Seven utterances on the cross. (Part 7)

‘Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

As Jesus was about to descend into the realm of the dead, he committed his spirit to the Father. As for his body, it was kept under maximum security! The Jews requested Pilate that Romans soldiers be assigned to guard the tomb against his disciples from stealing his body. God had also assigned angels to guard the tomb against the devil from stealing his body. Remember, after Moses’ death, there was a dispute between the Archangel Michael and the devil about the body of Moses and the Lord rebuked the devil. ( Jude 1:9) So both men and angels were guarding the body of Jesus. Meanwhile, his spirit ‘descended to the lower earthly regions ( Greek meros means portion or part) or the depths of the earth’ ( Ephesians 4:9) to Paradise which was the resting place for the righteous dead; where the thief on the cross was to join him. But Jesus went beyond Paradise, into Sheol ( Greek Hades), which is the abode of the wicked dead. Jesus himself had said that “as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” ( Matthew 12:40) Jesus was willing to go any depth to save man and he trusted the Father to raise him up on the third day. No one has been resurrected from Sheol or Hades. All those who have been resurrected before were raised from Paradise. Psalm 18 has a strange description about a man who escaped from Sheol : ‘The cords of death entangled me. The torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave ( Sheol ) coiled around me, the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called out to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice, my cry came before him, into his ears … He reached down from on high and took hold of me … He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes who are too strong for me ...’ This Psalm seems to be far- fetched (unlikely and unconvincing) because it cannot be true about the sufferings of David. Could it then be a Messianic Psalm, speaking about the aftermath of Christ’s death? Since Jesus holds the ‘keys of death and Hades’ (Revelation 1:18), it therefore means that he indeed descended beyond paradise into Hades where he even preached to ‘spirits in prison’ who disobeyed during the time of the flood. ( 1 Peter 3:19-20) There will come a day when ‘death and Hades will give up the dead that are in them (Revelation 20:13) because Jesus has conquered ‘death and Hades’ and he holds the keys ( meaning authority over that place).

Death was the last enemy ( 1 Corinthians 15:26) Jesus overcame. ‘During his days on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death.’ (Hebrews 5:7) He had authority to lay down his life and to take it up ( John 10:17) but he had to be delivered from the clutches of death. God’s Spirit can reach out for those in Hades, as the Psalmist says: ‘Where can I go from your Spirit … If I make my bed in the depths ( Hebrew: Sheol) you are there.’ ( 139: 8) God’s power was exerted in Christ when he was raised from the dead. ‘That power was like the working of his mighty strength which was exerted in Christ when God raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above call rule and authority, power and dominion.’ (Ephesians 1:19-21) Death could not contain him! The grave could not hold him! ‘And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.’ (Colossians 2:15) Not only did Jesus overcome death, but all the saints in Paradise, who we captives of death, were resurrected together with him, ‘when he ascended on high.’ (Ephesians 4:8) The thief probably had the shortest stay in Paradise! Hallelujah! And then in judgement he will open Hades and lead all men out to be judged. ‘Then death and Hades will be thrown into the Lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, they will be thrown into the lake of fire.’ (Revelation 20:14-15)

Just as Jesus committed his spirit to the Father, we too have committed our spirits to God, when we accepted Jesus as our Saviour. Therefore Paul wrote: ‘I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.’ (2 Timothy 1:12) ‘He who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to our mortal bodies.’ (Romans 8:11) Sleep is a simulation of death. That is why death is also called sleep. What guarantee is there that we will wake up in the morning, unless God wakes us up each day? So will it be at the first trumpet, when the ‘dead in Christ shall rise’. ( 1 Thessalonians 4:14-16) We must be certain about the power of the resurrection, just as Jesus was certain that the power of God will raise him up from Sheol. Jesus assured his disciples that they will be raised up on the last day. “And this is the will of him who sent me that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:39-40) What a blessed assurance! Amen.

Seven utterances on the cross. (Part 6)

“It is finished.” (John 19:30)

What was it that was finished? Jesus himself had said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17). He was often accused of not following the law but infact it were teachings of the elders that he didn’t follow because they were the ‘teachings of men’. ( Matthew 15:2-9) The essence of the law is to love God and man which Jesus obeyed but to men it seemed that he didn’t obey the letter of the law.

1. The law was fulfilled.

What is the law ( Torah)? What does it do? The law differentiates between good and evil, right and wrong. Man received this discernment at the garden of Eden when he ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But he could not live by this knowledge because the Spirit of God had left him and was spiritually dead even before the law was given in writing. The law only reiterated what they already knew. For instance, there was nothing new about the ten commandments because what was stated was already known to man. Of the ten commandments, the fifth commandment stated what is to be done and the rest stated what should not be done. Now that it was given in written form, the Israelites no longer had any excuse. For that matter all ‘men are without excuse’. ( Romans 1:20) because the requirements of the law was written in their hearts . ‘Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness …‘ ( Romans 2:12-16)

What was the purpose of adding the law ( Torah)? ‘Sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses.’ (Romans 5:14) But as transgressions increased, it had to be checked untill the Seed to whom the promise referred to had come. Therefore, the law ‘was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come.’ (Galatians 3:19) The law was also added so that ‘sin might be recognised as sin’ (Romans 7: 7-13) and as a result sin increased. ‘The law was added so that trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.’ (Romans 5:20) Only by grace could a man abide by the law but ‘grace and truth came through Christ’. ( John 1:17) That is why it is said that only Jesus had succeeded to live by the Torah (law) because he alone had the Spirit of grace in him to abide by the Torah (law).

What was the effect of adding the law (Torah)? ‘But sin seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment produced in me every kind of sinful desire.’ (Romans 7:8-13) As with the knowledge of good and evil, the knowledge of the law did not decrease the desire to sin but rather increased it! In short the sinful nature failed the law! ‘For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4) When they crucified Jesus to the cross: one in whom the Torah ( law) was fulfilled, they figuratively nailed the Torah ( law) to the cross. ‘He forgave us all our sins having cancelled the written code, with its rules and regulations that was against us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.’ (Colossians 2:14) In accepting Jesus as our Saviour; the one in whom the Torah ( law ) was fulfilled, the righteous requirements of the Torah (law ) are fully met in us, thus qualifying us to receive the ‘promise of the Spirit’. (Acts 1:4, Galatians 3:14)

2. Prophecies were fulfilled.

As was his name, so was his mission! He fulfilled the mission assigned to him. It was at the end of his mission that he said, “It is finished”. He wouldn’t give up until everything was accomplished. There were hundreds of prophecies concerning every aspect of his life and the probability of all these prophecies being fulfilled in one man is astounding! The fact that he knew all was complete, so that Scriptures would be fulfilled, proves that he was full of the word. Ofcourse, he is the ‘Word that out on flesh and dwelt among us’. Therefore he is called the ‘Living Word’. The prophets themselves were eager to see the fulfillment of the prophecies! ‘Concerning this salvation the prophets who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.’ (1 Peter 1:10-11) The Apostles too knew the prophecies in Scripture. ( Acts 2:16, 15:15) Just as every word of prophecy concerning Christ was fulfilled, so will every word of prophecy spoken over us be fulfilled. Do we know or even remember what was said about us? Jesus knew, so did the Apostles! Paul knew he would not die in Jerusalem but will go to Rome. Paul reminded Timothy of the prophecies concerning him ( 1 Timothy 4:14, 2 Timothy 1:6) and asked him to ‘fan into flame the gift of God’. Jesus was passionate about finishing the task assigned to him – the task of taking the sin of the world – which he did completely! Therefore, he uttered, “It is finished.” Believe in the finished work of Christ on the cross. Amen.

Seven utterances on the cross. (Part 5)

‘Later knowing that all was now completed and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)

Just as people long to quench their thirst after a physically exhausting activity, Jesus too asked for a drink and he was offered wine vinegar. He permitted his physical thirst to be quenched before his death because he was being human. To interpret that it was a spiritual thirst for souls, is to ignore his human dimension and portray him as super human. The gospel writers took note of his hunger, thirst and tiredness. Had it been a spiritual thirst, he should have declined to drink but Scripture says he received the drink. ( Vs 30) He would not have asked for a drink, if he intended to purposely decline to create an aura of his super human strength for everyone to see. But he showed himself to be human by just asking for a drink and it reminds us not to be super spiritual. Yet when he was offered wine to drink the first time, as he was about to be crucified, he refused to drink because after tasting it, he knew it was mixed with gall, a pain reliever of sorts. ( Matthew 27:34) It was the usual practice to give stupefying potions to those who were being crucified, to numb their senses so that they will not be able to sense the excruciating pain. Offering him gall and vinegar was in fulfillment of prophecy. ‘They put gall in my food and gave me vinegar for my thirst.’ (Psalm 69:21) He refused to drink because he was willing to face the full extent of the pain. He wanted to be alert and not sedated. He stayed sober and in his right mind throughout his ordeal. There are those who drink to alleviate their sufferings or indulge in food and entertainment or social media to forget their woes. But the Spirit gives a believer soundness of mind, just as he gave Jesus, so that we will have the presence of mind to endure our cross.

Before he let his physical thirst be quenched, he satisfied his spiritual thirst and hunger, of which he spoke many times. Once when his disciples had gone to buy food because Jesus was tired ( John 4:6), a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well and Jesus asked her for a drink. In the midst of the talk, Jesus forgot all about his thirst and she forgot to offer him a drink! Instead, he offers her ‘living waters’. Later on, when his disciples arrived with food, they urged him to eat (vs 31) but Jesus seemed to have had his fill! He said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about … “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” (Vs 32-34) So now having finished his work, he permitted his physical thirst, that he felt before his death, to be quenched. He was not overcome by the physical but was overcome by his zeal for God. He exhibited an order of priority – spiritual over the physical. He didn’t deny the physical but placed the spiritual over and above the physical. Jesus has given us a model to live by. How many times we have been overcome by the flesh! Our hunger doesn’t permit us to fast. Our sleepiness or tiredness wouldn’t permit us to pray at night. Those who cannot control their appetites are termed as ‘carnal’ or ‘worldly’ ( 1 Corinthians 3:1). Paul did not call them ‘unbelievers’ but ‘mere infants in Christ’, because though they believe, yet they are controlled by their appetites, just as infants are! Those overcome by their physical appetites are still controlled by the sinful nature and not by the Spirit. Esau, who could not control his hunger, was later called ‘godless’, though being a good man. ‘See to it that no one is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterwards, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind though he sought the blessings with tears’ (Hebrews 12:16-17) because ‘the one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction. The one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.’ (Galatians 6:8) Do not indulge in the physical at the cost of the spiritual! Amen.

Seven utterances on the cross. (Part 4)

At the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice,”Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani” – which means,”My God, My God why have you forsaken me.” (Matthew 27:46)

His first utterance was a prayer to God for the forgiveness of his persecutors. His second utterance was a promise to the one whom appealed to him for kindness. His third utterance was a sober charge to take care of his mother. These three utterances were made soon after he was crucified at the third hour (9 am). Then at the sixth hour (12 pm), darkness covered the land until the ninth hour (3 pm). It is interesting to note that he said nothing during these three hours. There was a prolonged silence as everyone awaited his death. His long hours of silence is a sign of his submission to God. He patiently bore the pain of his suffering and spoke nothing. In six hours he uttered just seven phrases and that reveals his fortitude (courage in pain or adversity). Our hours of agony would have been characterized by many words which would expose our character. He spoke, only if it was warranted or else he kept his mouth shut. That is a remarkable feat few of his followers have mastered ! Then at the ninth hour, after being on the cross for six hours; when it was time to give up his Spirit, he cries out something that those around him obviously didn’t understand. ‘When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He is calling Elijah.” ( Vs 47) He was probably speaking in an unknown tongue but the Gospel writer Matthew interprets it for us by the Spirit as, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” It was more a statement of submission than of unbelief! Those words were the fulfilment of the prophecy made by David in Psalm 22, where a righteous man cries out to God in distress but God seems to be distant and silent. Time seems to pass by slowly! He could have given up his spirit anytime because he had ‘authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.’ (John 10:18). So what was he waiting for? The wrath of God to pass? He was accursed (to be under a curse) ‘because anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse‘. (Deuteronomy 21:23) ‘It was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer’ (Isaiah 53:10) for ‘God made him who had no sin to be a sin offering for us …’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 ) The darkness was therefore not an indication of God’s sorrow at his Son’s death but rather the wrath of God against sin. Could it be that as he cried out at the ninth hour, darkness left immediately? Thereafter knowing that the God’s wrath has passed by, says: ” I am thirsty”, in preparation for his death, because everything was fulfilled. This utterance on the cross gives insight into Christ’s absolute dependence and submission to God. Later on the Apostle Peter wrote: ‘Those who suffer according to God’s will should submit themselves to their faithful creator and continue to do good.’ (1 Peter 4:19) How our Lord has demonstrated it on the cross! His life simply agrees with his words, as if they are one and the same! Or in other words, his life and his words are in sync, unlike anyone we have known before! He is indeed a leader worth following. His life was a fulfilment of the prophecy made by David in Psalm 22 which is called the ‘Song of the cross’ because it describes the sufferings of a righteous man with no relief from God. It sounds like a mob scene, a lynching. The righteous man’s enemies have him. They surround him, jeering like a pack of dogs! He is helpless and exhausted! All he can do is to cry out to God. He wavers back and forth, first crying out in his misery, then taking stock of God’s goodness. Although, his cry has gone up day and night, God remains silent! A person might read Psalm 22 as an extravagant poetic description of David’s troubles because it doesn’t seem to fit David’s life but it does fit the life of Jesus. Infact Jesus and his disciples saw something more! When Jesus was dying, he had this Psalm on his lips. Afterwards, when his disciples wanted to explain Jesus’ life and sufferings, they turned to it. In it, the disciples saw a pattern and foreshadowing. The pattern is called ‘Redemptive suffering’, where a righteous man goes through tremendous suffering. But that suffering has a purpose. After it and because of it comes victory and power and salvation of the world. Hallelujah! If good men may suffer while God remains silent – if Christ himself knew these pains, though being the Son of God – then no one may be exempt! Scripture says that ‘during the days of Christ’s life on earth, he made petitions with loud cries to the one who could save him from death and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learnt obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.’ (Hebrews 5:79) This pattern helped Jesus’ followers to appreciate why Jesus, along with his followers had to suffer. Does this encourage us to submit to God today, no matter what! In the end, it will turn out for our good! Amen.

Seven utterances on the cross. (Part 3)

“Dear woman, here is your son” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26)

The passage names all who were present at the foot of the cross, which included his mother Mary, his mother’s sister Mary, wife of Cleopas, Mary Magdalene and John, the disciple whom Jesus loved. But many others were missing, notably his own brothers because they didn’t believe in him ( John 7:5) and his disciples who said they would never leave ( Matthew 14:19) but had deserted him, including Peter! ( John 18:15) Those present at the were those who believed in him and loved him. At the foot of the cross, a new family is formed called the ‘family of believers’. Also new responsibilities and bonds are formed at the foot of the cross. Once when his family came to meet him, he asked, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers and sisters?” Pointing to his disciples, he said,”Here are my mother, my brothers and my sisters. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50) Elsewhere it says, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:21) Why were they there to meet Jesus? ‘They went to take charge of him for they said, “He is out of his mind.” ( Mark 3:21) Jesus was very blunt with those who did not believe in him, be it his mother or brothers. At one point she seemed to be persuaded by his brothers but it is also said of Mary that she ‘treasured all these things in her heart’. (Luke 2:51)

Jesus looked around and saw his mother standing there together with a hand few of people who cared . All the rest had left the scene. His brothers were not to be seen for he was an embarrassment to them. Had not Mary been there, he would not have said what he said for there were his unbelieving brothers to take care of his unbelieving mother. Since she was there, he would not entrust his believing mother into the hands of his unbelieving brothers. Even in his agony, he was mindful of his mother’s state and made sure that she will be taken care of. He would rather entrust his mother to the only disciple present there, instead of letting Mary go back home to his brothers to face ridicule. ‘From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.’ Not that Mary didn’t have another home to go nor any relatives to look after her. But Jesus was sensitive to the situation. Until his resurrection, she had to be shielded from accusing voices. He wouldn’t let anyone abuse her; the very tenderness he showed to the Holy Spirit and would not let anyone rail against him. We see the heart of Jesus to care for those who are his family. His family, as he himself had pointed out, consists of those who believe. Just as Jesus is mindful of the ‘family of believers’, so should his disciples be mindful ! Jesus gave John a new responsibility without being told what to do. John took her home because he understood what Jesus meant. We know what we are supposed to do for the ‘family of believers’, without even being told what to do, but we refuse to go out of the way to help fellow believers because they are not afterall our family. But the Church too is a family and its members, though strangers, are related to one another by the blood of Jesus. Just as Joseph took care for his 72 blood relatives during the famine ( Genesis 45:11), even so Jesus will take care of those who are his blood relatives. We cannot walk away from the need of a fellow believer as if we didn’t see it. Jesus might ask us to accommodate in our homes those who are being persecuted for their faith, though they are not related to us by our blood but are related to us by the blood of Jesus, until everything is peaceful for them to return to their homes. Just as Jesus was mindful of his mother even in his agony, we should be mindful of others and forget not to show kindness. Often in our pain or lack, we do not have the presence of mind to hear or take note of someone else’s pain or lack but Jesus exhibited tremendous presence of mind, which is a fruit of the Spirit. ( 2 Timothy 1:7) We are told to ‘share with God’s people who are in need and to practice hospitality.’ ( Romans 12:13) ‘Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.’ (Galatians 6:10) Amen

Seven utterances on the cross. (Part 2)

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43)

The thief on the cross had a revelation about the identity of Jesus for he heard him pray: “Father forgive them …” Never in his life had he heard anyone pray that their killers be forgiven. The man had to be the Son of God to pray thus and he even heard him address God as his Father! What he heard was so profound that it moved his heart. He saw that the man did not exhibit resentment nor rant while on the cross but he silently bore the agony of injustice. He didn’t see the man trying to get down from the cross or trying to save himself. There was a peace about this man! He heard the rulers sneer at the man, saying, “He saved others . Let him save himself, if he is Christ of God, the chosen one.” ( vs 35) He also heard the soldiers mock him, saying, “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.” ( Vs 37) He saw the inscription above his cross, which read: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, The King of the Jews’ ( Vs 38). All that he heard and saw overwhelmed him but he still maintained his silence! There were others who had heard and read the same but they had no revelation about the identity of Jesus but the thief on the cross perceived that this man who was being crucified with him was not of this world. He reasoned that if Jesus is a King, then he would have a kingdom which might not be of this world! Then when the other thief hurled insults at Jesus, he broke his silence to rebuke him, saying, “We are punished justly for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” It was after this that he turned to Jesus to make his appeal in response to the revelation he had. He probably had seen Jesus for the first time or might have heard of him before but got to see him now in a seemingly helpless state to appeal to him. Nevertheless, he did and he had to be quick, lest it be too late because Jesus was bleeding to death, so was he! He didn’t lose any time in responding to the revelation and spontaneously made his appeal to Jesus: “Remember me when you come in your kingly power. Those who heard him say this might have jeered at him but he unashamedly made his good confession of his faith in the person of Jesus. He was resigned to his fate and did not request like the other thief to save him from the cross but instead requested that he be remembered in the next life. What he said was so profound that Jesus could not be silent though he himself was in agony. Jesus had always acknowledged faith and he had to respond to this confession immediately before he himself would transcend death into eternal life. So his response was immediate and precise, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Jesus entered paradise before the thief did as he died first, followed by the thief, making him the first to enter after Jesus. He who was the last became the first just as Jesus had predicted. “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16) Jesus reached out to save a petty criminal whom the world had despised. True to his name he was a Saviour till the end. He died saving till the end. Jesus will reach out to anyone who calls on his name, for Scripture says: ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ ( Joel 2:32) While alive, he offered life to the dying. But now as he was dying, he offered eternal life to the dying. ‘In him was life and it was the light of men. (John 1:4) How true to his statements were his last moments! He did not offer life the way the other criminal wanted but offered eternal life to the one who appealed to him. For he had said while he was alive: “I am the resurrection and life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. ( John 11:25-26) The criminal was least likely to be accepted by the righteous Pharisees but he was heartily welcomed to the kingdom by Jesus. No wonder the tax collectors and prostitutes were making their way into the kingdom when Jesus was the usherer. But his so called ‘disciples’ have been ‘exclusive’ throughout history, excluding many because they have been judgemental and narrow minded! Of them, it can be said: “You shut the kingdom of heaven at men’s faces. You yourself do not enter nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” (Matthew 28:13-24) The system judged him to be a misfit to live in this world but his faith in Jesus made him fit for the kingdom! Hallelujah! What a glorious salvation! It was Jesus’ forbearance of his persecutors that opened the doors of heaven for this criminal. Jesus did not consider him insignificant and beyond salvation. How long does it take to be saved? In an instant the thief received by faith what others have been striving for a lifetime! What does it take to be saved? Many like to believe that salvation is the reward for good works but it is not. The thief didn’t have any good works to boast about but he was saved by his timely confession, for Scripture says: ‘That if you confess with your mouth,” Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ (Romans 10:9) The thief did believe that Jesus will be raised from the dead and that he will come back to his kingdom. Respond to the truth today, if it has been revealed to you as it was revealed to the thief. Not tomorrow ‘for today is the day of salvation.’ (2 Corinthians 6:2) The thief knew he too will be forgiven because Jesus had forgiven his killers. Ask boldly like the the thief. Jesus liked his boldness! It’s the proof of your faith! Amen.

Seven utterances on the cross. (Part 1)

“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

What is it that they did not know?  They thought they were executing a criminal because Jesus was crucified with criminals. What was his crime? Blasphemy, because he claimed to be the Son of God, the Christ and equal with God. The Jews once gathered around him and said, “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus answered, “I did tell you but you do not believe … I and the Father are one …” Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him but Jesus said to them, ” … For which of these miracles do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy because you a mere man claim to be God.” ( John 10:24-39) Did Jesus ever claim to be God ?  “Who are you?”, they asked. ” Just what I have been claiming all along,” Jesus replied … “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be …” (John 8:25-28) The Jews knew him as Joseph’s son. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary and  aren’t his brothers … all his sisters with us? …” And they took offense at him.’ (Matthew 13:54-57) What they knew about him was so little compared to what they didn’t know about him!  They didn’t  know  that he is the ‘Christ, our Passover Lamb‘ (1 Corinthians 5:7) and that ‘He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.’ (1 John 2:2)  It is outrageous that inspite of all that Jesus said and did to prove his claim, they didn’t believe him. ‘He came to that which was his very own but his own did not receive him.’ ( John 1:11) The Jews who had the law and prophets should have known but the ‘god of this age had blinded the minds of the unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God ‘ (2 Corinthians 4:4)   However, the Gentiles were not expected to know. Jesus failed in his attempts to convince them his true identity. What seems to be a tragedy was in the perfect plan of God to get them to crucify him, for in doing so, they would unwittingly sacrifice the Passover Lamb of God. By all means the devil knew but  ‘none of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.’ (1 Corinthians 2:6-8) So what was Satan’s gamble? Probably, he didn’t expect Jesus to be resurrected from Hades, because no man had been raised from Hades before. Lazarus was raised from Paradise, so were the rest who were raised from the dead. Jesus was the first person to be raised from Hades. (Jesus did not go to Hell, as some presume because he went where men had gone. No man has gone to hell yet because the dead in Hades are waiting for judgement! The false prophet and the Antichrist will be the first to be thrown into hell. ) Guess the devil underestimated the power of the resurrection!

Who are ‘they’ that did not know?  Both the Jews and the Gentiles came together to conspire against Jesus. ‘Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed.’ (Acts 4:27)  The Jews with the help of Gentiles had crucified him.  ‘This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge and you with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.’ (Acts 2:23)  The very fact that Jesus was crucified and not stoned to death, proves that the Gentiles too were guilty because it was their form of execution. Not realising that the Gentiles too are guilty has resulted in the Church persecuting the Jews and calling them “Christ killers”. The atrocities committed by the crusaders and the Nazis were as a result of this misunderstanding. Both are guilty but the Jews are guilty of a greater sin because they knew from the law and the prophets that the Messiah was coming whereas the Gentiles were ignorant about these prophecies. Jews are therefore guilty of premeditated murder while the Gentiles are guilty of manslaughter because it was unintentional ! That is why Jesus told Pilate, “The one who handed me over to you is guilty of greater sin” ( John 19:11)  and they are the ones who have suffered the most  ( Luke 19:43-44) for they owned up the crime by saying, “Let his blood be upon us and our children.” ( Matthew 27:25)  The bloody and gruesome murder turned out to be the ultimate sacrifice! But just because God allowed it to happen, doesn’t mean the perpetrators of the crime are absolved from all guilt ! Therefore Peter said:  “You handed him over to be killed and you disowned him before Pilate though he had decided to let him go … You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.’( Acts 3:13-15)

Who are ‘them’ that he forgave?  If ‘they’ meant both the Jews and the Gentiles, then ‘them’ would mean the same.  Both Jews and Gentiles have been equally forgiven, whether their part in the crime was big or small. Both have been unconditionally forgiven since he forgave them even before they acknowledged or confessed their guilt. It was heartfelt forgiveness because Jesus knew that men were just pawns in Satan’s hand and that they were being used by him to vent his fury because he knows that his days are numbered! What else can explain the brutality that was displayed against Jesus? The rage of hell was being revealed through men. Yet he would not hold it against men though he suffered at their hands but forgave them from his heart. Jesus exemplified through his life that ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ ( Ephesians 6:12) Since he has forgiven all men, we ought to forgive as well, from our hearts or else it will be held against us. ( Matthew 18:35) But the Jews did not accept this forgiveness. As for those who accepted his forgiveness, they were spared from the consequences of their crime. When Jerusalem was surrounded by the Romans in 70 AD, the believers remembered the words of Jesus (Luke 21:20) and fled but those who didn’t heed to his words, died fighting the Romans and the rest were exiled. The Jews have suffered through the centuries because they didn’t believe and receive his forgiveness. Unless we believe and confess our sins, we will not experience the release. Believe and receive God’s heartfelt forgiveness today. Amen.

Interpreting the Russia-Ukraine war.

The three prophetic wars in the Bible, namely the Ezekiel 38-39 war, the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-14,16) and the Final battle with Gog-Magog (20:8-9) are either against the nation of Israel or against the saints of God. These three wars will help totally annihilate the forces of evil and firmly establish the kingdom of God. On the contrary, World War 1 and World War 2 were not prophetic wars but were the two major wars out of the many wars that have been fought since Jesus said, “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars.” (Matthew 24:6) The two World Wars wars were fomented (instigated, stirred up) by those who were plotting to establish the ‘New World Order’ and therefore we should not be alarmed if World War 3 breaks out even before the first prophetic war! “See to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom … All these are the beginning of birth pains.” (Matthew 24:5-8) Some assume that WW3 will be the Ezekiel 38-39 war or even the ‘Battle of Armageddon’ but they are not because the prophetic wars are geographically specific. Both WW1 and WW2 were not fought in the land of Israel because they were not fought against the Jews, whereas the prophetic wars will be fought in the land of Israel because it will be against the Jews and the saints of God. However, the world wars did affect the Jews more than any other ethnic group and their persecution in Europe birthed the desire to return to their homeland after WW1 and the strengthened their resolve to establish the nation of Israel after WW2. Amazingly, the land of Israel was relatively calm during the world wars whilst it was raging elsewhere, much like the eye of a storm which is relatively calm whilst the storm rages on the outside. Looks as if God had shielded the land of Israel as the apple of his eye ! If at all there is a WW3, it will once again be fought away from the land of Israel because it will have nothing to do with the Jew.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has the potential to trigger WW3, just as the assassination of Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire by a Serbian nationalist on June 28, 1914 precipitated WW1. On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, and within a week, Russia, Belgium, France, Great Britain and Serbia had lined up against Austria-Hungary and Germany, marking the beginning of WW1. Likewise, the invasion of Poland by Germany on the 1st of September 1939 caused Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany within two days, marking the beginning of WW2. But it will surprise us when we realise that both these World Wars were probably pre-planned. If indeed Albert Pike, the head of Freemasonry in America sent a letter dated August 15th 1871 to Mazzini, the head of Illuminati in Italy, laying out the plot for the three World Wars which would result in establishment of the One World Government and the kingdom of Lucifer, then it is scary to know that both the World Wars played out exactly the way he described it in his letter. Then it should not surprise us, if the current standoff between NATO and Russia is yet another deliberate attempt by the global elite ( a small group of powerful people who hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege and political power) to engage Russia in a war because they think Russia is too big, powerful and independent, to fit into the New World Order or in Latin “Novus ordo seclorum”, which means “A new order of the ages”, that will emerge out of the chaos they orchestrate! Many world leaders have been heard advocating the ‘New World Order’ which is in agreement with the stated objectives of Freemasonry, as is evident from their latin phrase “Ordo Ab Chao”, which means “Order out of Chaos”, that they cause upon the earth to create the “new order of the ages”. But first they have to create a problem before suggesting the solution. They have successfully baited (deliberately annoy) Russia by lobbying for Ukraine’s membership in NATO and have provoked (incite someone to do something) Russia to attack Ukraine, because that has given them the legitimacy to form an international coalition of nations and even an ‘international legion’ of mercenaries against Russia, to cut them to size, if not ( perhaps even) overthrow them ! The conflict has all the signs of their making! They could have easily averted this war at the start, if they wanted to, by assuring Russia that Ukraine will not join NATO, but these warmongers in the west wanted this war with Russia anyway and don’t seem to have the slightest qualm ( uneasy feeling about one’s own conduct ) in having pushed Ukraine into this war. They still can stop this war, if they want to but they don’t want to, because their goals matter more than the sufferings of innocent Ukrainians who had to flee from the conflict or have been caught in the crossfire. Instead, they are supplying them with weapons ( not to mention the profit the military-industrial complex stands to make from it sales) and are cheering the Ukrainians to fight till the last man standing, without even committing their own troops. The Ukrainians have become pawns ( a person used by others for their own purposes) in the hands of the west to achieve their goals but sadly the Ukrainians don’t seem to realise this truth. Yet the west is angry about the Russian invasion but they seem to be self-righteous in their indignation because their double standards are too apparent to overlook! Can’t help but call out the hypocrisy of the west but that doesn’t mean the Russian invasion is justified. However, the Russians might succeed in defending their national interests but at a great cost, as the war drags on. It will cost them many lives and their economy because of the mounting sanctions. However, God’s hot anger is not aroused when Russia attacks Ukraine but will be aroused if Russia turns aside to invade Israel, if they be the nation that starts the Ezekiel 38 war! “When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign Lord.” (vs18)

Meanwhile, Russia stands in the way of the globalists, hindering their efforts to establish the New World Order because the are not party to it. Therefore, the ‘kings of the west’ will be challenged by the ‘kings of the east’, if they try to expand towards the east, just as Russia and China have already challenged NATO’s expansion towards the east. Even the European union has expanded towards the east, adding member states that are ‘in the least bit’ (in the slightest degree or in any respect) European! The ‘kings of the east’ will maintain their order in the east, resulting in the east-west divide. Choosing between the two will be like choosing between brutes and liars! The ‘kings of the east’ are brutes while those of the west are liars! The west has consistently lied to the world about every war they have started, be it the Afghan war, Iraq war, Libyan war, Syrian war … and now the Ukraine war! Their unholy alliances are intended to overthrow the nations of the world and establish the New World Order. Thank God there is a third side to this conflict! Not the side of the non-aligned nations for they too will be forced to choose sides! The third side is that of Christ and the armies of heaven. The kings and their armies from the east and the west will gather together at Armageddon (Revelation 16:12-16) to fight the rider on the white horse but they will be totally annihilated by Him. (Revelation 19:11-21) Therefore, let’s not align ourselves with the ‘kings of the east’ or with the ‘kings of the west’ but with the one from above who is the ‘King of kings’ ! Amen.

18. Baptism in Spirit and Power – The promise to the reborn. (Part 7 of the born again series.)

‘On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.” (Acts 1:4-5)  It was just a few days before this that Jesus breathed on them and said, “Re (once again) ceive (get) the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) Having said that, men can ‘once again get’ the Holy Spirit to dwell in them, just as it had dwelt in Adam, prior to his fall.  This is the whole essence of rebirth and evidently, the disciples were born again the very moment they received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The disciples might have thought that’s all there was to it, but to their pleasant surprise, Jesus instructed them to tarry in Jerusalem for yet another supernatural experience! Obviously it was not to receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit which they had already received but to receive something which they hadn’t received; which is the infilling in the Holy Spirit. Speaking of the infilling, Jesus said: “For John baptized with water but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” The reason Jesus drew this parallel between the two was to show that they will be baptized into another substance, just as John baptized his disciples into water. Here the reference was not about the person of Holy Spirit who was to come on the day of Pentecost or about the presence of the Holy Spirit, which they had already received, but it was about the substance into which they were to be baptized; the Spirit that flows from within God. It is also referred to as the ‘living waters’, which can quench our spiritual thirst.  “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.’ (John 7:37-39) ‘For we were all given one Spirit to drink.’ (1 Corinthians 12:13)

What is interesting is the fact that  Jesus gave this instruction to tarry in Jerusalem, to those who were already born again, because the promise of the Spirit was originally meant for them. However, it was first made to Abraham, when he became the heir of the world by faith. ‘It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be the heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith.’ (Romans 4:13) But how were the descendants of Abraham supposed to take possession of the whole earth, when they were limited by their geographical boundaries? The answer was in imparting the Holy Spirit even to the Gentiles who would believe in God. ‘The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith … He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. The promise were spoken to Abraham and to his seed, … meaning one person, who is Christ.’ (Galatians 3:8-16) Then when the seed to whom the promise referred had come, he said, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.”

When did the disciples hear him speak about the Promise? Jesus first mentioned about the Holy Spirit while introducing another Counselor. “And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him for he lives WITH YOU and will be IN YOU. (John 14:16-17) Here he mentions the two dimensions in which the Holy Spirit operates but later on, before his ascension, he spoke about the third dimensions in which the Holy Spirit would operate. “But you will receive Power when the Holy Spirit comes ON YOU and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) The Holy Spirit was ‘WITH US’  to SAVE US, is now ‘IN US’ to CHANGE US and will be ‘UPON US’ to USE US. There is no power without the Holy Spirit but when he comes upon us, we will receive Power. Power for what? To be witnesses! Witnesses of what? The resurrection of Jesus! Not only were they supposed to be witnesses of Christ with their words and with their  lives  but they were also supposed  to be witnesses of Christ with the power of resurrection, demonstrated through signs, wonders and miracles. “You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:48-49)

How could they wait in prayer and worship continually for ten days, without having the presence of the Holy Spirit within them? Infact receiving the baptism in the Spirit is the tangible proof of our rebirth, because no one can receive it without being born again. Therefore Peter said of those gathered at  Cornelius’ house: “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” (Acts 10:47) Here are a group of people who were not baptized in water, yet received the baptism of the Holy Spirit! Undoubtedly, they were born again! ‘So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.’ (Vs 48) How did they receive the baptism in the Spirit without being baptized in water? The only prerequisite before receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit and Power, is the rebirth experience. Hence, the only question that we need to ask ourselves is: “Am I born again?” If you answer is “yes”, then tarry for the promise, but if you are not sure of this spiritual experience, then ask the Holy Spirit to lead you into it. Amen. (I suppose it would be helpful for you, if you would go back and read from Part 1 of this series, to know more about this spiritual experience. God bless you.)

17. One baptism: The washing of rebirth.(Part 6 of the born again series.)

‘There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, ONE BAPTISM; one God and Father of all …’ (Ephesians 4:4) Yet the author of Hebrews, refers to ‘BAPTISMS’ in plural, while listing the ‘elementary teachings about Christ.’ For he wrote: ‘Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of :-
1. Repentance
2. Faith in God
3. Instructions about BAPTISMS
4. Laying on of hands
5. Resurrection of the dead
6. Eternal judgement
And God permitting, we will do so.’ (Hebrews 6:1–3) What is seemingly a contradiction, is in fact not, because though there are many baptisms, there is only ONE BAPTISM that can save and it is the ‘washing of rebirth’. ‘He has saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit …’ (Titus 3:5) It is easy to understand baptisms, if we consider ‘who’ baptizes ‘whom’ in ‘what’. The one who baptizes is being called the ‘Agent’ and the person who is baptized is being called the ‘Recipient’ and what they are baptized into is being called the ‘Element’ in the chart below:-

Agent > Recipient > Element

Holy Spirit > Believer > in Blood

Disciple > Believer > in Water

Jesus > Believer > in Spirit

Jesus > Believer > in Fire

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful … He will baptise you in HOLY SPIRIT and with FIRE.” (Matthew 3:11) Jesus himself was baptized in water and thereafter in the Holy Spirit and Power. ‘When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too!’ (Luke 3:21) ‘Jesus full of the HOLY SPIRIT returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert … Jesus returned to Galilee in the POWER of the Spirit.’ (Luke 4:1,14) ‘God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the HOLY SPIRIT and POWER and he went about doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.’ (Acts 10:38) Hence the author of Hebrews (presumably Paul) was right in addressing baptisms in plural because there are in fact three baptisms ie., in WATER, HOLY SPIRIT and POWER / FIRE (They are essentially the same because on the day of Pentecost, the disciples received power after ‘tongues of fire’ came upon them.) But which of the three was Paul referring to as the ‘One baptism‘ in Ephesians or was he referring to the most important and essential for salvation, the ‘washing of rebirth’ in the blood of the lamb? It’s relevance can be understood if we realise that Christ wouldn’t baptise a person in the Holy Spirit and Power unless the person first experience the ‘washing of rebirth’, though men might not hesitate to baptise them in water! That is the reason why many who have been baptized only in water, haven’t received the baptism in the Spirit because they haven’t been sprinkled by the blood of the lamb. ‘We have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.’ (1 Peter 1:2)

Can we then call the ‘washing of rebirth’ as the ‘baptism in the blood of the lamb’? Jesus, who was baptized in Water, Holy Spirit and Power said: “But I have another baptism to undergo and how distressed I am until it is completed!” (Luke 12:50) He was obviously referring to his death as a baptism that he had to undergo. As a matter of fact, those who stood at the foot of the cross were sprinkled with the blood and water from Jesus’ side as he was pierced. ‘One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.’ (John 19:34) It was following this sprinkling by the blood at the cross that they received the Holy Spirit, post resurrection. ‘And with that he breathed on them and said,” Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20:22) The water is symbolic of the Spirit since Jesus himself said : “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him”. By this he meant the Spirit whom those who believed in him were later to receive.’ (John 7:38-39) Wherever the blood of Christ is sprinkled, only there the Holy Spirit is poured out!

Why is the ‘washing of rebirth’ being referred to as the ‘one baptism’? Because, none of the other baptisms are essential for salvation! If it were, the thief on the cross wouldn’t be in Paradise! I suppose he could have said this better than Paul : ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.’ (Galatians 2:20) Here is a man who physically experienced the symbolism of baptism, which is the death, burial and resurrection in Christ. ‘We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may life a new life.’ (Romans 6:4) Therefore, baptism in water cannot be more relevant than the washing of rebirth. Moreover, those who have experienced the ‘washing of rebirth’ and received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit might not experience the baptism in Holy Spirit and Power because that is meant for service and not an essential for salvation. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the world.” (Acts 1:8) Amen.

16. Relevance of rebirth.(Part 5 of the born again series.)

‘Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:17) The relevance of rebirth cannot be understated because it ushers in the most profound change within a person, to the extent that the Bible calls them a ‘new creation’. So what is new in us who are born again? Definitely our bodies are still the same even after the rebirth experience. However, the Bible assures us that a day is coming, when these bodies of ours will be transformed – ‘in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye …’ because  ‘flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God …’ ( 1 Corinthians 15:50-52) ‘Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.’ (Philippians 3:20-21) The deposit of the Holy Spirit in those who are born again is the guarantee that this would happen to them. ‘Having believed you have been marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession.’ (Ephesians 1:13-14)

If not our bodies, then what is new in us who are born again? Definitely, our spirits are still the same but the Holy Spirit has begun within us a process of renewal which has eternal significance, because it not only transforms our minds now and will transform our bodies later, at his coming. ‘He has saved us through the washing of rebirth ( by the blood) and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he has poured on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour…’ ( Titus 3:5-6) Since the process of renewal is ongoing, the Bible exhorts us to continually ‘put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator.’ (Colossians 3:10) Paul testified to this daily process of renewal in his life when he wrote :‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.’  ( 2 Corinthians 4:16) 

So, to the question, what is new in us who are born again, the relevant answer would be that we received the ‘mind of Christ’. Definitely, our souls (the seat of our mind, will and emotions) are the same but it has experienced a dramatic change (Greek: metanoia means ‘change of mind’, repentance, the state of changing any or all the elements composing one’s life: attitudes, thoughts and behaviour concerning the demands of God for right living.) ‘Man without the Spirit cannot accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned … But we have the mind of Christ.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:14,16) The reason for this assertion is the fact that our minds are now controlled by the Holy Spirit and therefore we have an attitude of mind that was also found in Christ. ‘The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so … you however are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.’ (Romans 8:6-9  The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to ‘be transformed by the renewing of our minds’ (Romans 12:2) Therefore we are admonished ‘to be made new in the attitude of our minds and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.’ ( Ephesians 4:23) Another reason for the assertion that those who are born again have received the ‘mind of Christ’ is because they are able to discern everything and make right judgements. ‘We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us … The spiritual man makes judgement about all things but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgement.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:12,15)

As a disciple of Christ, Paul had this attitude towards his fellow men : ‘For Christ’s love compels us because we are convinced that one died for all and therefore all died. And he died for all that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a wordly point of view. Though we once  regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!’. ( 2 Corinthians 5:14-17) Do we lack the mind to forgive others inspite of us believing in Christ or do we rake up other’s past,  inspite of them believing in Christ? If so, we haven’t received the ‘mind of Christ’ and our ‘Rebirth’ is questionable! The evidence of rebirth is in our reconciliation with God and men. Many would reconcile with God but will not reconcile with men, though it is expected of them. ‘Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ ( Colossians 3:13) This has become the ‘gold standard’ by which a believer will be measured and if found lacking, this would be what God has to say, on that day : “You wicked servant … Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured … ) “This is how the heavenly Father will treat each one of you unless you forgive from your heart!” (Matthew 18:33-35) We risk being left behind at Rapture, if we are alive at his return or risk being left behind in Hades at the first resurrection, if we die before his return. So it is not optional to forgive but mandatory that we forgive others just as he has forgiven us. 

Not only were we renewed  in attitude towards others but also in our attitude towards God and even concerning our bodies. It is impossible to have an ‘attitude of gratitude’ towards God if we persist in unbelief. So the Bible requires that ‘we live by faith and not by sight.’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:7) ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’ (Hebrews 10:38 / Habakkuk 2:4) Moreover, our attitude towards our bodies is revealed in our refusal to defile ourselves. ‘Daniel resolved not to defile himself with royal food and wine’ ( Daniel 1:8) because it was offered to the Babylonian gods as sacrifices. Our rights over our bodies should not end up denying God’s rights over our bodies. The slogan : ‘My body, my choice’ goes against the tenets of Christianity because the word of God says: ‘The body is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord and the Lord for the body … Therefore honor God with your body.’ ( 1 Corinthians 6:13-20)

Attitudes of our renewed minds match up quite well with what was said early in the article titled ‘Three evidences of rebirth’ – (Part 2 of this series). A ‘fervent heart’ is matched by an ‘attitude of gratitude’, an ‘opened mind’ is matched by an ‘attitude of forgiveness’ and a ‘sanctified body’ is matched by an ‘attitude of consecration’. We live in an age when spiritual words and concepts have come to mean different things, a far cry from what it was meant to be! A ‘watered down’ version of rebirth, which unduly emphasizes water baptism over the inner experience, has shifted the focus away from the true meaning of rebirth. All who are born again have essentially had a Pentecostal experience but not all Pentecostals are born again. As for those who are born again, let ‘your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus …‘ (Philippians 2:5) for you have the ‘mind of Christ’. Amen.

15. The travail of Rebirth.(Part 4 of the born again series.)

The word ‘travail’ means painful or laborious effort and that is why the term is also used to describe the labor pain that a woman experiences while giving birth. Understanding this parallel between newbirth and rebirth, Paul wrote: ‘My little children, for whom I am again in  the pain of childbirth ( KJV travail ) until Christ is  formed in you … I am perplexed about you.’ ( Galatians 4:19-20) Just as human gestation (the process or period of growth of the fetus inside the womb from the time of conception till birth) takes nine months, so also the process or period of Rebirth takes time, until Christ is formed in us. The period of travail starts from the moment we hear the gospel and ends with our rebirth.

Nature itself gives us insights into the process of rebirth. Just as a single cell zygote (means  ‘yoked’) is formed as a result of the union of the male and female gametes, so also the ‘seed of the Word of God’ sown into the ‘womb of our spirit’, be yoked  with ‘faith’ to become one entity. ‘The message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.’ (Hebrews 4:2) Just as the embryo implants itself firmly on the uterine wall with the help of the placenta, so also the embryonic ‘word and faith’ in us be implanted firmly in the ‘womb of our spirit’. ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth … humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.’ (James 1:18-21) Just as the embryo (It is called a  fetus, only from the end of the second month of pregnancy) is nourished  through the umbilical cord, so also the embryonic faith formed in us be nourished through the lifeline of word and prayer. (For this reason Parents need to share the word with their children and pray for their salvation.) ‘I have been reminded of your sincere faith which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and I am persuaded, now lives in you also … continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ ( 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:14-15) Just as a prominent blood vessel in the embryo begins to take form of a rudimentary heart, so also a  ‘heart for God’, begins to take form within us. “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us and opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) And just as the rudimentary heart within  the  embryo begins to pulsate miraculously by the third week, so also the impartation of the ‘Spirit of  Christ’ causes our hearts to come alive. ‘If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. (Romans 8:10)

Have you ever wondered what causes the rudimentary heart within the embryo to pulsate all of a sudden? Modern Science has not been able to explain how the rudimentary heart begins to pulsate by the third week. It will remain a mystery for the world but the Bible gives us some insight into the mystery. Since the heart stops when the spirit leaves the body, the opposite holds true as well  i.e, it begins to beat when a spirit (in the context of humans) and a soul (the seat of mind, will and emotions) is given to the  embryo – (That is why abortion  even at an earlier stage of pregnancy is foeticide and they will be held accountable to God.)

Being born again is a profound mystery and the greatest miracle. Don’t assume it happened because you were born  a Christian. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You have to be born again!'” ( John 3:6-7) The travail of rebirth that I experienced, started in 1986 and lasted seven years until I was born again in 1993. ( To access my testimony, please visit my website http://teachingofchrist.in and read the article titled: ‘My testimony: A case study’, under the main Menu.)  It might not be the same timeframe for everyone but invariably there is a process of rebirth that everyone will go through and a period of time associated with it, from their first encounter with God till the time they are born again. Though the disciples had met Jesus, three and a half years back, it was only after his resurrection, that their lives were transformed, when they received the Holy Spirit. ‘And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”‘ (John 20:22)  The parable of the sower doesn’t say that irrespective of where the seed fell, it was fruitful. “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word, understands it and produce a crop …” ( Matthew 13 : 23 ) Since the Holy Spirit comes to take permanent residence in us, he cannot come into hearts where the Gospel has fallen by the wayside or on rocky ground or among thorns. He waits for the heart to be ready to receive him once for all.

This message might not seem relevant to you now but in the light of what is to come, it is imperative because your Rebirth will decide whether you will be Raptured or left behind! “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3) Over the years I have often asked people, “Did you accept Jesus as your personal Savior, having heard the gospel?” Almost all hands go up! I should have rather asked, “How many times have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior?” But my next question makes them uneasy! “Did you experience rebirth, having accepted Christ?” Many hands that were lifted up, go down because they are not sure of their Rebirth. And if I asked those who claim to be born again : “Did you receive the baptism of the Spirit, having been born again?” Even the rest of the hands that were lifted up, go down. It is a fallacy to think that everyone invariably receives the Holy Spirit by default, immediately after they are baptized in water. There are many in the Church, like Simon the Sorcerer, who believed and was baptized. But when he came before the Apostle Peter, to receive the gift of the Spirit, he was told : “You have no part or share in this ministry because your heart is not right before God. Repent … for I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” (Acts 8:21- 23)
So here is a believer who did everything but repent ! And there are plenty of them like him in the Church, who have been baptized in water, without having gone through the process of rebirth, because they were hurried through the process by those who were eager baptize them in water so that they could boast of the numbers. They were told that water baptism would solve all their problems and therefore they were glad to receive it, as if it were their ticket to heaven! If you have read my write ups in the born again series, you might have noted that I have put water baptism in its right context, stating that salvation is only by faith and not by works. Works include even water baptism, taken either as a child or as an adult because without having believed, it is a meaningless ritual that cannot save. It is essentially an outward expression of an inward experience and therefore should be rightly called Believer’s baptism! No matter whatever it is called or however it is done, the bottom line will remain the same: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved – you and your household.” ( Acts 16:31) Amen.

14. Three agents of rebirth. (Part 3 of the born again series.)

Why is rebirth a miracle? Firstly, because the miracle of rebirth is beyond our human will! ‘Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.’ (John 1:12-13) We might have been born in a christian household but that doesn’t make us a Christian. “Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying,’You must be born again.’ (John 3:6-7) Yet it is not in our efforts but in His Sovereign choice! ‘I will have mercy on whom I want to have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It therefore does not depend on man’s desire or effort but on God’s mercy.’ ( Romans 9:15-16) Secondly, rebirth is a miracle because it is a mystery! “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) Though it seems to be mysterious, yet the Bible sheds light on the three agents of rebirth and it is the coming together of these three that results in the greatest miracle! ‘ ‘For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.’ (1 John 5:7-8) What is said of Christ, the first born of God, is true of us who have been born of God as well.

The three agents of rebirth are as follows:-

1. The Spirit – The Holy Spirit is the central agent of transformation responsible for the rebirth because it is he who reveals the  Saviour to us and convicts us of the need for salvation. “When the counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, he will testify about me.” (John 15:26) “When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin, righteousness and judgement.” (John 16:8) The Holy Spirit ministers the word of God and the blood of Christ, which are the other two agents of rebirth he works with. Though it is men who minister the word of God, it is the Holy Spirit who opens the heart of the listeners to believe in the person of  Christ. ‘One of those listening was a woman named Lydia … The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.’ ( Acts 16:14) Therefore, Paul said: ‘ Our Gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 1:5) On the day of Pentecost, the three thousand who heard Peter speak were cut to heart because the Holy Spirit convicted them. ‘Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation …’ ( 2 Corinthians 7:10)

2.  The water“I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit” ( John 3:5) Many assume that the water means baptism but it doesn’t cleanse a man inwardly! Instead, Paul called it the ‘washing of rebirth through the word’.  ‘ … Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the WASHING WITH WATER THROUGH THE WORD and to present her to himself as a radiant Church, without stain or wrinkle or any blemish but holy and blameless’. ( Ephesians 5:25-27) ‘He saved us through the WASHING OF REBIRTH and RENEWAL BY THE  HOLY SPIRIT  whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour…’ ( Titus 3:5) The Word of God is rightly called the ‘sword of the Spirit’ because it is the word of God which the Holy Spirit uses to cut our hearts. ‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’ (Hebrews 4:12) Hence, Peter affirmatively wrote: ‘ For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.’ (1 Peter 1:23) ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth …’ (James 1:18) Without experiencing this ‘washing of rebirth by the word of God’ and ‘renewal by the Holy Spirit’, baptism in water is meaningless because ‘it is not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience towards God.’ ( 1Peter 3:21) It is the outward expression of an inward experience without which it becomes a ritual that will never save you, whether you were baptized as a child or as an adult, because salvation is by faith and not by works.

3. The Blood – Following the washing with water through the word of God, the Holy Spirit washes us in the blood of Christ, all who have believed in Him and have confessed their sins. ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:9) Once the foundation of sin is done away with, then curses begin to break and bodies begin to heal in the name of Jesus because that is the order in which it happened during the fall of man and therefore, it will be the order in which it is undone by the Holy Spirit. ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.’ ( Romans 8:1-2) The Holy Spirit then takes permanent residence within our hearts, at which point we are most assuredly born again and are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. When the Spirit left Adam, he felt naked but now when the Spirit returns, we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ, just as the prodigal son was clothed with the best robe. ‘Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet … Let’s have a feast and celebrate for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. So they began to celebrate. ( Luke 15:22-24) “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner who repents .” (Luke 15:10) We too are given a ring for our finger, meaning the authority ( Matthew 28:18) and sandals for our feet meaning our assignment on earth.

The three agents of rebirth ie the Spirit of God, the word of God (water) and the blood of Christ, have to come together for the miracle of rebirth to happen and it is not in our own making. However, it is God’s will for everyone of us but the Holy Spirit waits for the perfect time to indwell within our hearts because once he resides, he is never supposed to leave. The day this happens will be the greatest day of your life because that is the best thing that could ever happen to you. What prepares you for that day is the Word of God and prayer. ‘As for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of … how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.’ ( 2Timothy 3:14-15) We see the three agents come together even in the life of Jesus, to testify to his Sonship, Christship and Lordship. ‘He did not come by WATER only, but by WATER and BLOOD. And it is the SPIRIT who testifies because the SPIRIT is the truth.’ ( 1 John 5:6) Amen. (To know more about this topic, read the article titled: ‘The gospel about Jesus and the three fold testimony of God’, under the header ‘Bible study’. Thank you.)

13. Three evidences of rebirth.(Part 2 of the born again series.)

After Jesus rose from dead, on the morning of the first day of the week, he appeared to the women and to Peter. Then towards evening, he appeared to the two on the road to Emmaus. (Luke 24:1,13,29) They returned at once to Jerusalem to report it to the Apostles. ‘While they were taking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you” …  ‘Then he opened their minds’ so they could understand the Scriptures.(Luke 24:36-45) Speaking of the same incident, John wrote, ‘On the evening of the first day of the week, when the disciples were together … Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you” … And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”. (John 20:19-22) How did Jesus open their minds to understand Scriptures? We can infer from the above Scriptures that their minds were opened when they received the Holy Spirit.

The three evidences of rebirth are as follows:– 

1. Opened mind – The first evidence of rebirth is therefore an ‘opened mind’.  But why should our minds be opened?  ‘The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned.’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:14) Therefore the Holy Spirit will have to bypass our minds and come into our hearts to take control of our minds.  ‘The mind of the sinful man is death but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so … You, however are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.’ (Romans 8:6-9)  All the doubts that cloud our minds suddenly disappears and a new understanding dawns. It is said that we don’t surprise God with our questions but He surprises us with his answers and it is true! ‘As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit – just as it has taught you, remain in him.’ ( 1 John 2:27)

2. Prayerful heart – The second evidence of rebirth is a fervent heart.  Soon after the Apostles experienced an opened mind, ‘they all joined together constantly in prayer …’ (Acts 1:14) ‘And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.’ ( Luke 24:53) Although the Apostles had been with Jesus for three and a half years, they were never seen praying but were found sleeping, when he instructed them to pray. “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” … When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them.”Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  The reason they couldn’t pray as Jesus did was because they had not received the Holy Spirit yet. But the moment they received the Holy Spirit, they began to pray earnestly as Jesus did. Suffice to say that  anyone who doesn’t have a secret prayer life is not born again. Jesus was often found praying in a solitary place and this was his instruction to his disciples as well: “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen. Then you Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ( Matthew 6:6) ‘And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.’ ( Ephesians 6:18)

3. Sanctified Body – The third evidence of rebirth is Holiness. ‘No one who is born of God will continue to sin because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning because he has been born of God ‘ ( 1 John 3:9) This might seem  unrealistic and unattainable to us in this generation but the Apostle Paul taught otherwise and exhorted Titus to teach the same. ‘For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and wordly passions and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ … These, then are the things you should teach.’ (Titus 2:11-13) The apostle John taught that those who love God will inevitably overcome the world. ‘This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. ( 1 John 5:3-4) The reason why his commands are not burdensome is because we have the means to overcome, which is the Holy Spirit. ‘And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.’ (Romans 8:9) but ‘those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.’ (Galatians 5:24) ‘Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your reasonable act of worship’ (Romans 12:1) and ‘without holiness no one will see the Lord.’ (Hebrews 12:14)

These three evidences are for us to know whether we are born again but others around us might never get to see these evidences. Instead, they get to see the fruit of the Spirit in us as a result of our rebirth. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good or make a tree bad and it’s fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit.” (Matthew 12:33) “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) “This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15:8) If you haven’t experienced an ‘opened mind’, a fervent heart and a sanctified body, then you are probably not born again because immediately after our justification by faith, the process of sanctification begins, when our hearts are cleansed by the blood of the Lamb of God, our minds were cleansed by the word of God and our bodies were cleansed by the Spirit of God. This is an ongoing process until glorification happens at the coming of the Lord. ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctity you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) If you are not sure of your rebirth, then “Repent and believe the good news” today! ( Mark 1:15) The primary requirement is to believe or else, how can you repent? Ofcourse, there might be those who need not repent but they still have to believe. Nathanael probably had nothing to repent about but he had to believe. ( John 1:47,50) That is why the sacrament is rightly called ‘Believer’s Baptism’ and it doesn’t matter whether a person is an adult or a child, as long as they personally believe for themselves. Therefore, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.’ (Acts 2:38-39) Amen.

12. Am I ‘born again’? (Part 1 of the born again series.)

Wait! Don’t shy away from asking yourself this important question in this last hour, to know whether you will be Raptured to heaven, before the Tribulation. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” ( John 3:3) It is a term that has often been misunderstood and misinterpreted by many. The Episcopals have misunderstood it to be doctrine of the Pentecostals, not realising that these are the words of Jesus himself, while the Pentecostals have misinterpreted it as baptism in water. Not even Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council and Israel’s teacher, understood what Jesus meant. Hence Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to the spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ (John 3: 5-7) The most common reply to the above question is that they were baptized in water as a child or as an adult but that is not the response that was asked for, rather their experience before taking the water baptism! The question, in Paul’s own words would be : “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” ( Acts 19:2) Receiving once again the presence of the Holy Spirit which left Adam and Eve, when they sinned and spiritually died, is the sum and substance of being born again. And with that he breathed on them and said, “Re (means once again) -ceive ( means get) the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:22) That became the standard by which the Apostles assessed a believer and not by the claims of healing and prosperity one might have received after turning to Christ.

The three moments in time when the disciples of Jesus were baptized, as documented in Scriptures are:-

1. Some, after they literally met with the Messiah. ‘The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah.” And he brought him to Jesus. ( John 1:41-42) ‘Jesus and his disciples went into the countryside where he spent some time with them and baptized ( John 3:22) ‘Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John, although infact it was not Jesus who baptized but his disciples.’ (John 4:1-2)

2. Some, after they heard the gospel on the day of Pentecost and were cut to heart by the Holy Spirit and asked, “What shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Those that accepted the message was baptized and about three thousand were added to their number that day.( Acts 2:37-41)

3. Some, after they heard the gospel and received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. ‘While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message … Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized in the water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.’ (Acts 10:44-48)

Which of these three was the premise for your baptism? A physical encounter with Christ ? Or were cut to heart by the Holy Spirit after hearing the gospel? Or received the baptism in the Holy Spirit after hearing the gospel? Of course, no one has had a physical encounter with Christ, since his days on earth but there might be those who have had a vision of Christ, like Paul on the road to Damascus, but even then, he was baptized only after having received the Holy Spirit, when Ananias placed his hands on him. ‘Placing his hands on Saul, he said,” Brother Saul, the Lord … has sent me so that you may … be filled with the Holy Spirit … He got up and was baptized..’ (Acts 9:17-18) If you haven’t experienced any of these, then you probably are not born again and had no premise for taking the water baptism, as a child or as an adult and it won’t save you because we are saved by faith alone and not by works.

What must I do to be born again? First of all we need to realise that rebirth is a mystery and nothing short of a miracle, which happens in His time. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” ( John 3:8) On the day of Pentecost, the wind blew and they were filled with the Holy Spirit and the wind has been blowing ever since throughout the Church age. ‘Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting ... All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit …’ ( Acts 2:2-4) ‘Then Peter stood up with the eleven and raised his voice and addressed the crowd … “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to heart and said to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Brothers what shall we do?” Peter replied, “REPENT and be BAPTIZED …” (Acts 2:14-38) There is yet another term that comes before these two which Peter didn’t say because it was understood without being said. “Repent and BELIEVE the good news.” (Mark 1:15) Therefore the three key words, in their right order should be :-

1. Believe

2. Repent

3. Be Baptized.

How can you repent unless you believe and why should you be baptized unless you repent? Nevertheless, it happens all the time when people miss out on the first two and hurry up to get baptized because they were told that it would solve all their problems. Simon the Sorcerer believed and was baptized (Acts 8:12) but did not repent. Therefore Peter had to tell him, “Repent … For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.” ( Acts 8:22-23) Baptism alone will not save anyone whereas those who believe and repent will be saved, though not baptized! The salvation of the thief on the cross, is an eloquent testimony of this timeless truth that salvation is by faith alone and not by works. ( He would have received the baptism, had he been alive. However, his death on the cross with Christ was more meaningful than the ritual that baptism symbolises.) Moreover, it is in agreement with what Paul and Silas told the jailer in Philippi, in reply to his question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved – you and your household.” … then immediately he and all his family were baptized.’ (Acts 16:31-33)

What hinders us from being born again? The Holy Spirit comes to impart the righteousness of Jesus but our self- righteousness is what hinders him. Speaking of the Israelites, Paul said: ‘Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.’ ( Romans 10:3) But speaking of himself, Paul said : “Whatever was to my profit, I count it a loss for the sake of Christ … I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law but that which is through faith in Christ- the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.’ ( Philippians 3:7-9) Speaking of this righteousness, Jesus said: ‘For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 5:20) Just as the filthy rags of prodigal son was stripped and he was clothed with the best robe ( Luke 15:22), so let’s be stripped of our self-righteousness and be clothed with the robe of Jesus ‘for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.’ ( Galatians 3:27) Amen.

23. Hades vs Hell.

Many think that ‘Hell’ is the English translation of the Greek word ‘Hades’ or of the Hebrew word ‘Sheol’ but they are not aware of the fact that English translations of the Bible like the NIV and the KJV had used the word ‘Hell’ to mean both ‘Hades’ and ‘Gehanna’ (which infact is the actual Greek word adapted from the Hebrew word ‘geenna’ and is translated as ‘Hell’) whereas the NASB and the Amplified Bible left the word ‘Hades’ untranslated but instead translated the word ‘Gehanna’ as ‘Hell’. For instance, Luke 16:23 in the NIV reads: ‘And in *hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.’  *The foot note says the actual Greek word in the passage is ‘Hades’ and not ‘Gehanna’. When the NIV and KJV translated the word as ‘hell’, NASB and the Amplified Bible left it untranslated. (In fact the Malayalam Bible translators got it right because they made a distinction between the two and used two different words in the translation : ‘Paa-dha-lam’ for  ‘Hades’ and ‘Na-ra-gam’ for ‘Gehanna’.) However, the translators of NIV did some justice by leaving the word ‘Hades’ untranslated throughout the book of Revelation whereas KJV translators did injustice to the truth with their choice of word. The Bible teaches that no one has gone bodily to Hades as it is the abode for unsaved departed souls, until the final judgement but thereafter, they will be cast bodily to the eternal fire, if they are eternally condemned. How then can they justify the use of the word ‘hell’ to mean both ‘Hades’ as well as the ‘lake of fire’, if these are two distinct places?

How are these two places distinct?  John in his vision saw Jesus place his right hand on him and say: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and HADES.” ( Revelation 1:17-18)   The Bible further reveals that  HADES  is not just the name of a place but also the name of the being who once exercised authority over Hades. ‘When the Lamb opened the fourth seal … I looked and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death and HADES was following close behind him.’ (Revelation 6:7-8) The reason why death and Hades will have to give up their dead is because Jesus has wrested (forcibly pull something from a person’s grasp) control of the keys, meaning he has got the authority to bring up the captives of death, from Hades and judge them by their deeds. ‘Do not be amazed at this for a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise up to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.’ (John 5:28-29) ‘The sea gave up the dead that were in it and death and HADES gave up the dead that were in them and each person was judged according to what they had done … Then death and HADES were thrown into the lake of fire.’ (Revelation 21:13-14)  Since death and HADES were thrown into the lake of fire, they together with the rest of the horsemen who came when the seals were broken, are therefore evil entities destined for hell. And since HADES cease to exist thereafter, it is therefore a temporary place whereas the ‘lake of fire’ or ‘hell’ is eternal. The phrase ‘lake of fire’ is a metaphor that describes hell better than the word itself ! The Greek word Gehenna or Gehinnom translated as  ‘Hell’  is the name of  a valley in Jerusalem called the valley of Hinnom, outside the city wall of Jerusalem, where the garbage from the city was burnt; where the fire never died and worms thrived. It was this picture that Jesus alluded to when he described hell: “their worm do not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:48/ Isaiah 66:24) Jesus further remarked that this ‘eternal fire was prepared for the devil and his angels.‘ (Matthew 25:41) Therefore, the first to go there will not be men, contrary to popular belief and claims by those who have supposedly seen visions of men already burning in hell. Nobody has been to hell yet and the first to go there will be the beast and the false prophet and those who have taken the mark of the beast. ‘The beast was captured and with him the false prophet who performed the miraculous signs on his behalf … The two were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur.’ (Revelation 19:20). “If anyone worships the beast and his image and receives his mark on the forehead or on the hand, he too … will be tormented with burning sulphur … And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever.’ (Revelation 14:9-11, Matthew 13:40-42). Then after the thousand year rule of Christ, when Satan is released from his prison, he together with those who joined with him in the final rebellion will be thrown into hell.  ‘And the devil … was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night forever.’ (Revelation 20:10)  Thereafter at the judgement of the dead, those from Hades whose names were not found in the book of life were thrown into hell. ‘If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.’ (Revelation 20:15) ‘Paradise’ was prepared for departed souls who were saved while ‘Hades’ was prepared for departed souls who were not saved. ‘Hell‘, on the other hand, was prepared for the the devil and his angels but those who reject Christ will find themselves in hell, together with them. It would therefore be naive ( lacking wisdom and judgement) on our part to think that Hades and Hell are the same.

Did we get the whole thing wrong in English? Why else do we say in the Apostle’s creed: ‘He descended into Hell; the third day He rose again from the dead..’ ? Jesus never went to Hell but to Hades, to the depths of the earth, where men were in bondage. ‘Seeing what was ahead, David spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave ( again the actual Greek  word is Hades ), nor did his body see decay.’ ( Acts 2:31) ‘What does he descended mean except that he also descended to the lower earthly regions?’  (Ephesians 4:9) That is where the rich man went when he died and was in torment but Lazarus the beggar went to paradise. The thief on the cross also  went to paradise but Jesus descended to Hades, where he preached to the spirits in prison. ‘He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built …’ ( 1Peter 3:18-20) ‘For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body but live according to God in regard to the spirit.’ (1Peter 4:6) Peter uses  the obscure reference to make a point about the ultimate good that came from the suffering Jesus endured. When he rose from the dead, he ascended, taking along with him the captives in paradise. Infact the thief had the shortest stay in Paradise! ‘When he ascended on high, he led the captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ ( Ephesians 4:7) ‘ … so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death. For surely it is not the angels he helps but Abraham’s descendants.’ (Hebrews 2:14-16)

There is an underworld beyond that of Hades where neither man nor Christ has been because it is the place where fallen angels who had done the forbidden, are languishing in prisons, awaiting Judgement : ‘And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home – these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for Judgement of the great Day.’ ( Jude v 6) ‘ … God did not spare angels when they sinned but “sent them to hell” ( again  the actual Greek word is the verb ‘Tartaroō’ ταρταρόω,  meaning “throw to Tartarus”), putting them into ‘gloomy dungeons’ ( some manuscripts say ‘chains of darkness’) to be held for Judgement …’ ( 2 Peter 2:4) Both Hades and Tartarus are therefore temporary places of imprisonment, until the final judgement when it will be emptied and thereafter will cease to exist, giving way to the new heaven and new earth. ‘Earth and sky fled from his presence and there was no place for them … Then I saw a new heaven and new earth for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away…’ (Revelation 20:11- 21:1)

So then the saying ‘hell on earth’ was never theological correct because hell is not here. Hell is eternal whereas this earth is temporary. Hell will exist even after this old earth passes away but will have existed even before the new earth was created. So where is it? We know not, but hell is for real! Once cast to Hell, there is no way out! But there is a way out of Hades, because Jesus holds the keys to death and HADES! Why should it surprise us if God ‘gleans’ ( to gather leftovers after the first fruits and main harvest) for souls among those who came from Hades, to save them from eternal damnation because he alone can fathom the horror of being condemned to hell for eternity. Many Christians might think that this teaching is heretical because God can’t be so merciful to those who heard the gospel and called on his name but were never born again or be so just to those who never heard the gospel but lived by their conscience. Yet these Christians wouldn’t mind sloganeering : “Plunder Hell; Populate Heaven!‘Judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement!’ (James 2:13) ‘Be merciful to those who doubt, snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy mixed with fear …’ (Jude vs 22-23) The bottom line is : ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ (Joel 2:32) Saved from what? Ultimately from eternal damnation in hell BUT that is not their ticket to heaven. “I tell you the truth, no one can see / enter the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 2:3,5) Amen

22. Seven harvests of souls.( Part 7 of the Rapture series.)

1. THE ‘DEAD IN CHRIST’ RESURRECTED BEFORE TRIBULATION : “I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25) ‘Since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man … But each in his own turn : Christ, the firstfruits; then when he comes, those who belong to him.’ (1 Corinthians 15:21,23)  ‘For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the ( first ) trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ shall rise first.’  (1 Thessalonians 4:16) 

* The ‘dead in Christ’ also include old testament saints who were resurrected in their spirits as they ascended with Christ. ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ (Ephesians 4:7) But they await bodily resurrection, together with the new testament saints. ‘These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what was promised … only together with us (New testament saints) would they (Old testament saints)  be made perfect.’ (Hebrews 11:39-40) However, the Bible does say that some saints were bodily resurrected at the time of Jesus’ death.‘The tombs broke open and bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life … and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the Holy city and appeared to many people.’ ( Matthew 27:52-53) They entered heaven led by Christ. ‘And he is the head of the body, the Church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.’ ( Colossians 1:18) Could they be the 24 elders found seated in the presence of God?(Revelation 4: 4)

2. THE ‘ALIVE IN CHRIST’ RAPTURED BEFORE TRIBULATION : I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left.” (Luke 17:34-36) According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep … After that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 4:15,17)

* The ‘dead in Christ’ and the ‘alive in Christ’ together constitute the ‘Raptured saints’. The ‘Tribulation saints’ comprises of multitudes of nominal Christians  and Gentiles who will believe in Christ, on account of  ‘Rapture’ but many among them will be martyred for their faith. The ‘Raptured saints’ and the ‘Tribulation saints’ together constitute the ‘Church’, which is the ‘body of Christ’. Just as crops are not harvested just once but several times, during a season, as and when it ripens, souls too are not harvested together but several times, as and when they mature. All the Raptured saints in heaven will constitute the ‘firstfruits’; all the tribulation saints on earth can be reckoned as the ‘main harvest’ and the survivors from tribulation who will be found worthy to enter the millennial kingdom and the dead in Hades, who will escape from being condemned to hell at the last judgement, will make up the ‘gleanings’.

3. THE MARTYRED TRIBULATION SAINTS  ( MOSTLY GENTILES ) RESURRECTED BEFORE THE MILLENIUM : ‘When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained … they were told to wait a little longer until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed.’ (Revelation 6:9-11) ‘After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb … These are they who have come out of the great tribulation.’ ( Revelation 7:9-14) ‘At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels with a loud ( last ) trumpet call and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.’ ( Mark 13: 26-27/Matthew 24:30-31)  ‘For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.’ ( 1Corintians 15:51-52) ‘I saw thrones on which were seated those who have been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God … They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years … This is the ‘first resurrection’. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first Resurrection … they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.’ (Revelation 20:4-6)

* Since the Gentiles and Jews are martyred at two different stages during the tribulation, it makes sense to differentiate between the two harvests. Many nominal Christians and Gentiles will believe in Christ and be martyred during the first half of the tribulation while Jews will turn to Christ only during the second half of the tribulation, after the ministry of the two witnesses; the desecration of the temple and the events that follow. However, both Gentile and Jewish saints who are martyred during Tribulation will be resurrected together before the millennium. Those who escape martyrdom and survive the Tribulation, will also enter the millenium, provided they haven’t taken the mark of the beast. ‘There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandment and remain faithful to Jesus.’  (Revelation 14:11-12)

4. THE 144,000 FROM ALL THE TRIBES OF ISRAEL RAPTURED DURING TRIBULATION : ‘Then I heard the number of those who were sealed : 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel.’ ( Revelation 7:4) “When you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation … let those in Judea flee to the mountains … For then there will be great distress unequaled from the beginning of the world …” (Matthew 24:15-21)  ‘A woman (which is Israel) clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head ... She was pregnant … gave birth … her child (her firstfruit) was snatched up to God and to his throne. The woman (the Jewish church) fled into the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.’ (Revelation 12:1-6) ‘Then I looked and there before me was the Lamb standing on Mount Zion and with him the 144,000 … They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.’ (Revelation 14:1-4).

* The two witnesses (Enoch and Elijah), who will be killed during the tribulation, by the beast from the Abyss (the false prophet) but will be resurrected, three and a half days later, are not in a category by themselves because they should have been counted with the ‘dead in Christ’, had they been dead in the past but since they are still alive, they will be the last of the two pre-testament and old testament saints respectively, who are yet to die and be bodily resurrected. ( Revelation 11:3-12) ‘These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth’ (Zechariah 4:14)

5. THE MARTYRED TRIBULATION SAINTS ( MOSTLY JEWS ) RESURRECTED BEFORE THE MILLENIUM : ‘Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” … “Take your sickle and reap because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth and the earth was harvested.’  (Revelation 14:13-16) ‘And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb.’ (Revelation 15:2-3) ‘And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded … They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.’  (Revelation 20:4-5)

* The reason they are mostly Jews is because almost all Gentile believers will be killed before the abomination that causes desolation’ is set up ‘in the middle of the seven.’ (Daniel 9:27) ‘Then I saw another beast coming out of the earth … He ordered them to set up an image in honour of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived … and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.’ ( Revelation 13:11-15)

6. THE SURVIVORS FROM TRIBULATION WHO ENTER THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM : “When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates his sheep from goats. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father … I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine (the believers), you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels …’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

* However, many of the descendants of the survivors who entered the millenium, will be wicked and will join Satan for the final rebellion against God but the righteous will inhabit the new earth and populate it. ‘When the thousand years are over, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth – Gog and Magog – to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them.’ (Revelation 20:7-10)

7. THE DEAD FROM HADES WHOSE NAMES ARE FOUND IN THE BOOK OF LIFE AT THE FINAL JUDGEMENT AFTER MILLENNIUM : “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.” (John 5:28-29) ‘Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it … And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them … If anyone’s name was not found in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.’ ( Revelation 20:11-15)

* At the final judgement of the dead, it was not the names of the living, who reigned with him for a thousand years, that were looked for in the book of life but of the dead who came up from Hades. Why look for their names in the book of life if that was not probable ? ‘All who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law … For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law … they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness …) This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.’ (Romans 2:12-16) It would be the justice of God to those who never heard the gospel but lived by their conscience. They will be judged by their deeds and if they have done good, will rise to live. As for those who believed the gospel and confessed his name but were not born again, they didn’t go to heaven but to Hades when they died, contrary to popular belief. “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again … no one will enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:3,5). Nevertheless, the Bible say ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Joel 2:32) ‘If you confess with your mouth,”Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ (Romans 10:9-10) ‘lf any man builds on this foundation … his work will be shown for what it is … fire will test the quality of each man’s work … If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.‘ ( 1 Corinthians 3:12-15) It just takes believing and confessing the name of Lord to escape the raging fire of hell but it takes more than just calling on the name of the Lord to enter heaven. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7: 21) Amen.

13. Exponential power in agreement.

“Five of you will chase a hundred and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand … ” (Leviticus 26:8) If one would be able to chase a twenty, then a hundred would be able to chase two thousand, but the Bible declares that ‘a hundred will chase ten thousand’; five times more because there is exponential power in agreement! (Even in the wild we see this phenomenon at work when animals herd together to chase off a predator and predators hunt together to scatter the herds.) There were times when the nation of lsrael chased their enemies and there were also  times when they were scattered by their enemies, in keeping with God’s word. ‘If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands … All these blessings will come upon you … The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven … However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands … The lord will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but will flee from them in seven and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth.” (Deuteronomy 28 :1-25) Joshua, in his farewell address to the Israelites, testified: “One of you routs a thousand because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God.” ( Joshua 23:10-11) However, Moses in his farewell address to the Israelites, predicted their rebellion and warned them of the opposite:  ‘How could one man chase a thousand or two put ten thousand to flight unless their Rock had sold them, unless the Lord had given them up?’ ( Deuteronomy 32:30) Moses was right in predicting that the promise will work against them in favour of their enemies. What else would explain why the Jews were scattered around the world and were executed in the millions? ‘These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.’ (1 Corinthians 10:11) It is time for body of Christ to put aside their differences and stand together against the divisive forces and appropriate the promise of exponential power in agreement.

There are two aspects to this agreement. The agreement with the word of God is the divine or vertical aspect and the agreement between believers on earth is the human or horizontal aspect.  Jesus spoke of these two aspects when he said : “I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth have been loosed in heaven.” –  this is the divine or vertical aspect. “Again I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven.” – this is the  human or horizontal aspect. ( Matthew 18:18-20) Everything that happens on earth is the shadow of that which happens in the heavens. Therefore it has to be first bound in heaven before it can be bound on earth, because the spiritual realm rules over the physical realm. There are many believers who know about their authority in Christ but simply can’t agree with one another ! ‘I appeal to you brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.’ (1 Corintians 1:10) Infact we agree on more things than we disagree, irrespective of our denominations. Belief in salvation through Christ should be the common ground for all believers to stand together in unity. The modern church is yet to discover this truth about the power in agreement and when it does, history will be made, just as the early Church did! Amen.

12. Moving from reality to revelation.

As a believer, I tend to be an  ‘idealist’ ( a person who is guided more by ideals than by practical considerations) because I believe in the ideals ( the standards or principles) revealed in the word of God and I boldly profess it, expecting to see it being fulfilled in the Church. But as a ‘realist’ (a person who takes note of  a situation and deals with it accordingly ), I tend to question the ground realities, so that it can be addressed, in an effort to narrow the gap between ‘Reality and Revelation’; between what is and what is supposed to be, until the revealed will of God becomes the reality within the body of Christ.

The early Church lived up to the revelation they received for we read that ‘they were all filled with the Holy Spirit’ ( Acts 2:4, 4:31), ‘all the believers were one in heart and mind’ ( Acts 4:32), ‘all the believers were together and had everything in common’ ( Acts 2:44), ‘there were no needy persons among them’ (Acts 4:34) and ‘all of them were healed’ (Acts 5:16). We see the three gospel promises of infilling, blessing and healing being manifested in the early Church. But after the death of the Apostles and of those who had personally known some of them or have been significantly influenced by them ( referred to as the apostolic fathers), the Church was on the decline. Everytime the Church drifted away from its ideals and the gap between what was supposed to be and what is, widened, God raised men and women who would restore the Church to its position. – This downward spiral was not new to God’s people because it had beset them even in old testament times. ‘Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who has experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.’ ( Joshua 24:31) Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us to read this chilling statement, often repeated in the book of Judges, about Israel : ‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit.’ (Judges 21:25) This closing statement by the author of Judges, attributes the reason for their backsliding, to the lack of leadership.

Restoration of Israel happened when God raised Samuel, who was attested as a prophet (1Samuel 4:1) but he also judged Israel ( 1Samuel 7:15 ) as its last judge, since Israel asked for a king. But none of their kings were beyond reproach and as kings and priests became increasingly corrupt, God trained the spotlight on the prophets, who emerge as Israel’s real heroes. Overtime, the significance of Prophets, overtook and even surpassed that of kings. Nevertheless, neither the kings nor the people heeded to the words of the Prophets and therefore God used the Assyrians to exile the ten northern tribes and the Babylonians to exile the  two southern tribes, even letting them to set fire to his temple, so that Israel might have a change of heart for a new beginning. Seventy years later, the restoration happened under the leadership of Zerubabel, grandson of king Jehoiachin who was taken captive to Babylon. It looked like a promising start to some but ‘many of the older priests and levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of the new temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy.’ ( Ezra 3:12) Before long, they faced opposition from other settlers and ‘thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.’ (Ezra 4:24). ‘Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet … prophesied to the Jews … in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. ‘Then Zerubbabel … set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, helping them.’ ( Ezra 5:1-2) ‘Then Zerubbabel … and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of God and the message of the prophet Haggai because the Lord their God had sent him.( Haggai 1:12) ‘So the elders of the Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of Haggai the Prophet and Zechariah … The temple was completed in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius’ ( Ezra 6:14 -15), primarily due to the exhortation of the Prophets.

Likewise, the Church struggles to live upto the revelation it has received through its Apostles and teachers and needs exhortation by its prophets, to close the gap between reality and revelation; between what is and what it is supposed to be! That is why Paul wrote: ‘ Follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy … everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself but he who prophesies edifies the Church. I would like everyone of you to speak in tongues but I rather have you prophesy.’ ( 1 Corinthians 14:1-5) I suppose Ezekiel the prophet would totally agree with Paul because the Spirit of the Lord took him and set him in a valley full of dry bones and asked him, “Son of Man, can these bones live?” I said, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones … Prophesy to the breath … that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me … and they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army. Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel” ( Ezekiel 37:1-14) What relates to Israel relates to the Church as well. It is time that the Church rises up as a vast army against this ‘plandemic’ ( not a spelling error but was misspelt intentionally because it is after all a planned pandemic) and break into the realm of the Spirit where Revelation dictates reality, as experienced by the early Church. Amen.

21. The last trumpet. (Part 6 of the Rapture series.)

‘Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet shall sound, the dead will be raised imperishable and we will be changed.’ (1 Corinthians 15:51-52) What is the last trumpet? Some assume it to be the seventh trumpet mentioned in the book of revelation, but was Paul actually referring to it?  The book of revelation was written in 96 AD, over 40 years after Paul had written his first letter to the Corinthians in 54 AD and therefore he obviously couldn’t be referring to the seven trumpets because prior to  the revelation John received at Patmos, there weren’t any reference in Scriptures about the seven trumpets of judgement. Further adding to the doubt is the fact that John didn’t write  about the resurrection of the dead in the context of  trumpets just as Paul wrote in his epistle to the Corinthians, further proving that they both were referring to  different events!  ‘The seventh angel sounded his trumpet and there were loud voices in heaven which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ and he will reign for ever and ever.” ( This is the mystery of God that was accomplished when the seventh angel sounded his trumpet, as sworn before God by an angel in Revelation 10:7) … Then God’s temple in heaven was opened and within the temple was seen the ark of the covenant.’ (Revelation 11:15-19) Further down we read: ‘Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues.’ ( Revelation 15:6) Since the judgements of God weren’t over with the sounding of the seventh trumpet, the dead in Christ were not resurrected yet but instead God’s judgement continued, culminating with  the seven bowls of God’s wrath.

So if the last trumpet is not the same as the seventh trumpet, what then was Paul referring to? He was probably referring to the two trumpets in the book of Numbers. The Lord said to Moses: ‘Make two trumpets of hammered silver and use them for calling the community together and for having the camps set out. When both are sounded, the community is to assemble before you … If only one is sounded, the leaders – the heads of the clans of Israel are to assemble before you … At the sounding of the second blast, the camps … are to set out. The blast will be the signal for setting out’ ( Numbers 10:1-6) Referring to these two trumpets, Paul wrote : ‘The Lord himself will come down from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the TRUMPET CALL OF GOD and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who  are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)  This is the first trumpet, signalling the setting out ( Rapture ? ) of the saints to heaven; those who were dead in Christ as well as those who are still alive. Then at his second coming, the second trumpet or the last trumpet, will sound and the tribulation saints will be gathered together with the Raptured saints. “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud TRUMPET CALL and they will gather his elect from the four winds, [ from one end of the heavens to the other / from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.]” (Matthew 24:30-31/ Mark 13:27) ‘And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.( The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. Second death has no power over them but they will be priests of God and of his Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.’  (Revelation 20: 4-6) Amen.

11. The influence of the Church.

The Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in everyway’ (Ephesians 1:23), is the prized possession that Jesus is looking forward to welcome in the air. Infact, the Church is the only body of value on the face of the earth that Jesus would redeem before setting the earth on fire.
“I have come to bring fire on the earth and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49)
‘The present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men.’ (2 Peter 3:7)
As long as the Church remains on earth, it is spared for her sake and he would do anything she asks for. (Jh 16:23-27)
‘His intent is that now through the Church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms …‘ ( Ephesians 3:10) The magnitude of this truth is going to be revealed when the saints are Raptured and the devil loses his place in heaven. ‘And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down – the ancient serpent called the devil … He was hurled to the earth and his angels with him.’ ( Revelation 12:7-9) Why didn’t this happen before? What is it that changed the balance of power? The Raptured Church? It is also interesting to note that Satan’s battle is not directly against God, whom he hasn’t been able to vanquish, but against his Church! No wonder the Bible says :‘The God of peace will soon crush Satan under YOUR feet.’ (Romans 16:20) Why not literally under Christ’s feet? That is because we are the body of Christ, and it is under our feets that he must be crushed. Could that be the reason why just one angel was able to seize him? ‘And I saw an angel come down out of heaven … He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the devil or Satan and bound him for a thousand years.’ ( Revelation 20:1-2) How did he become so weak? Looks as if Satan was trampled down by the victorious Church that rode with Christ at his second coming. ‘The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.’ ( Revelation 19:14) Wherever the Church goes, Satan seems to be losing his place. He first lost his place in heaven and now he has lost his place on earth and finds himself in the Abyss! That is the clout ( influence or power) of the true Church. Hallelujah!

This is the hour of the Church as the world faces this pandemic but for the sake of the elect, it will be shortened.
“If those days had not be shortened, no one would survive but for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22) This holds true now in the Church age and thereafter during the tribulation. Let the influence of the Church be manifest at such a time as this. Come let us pray. 🙏🏻

10. Salt of the earth.

The true Church is the ‘salt of the earth’ (Matthew 5:13) and as long as it remains on earth, the world will be preserved, no matter what the enemy is upto!
‘For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work ; but the one (Holy Spirit) who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.’ ( 2 Thessalonians 2:7)
The ‘secret power of lawlessness’ has been trying to establish the ‘new world order’, out of the chaos it orchestrates. Its agents were suspected to be behind the World wars and Revolutions that have been fought and are even thought to be behind some of the recent disasters and pandemics. If these happenings were the judgements of God, no righteous man would have perished and no wicked man would have escaped for ‘the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment until the day of judgement.’ ( 2Peter 2:9) Since we see no distinction being made between the two, these happenings are therefore not the judgements of God but rather natural calamities or manmade disasters which can affect both the righteous and the wicked alike. That was what Jesus had to say about the events that happened around him during his days on earth: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” ( Luke 13:2-5) So whether the happenings around us are natural or induced, they constitute the ‘birth pains’ Jesus spoke about : “There will be earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places …” (Luke 21:11) “All these are the beginning of birth pains.” ( Matthew 24:8) These birth pains will increase in frequency and strength as the time approaches. But until the Church is raptured, it stands in the way of total destruction of the world. Once the Church is raptured, the world will be vulnerable to the onslaught of Satan and the judgements of God will be unleashed against him and on those who worshipped the one God had condemned. “When he ( the Holy Spirit) comes he will convict the world of … judgement … because the prince of this world now stands condemned.” ( John 16:11) and “whoever does not believe stands condemned already.” ( John 3:18) But those who believe are the ‘salt of the earth’. Bible says that the LORD had made a ‘covenant of salt’ with the Levites. ‘It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.’ (Numbers 18:19) Therefore they were reminded to add salt to all their offerings. ‘Do not leave the Salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.’ ( Leviticus 2:13) We who are ‘a royal priesthood’ (1 Peter 2 : 9) have been reminded to have salt in ourselves : ‘Salt is good but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have Salt in yourselves and be at peace with each other.’ ( Mark 9:50) It is time that the Church realises this truth about its ability to preserve the earth and stand its ground in the midst of this plague to bring about a great deliverance for which the Gentiles would thank the LORD, the God of heaven. Amen.

9. The stand of the Church.

As I was pondering about the stand, the Church must take at such a time as this, I remembered this testimony about Dr.John G Lake. He ministered in South Africa between 1908-1913, when there was an outbreak of Bubonic plague. When the team of Doctors who arrived from Europe, questioned him as to how he could work without any protective gear, he testified to them that the ‘law of the Spirit of life’ was at work in him and he demonstrated under the microscope how the germs died when it came into contact with him. https://everestalexander.wordpress.com/2015/10/18/john-g-lake-bubonic-plague-testimony/

‘So we have this treasure (the Holy Spirit) in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us.’ ( 2 Corinthians 4:7) There is an inner security cordon that cannot be breached even while other outside layers of security may be compromised. This inner spiritual defence together with the outer physical protection should be our two pronged strategy against this pandemic. Therefore let no believer be found wearing just a mask and a glove without having worn the armour of God because when masks and gloves fail to stop the contagion, the armor of God will!

Let the Church take its stand, right in the midst of this pandemic, as Aaron did : ‘Aaron did as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead and the plague stopped.’ ( Numbers 16:47-48) It is interesting to note that Aaron wore the ‘Ephod’ and the ‘Breastpiece’, as he ran into the midst of the assembly when the plague started among the people and offered incense and made atonement for them. Let’s not forget to put on the ‘Belt of Truth’ and the ‘Breastplate of Righteousness’, as we take our stand against this pandemic. Without the ‘Ephod’, the ‘Breastpiece’ could not be held in place. So also without the ‘Belt of Truth’, the ‘Breastplate of Righteousness’ would not be held in place.
‘Therefore put on the full armor of God so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, after you have done everything to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit ...’ (Ephesians 6:13-18)
‘Let us then approach the Throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’ (Hebrews 4:16)
At a time when the nation is struggling to contain the pandemic, let the believer be reminded of this promise : “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” ( 2 Chronicles 7:14) Just as God halted the plague abruptly, when Aaron interceded, so will God contain this contagion, if the Church would stand its ground, in truth and righteousness. Amen.

20. Firstfruits from among men. ( Part 5 of the Rapture series.)

‘Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep … but EACH IN HIS OWN TURN : CHRIST, THE FIRST FRUITS; THEN, WHEN HE COMES, THOSE WHO BELONG TO HIM. ( 1 Corinthians 15:20-24) We therefore understand from this passage that all the saints are not resurrected together but the ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ will be resurected before those who will  be resurected only at the second coming of Jesus. Paul differentiated between the two groups of saints by putting one before the other, when sequencing the order of their resurrection.

The passage prompts me to ask  two key questions – Qn 1: Who are  the ‘Firstfruits’ and when will they be resurrected ? (Those who are quick to debunk  pre-tribulation Rapture, should honestly try to answer this question.) To start with we need to ask the question : What does the term ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ mean?  As the term itself suggests, it is any fruit or grain that was harvested first because it ripened first. The term also implies  that there could be more than one harvest during a season because the  fruits don’t ripen together. Sometimes trees bloom twice within a year, if conditions are conducive and the fruits are harvested several times, as and when it ripens. Scripturally, the term ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ mean those souls who are ‘harvested’ first and it also implies that there will be souls who will be ‘harvested’ later on. Paul was possibly referring  to the ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ when he wrote: ‘the dead in Christ shall rise first. After that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17)  It is interesting to note that even in this passage, we find an order of resurrection which places the ‘dead in Christ’ before the ‘alive in Christ’. Does the Bible actually refer to believers as  FIRSTFRUITS? ‘Creation waits with eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed … we ourselves who have the FIRSTFRUITS of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons , the redemption of our bodies.’ (Romans 8:19-23) ‘He chose to give us birth through the word of truth that we might be a kind of FIRSTFRUITS of all he created.’ (James 1:18) From these passages we understand that the term ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ include all the saints throughout the entire Church age and not just those who were resurrected with Christ and ascended with him.( Ephesians 4:8) John even called the 144,000  from the tribes of Israel who were to be sealed, as ‘FIRSTFRUITS’ ! ‘Then I looked and there before me was the Lamb, standing on Mount Zion and with him the 144,000 … They were purchased from among men and offered as FIRSTFRUITS to God and the Lamb.‘ ( Revelation 14:1-4)

Qn 2: Who are ‘those who belong to him’, who will be resurrected when he comes ‘And I saw souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshipped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection.’ (Revelation 20:4-6)

In conclusion, the ‘Firstfruits‘ are the Raptured saints and they include the ‘dead in Christ’ who will rise first, the ‘alive in Christ’, who will be ‘caught up’ together with them ( 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17) and also the 144,000 who will be sealed from the twelve tribes of Israel and will be ‘snatched up’ to God during the tribulation. ( Revelation 7:4, 12:5,  14:1-3) The Tribulation saints who will be martyred and  are next in turn to be resurrected at the second coming of Jesus can be called the ‘Secondfruits’. However, both are considered blessed to take part in the ‘first resurrection’. ‘The second death has no power over them but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.’ (Revelation 20:6) The rest of the dead will be resurrected only after a thousand years at the ‘second resurrection’. ‘And I saw the dead, great and small standing before the throne and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books … If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.’ (Revelation 20:12-15) When God has chosen us from among men to be to firstfruits unto him, why settle for the second? Amen.

19. The open door.(Part 4 of the Rapture series.))

See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut … (Why?) … I know you have little strength yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name … Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on earth.” (Revelation 3:8-10) John entered through this door and was shown what must take place after the Church age. ‘After this I looked and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here and I will show you what must take place after this. At once I was in the Spirit and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it … Surrounding the throne there were twenty four other thrones and seated on them were twenty four elders’ (Revelation 4: 1-4) (The Greek word Presbyteros translated as ‘elders’ has always been used to address the elders or official leaders of the Jewish community.) Old testament Prophets like Isaiah and Ezekial had seen visions of God seated on his throne (Isaiah 6:1-2, Ezekiel 1:25-28)  but they never saw men seated in the presence of God. Who then are these men seated on twenty four thrones and whence did they come from? Are they the saints who were  bodily resurrected after the death of  Christ and ascended together with him to heaven? ‘The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the Holy city and appeared to many people.’ (Matthew 27:52-53) ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ (Psalm 68:18/Ephesians 4:8) Or are they the ‘dead in Christ’ who were the first to rise at Rapture? ‘For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command with the voice of an archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17) Why twenty four elders? The priesthood was divided into 24 division ( 1Chronicles 24:1-9) and therefore the 24 elders may represent the entire priesthood of believers.(Exodus 19:6, 1Peter 2:9) Whoever they might be, the truth of the matter is that since these redeemed men are seen in heaven all throughout the time of the fulfillment of the book of Revelation, beginning with Chapter 4, they must have been Raptured prior to it. And they get to witness the glorious event mentioned in Chapter 5, when the Lamb of God is glorified: ‘Then I saw the Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the centre of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders … Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels … they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!” ( Revelation 5:6-12) This would be in fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer : “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began … Father, I want those you have given me to be with me and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you have loved me before creation of the world.” (John 17:5,24) The Church, the Lamb’s bride will be ‘caught up’ to witness him take the scroll from the right hand of Him who is seated on the throne and open its seals.

In the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus said that the door would be closed soon after the wise virgins have entered. ‘At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom … The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut. Later the others also came ‘Sir!Sir!’, they said. ‘Open the door for us! But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’ (Matthew 25:1-10) Those who debunk pre-tribulation Rapture should answer this question: When do they presume the door to be shut? If it is before tribulation, who then are these virgins who entered before tribulation? If it is after the tribulation, at the second coming of Jesus, what sense does it make to shut the door when infact John wrote: ‘I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse whose rider is called Faithful and True … The armies of heaven were following him riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.’( Revelation 19:11-14) Why go up to heaven in a post-tribulation Rapture when they all are coming down? As mentioned earlier, the purpose of the open door is ‘that you may escape all that is about to happen and that you may stand before the Son of Man’ ( Luke 21:36) Metaphorically, the door stands for Jesus because elsewhere he said : “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.” ( John 10:9) “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) Amen.

8. The power of the resurrection.

The greatest display of God’s power, since the creation of the world, was at work on the day of the resurrection, not because the situation required the display of such immense power but that the Church might know the infinite power that was being bestowed on them. (Though the ten plagues and the parting of the Red sea were phenomenal, yet they happened on earth! But the resurrection happened in the underworld; in the dominion of darkness which was undoubtedly more powerful than all the nations on the face of the earth. Only the Church is more powerful than the Kingdom of darkness! )
Paul uses the following superlatives to describe that power, but I wonder whether words can fully describe this infinite power!
‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know … his INCOMPARABLY great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion …’ (Ephesians 1:18-21)
‘We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this ALL-SURPASSING power is from God and not from us.’ (2 Corinthians 4:7)
Paul didn’t claim that he knew this power, but said, ‘I want to know Christ and the power of the resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow , to attain to the resurrection from the dead.’ (Philippians 3:10-11)
Qn : Why did this man who encountered Jesus, on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-5), still say, ‘I want to know Christ’?
Qn : Why did this man who was stoned at Lystra and dragged outside the city, thinking he was dead (Acts 14:19-20), but got up and went back to the city, after he came back to life (2 Corinthians 12:2), still say, ‘I want to know the power of the resurrection’?
Qn : Why did this man who describes in detail his sufferings for the gospel in his epistles (2 Corinthians 11:23-29), still say, ‘I want to know the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings’?
Ans : In Paul’s own words : ‘I am becoming like him (Christ) in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead’ ! (Vs 11)


Is it so difficult to be part of the first resurrection ?
‘If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.’ ( Romans 6:5)
As we celebrate the Resurrection of Christ (erroneously called Easter), let us like Paul say, ‘Not that I have obtained all this or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me … Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.’ (Philippians 3:12- 14)
Amen.

11. The sevenfold purpose of the shed blood of Christ. – Summary

  1. It was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
  2. It was paid as a ransom for our redemption from death and hades.
  3. It was sprinkled in the Highest heavens (Most Holy Place) for our entry.
  4. It is for the cleansing of our hearts from sins .
  5. It is for the peace of our minds.
  6. It is for the protection of our bodies.
  7. It will be by the blood that we escape the coming wrath of God .
    Amen.

10. The sevenfold purpose of the shed blood of Jesus.

‘The wages of sin is death …’ (Romans 6:23) and death by the shedding of life blood. And when ‘the Lord laid on him the iniquity of of us all’ ( Isaiah 53:6), his blood was shed instead of ours.
‘God presented him as a sacrifice of Atonement, through faith in his blood.’ (Romans 3: 25). Therefore, let us consider the sevenfold purpose of the shed blood of Jesus :-

1. It was shed for the forgiveness of our sins.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28)
‘In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins …’ (Ephesians 1:7/Colossians 1:14)
‘ … and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.’ (Hebrews 9:22)

2. It was paid as a ransom for our redemption from hell.
‘No man can redeem the life of another or give God a ransom for him ( not to Satan as many suppose) – the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough – that he should live on forever and not see decay. (Psalm 49:7-9)
‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all men. (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)
‘For you know that it is not with … silver or gold that you were redeemed … but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.’ (1Peter 1:18-19)

3. It was sprinkled in the Highest Heavens for our entry.
Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me for I have not yet returned to the Father.” ( John 20:17)
‘He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.’ (Hebrews 9:12)
‘The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as High Priest is to make Atonement … for the Most Holy Place …’ (Leviticus 16:32-33)
‘Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, … let us draw near to God … , having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience …’ (Hebrews 10:19-22)

4. It is for the cleansing of our hearts from sins.
‘If the blood of goats and bulls … sprinkled on those who are unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean, how much more will the blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.’ ( Hebrews 9:13-14)
‘But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins because it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.’ (Hebrews 10:3-4)
‘But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light … the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.’ ( 1 John 1:7)
“These are they who have … washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” ( Revelation 7:14)
‘To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and has made us to be a Kingdom of Priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory for ever and ever!’ (Revelation 1:5-6)

5. It is for the peace of our minds.
‘Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body …’
‘God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him and through him to reconcile to himself all things whether things on earth or things in heaven , by making peace through his blood shed on the cross.’ (Colossians 1:19-21)
‘He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him …’ (Isaiah 53:5)
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives.” (John 14:27)

6. It is for the protection of our bodies.
“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you …’ (Exodus 12:13)
‘By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.’ (Hebrews 11:28)
‘This was Job’s regular custom : Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering … “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?” (Job 1: 5, 10)
‘ .. through faith we are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.’ ( 1Peter 1:5)

7. It will be by the blood that we escape the coming wrath of God.
‘Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him ! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life !’ (Romans 5:9-10)
‘For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9)
‘They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’ (Revelation 12:11)
Amen.

7. The greatest escape.

Exodus is a thrilling story of the great escape, when a band of slaves escaped from the most powerful nation on earth. God remembered his covenant with Abraham and promised the Israelites to ‘rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey’. (Exodus 3:8)
The great escape happened because the Israelites obeyed a simple instruction given by the Lord.
“Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month Abib (also called Nisan) each man is to take a lamb … take care of it until the fourteenth day … slaughter them at twilight. Then take some of the blood and put it on the sides and doorframes of their houses, where they eat the lambs … Eat it in haste, it is the Lord’s passover.” (Exodus 12:3-11)
“The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.” (Exodus 12:13)
All the Israelites did just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron. And on that very day the Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt by their divisions.’ ( Exodus 12 :50-51)
By faith Moses kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel‘ (Hebrews 11:28)

However the greatest escape that ever happened in the history of mankind, was when a band of captives escaped the grip of death and Hades, ‘for Christ, the Passover Lamb was sacrificed’ (1 Corinthians 5:7) and ‘he rescued them from the dominion of darkness and brought them into the Kingdom of the Son he loves.’ (Colossians 1:13)
‘The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of their tombs and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. (Matthew 27:52-53)
‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’ (Ephesians 4:8)
The greatest escape happened when the Jews, together with the help of the Gentiles, unwittingly fulfilled ‘God’s set purpose and foreknowledge’, when they ‘put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.’ (Acts 2:23-24)

But the story doesn’t end there. We too ‘have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.’ (1Peter 1:2)
All we have to do is obey a simple instruction, to escape the grip of sin, Satan, death, Hades and Hell.
‘That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.’ (Romans 10:9-10)
Amen.

18. Why a pre-tribulation Rapture ? (Part 3 of the Rapture series.)

We found from Scriptures that Rapture is not a myth but the truth because the concept of the righteous escaping the judgement of God has a strong Scriptural precedent. Infact Paul instructed the Church to encourage one another with these words: ‘According to the Lord’s own word … we who are still alive and are left will be caught up … in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Encourage each other with these words.’ ( 1 Thessalonians 4:15-18) We also found from Scriptures that this promise is for those who have entered into a blood covenant with God through the sacrifice of Jesus and have received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Now to conclude this exegesis, it would be encouraging to consider the three scriptural reasons for a pre-tribulation Rapture :-

1. Rapture will take place because the person of the Holy Spirit will not leave behind the Church, the bride of Christ in whom he took residence on the day of Pentecost, when he is taken out of the way for the man of lawlessness to be revealed. The only reason why the Antichrist is being held back from coming on to the world stage before the appointed time is because the person of the Holy Spirit is present on earth: ‘ … the day of the Lord … will not come until the rebellion (Greek: apostasia means turning away, rebellion)  occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction … you know what is holding him back so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.’ ( 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7) The mission of the Holy Spirit can be  better understood from other parallels in Scripture. For instance, the Bible says that the physical presence of God prevented the Egyptian army from vanquishing the army of Israel on the banks of the Red sea, prior to the crossing over. ‘By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud … and by night in a pillar of fire … Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left it’s place in front of the people … The pillar of cloud moved from the front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel. Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.’ ( Exodus 14:19-20).  Likewise, the Holy Spirit stands in between the forces of darkness and of light and he has prevented the kingdom of darkness from vanquishing the Church. But the moment the Holy Spirit is taken out of the way, together with the Church, this world will be subjected to Satan and he will set up his end time kingdom but it will last only for 7 years because God will judge his kingdom and will destroy it during the tribulation. Another parallel in Scriptures that reveals the mission of the Holy Spirit is the story of  Eliezar who was sent under oath by Abraham to find a bride for his son Issac and upon finding  Rebecca, she was entrusted to his care and he brought her safely to Isssac. ‘So the servant took Rebecca and left. Now Issac had come from Beer Lahai Roi … And as he looked up , he saw camels approaching. Rebecca also looked up and saw Issac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?” “He is my master,” the servant answered … Issac brought her into the tent … and he married her.’ (Genesis 24:61-67) The reason why the Holy Spirit wouldn’t leave behind the Church, the  bride of Christ, when he is  taken out of the way, is because he was entrusted with the bride of Christ and he has to take her to Christ who will come in the air to receive her, just as Issac came out to the fields to receive Rebecca. That is why the Scripture says that both the Spirit and the bride eagerly await the coming of the groom. ‘The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” (Revelation 22:17)

2. Rapture will take place because it would be the justice of God to the righteous: ‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? … Be it far from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike … Will not the judge of all the earth do right? (Genesis 18:23-25) In all acts of judgement described in the Bible, we have never seen the righteous becoming victims of his wrath, ‘for God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10)

3.Rapture will take place because it would be the greatest witness to the world: What would the day be like when countless believers are found missing? The realisation of the truth will sink into the hearts of those who never believed and countless will believe and will turn to the Lord. Infact more Gentiles will be saved during the tribulation than now. ‘After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language … These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’ ( Revelation 7:9-15) There is a interesting parallel in the book of Revelation about the response of the unsaved to the rapture of the two witnesses who can be said to be ‘dead in Christ’. ‘Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them,”Come up here.” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, while their enemies looked on. At that hour there was a great earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed … the survivors were terrified and gave Glory to the God of heaven.’( Revelation 11:12-13) yet there will be many who will refuse to repent of what they had done and glorify God but will curse him. (Revelation 16:9,11,21) The purpose of Pre-tribulation Rapture is not only to keep the righteous out of judgement but also to get the wicked to believe and repent. Amen.