d also like to have proof of this timing, proof that the rapture occurs before The Tribulation. I’m already reading, in various books and articles, that many people believe that the dead in Christ and the we who are alive, of 1Thessalonians 4:16-17, will be raptured after The Tribulation, not before. So how do we know for sure that we will be caught up in the clouds before The Tribulation starts?”

Matt spoke up too. “I agree with Josh and Sarah. I’d like proof that the rapture is before The Tribulation, that it’s pretribulational. Can you give us that proof, Dr. Kaplan? Because if you can, that’s going to be something! What an incredible thing it would be if I can know that I won’t be on earth during the time of The Tribulation. And one other thing, Dr. Kaplan. I’ve come across articles that refer to this 7 year Tribulation as the 70th week of the prophet Daniel. What is that all about? Does that fit in with our current discussion?”

“I cannot believe how much the 3 of you are learning! It’s fantastic! And you’re asking great questions! Matt, Daniel’s 70th week surely does fit in with what we are talking about, and thanks for asking about it! We will get to that a little bit later on,” said Ben. “But getting back to what the 3 of you are asking for. You are asking for proof that the rapture occurs before The Tribulation. I believe that the Bible furnishes that proof. In order to understand that proof, we need to talk about something called imminence. A standard English dictionary will tell us that imminence is a state or condition when something is about to happen. But from Matthew 24, we derive a slightly different definition of imminence. Imminence refers to a thing that is going to happen suddenly, at an hour that we cannot know, with no preconditions required in order for it to happen. If we believe that Jesus could come today to catch us up to meet Him in the clouds then we believe that the rapture is imminent. He doesn’t have to come today but He could. We cannot know the day or the hour. But when He comes it will be sudden. That’s what imminence means,” said Ben.

“So the Biblical definition of imminence is a definition deduced from what Jesus said in Matthew 24?” asked Josh.

“Exactly, Josh, and it’s not just from Matthew 24 but for now we’ll stick to Matthew 24. We’ll take this in bite sized pieces,” said Ben.

“So the rapture is imminent and that word is not actually in Scripture but is deduced from Scripture?” asked Matt.

“That’s exactly right, Matt,” said Ben.

“And a Biblical definition of imminence speaks of an event that could happen at any time, of an event that when it occurs will occur in an instant , and of an event that requires no preconditions that have to occur first. Is that right?” said Josh.

“Beautifully summarized, Josh!” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, why is it important to know if the rapture is imminent or not?” asked Sarah.

“Sarah, you have just asked the most important question of the day, or perhaps of the year. Thank you! It is important to know if the rapture is imminent because if it is imminent then we cannot know the hour and if we cannot know the hour, then we must be ready at all times! And as I hope to show you soon, if the rapture is imminent, that means that any theory that requires the rapture to occur after The Tribulation has started has to be incorrect. So our next task is to prove that the rapture is imminent and I believe that we can do that from what Jesus said in Matthew 24,” said Ben.

“OK, Dr. Kaplan. I’m all ears and I can’t wait to hear the proof. But one more question first, please,” said Josh.

“Sure, Josh,” said Ben.

“You said that an imminent rapture means we must be ready at all times. Are you referring to Matthew 24: 44? Can I read that verse to you?” said Josh.

“Please do, Josh,” said Ben. Josh read.

44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. Matthew 24:44 (ESV)

Ben spoke. “The Greek word for ready in this verse is hetoimos. It means prepared. So Jesus is telling us that we must be prepared for his coming for us, that we must be prepared for the rapture. It means, Josh, that we must know Jesus, that we must be born again, that we must be saved. Because if we’re not, we won’t be raptured. If we’re not, provided we don’t die first, when the rapture happens we’ll be left behind and we will enter the time of The Tribulation.”

“Is this ever getting exciting, and serious, Dr. Kaplan!” said Sarah. “But you still haven’t given us the proof, from Matthew 24. I have no doubt that you will though.”

“God has indeed provided us with the proof, Sarah, and we’ll get to that right at the beginning of our next session,” said Ben.

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What is the Rapture? Part I

Please listen to Ben Kaplan, MD, as he and his students begin a dialog about the rapture.

Ben Kaplan always looked forward to meetings with his medical students and they were right on time today.

“Hi, Josh and Matt. What a pleasure it is to see you today!” said Ben. “And I see that you’ve brought Sarah along with you again. What a treat! How are things going with you?”

“I’m born again, Dr. Kaplan! I’ve accepted Jesus as my Lord and Saviour,” said Sarah.

“I couldn’t be happier to hear that, Sarah. What made you finally decide?” asked Ben.

“Everything that you, Matt, and Josh have shared with me makes perfect sense. After I left you last time I began to read the Bible. I’ve been reading from both the Old and New Testaments. I can see that the coming of Jesus to save us was prophesied in many places in the Old Testament and I am now convinced that He is the Jewish Messiah and my Lord and Savior,” said Sarah. “But something else has come up in my Bible reading Dr. Kaplan. I have been trying to understand the meaning of a couple of verses in the New Testament and I’m not getting very far even with help from Josh and Matt,” said Sarah.

“Dr. Kaplan, these verses seem to be talking about something absolutely wild and I don’t understand what they mean,” said Josh.

“Can you explain those verses to us today?” asked Matt. “May I read them to you, Dr. Kaplan?”

“Please do Matt,” said Ben.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.

17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

“I can understand why Josh would say these verses talk about something absolutely wild, Matt. They describe the resurrection of the dead and the rapture of the living saints. We’ll use the term rapture to cover both. Have the 3 of you heard of the rapture?” said Ben. “The word rapture is derived from the Latin word rapturo which is itself a translation of the Greek word harpazo, used in the original New Testament manuscripts. It means “caught up” or “snatched up”.

The 3 students shook their heads. All 3 gazed at Ben with expectancy. He’d certainly gotten their attention.

“Let me first say that the rapture is really good news for every believer in Jesus, meaning for every born again person. You see there is a time that will come on our entire planet and it is getting closer every day. It’s called the Tribulation.  Personally, I believe it is quite close at this present time.  The Tribulation is not just trials and tribulations, things that we suffer every day. Without question trials and tribulations can be very bad. They can be absolutely horrific in fact. But The Tribulation is something very different. The Bible has a lot to say about it. It’s going to be a time of judgement on the earth, a time when God will pour out His wrath on all those who have never accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. It will be bad for all people dwelling on the earth but it will be especially bad for the Jewish people and Israel.  It is prophesied in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It will be 7 years long.  It’s going to be a very, very bad time, the worst time in all history.  Nothing before it and nothing following it will be as bad. There will be natural disasters on an unprecendented scale, there will be plagues, and there will be relentless persecution of people, especially the Jewish people, because during this 7 year period of the Tribulation the Anti-Christ will be used by Satan in his final attempt to annihilate the entire Jewish race. The Tribulation will be really bad for everyone but for the Jews it will be much worse than Hitler’s Holocaust and the Anti-Christ will be worse than Hitler.

“The rapture occurs before the 7 year Tribulation. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ, when Jesus comes back to the earth, occurs following the Tribulation,” said Ben. “Jesus will actually touch down on the earth, on terra firma, in Jerusalem, at His Second Coming. He does not do that when He comes for believers at the rapture. When Jesus comes for His saints at the time of the rapture He descends only as far as the upper atmosphere and His saints meet Him there.

“Much is predicted or prophesied about the Second Coming of Jesus to the earth in both Testaments but as far as I know there is nothing specific or definite about the rapture in the Old Testament,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, please slow down. My head is spinning,” said Josh. “Can we back up please? What exactly is the rapture?”

“You bet Josh. Let’s take this one step at a time.  We won’t finish this discussion today because there is so much to talk about,” said Ben. “There will come a time, a moment, when Jesus will return for His people to snatch them from the earth and take them back to heaven with Him. All people who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior but have died, “the dead in Christ”, and all people who have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior and are alive, the “we who are alive”, will be caught up together to meet Jesus in the air. These 2 groups of believers – New Testament believers – are often referred to in the New Testament as being “in Christ” and also as “saints”. Both groups will be snatched up to meet Jesus in the air and in an instant they will all have new bodies that will be imperishable and immortal. That is the rapture, Josh,” said Ben.

“Now 2 other verses tell us that Jesus takes these believers back to heaven with Him. Those verses are in the Gospel of John. Jesus is talking with the Apostles shortly before He goes to the cross to die and the Bible tells us that the words that Jesus spoke then are also for us today, even in the 21st century. Let’s read those other verses now,” said Ben.

John 14:2-3

2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

“Let’s now read 2 other verses together. These 2 verses testify to the fact that when believers are raptured they will have new bodies,” said Ben. “Sarah, would you please read these 2 verses?”

With excitement, Sarah read out loud while Matt, Josh, and Ben listened intently.

1 Corinthians 15:52-53

52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.

53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality.

“Dr. Kaplan, this is nearly unbelievable! I mean the Bible says it, so I believe it. But this is really something!” said Sarah. “It’s absolutely wild!”

“Yeah!!” said Josh and Matt in unison.

“It is wild Sarah,” said Ben. “We have a great God!

“Now, I think that this has left us all breathless with wonder and maybe we’ve had enough for today. But there is one more thing that we should address today before we go home and that is the timing of the rapture.”

“Do you mean that we can actually know the precise time that we’ll be caught up and get our new bodies?” asked Matt.

“No, Matt. Jesus explained that the exact time is known only to the Father. But we can know the times and seasons of God’s calendar and there is no question in my mind that God wants us to know these times and seasons so that we will be ready when Jesus comes for us.

“What I’m talking about now is the timing of the rapture with regard to the 7 year Tribulation,” said Ben.

“Dr. Kaplan, wouldn’t it be kind of intuitive that believers in Jesus would be caught up out of this world and go to heaven with Jesus before the Tribulation starts, that God would not pour out His wrath on us?” said Sarah.

“For sure, Dr. Kaplan! God wouldn’t want believers to suffer through the Tribulation, would He?” said Josh.

“I agree with you both, that God will “rapture us out” before the time of the Tribulation.  But there are others who do not agree including some pretty serious students of the Bible. Their position is that believers will go through part or all of the 7 year Tribulation before the rapture occurs. So I want to try to equip you today to understand why the Pre-Tribulation rapture position is the correct one. It’s important to know that because knowing that we’ll be raptured before the Tribulation begins gives us tremendous hope and you and I surely want and need that hope!” said Ben.

“To begin to understand why the Pre-Tribulation rapture position is the correct position, let’s read another 2 verses together,” said Ben.

1 Thessalonians 1:10

10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

1 Thessalonians 5:9

9 For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

“It looks like one of these verses is telling us that Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come and the other verse says that God has not destined us for wrath, right Dr. Kaplan?” said Matt.

“Exactly, Matt,” said Ben.

“But how do we know that these 2 verses are talking about the wrath of the Tribulation?” asked Sarah.

“Great question, Sarah!” said Ben. “It has to do with the context of these 2 verses and we don’t have time to go into that today, but we will, and soon.

“I do want to leave you with just one more thing today to strengthen you. It’s called the Golden Rule of Scripture Interpretation. It was given to us by Dr. David L. Cooper, a great man of God who went home to be with the Lord in 1965. Let me read it to you,” said Ben.

When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word, at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.

“If we stick with this rule we’ll do well. Unfortunately many people today, including some Bible scholars and some pastors of very large churches, don’t follow this rule. When that happens, it’s easy to become confused, to go down the wrong path, and to mislead people.”

“This has just been a great meeting today, Dr. Kaplan,” said Sarah. “I can’t wait for the next one.”

“I feel so excited and hopeful,” said Josh.

“Ditto,” said Matt.

“Thanks. I’m looking forward to our next meeting too!” said Ben. “Let’s close today with a word of praise to our Lord and Savior.

“Father in Heaven, thank you for sending the Lord Jesus to save us. We thank you that we will be with you for eternity. And we thank you that you will save us from the Tribulation, from the wrath to come. You are so good Lord. In Jesus’ Name we pray. Amen.”

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Who is the Messiah? Part 2

This post is dedicated to Lynn Wright and Aaron Hyman.

My dear Jewish brothers and sisters, I think you know by now that I have an unshakable conviction that Yeshua, Jesus, is our Messiah. If I have this unshakable conviction, why is it that so many Jewish people refuse to believe that Yeshua is the Messiah? I practiced medicine for 46 years and my specialty was making the correct diagnosis in difficult cases. I was successful at it, and to be successful at it, I had to analyze data and weigh evidence constantly. Weighing evidence is a significant part of what we need to do when we approach a question such as “Is Yeshua the Messiah?” Nevertheless, there are reasons why most Jewish people do not believe Yeshua is The Messiah, and in attempting to find out why, I had to sift and weigh a great deal of evidence, both positive and negative. An important piece of negative evidence is something that is important in Judaism today. It is the 13 Articles of Faith formulated by a rabbi who has had a profound influence on Jewish thought and belief for the past approximately 900 years. His name is Maimonides, and there is no rabbi held in greater esteem today by Jewish people all over the world than Maimonides.

Maimonides, also known as the Rambam, an acronym for Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, was born in Spain, where his father was a prominent rabbi. The family was forced to leave Spain because of severe persecution from the Almohades Islamic Dynasty which ruled in Spain and in Western North Africa. The family relocated to Fez, Morocco, where persecution from the very same Islamic sect again forced the Rambam and his family to depart. After a brief stay in Palestine, Maimonides settled in Egypt where the Almohades Dynasty did not rule, and due to his brilliance, kindness, and love for his people, the Jewish people, he became head of the Jewish community in Egypt. It should also be noted that The Crusades started not long before Maimonides was born. So Maimonides lived at a very turbulent time and, in fact, things were so bad for the Jews that there was at that time great yearning for the coming of The Messiah so that peace would reign and persecution would cease. I think it would have been very hard for Maimonides to accept the belief that The Messiah, Yeshua, had already come and would come again at a later date. Maimonides had been taught that when the Son of David, The Messiah, came there would be world peace and that the Jews would never be persecuted again.

This brilliant young rabbi, Maimonides, codified Jewish Law from the Hebrew Scriptures and the Talmud in his monumental work, the Mishneh Torah. It is from the Mishneh Torah that we get the 613 laws that we Jews know about today. The Mishneh Torah is revered by rabbis all over the world.

Maimonides also authored the 13 Principles of the Jewish Faith, mentioned above, which in his eyes every true Jew should know and believe. In fact, The Principles are recited in synagogues around the world today in the form of the Yigdal prayer found in the Siddur. I have it in my very own Artscroll Siddur1. Each of the 13 Principles begins with “I believe in perfect faith”. These Thirteen Principles are taken very seriously indeed. Although Maimonides lived about a thousand years after Yeshua’s time, understanding the Rambam’s 13 Principles can help to explain why many Jewish people today refuse to believe in Yeshua.

I want to talk with you now about one of The Thirteen Principles, namely the Third Principle. The Third Principle is the negation of corporeality. God cannot have a body. Since Jesus had a body and said that he was God the Third Principle makes Jesus a liar and a scoundrel. Jesus also said that he was the Messiah. How could a Jewish person accept a scoundrel and a liar as The Messiah? There is no way! Except for one thing: the Rambam, as great and good as he was, was dead wrong. Let me show you the evidence for this by looking at a portion of Scripture with you from the New Testament that shows us that Maimonides’s Third Principle is absolutely incorrect. This Scripture portion will show us two things: that Yeshua was, and is, God, and that God can be corporeal, meaning that God can have a body. Here is the Scripture portion:

“And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home.” Matthew 9:1-7 (ESV)

So what happened here? A number of things:

  1. Yeshua said to a paralytic, who could not walk, “your sins are forgiven”.
  2. Because only God can forgive sins, Yeshua was saying that he is God.
  3. This was clearly recognized by some of the Jewish scribes because they said “This man is blaspheming”.
  4. When a person is forgiven of his or her sins there is no immediate way to know that that has occurred. There is no outward change in the person’s appearance that can be observed.
  5. Therefore, Yeshua offered proof to the scribes that he had authority on earth to forgive sins by doing a miracle which was much more difficult to do than proclaiming “Your sins are forgiven” to a person and which could be verified by an easily observable external change: Yeshua told the paralyzed man to pick up his bed and go home, and the man immediately did this. He was healed.

Please also note that Yeshua referred to Himself here as the Son of Man:

But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—

Yeshua did this to call attention to the fact that not only is he God, he is also human, and that would of course be obvious to anyone who saw him. He was and is a man. But because he could and can forgive sins, he is God. He is the God-Man. He has two natures: he is perfectly human in every way, except for the fact that there is no sin in him (unlike each and every one of us) and, he is God, the Son of God, with all the attributes of God. He had to have both natures, that of God and that of man in order to save us. Because to save us required the ultimate blood sacrifice and that means that Yeshua had to die, and as God he could not die. He had to have the nature of man in order to die and the nature of God in order to forgive sin by becoming the perfect blood sacrifice. Please remember that the Torah makes it clear that a blood sacrifice is required to make atonement for sin (Leviticus 17:11) and please also note that the blood of animals could not provide permanent forgiveness of sins. That is why animals had to be sacrificed again and again. Yeshua’s one blood sacrifice provides permanent forgiveness of sins for anyone who will accept it by faith.

Please note one other thing. Jesus proved he is God. God does not lie. Jesus said he is the Messiah. Therefore, he is The Messiah..

So, my dear Jewish brothers and sisters, can you see how Maimonides’s Third Principle can seriously discourage a Jewish person from accepting Jesus as Messiah and God? And can you imagine the effect that this Third Principle could have on a modern Rabbi, who’s job it is to teach people the truth, but who may be unwittingly teaching his people an untruth embedded in this Third Principle? And do you know that because this Third Principle is so embedded in our prayerbooks, teachings, and culture, that you, as a Jew today, can be affected by it even if you have never heard of Maimonides or his 13 Principles of the Jewish Faith? Let me say it once more: The teaching that God can not have a body is incorrect (more about this another time; our Hebrew Scriptures spell this out clearly also). And saying, and believing, that God came to earth as The Messiah and God, as The God-Man (there is only One!), does not make you a heretic. On the contrary, it makes you a truer Jew than you could ever otherwise be!

We will talk about these things more in future posts because there is much more to say. But in the next post, we’ll switch gears and talk about something different. We will talk about something that Yeshua paid the price for us to escape from, if we have faith in Him. We will talk about something called The Time of Jacob’s Trouble and we will also talk about something called The Rapture.

Hope to see you next time!

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Who is The Messiah?

Why is it important to know who The Messiah is? Because he is the primary agent in the cure for death. He can bring a person from death to life. My dear Jewish brothers and sisters, that is important!

So, let’s talk about The Messiah. But first let’s get our terms straight. The word Messiah comes from the Greek word and the later Latin word Messias. Messiah is the word we use in the English language. The Hebrew word is Mashiach. Messiah means an anointed one, usually one anointed with oil, as the first High Priest, Aaron, was. But in this post I’m not talking about an anointed Old Testament Levitical priest or an anointed Old Testament king. Nor am I talking about any other Old Testament person whom the LORD had chosen to anoint and set apart for a particular purpose. I’m also not talking about a person who might be a “messiah” in a secular sense. For example, a military general who wins a great war and by doing so saves his nation from invasion and defeat by an enemy force, might be referred to as a messiah even though such a person would not generally be anointed with oil. We are not going to talk about that type of messiah. We are going to talk about The Messiah, of whom there is only one. It is he who brings peace, righteousness, and the Messianic Age. The Messiah essentially brings heaven to earth. This is The Messiah that Jews have been waiting for, for thousands of years.

If you try to look for the one source or the one text that specifies who The Messiah is or what his qualifications are you won’t find one source for this information. And there is no definite agreement even among Jewish scholars and Rabbis as to who The Messiah is or which ancient books or texts can be used to identify him. And it’s important to know how we might identify The Messiah because if we don’t have reliable criteria we could miss The Messiah when he comes or we could wrongly identify an individual who is not The Messiah as being The Messiah. So how do we begin our quest to find The Messiah? Did he already come or do we look for him yet to come? And where do we look for answers to these questions?

As noted above, Messiah, or Mashiach, means anointed one. But the Jewish people mainly used the word Mashiach to describe that person, a human being and not God, who would be the deliverer or liberator or saviour of the Jewish people and Jewish Nation. So The Messiah is someone who would deliver the Nation of Israel and the Jewish people from disaster or catastrophe or oppression and such a person in actuality would not necessarily be distinguishable by being anointed with oil. Certainly someone thought to be The Messiah could be anointed with oil by a person with the authority to declare an individual to be The Messiah. But there is a potential problem with that. If one of us, you or I, were a King, or Chief Priest, or Chief Rabbi, of Israel and had the authority to declare a person to be The Messiah, we could then anoint that person with oil and declare him to be The Messiah. But I wouldn’t be convinced by that. Would you be? For an office as important as that of Messiah, the anointing must be from an unbiased and unimpeachable source. It’s quite clear to me that the unimpeachable source has to be God. Does that make sense to you?

If there is no one source of information to tell us about The Messiah, where did the information that we have come from? Where did it originate? It originates from the Hebrew Scriptures, i.e., the Old Testament, or Tanach.

Now suppose that you or I decided to carefully look for information and evidence pointing to The Messiah. I would start my research in the Old Testament. There would be more than one way to do that. I could study the works of someone who has already carefully researched this question of The Messiah’s origin and who is also familiar with the Hebrew language. Such a person would be Jewish and would very likely be a Rabbi or other Jewish scholar renowned for his knowledge on this entire topic. I could simply accept the conclusions of such a person regarding who The Messiah must be and of equal importantance, who the Messiah cannot be. And that could be the end of my research.

Or I could do this a different way. I’m Jewish but I don’t read Hebrew well, but I could, myself, read through an English translation of the Hebrew Scriptures looking for passages that seem to talk about a deliverer or liberator who will rescue the Jewish people, and possibly other people as well, from the consequences of disaster or oppression, from slavery or even from death. I could use dictionaries to help me understand particular Hebrew words, I could consult books written to give me the opinions of one or more authors on the subject, and I could directly question people who know more about this topic than I do. But I would put my own study of the Hebrew Scriptures first. I would want to avoid being biased and I would want to do my best to shed any presuppositions that I might have about The Messiah before beginning my study. I would not necessarily accept the opinion of an expert, particulary if it did not make sense to me and if it contradicted the plain meaning of the Tanach. And I would begin my study at the beginning of the Old Testament, in the Book of Genesis.

So, we will take a look at the Book of Genesis regarding who The Messiah might be, but before we do that we must confront two difficult and very important questions.

The first question is as follows: Why do questions about the identity of The Messiah often cause contention? Could it be that there is a very strong motive for someone to cause confusion about The Messiah’s identity? Could the reason for causing this confusion be so that the Jewish people will not accept The Messiah when he comes?

The second question is this: Could there be someone who even wants to stop The Messiah from coming altogether?

If the answers to the above two questions is yes, why would that be the case and who would that someone be? And there is something else too. The Messiah is peculiarly related to the Jewish people and the Jewish Nation, Israel, and over the centuries there have been more attempts to destroy the Jewish people and Israel than there have been to destroy any other people or country. Why? Could these attempts be related to The Messiah?

When we talk about The Messiah and the name of Jesus comes up, especially with Jewish people, feelings can quickly rise to the level of extreme anger and people, Jewish people, can sometimes even become violent. The Apostle Paul, who started his career as a Jewish Rabbi, was one of those who became extremely angry and he lived many centuries ago. Why does the name of Jesus provoke this anger and contention even today? Could it be that he is the Messiah?

The Jewish people, The Chosen People, have been persecuted for thousands of years. That persecution began long before the time of Jesus Christ but not before the time that the first evidence for The Messiah made its appearance. Antisemitism today is not decreasing. It is increasing. That is positively frightening. Much of it comes from Islamic countries. What is the ultimate reason for this antisemitism?

What if these two things are connected? The two things I’m referring to are 1) extreme anger and rejection on the part of many Jewish people when the possibility of Jesus as the Jewish Messiah is brought up, and 2) several thousand years of antisemitism and murder of Jews that finally escalated to the point of the attempted eradication of the Jewish people by Adolph Hitler and his Final Solution, and the current desire of radical Islam to eradicate the Jewish people and their Nation, Israel.

Could there be an evil mastermind behind these things directing this hatred and the consequences that follow from it? In my opinion the answer is an unequivocal yes. I want to give you the evidence for my opinion and I propose to begin with a verse from the first book of the Bible, Genesis.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”” Genesis 3:1

At this point I’m asking you to please recall my first post (The Cause of Death) in which we talked about the ultimate cause of death. But here is a summary: Death occurs because sin entered the human race when Adam broke the one commandment that God gave him. Adam was commanded not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and this commandment also applied to Eve, Adam’s wife. She ate of this forbidden fruit because the serpent tricked her into disobeying God’s commandment, and Adam followed Eve and ate of this fruit also. The serpent caused Eve to doubt the truth of what God said and to disobey the one commandment that God gave Adam, a commandment that applied to both Adam and Eve. In doubting the truth of this commandment Eve doubted God Himself and put the word of the serpent above the word of God. The serpent was very well aware of the one commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve. Here is how the serpent worked his deception:

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Genesis 3:5-6

And here is what God ordained for the serpent and clearly communicated to the serpent because of what he did:

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:15 1

Now something profoundly important has occurred here, in fact so profoundly important as to be beyond what we could even imagine. The woman, Eve, will give birth to a male descendant and either he, Eve’s son, or a male desendant of Eve’s further down the line, is going to bruise the serpent’s head. Many translators believe that crush is a more accurate translation than bruise. The male descendant will have only his heel injured. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, in his commentary on Genesis2 sees this verse as conveying a picture of Eve’s male descendant bringing his heel down on to the head of the serpent in a fatal crushing blow, and the serpent in a vain attempt to save itself, biting the descending heel. The bite inflicted by the serpent is non-fatal and comparatively minor.

Please remember that it is through what the serpent did, by tricking Eve into breaking God’s commandment, with Adam following Eve and doing the same thing, that Death entered the human race. When God spoke and pronounced sentence on the serpent, ultimately the sentence of death, God identified who would do this to the serpent. The person identified is a male descendant of Eve. Only here, and nowhere else in the Bible is someone described as being the descendant of a woman with no father mentioned. This is very significant. The fact that no father is mentioned fits well with the virgin birth of Jesus. This was prophesied by the Hebrew prophet Isaiah 700 years before it actually occurred.

Was the serpent acting on his own? No. Were any other animals in the garden said to have the ability to speak? No. Inhabiting this serpent was Satan, an evil angel, the archdeceiver, the father of lies, a murderer, and a hater of God. Satan, using the serpent as an instrument of evil, directly defied God and brought the curse of death on the entire human race. Would not this situation as described in Genesis warrant someone to reverse this curse of death? That someone would need to crush Satan’s head, utterly defeating Satan, and also pay the price for the sins committed by Adam and Eve and all of their descendants, including you and me. Only then could we be declared righteous, only then could this penalty of death be changed into eternal life.

Who could this descendant of Eve be? Would not this have to be The Messiah? That is what I believe. But more than that, a number of ancient Rabbis thought so too. They may not have known who The Messiah was to be but they did believe that he who would crush the serpent’s head was The Messiah.

Has there ever been a catastrophe so great that only a Messiah, The Messiah, could provide the remedy to liberate the human race from the bondage of sin and death that followed from the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden? Never! The consequences of this catastrophe are affecting you and me today. It is the reason for war, genocide, hatred among humans, and the evil pervading our world. This Messiah would need to be mighty powerful to reverse this curse! He’d have to be stronger than Satan, the chief of evil angels. It almost seems as if this Messiah would need to have the power of God.

But what about the two questions that I asked above? Why such anger when the name of Jesus is brought up and why anti-semitism, better called Jew hatred, and genocide? Is Satan responsible for these? Yes! He does not want his head eventually crushed. He knows the Bible and he is wily and powerful. But how will destroying belief in The Messiah benefit Satan? And how will eradicating the entire Jewish race benefit Satan? In order to understand the answer, I’m going to ask you to read several Bible verses with me, one from the New Testament and the others from the the Tanach:

““O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”” Matthew 23:37-39

Jesus said this to the Jewish people, his people, in Jerusalem, shortly before his death. He was telling them that he would not return, he would not come back, until they, the Jewish people, called for him to return by saying:

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Jesus was quoting part of a verse from the Tanach. It was from a messianic psalm, Psalm 118:26, recognized by Rabbis as referring to The Messiah. By quoting this verse, Jesus was once again affirming that he was The Messiah. Here is the whole verse, in Hebrew, in transliterated Hebrew, and in English:3.

כו. בָּרוּךְ הַבָּא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה בֵּרַכְנוּכֶם מִבֵּית יְהוָה

Baruch haba beshem Adonai. Berachnuchem mi’beit Adonai.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; we have blessed you from the House of the Lord

Jesus is telling the Jewish people, his people, that they will not see him again, that he will not return to deliver them, as a Nation, until they ask him to come back by blessing him in the Name of Adonai, God the Father.

Now, please look at these verses from the Tanach:

“On that day the LORD will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, going before them. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” Zechariah 12:8-10

The Hebrew prophet Zechariah is speaking of The Time of Jacob’s Trouble, also known as The Great Tribulation. It will be a time of trouble like none ever before seen on this planet. The Son of David – The Messiah – will come to destroy all the nations attempting to annihilate Israel and the Jewish people. The Jewish people will look on him, Jesus, whom they have pierced, they will recognize him as their Messiah and mourn. He, Jesus, will then rescue them. He will destroy all nations coming against Jerusalem and he will bring in the Messianic Age.

In an attempt to prevent this from happening Satan will try to silence every last Jewish voice from crying out for Messiah’s return. He will try to do this by two means. He will decieve Jewish people so that many will not even consider that Jesus could be their Messiah and he will also attempt to destroy every single Jewish person. By means of this double plan he will attempt to silence the last possible Jewish voice so that not one Jew will cry out for deliverance. By so doing he believes that he can prevent The Messiah from returning and prevent his, Satan’s, head from eventually being crushed. Jesus came, for the Jewish people, in the first century AD as a suffering servant. He will return soon as a mighty King and Warrior.

My Jewish friend, as you ponder what I’ve written about in this post please remember that our God is a God of hope and blessing. He wants you to have eternal life. You can have that by accepting Jesus as your Lord and Messiah. Why not do that right now? No formula is needed. Just pray, out loud, and ask him to be your Lord and Savior today. He’ll do it.

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The Cure for Death, Part II

If you read the last post then you know what a person must do to be saved, to be born again (The Cure for Death).  But I want to tell you something more about the cure for death and that is the purpose of this post.

As we have already discussed, please remember that we are all sinners.  There are two reasons for that.  The first reason is that we were all in Adam when he sinned and when that happened Sin, as a principle or essence, entered us and became part of each and every one of us.  The second reason is that having that inborn sin nature causes us to walk in sin, to sin continuously (The Cause of Death).

But maybe you don’t believe that you are a sinner.  Maybe what I have been saying is just all a bunch of nonsense to you.  You look at the Ten Commandments and say to yourself “I have never broken any of those.  I’ve never stolen or lied or murdered or dishonored my father and mother.  I’m a good person”.  Well, how about this one: You shall have no other gods before me?  That is the first commandment.  Did you know that an electronic video game and the cell phone that contains it is a god to many people?  It demands more of their attention and energy than anything else and so they make it more important than everything else in their lives.  It is an idol to them which is another way of saying it is a god to them.  People can also make idols of money,  jobs, cars, houses, their children, and other things too.  Do any of these apply to you?

Well, I’m not going to go through the first nine commandments in  detail with you right now and I’m not going to go through the rest of all the other commandments in the Torah with you right now either.  But I do want to make sure that you know that there are a total of 613 commandments or mitzvot in the Torah.  That’s 603 commandments in addition to the famous Ten Commandments.  My Jewish brothers and sisters, please believe me.  You’ve broken many of these commandments.  After our people returned to the Land from Babylon, the Law was read to them and they wept.

“And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law.”  Nehemiah 8:9

Why did the people weep?  They wept because as the Law was read and then explained to them they realized how many of God’s mitzvot they had failed to keep without even realizing it.  That was the case because most  of the people had not had God’s law or instruction, the Torah, read to them for a long time, perhaps never.  That applies to many of us today.

But just to make it absolutely clear to you that you and I are sinners, that we’ve broken at least one commandment, let’s take a look at the 10th commandment:

““You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.””  Exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet.”  What does that mean?  It means to want something that does not belong to you.  Now I want to be very clear here.  Coveting does not mean taking something that is not yours.  That would be stealing.  Or in the case of sexual desire it would be adultery or extramarital sex or premarital sex.  Coveting, if it proceeds no further, is a sin of the mind and the heart.  It’s a desire.  It could even be secret.  Maybe nobody but you knows that you desire some particular thing that is not yours.  And by the way, if nobody else knows about your secret desire, that probably means that you have also broken the commandment which forbids you to lie.

Let me show you an example of coveting.  Perhaps you desire to have your boss’s job, or to have your neigbor’s Mercedes.  Or perhaps  you desire your wife’s best female friend or your husband’s best male friend.  Now you might never act on this desire.  You might never progress from desire for another woman or man to actually having an affair with her or him.  But by coveting you’ve broken the 10th commandment.  Have you never desired to have something that is not yours?  I very much doubt that.  And according to God’s Law, by breaking this 10th  commandment you’ve broken all 613 commandments.

“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.”  James 2:10

Now, my Jewish brother or sister (and please remember that I’m Jewish too),  you may say to me once again that this is a verse from the New Testament and therefore you don’t believe it.  Do you think that the Hebrew Scriptures, even the Torah (the first five books of  the Bible, also called The Five Books of Moses), says something different?  I’m sorry to tell you that we can’t pick and choose which commandments to obey.

“if you spurn my statutes, and if your soul abhors my rules, so that you will not do all my commandments, but break my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it.”  Leviticus 26:15-16

God is saying that He wants you and me to do all His commandments and if we don’t do them all there are serious consequences.  It sounds very much to me that God is saying that if we’ve broken one commandment it is the same as breaking them all.  And there are many more verses from the Torah that make it clear that God expects all His commandments to be obeyed.  My friend, you can’t help but break at least one of the 613 commandments and neither can I.

So what is the answer?  What is the cure for Death?  A substitutionary sacrifice is needed.  Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.  This was mentioned in the last post.  The shed blood of an animal provided a covering for sin, but permanent forgiveness of sins could not be provided by an animal sacrifice.  Only the blood of Jesus could do that.

Now you may quote the following verse to me and tell me that a blood sacrifice is no longer required:

““What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats.”  Isaiah 1:11

This is what the LORD wants from us:

“Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”  Isaiah 1:16-17

God never eliminated the requirement of a blood sacrifice for the remission of sins.  There is no way that the LORD would tell us about the need to provide sacrifices for the remission of sins in verse after verse after verse in the Torah, in exquisite detail, and then later tell us that sacrifices are not needed for the remission of sins.  God does not contradict Himself.   But God will not accept sacrifices from those who do not have contrite hearts, from those who do not repent.  Here is what God did do:  He sent Jesus, His only begotten Son, to die for us, to shed His precious blood.  He did this one time and that was enough.  All of the sacrifices described in the Torah were a foreshadowing of the once for all permanent sacrifice that Yeshua would make.

My fellow Jewish brother and sister, you may also tell me that Jonah went to Nineveh to preach the message that God gave him for the Ninevites, to save them.  They repented and 120,000 were saved right then.  There was no shedding of blood.  How could that be?  Here’s how:

“Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”  Hebrews 9:15

Are you familiar with the New Covenant that the LORD spoke about through the mouth of the Jewish prophet Jeremiah?  It’s in Jeremiah chapter 31, in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Yeshua inaugurated that covenant many years later at The Last Supper which was a traditional Jewish Passover seder.  The  blood that Yeshua, the Jewish Messiah, shed was so efficacious that it provided effective atonement for the sins of those who loved God and had contrite hearts even before Yeshua came to earth to die on the cross.  That would include people such as Abraham, Moses, King David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and many others.  God operates in the sphere of eternity and He can even provide permanent forgiveness of sins for those who died before Jesus came.

There is yet more to talk about under the title of The Cure for Death.  The blood of Jesus provides for even more than just the forgiveness of our sins.  It provides for our justification.  Justification is a forensic term.  It makes us think of a courtroom, a judge, and a defendant.  When this defendant, who represents you and me, accepts the judge’s, i.e., God’s, free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Jewish Messiah, God justifies us.  This means that we are not only pardoned for all our sins but we are are considered by God to be one who never sinned in the first place.  Jesus took all the punishment for all our sins and gives us His perfect righteousness.  How could that be?  It can be because God made the provision for it and because God declares it to be the truth.  It’s better than a pardon.

But, you ask, why then does the person who is saved still commit sins?  Thank you for that very important question.  We will address that in an upcoming post.

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The Cure for Death

At the end of the last post I promised to tell you about the cure for death. I’d like to begin to do that today with this post by having you read the story below about a man with terminal cancer.

*

“Mr. Cohen is here, Dr. Kaplan.”

“Please put him in my consultation room, Denise.”

Noah Cohen was 77 years old. Prostate cancer had been diagnosed 6 years ago and was advancing in spite of treatment. Widespread metastases in the bones was causing pain.

“Hi Noah. How are you?”

“The pain’s getting worse Ben. I can’t sleep because of it.”

“Are you taking your pain medication?”

Noah had known Ben Kaplan since Ben’s medical school days. Noah’s older brother had been one of Ben’s professors. Their families had met and over the years had grown close.

Noah had never really accepted his diagnosis of cancer. He knew he had it but was unwilling to acknowledge the seriousness of it. His wife, Sarah, had passed away six months ago, suddenly. A few months before, she had accepted Jesus as her Messiah and Lord. This had caused quite a stir in the Cohen extended Jewish family and it upset Noah. There were no children.

“You know I don’t like to take pills, Ben. I admit the pain is getting worse. Do you think this cancer could kill me? I’m starting to worry about that.”

“Yes, Noah, it could kill you.”

“Ben, what do I have to look forward to? I’m afraid of dying.”

“I understand Noah. Fear of death is very natural. That’s why it’s so important to know that you will be with God for eternity after you die. With that knowledge comes peace,” said Ben.

“You’re talking about Jesus, right? You’ve told me about Him before, about the need for forgiveness of our sins. And you’ve told me that Jesus is my Messiah, the Jewish Messiah, right?” said Noah.

“That’s right. We’re all sinners Noah, we have all broken God’s commandments, and a righteous God can’t have us with Him in heaven unless we are righteous too. Only God Himself can make us righteous and He made that possible by providing the ultimate sacrifice for us, for you and for me. Our Hebrew scriptures talk about this: ‘My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will carry their iniquities,’” said Ben.

“You told me about Isaiah 53 before and I read it. My Rabbi said that the servant in Isaiah 53 is Israel, not Jesus.”

“The Rabbis are not always right, Noah.”

“How can I know the truth Ben? I want to know. And I want to know if Jesus is really the Jewish Messiah, and if He is, how could He save me from death?” asked Ben.

“Noah, you say you believe in God, but you have no peace. Why not ask God to tell you if He sent Jesus to be the sacrifice for your sins? I believe that God will answer you.”

“I’ll do it Ben. Can we talk again soon?”

“Absolutely.”

*

Noah Cohen was looking forward to tonight. It was Friday and Susan, Ben’s wife, had invited him to the Shabbat meal. Noah drove down the tree lined street to their home. He always felt comfortable coming here. There never seemed to be pretenses.

“Hi Noah. Glad you could make it. Shabbat Shalom,” said Susan as she gave him a hug. “It’s been too long.”

There were just the 3 of them tonight. Susan lit the candles and said the prayer, ushering in the Sabbath. Ben said the prayers over the bread and wine.

“Dig in Noah. There’s plenty of food,” said Susan.

Noah’s appetite had not been good lately but this table laden with traditional Jewish food was appealing to him. The smells were wonderful and before he realized it, Noah was helping himself. After dinner, over coffee served at the table, Susan spoke first.

“Noah, tell me what’s going on in your life.”

“You know I have prostate cancer and it’s getting worse. The pain is really bad. What really worries me is the thought of death. Ben tells me that this cancer could definitely kill me. I feel like that time is getting close.”

“Ben did tell me that he spoke with you about Yeshua and spending eternity in heaven with Him. What are your thoughts about that?” asked Susan.

“I don’t want to die, at least I don’t want to be put into the ground and have it all end there. That would be just nothingness, a void for eternity. How can I know if there’s more, and if there is, how can I have it?” said Noah.

“Noah, our Scriptures say that one day the wolf will lie down with the lamb and that someone who has lived one hundred years will be a young person. The prophet Isaiah said these things. He was talking about the Messianic Kingdom. The New Testament tells us that it will last a thousand years, and then eternity starts. The soul never dies. The Jewish Messiah, Jesus, came so that our relationship with God could be restored and by accepting Him we will spend eternity with Him, with God. Sarah is with Him now,” said Susan. “Yeshua came to pay the ultimate price, to be the ultimate blood sacrifice. God told us in His word that there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood. Let me read to you from the New Testament, or New Covenant, also called the Brit Chadashah in Hebrew,” said Susan.

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:22

“But Susan, that’s from the New Testament. Our people don’t believe the New Testament,” said Noah.

“Ben and I are Jewish and we believe it. So do many other Jews. Sarah believed it. We also believe that the Old Covenant, or Old Testament, and the New Testament, together make up one book. Together they are one complete Bible. But there is something else that you have to know also and that is that God made it clear in the Old Testament that the forgiveness of sins requires the shedding of blood,” said Susan.

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.” Leviticus 17:11

“But Noah, you must also know that all of the bulls and goats and other animals that were sacrificed in the days of Moses, and afterwards, never provided permanent forgiveness of sins. If they did these sacrifices would not have had to be continually repeated,” said Susan. “That’s why Jesus had to shed His blood and die. Because He is God, the shedding of His infinitely valuable blood once provided permanent forgiveness of sins.

“I never really understood that before, Susan. What you are telling me makes sense.

“Susan, my parents and grandparents never accepted Jesus. Does that mean they’re in hell? How could a loving God send people to hell?” asked Noah.

“Noah, only God knows if your grandparents are in heaven with Him. He gives everyone an opportunity to accept Him. He doesn’t want anybody to perish, to spend eternity separated from Him, to suffer eternal death. God loves you and wants you with Him forever but that can only happen if you are holy and pure, because He is holy and pure. Jesus came to make you holy and pure, righteous in God’s sight, but you have to accept Him for that to happen. It’s a free gift but you have to accept the gift,” said Susan.

“Susan, what do I have to do to accept Him? I want to know that God will accept me now,” said Noah.

“Noah, sit down next to me. Ben, please join us,” said Susan.

The three of them, Noah in the middle, were seated on the sofa, hands joined. Susan explained to Noah how to ask for forgiveness and salvation and Noah prayed on his own.

“Father in heaven. I understand now that I’m a sinner and that I need forgiveness and cleansing. I know that you sent Yeshua to shed His blood and to die for me on the cross to pay the price for my sins. I know that according to your Law, I should die and spend eternity separated from You. Please don’t let this happen to me Father. I accept what You and Jesus did for me. Please accept me into Your Kingdom that I might have eternal life with You. Thank you Father. Thank you Lord Jesus. Amen,” said Noah.

After Noah’s prayer Ben wept.

“Susan, I’m going to spend eternity in heaven with God,” said Noah. “It seems too good to be true.”

“You’re right Noah. It does seem too good to be true. But it isn’t. We serve a God who is unbelievably gracious,” said Susan.

“Baruch Ha Shem! Bless the name of the Lord!” said Ben.

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The Cause of Death

Have you ever been afraid of dying? We all know that everyone dies at some point. There are no exceptions. But is there anything that we can do about Death? I’m quite serious. Is there anything that can be done to forestall this problem of Death or is it just a foregone conclusion that we will all die and that that’s the end of it, the end of everything? Have you ever been to a funeral and heard a visitor say to a bereaved family member “He’s in a better place now”? What could that possibly mean? And did the person who said it have any idea what he was saying? Frankly, I very much doubt it.

If we want to “get a handle” on Death does it not make sense that we must know the cause of Death? We must find out the etiology of Death, what the underlying cause is, if at all possible, because then we might be able to find an effective treatment for Death just as we would for any other illness or condition. So, can we get to the root cause of Death itself? Can we uncover the fundamental reason for Death?

It seems to me that it is reasonable to say that Life and Death are connected even though they are, in a sense, opposites. So could it be that if we found the cause of Life that that might help us to find the cause of Death? To my knowlege no scientist, including experts in the field of evolutionary biology, has ever been able to find the ultimate cause or origin of Life. So could it be that we need to look outside the field of Science for answers to the questions of the underlying causes of Life and Death? I believe that the answer is an emphatic yes. Now we want to be entirely reasonable here. We don’t want any fantastic explanation or explanations used to explain the origins of Life and Death. We want to deal in facts. At this point, I think we definitely have one fact that we can hang our hats on. Here is that fact: Science cannot explain the ultimate origin of Life and of Death.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. I know that cancer can kill, I know that a blocked coronary artery can cause a heart attack that can kill, and I know that a major car crash can kill, and I know that Science can sometimes help with these things. I know that well because I practiced medicine for 46 years. But I’m talking about Death on a much deeper level, a level that transcends all of these things that unfortunately happen every day in our world. If we must seek answers outside the realm of Science for the ultimate cause of Death, from what realm should we seek the answers? And is there a realm that might provide a narrative that clearly explains things and that clearly provides a solution to our problem? We need a practical and an understandable answer, and a solution, to the problem of Death.

So what realm do we search in, if not Science? What other realm do we look to that will still keep us dealing with facts and will keep us thinking in a logical and practical manner? I believe that we need to search for answers in the field of philosophy, specifically in the field of metaphysics, which deals with fundamental or first principles. But where would knowledge of first principles come from? My dear reader, knowledge of first principles comes to us from the Bible which is the word of God.

Are you now going to tell me that you don’t believe the Bible? Perhaps we’ll talk about the reliability and infallibility of the Bible another time but for now please permit me to ask you one question. Do you have a better source of knowledge to tell us the ultimate cause of Death? Perhaps you’d like to wait just a bit before you answer, until after I show you what the Bible has to say on this subject.

There is a verse in the Bible that can shed light on the fundamental cause of Death. It’s from the New Testament.

Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—

What is this verse telling us? It’s telling us that Sin caused Death. It, Sin, came into the world through one man. That man was the first man, Adam. Adam sinned in the Garden of Eden by disobeying God.

Let’s read from Genesis, the first book of the Bible. Genesis has something to say about first causes.

Genesis 2:16-17 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (emphasis mine).

Please note that God commanded Adam not to eat of the specified tree and God told Adam that if he broke this commandment he would die that very day. We know that Adam did not die physically the day he broke this commandment. The death he experienced that very day was spiritual death. He became separated from God. He and Eve had to leave the Garden.

Did you know that ancient rabbis even taught that there is no death without sin? The following is an excerpt from the Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 55B: An objection was raised: Said the ministering angels before the Holy One blessed be He, “Lord of the universe, how come you have imposed the penalty of death on the first Adam?” He said to them, “I commanded him one easy commandment, but he violated it.” They said to him, “But isn’t it the fact that Moses and Aaron, who kept the entire Torah, also died?” R. Simeon b. Eleazar says, “So, too, Moses and Aaron died on account of their sin: ‘Because you didn’t believe in me … therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them’ —lo, if you had believed in me, your time would not yet have come to take leave of the world.”

Please observe that we know that Sin entered Adam because the verse in Romans tells us that this happened.

Adam consciously and knowingly sinned by disobeying God, and Sin entered into Adam and became part of his constitution, part of who he was. We, Adam’s posterity, all sinned because all of us were literally in Adam, in an inchoate form. We came from Adam. And all people yet to be born, future to the time of this writing, also were in Adam. We were all in Adam when he sinned, so we sinned then too and since Death comes through Sin, we will all die. Even a seemingly innocent baby sinned in Adam because every baby was in Adam when he sinned. That’s why even babies can die.

Now you might not like what I’m telling you here. But God, speaking to us through His word, is telling us that we were all in Adam when he sinned and therefore we also sinned, including even Moses and Aaron.

There’s something else that I want you to know. Because Sin became part of Adam’s constitution after he sinned, and because each and every one of us is descended from Adam, Sin is part of our constitutions too. Because of that we all have a rebellious and sinful nature just like Adam did, and just like Moses and Aaron did, and because Sin is part of each one of us, we are all born spiritually dead. There are no exceptions. At birth, we are by nature rebellious and antagonistic to God.

Is there anything that can be done about this? Yes! Most emphatically yes! We now know what the root cause of Death is. It is Sin. Knowing this we can now seek a cure. We must be born again. We must be born spiritually alive. We must be brought from Death to Life. How can we do this? We can’t do this but God can. That is why God sent Jesus to die on the cross and we can now seek a cure for Death from God. We can ask Jesus to save us. You see, Jesus conquered Death. Please read what He, Jesus, said to Nicodemus, a member of the Sanhedrin and a famous Jewish teacher.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

You see, we are talking here in eternal terms. Eternity is forever. Wouldn’t you like to have eternal life?

What to do? Please read the next post.

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