VOLUME 1 --- ISSUE 7 --- NOVEMBER 1997
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: The Friends of the Nazarene are a research group for better Bible understanding dedicated to the preservation and publishing of Christians writings which aid the Fathers Children to "follow the Lamb no matter where he goes." We are Unitarian Apologists dedicated to the defense of the truth that "God is One." The Bible is our credo and we wish to respect the views of our multitude of Christian brethren.
c/o Shawn Mark Miller
Inside this Newsletter:
1.) Why We Cannot Preach These Are "the Last Days"?
2.) What does the Bible say about birthdays?
3.) News and Announcements
4.) Perfecting the Christian Character: Joy from Hope
Why We Cannot Preach These Are "the Last Days"?THE CURRENT FRENZY AS 2,000 AD APPROACHES. Current preachers and prophets scream passionate warnings about these really being the Last Days as we approach the epoch year of 2,000. This was exactly as it was when the year 1,000 drew closer in the Middle Ages. The frenzy led to the Crusades, for so many Christians sold their material things and fled to Jerusalem to await the end of the world. Their presence finally irritated the Moslem rulers in Palestine and the "Holy Crusades" began. Something similar happened just prior to the end of the Nineteenth Century when various religious leaders and Bible students pointed to the beginning of the "last days" in 1820. Or, 1844. Or, 1874. Or, 1914. As strange as the question may seem to most Christians, what did the Nazarene and his inspired disciples really teach regarding "last days"?
DID JESUS THE NAZARENE PREACH ABOUT "LAST DAYS"? Some are in for a surprise. Take a concordance and look for the phrase "last days" in the Gospels. Jesus never used it despite Bible topic headings in many translations of chapters like Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. What about the Apocalypse or Revelation which was given to Jesus? (1.1) Surely, this most apocalyptic book uses the phrase "last days"? Or, "time of the end"? Is it fair and honest to include the phrase "last days" atop Bible pages as if these words occurred in the main text below? For example one translation begins Matthew chapter 24, "Christs presence, last days." On Mark chapter 13: "Signs of the last days given" and "Signs of last days continued." The same happens with Luke chapter 21. No one can claim Jesus ever used the words "last days." But, what about his disciples who wrote later?
WHAT "LAST DAYS" DID HIS DISCIPLES HAVE IN MIND? Peter, Paul and James all use the phrase "last days." But, what "last days" were they talking about?
Peters "last days" regarding Jerusalem. Peter uses the phrase "last days" in his Pentecostal speech to his Jewish audience. Read Acts 2.16, 17: No this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel (2.28-32 LXX), "In the last days (εςχαταις ημεραις) it will be God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh." (RSV) Is it fair to state that Peter applies these "last days" to those disciples who were experiencing the spirits manifestations and his contemporary audience? [It is noteworthy that the words "last days" do not occur in Joel 2.28-32. Peter gives his quote an inspired paraphrase.]
Peter is to use the phrase "last days" another time in his second epistle: First of all you must understand this, that in the last days (εσχατων των ημερων) scoffers will come. (2 Pe 3.3 RSV) Some are tempted to apply this to some "generation" long after Peters time, right up to our own period as we approach the year 2,000. How can we know to what "last days" Peter was warning about? The disciple Jude answers this for us because he actually quotes Peter and applies it to his own times. Note Judes words: But you, beloved, must remember the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; for they said to you, "In the last time there will be scoffers." (Ju17, 18 RSV) Does it seem fair to say Jude has Peters words in mind? Jude, like Peter, applies the phrase "last days" to the approaching end of Jerusalems Temple Age, just as the Nazarene foretold in Matthew 24.4-20 and Luke 21.7-24.
Pauls "last days". Among the most famous occurrences of the phrase "last days" is the one used at 2 Timothy 3.1, You (Timothy) must understand this, that in the last days (εσχαταις ημεραις) distressing times will come. (RSV) Some translations omit the singular "you" in this verse somewhat obscuring the fact that Paul has Timothy in mind. A reading of the whole context from 2.14 to 3.9 would seem to confirm Pauls warning about the "last days" were those upon Timothy and his "generation" who would witness the end of Jerusalems Temple Age. How can we be sure of this?
Paul (if he be the writer of Hebrews) uses a phrase highly similar to "last days" in Hebrews 1.2: But in these last days (εσχατου των ημερων) God has spoken to us by a Son. (RSV) Is it misinterpreting matters to say Paul calls his contemporary times "last days"?
The "last days" of the disciple James. James uses the phrase "last days" also: You have laid up treasure for the last days (εσχαταις ημεραις). (Js 5.3 RSV) Is it fair to say James has those rich Christians of his own day in mind as the "end" of Jerusalem draws closer?
All of these rare occurrences of the phrase "last days" all deal with the end of Jerusalems Temple Age just as Jesus Christ foretold. (Mk 13.5-23) [For more details on this subject see The Seven Principles and Apocalypse 2,000!]
WAS THERE AN "END" TO THOSE "LAST DAYS"? A few students and commentators believe "the last days" began in the first century and continue down to our own time. Was there an "end" to those "last days" upon that Jewish generation with its Temple in Jerusalem? This subject introduces another word: "consummation" or "conclusion."
In Matthew 24.3 when the disciples asked about the Nazarenes prediction of the Temples desolation they use the Greek word (possibly from Matthews own translation of the Hebrew) συντελειας or synteleias. This word in Greek is translated by Jerome in his Fourth Century Vulgate as consummatis for the word means "with + end" or "ending together"; that is, a conclusion or consummation. This word is possibly borrowed from Daniel 9.26, 27 And after the sixty-two weeks, the Christ shall be destroyed, and there is no judgment in him; and He shall destroy the city and the sanctuary ... and to the end of the war which is rapidly completed, he shall appoint the city to desolations. ... and on the temple shall be the abomination of desolations; and at the end (συντελειας) of the time an end (συντελεια) shall be put to the desolation. (LXXBagster) This was the prophecy from which Jesus drew his own words at Matthew 24.15. The synteleia the disciples had in mind was "the end" of Jerusalems Temple. Would this not indicate "the last days" on that Jewish generation with its sacred Temple had an end, conclusion, or consummation? Those particular "last days" did not continue on for many centuries more. (Mt 28.20)
Paul uses συντελεια himself when discussing the "last days" upon the Jewish Temple Age. Note Hebrews 9. 26, But as it is (Christ) has appeared once for all at the end (συντελεια) of the age. This later phrase "the end of the age" is exactly the same of the disciples question at Matthew 24.3. Does this not prove Paul believed, in fulfillment of Daniel 9.26, 27, and in agreement with the Nazarenes apostles, that there was then, in his own time, "the last days" to culminate in a "conclusion" upon the Jewish Temple Age? Would this limit any Christian teachers today from predicting the last days and "the time is at hand"?
"THE TIME IS AT HAND?" Most have overlooked the Nazarenes warning immediately after the disciples asked their question about the συντελεια, particularly the way it is worded in Luke 21.8: Beware that you are not led astray; for many will come in my name, and say . . . "The time is at hand!" Do not join them! (RSV, BY, NJB) How much clearer would our Lord have to make it? If any who claim his authority, asserting they are "the Anointed" (Mk 13.22) and prophesy, "The Time Is At Hand!" they are not to be followed or believed. Such a "presumptuous" prophet need not be feared. (De 18.20-22 NWT)
WHEN WILL WE KNOW WE ARE IN THE "LAST DAYS"? Does this mean there will never be any "last days"? Not if we judge the Apocalypse correctly. An "end" will come following the Return of Christ. (For details read Apocalypse 2,000!) The Books of Daniel and Revelation foretell a period of three and a half years of Great Oppression on the Saints just prior to the parousia of Christ. Jesus gives the single "sign" which will mark the imminence (within hours) of his parousia and this will be seen by the Saints and all the earth at the same time. The Nazarene predicts: Following (the Great Oppression) . .. . the Sign of the Son of Man will become visible in the sky and all the tribes of earth will mourn as they see the Son of Man arriving on the clouds of the atmosphere. (Mt 24.29, 30 NR) The parousia follows the Great Oppression.
When that future "generation" witnesses celestial phenomenon, the Sign of the Son of man, and the visible Return of Messiah, then we will know our "redemption is drawing near." (Lk 21.28 RSV) Only then will Nazarene Saints be able to say these are "the last days" and "the time is at hand."
WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO SAY: "THE END HAS COME"? Only after the Saints are raised and raptured to the Celestial Throne Room (1 Th 4.15-17; Re 11.12; 15.2) will the Seventh Angel declare: "THE END HAS COME!" (Re 16.17 PME)
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Should Christians Celebrate birthdays?
Some religious "forms" make such a festivity an offense worthy of excommunication while "presumptuously" predicting one date after another for the end of the world! (De 18.20-23) On the subject of "birthdays" a Christian might ask: What is a "birthday"? What does the Bible say about "birthdays"?
The New Webster's Dictionary defines "birthday" as, "The day on which any person is born, or the anniversary of that day." Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words defines the Greek word for birthday, genesia, as, "A neuter plural, primarily denoted the festivities of a birthday, a birthday feast." Note that neither of these sources mention anything pagan about birthdays. [The second century pre-Nicene patristic, Origen, is critical of "birthdays" for its associations with evil persons in the Bible.]
The Bible mentions the word "birthday" three times (Gen 40:20, Matt 14:6, Mark 6:21). Although the word birthday is not used, the Bible does refer to rejoicing and celebration at the birth of a child. (Jb 3.1) The most notable the birth of Jesus Christ. (Luke 2:1-20) Almighty God set the precedent by sending angels and gathering guests (shepherds) to his son's birthday celebration. Let's take a closer look at the Bible texts that use the word birthday.
In the OT the Hebrew words for birthday, yowm and yalad, are used once at Genesis 40:20. Reading the entire 40th chapter, we find the cupbearer and baker rightly imprisoned for offending or sinning against Pharaoh (vs. 1-2). Next was the Divine interpretation of dreams (vs. 8-19). Finally, Pharaoh's generous birthday feast for his officials followed by the execution of the baker for his offenses (vs.20-23). Interestingly, the birthday events led to Joseph's release from prison and his ascension to Pharaoh's right hand (Gen 41-42:8). Can anyone honestly claim that Joseph did not attend Pharaoh's following birthday celebration? Yet, "The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered." (39:2 NIV)
The NT Greek word for birthday, genesia, is used twice (Matt 14:6, Mark 6:21). The parallel accounts describe John the Baptist as being imprisoned for pronouncing the marriage of Herod and Herodias as illegal, their desire to kill John, and his execution on Herod's birthday at the request of Herodias' daughter (Matt 14:1-12, Mark 6:14-29). Did John the Baptist die because of a birthday celebration, or because the desire to kill him was a priority of Herod and Herodias?
Some teach, because of the tragic events associated with the word birthday in scripture, that birthdays should not be celebrated. If one were to use this reasoning with regard to the Lord's Evening Meal (Memorial), it could not be celebrated. This event is mentioned five times in scripture and each time it is followed by a tragic event (Matt 26:20-25, Mark 14:17-21, Luke 22:19-21, John 13:2, 1 Cor. 11:20-22). For example, when the Nazarene initiated the first Evening Meal, he was tragically betrayed by Judas Iscariot. When the apostle Paul speaks of the Lord's Supper, he condemns the Corinthians for getting drunk. Just because some acted wickedly at the celebration, it did not justify shunning the occasion.
Jesus Christ was celebrated at his birth and did not have a problem with attending the celebrations of others (Matt 9:10-13, John 2:1-11). He certainly would not judge another for recognizing or celebrating the anniversary of one's birth (Matt:7:1-5; Jn 12.47). [Some see "birthdays" celebrated by Jobs own children. (Jb 1.4 AMP, LB)]
One of the Nazarene's foremost apostles, Paul, summed it up nicely in Romans chapter 14, stating, "Who are you to judge another? (vs 4) One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be convinced in his own mind (vs 5). So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves." (vs 22 NIV) Paul also encouraged the Saints in Colossae: "Do not let anyone criticize or pass judgment on you respecting the matter of annual or monthly or weekly festivals." (Co 2.16, NR; TCNT) Because some ancient Jews may have not celebrated birthdays because of its association with Babylonian astrology, it was these fastidious religionists the Nazarene condemned: "You call yourselves leaders, and yet you cant see an inch before your noses, for you filter out the mosquito and swallow the camel." (Mt 23.24 PME)
After examining God's Word, we can conclude that birthday celebrations are a matter of personal choice. One should not be judged, or judge others, for their participating or abstaining from birthdays or anniversaries. Nazarene Saints, we rejoice in that liberty about which Paul sings: "Christ has made us completely free; stand fast then, and do not again be hampered with a yoke of slavery." (Ga 5.1 WEY)--- CONTRIBUTED: Rancho Santa Margarita, California.
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News & Announcements
NS now has a web site under construction: (www.koan.com/~nazsaints). We hope to soon add a "thought for the week"; contents and questions and where to find them in The Seven Principles including the whole text of that book.
We held our first regularly scheduled "Nazarene Synagogue" meeting in Idyllwild. The first Sunday of November the two hour Bible discussion will be held at 46-150 Verbe Santa, Palm Desert at 10 AM. Please let us know if you plan to attend and bring a folding chair.
New, updated editions of The Seven Principles, Mountain Teachings, Apocalypse 2,000! and messianic CONFESSIONS are being prepared.
A nice bit of interest is being shown due to the Internet with new email nearly every day. Each week several of us post new messages on information boards or engage in "chat rooms." ()
Jesus and his disciples carried a "money-box" for the poor and Paul was encouraged, "Keep the poor in mind." (Jn 13.29; Ga 2.10) We intend to do this. If there are any women who would like to assist with a program for the poor, please let us know.
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Manuel of Discipline: Perfecting the Christian Character
Continuing Pauls list of the attributes of the Nazarene Saint in Romans chapter 12, we pick up with verse 12a:
10. Rejoice in hope. Let hope keep you joyful, the New English Bible reads. Paul had earlier described the condition of the human creation as, (The human) creation groans together and travails in pain together. (Ro 8.22) He continues to show that despite this groaning pain there is a sustaining hope: We groan eagerly awaiting the adoption (as children), the release by ransom of our Body. For to this hope we were saved. But, hope seen is no longer hope, for why hope for what you can see. But if we hope for the unseen we keep waiting by enduring. (Ro 8.23-25)
This hope is "one" and unique to the Body of Christ. (Ep 4.4) It is the hope of "partaking in the heavenly calling." (He 3.1) This "hope" has two premier elements. The first is described by 1 John 3.2, Now we are children of God but when (the Son) is made visible we shall see him as he really is. What a joyous part of our hope, seeing our Lord! But, if possible, there is another feature of the hope even more transcendental and it is recorded at Revelation 22.3, 4: His slaves will serve Him reverently and they will see His face. The power of this "one hope" -- one day meeting both the Celestial Christ and his Father, God Almighty -- is beyond description. The power of such a hope, renewed daily in prayer and scriptural meditations, will be characterized in our joy. When we find ourselves overcome by "the groaning pain of this human creation" we will prayerfully reflect on that "one hope" of viewing the Father and the Son within the golden walls of the Celestial New Jerusalem. (Re chs 19, 22)
The Bible is a Book of joy and hope. The word groups "joy" and "happy" occur 650 times in one translation. These words appear most often in the Psalms (118 times) and so meditating on these will build the joy of this God-given hope. In the Christian Bible Luke has been called "the theologian of joy" with over 50 occurrences in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. The Bible is also a book of "hope" with this word occurring 240 times. By regularly reading Gods Word and prayerfully meditating on it, hope can be sustained and will manifest itself in a happy and joyful disposition. As in all matters of life, when things are particularly difficult, this joy may reside within instead of revealing itself by the countenance. But, it will be helpful and healthy to keep this hope alive like a burning coal which keeps the inner self warm while the outside may shiver in the cold.
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