The Friends of the Nazarene On-line Magazine

Volume 3 – November 2000 (63 pages)

 

STATEMENT OF PURPOSE: Nazarene Saints Publishing© is a Bible research group for a better Scriptural understanding. We are dedicated to the preservation and publishing of Christian writings which aid Friends of the Nazarene© to “follow the Lamb no matter where he goes.” (John 15:14; 3 John 14; Revelation 14:4) The Friends of the Nazarene© are a spiritual community of Messianic Christians.  We are apologists dedicated to the defense of the truth that “God is One” and not three. The Bible is our creed. We view this “God-breathed” Book as inspired alone, while the thoughts of men about it are not. We wish to show respect for our multitude of Christian brethren. (1 Peter 3:15)

 

Contributors:

Mark Miller - Senior Editor - - Hemet

Ralph Slaney - Senior Spanish editor - - Almeria, Spain

Luis Padilla - Spanish Editor - - Whittier

Andy Weeks – Webmaster- - Chicago

Andrew Foss - Hebrew editor - Belmont Shores, California

Sergei Kremenitsky - Russian translator - - Kiev, Ukraine

James Noble - - California

 

 

 

IN THIS ISSUE

 

·        ANNOUNCEMENTS

·        FAITH PERSPECTIVES

·        WHY SATAN KEEPS TESTING US [Sheila Passenger – Oregon]

·        STILL ALIVE! AFTER ALL THESE YEARS! [Mark Miller – California]

·        SEVEN THINGS JEHOVAH ABHORS [Mark Miller – California]

·        WHAT IS A TRUE FRIEND? [Mark Miller – California]

·        Can Musical Instruments Play a Part in Pure Worship? [Doug Cunningham – Canada]

·        PRESS ON TO MATURITY [Mark Miller – California]

·        WHO OR WHAT IS THE GREAT CROWD? [Mark Miller- California]

·        THINKING ABOUT GOD’S NAME [Mark Miller – California]

·        THE CHURCH – AN ORGANISM [James Noble – California]

 

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

q       Nazarene Commentary 2000© CD: The first volume of three CDs is available. For a gift of $20 -- to be used in the spiritual care of the flock -- the first volume of the 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures with a complete reference on Matthew to Revelation is ready. It may be ordered by writing to: Mark Miller, 2750 West Acacia J-26, Hemet, California 92545 USA. If anyone is not satisfied their gift will be returned with no hard feelings. It should be remembered that those with computer memory may download something very similar from the Friends of the Nazarene web page FREE. It is also expected that the life story of Mark Miller, Messianic Confessions, will be made available on CD for $10 and these funds will be used exclusively to aid the poor and needy whoever they are of any religion or faith, or non-faith.

q       WINTER QUARTERLY SEMINAR: A Friends of the Nazarene “seminar” will be held in early January in southern California. Details will follow.

q       SEMINAR PARTICIPANTS: We would like to encourage other individuals or groups to hold similar quarterly seminars in their own area or country. These, of course, start out small and may only include one family and a few friends. But, if godly men begin now to prepare for such it would be an encouraging thing to see others meet on the same date we do here in Southern California. We can provide the program outline and even some materials. This can be a morning program of three of four hours with a break, or a morning and an afternoon program. Those interested in doing this may contact Mark Miller for more details and suggestions. Here we mix the program with 25 minute talks,  5 minute talks on a single Bible verse, audience Q&As on a number of selected Bible chapters of interest to the local group. This should include the weekly Bible reading for that time. Here we call these group discussions Searching the Scriptures.

q       607 WEB PAGE: A godly brother in England has published some research on the date 607 BC as the first fall of Jerusalem -- www.607v587.com – and many will find this interesting reading. This study is a result of his visit to the British Museum and other research areas. The results of his studies were sent to the Society and he includes their responses.

q       ARTICLES IN DECEMBER ISSUE: JEHOVAH CREATES A MASTER WORKER [Mark Miller] – Commentary on Proverbs 8:22-30; THE GOLDEN RULE [James Noble]; SPIRITUAL DEPRESSION [James Noble]; LIBERATED CHILDREN AND THE INDWELLING SPIRIT [Mark Miller] – Commentary on Romans chapter 8; MEDITATE ON IT [James Noble].

q       ARTICLE SUBMISSIONS: We welcome the submission of articles to Friends of the Nazarene online magazine.

 

 

 

FAITH PERSPECTIVES

"If we want truth,

every person ought to be free to speak what they think

without fear." [Erasmus (1520 AD)]

 

[A forum for the free and open expression of beliefs without fear.

We welcome brief thoughts and articles on any appropriate subject

addressed in a kind and respectful manner.]

 

 

WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT:

 

My dear brothers in the faith,

I so much enjoyed your September issue of Friends of the Nazarene magazine.
Thank you for all your hard work.

From a sister in Oregon
(still in the JW organization)

>>>>

 

Your footnotes on the Christian Bible are without a doubt the best thing that has happened in my spiritual life since learning about Jesus and his Father's promises for the first time. They continue to clear up a lot of confusion.(Can't wait to have them in a convenient CD format--hope it's in the mail!) Every Christian I've ever known should have one.  [DC – Canada]

 

>>>>

 

I'm VERY MUCH enjoying this discussion group. All of
you have posted excellent, fascinating comments. It's
a pleasure to associate with all of you. – Robert [California]

>>>>>

 

Well, I completed reading (actually studying) Nazarene Principles and found it very honest and thorough. It was really faith-strengthening and upbuilding, especially [the] discussion of the Seventh Principle. … I started [Russian] translation of Affirmation of Convictions, now it’s just the first paragraph. But I feel the most important would be translation of Principles. I’m trying to find some interested ones on Russian internet and leaving, everywhere it’s possible, reference to your web site and my e-mail address for questions. Now you can (as you asked about it) put the following address on your page for Russian visitors willing to contact: .

 

Sergei – Ukraine


>>>>


 

WHY SATAN KEEPS TESTING US

By Sheila Passenger – Oregon –

 

The things that test our faith in God and Christ are the hard things we face in life. At this time these are “natural.” They include the things that happen to us because of what is going on that we cannot see. Such as the testing that God allows Satan to do on us. Much in the same way He tested Job. [Job chapters 1 and 2]

 

We also can see how craftily Satan uses men or organizations of men to try to cause Christians to stumble from their faith in God and to throw away their faith in God and Christ's ransom.

 

When we think about it, all down through man's past, God has been watching men and women to see whether or not they would continue to have faith in Him. And also whether they would obey Him no matter what they faced. Whether it was natural occurrences such as death of old age, accidental death, premature death from sickness, persecution or what ever. The Bible gives us many examples of this.

 

Even having faith by sight was difficult for some men. Consider the story of the Jews coming out of Egypt. We can think about what they witnessed. Such as the miracles God performed through Moses upon the Egyptians when He wanted them to let His people go -- the parting of the Red Sea. Their walking across on dry ground. How they witnessed the pillar of fire at night and the cloud that followed and that also led them by day. The food and water He miraculously provided for them. 

 

Despite these they did not have faith enough to put their trust in Him. They failed because when it appeared to them that something might have happened to Moses because he had not returned from the mountain after 40 days. And even though they had earlier all raised their voices and agreed before God that they would not make an image, they turned around and showed their disobedience to God by making an idol and began bowing down to it anyway. These people could not keep their faith even though they had walked by sight.

 

We Christians today know that we must walk by faith. At this time, we do not see any miracles to rely on, but we do have God's written Word from which we draw strength. God has also given us His "Spirit in our hearts" (2 Corinthians 1:22) to help us, along with a wonderful brotherhood in Christ.

 

God's Word tells us that we have invisible enemies. Satan and his demons are working hard to get all men to lose faith in God and become disobedient to Him. We are warned that all those who follow after Christ will be singled out for testing. We are given a good example in the book of Job where Satan fully tested Job. But even at the threshold of death, Job proved Satan a liar and was faithful. As a result God greatly rewarded him for his faith.

 

This is an example we always want to keep in mind. But while Job did prove faithful, Job did make one mistake. He blamed God for the things that had happened to him. It all was a puzzlement to him since he was a man who loved righteousness and walked in faith. He started to question God's judgment and righteousness. He began to reason that it did not matter whether a person was faithful or not, that bad things would happen to a person anyway. He began to conclude that because calamity happens to both the good and to the bad, then there was no advantage to serving God. Even though he drew this conclusion this, he still maintained his faith despite his wife telling him to "curse God and die". God corrected Job's thinking and rewarded him for maintaining his strong faith.

 

The issue that was behind Satan's test of Job was this: Satan claims
that mankind will not remain faithful to God or serve Him. Satan said to God: "Thrust out your hand and touch everything that he (Job) has and see whether he will not CURSE YOU TO YOUR VERY FACE.” And also, “Skin in behalf of skin, and all that a man has he will give in behalf of his soul. … Touch as far as his bone and his flesh and see whether he will CURSE YOU TO YOUR VERY FACE.” (See Job 1:11; 2:4)

 

It is interesting to also note Jesus' words: "What will a man give, in
exchange for his soul?"
(See Matthew 16:26 NWT) Proverbs 27:11 exhorts: "Be wise my son and make my heart rejoice that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me."  [NWT] 1 Peter 5:8-10 tells us: "Keep your senses, be watchful, your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour (someone.) But take your stand against him, solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world. But after you have suffered a little while, the God of all undeserved kindness, Who called you to His everlasting glory, in union with Christ, will Himself finish your training, He will make you firm, he will make you strong." [NWT]

 

It is very interesting to notice that in each of Jesus' messages to the
seven congregations in Revelation he gives each congregation the same words: “TO HIM THAT CONQUERS …” and then describes the rewards that will be given for faithfulness and obedience. We can also see that Satan has an active role of trying to get us to fail. At Revelation 2:10 Jesus tells the congregation of Smyrna: "Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer, Look, the Devil will keep throwing some of you in prison that you may be fully put to the test, and that you may have tribulation ten days. Prove yourselves faithful even to death and I will give you the crown of life." [NWT]

 

And Jesus told the angel of the congregation of Pergamum: "I know where you are dwelling, that is, where the throne of Satan is, and yet you keep on holding fast my name and you did not deny your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas my witness, the faithful one, who was killed by your side, where Satan is dwelling." (Revelation 2:12, 13 NWT)

 

So we all face various trials during our life, including the loss of a loved one, or illnesses, tribulations and persecutions. We really cannot know for sure whether it comes as a result of a natural occurrence "that befalls all men," or is brought upon us as a test from Satan. These may be his effort to try to get us to fail God by losing our faith and hope down to the end. Since Satan insisted that God allow Job to be tested after God had happily reminded Satan of how God fearing and upright Job was, the Bible shows that that all of those who God sets His heart on Satan will test as long as he is around. He started with Adam and Eve.

 

We as Christians especially need to prove ourselves faithful even if it means our death because we have to follow the example of our Lord. Jesus himself was faithful to his Heavenly Father even to his death and thus conquered Satan and his hateful accusations. We have to do this in order to be rewarded the honor and privilege of sitting down with Christ on his throne. (See Revelation 3:21) It is beautiful to see that our Lord Jesus, does not require anything from us that he himself was not also willing to do. (Like a good captain on a ship)

 

"And they conquered (Satan) because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their witnessing, and they did not love their souls even in the face of death." (Revelation 12:11NWT)

 

Since we see that Satan was so interested in testing those in the past who were not Christians, it gives us a good clue as to how greatly he must be interested in misleading the Chosen Ones. We can see how he wants to get them to stumble, or lose completely their faith in God and Christ. He wants us to fail utterly so that he can really, happily taunt God to His face.

 

As we can see, Satan uses so many methods. With Job, not only did he use the loss of his material things, but also he took away all of Jobs' children all at once. Then he removed his health. Satan used the great painful disease of boils from the top of his head to his toes. And if that was not enough during all of this mental and physical pain, during his depression Satan used his false comforters, his so-called friends. These worked on Job to try to break his spirit by telling him that this calamity happened to him because of something he did that was unrighteous. And finally, Satan even used Job's own wife to persecute and taunt him, like she was disgusted and totally lost all respect for him. Despite all of this Hob still maintained his faith and love for God.

 

For me, I want to be on our Heavenly Father's side and especially because Satan caused Adam’s wife Eve to sin. Satan caused her to believe in his lies and to disobey God by eating of the fruit, which as a test God told her and Adam not to eat. Satan is basically the killer of all humankind. This is his intention anyway. God has shown His great love by providing a way that mankind can be saved, and He did not even spare his beloved Son in doing it. It is hard for me not to love God, but really easy for me to hate Satan and hate what he has done, and continues to do to humankind. But particularly what he does toward all those who try, or are trying, to be faithful to God. It is my great wish that I never let our Father down and that He can put His trust in me just as He fully trusted Jesus. So that in the end I can also have a share in proving Satan a liar and to conquer him, just as our Lord Jesus did, through obedience and strong faith. May we all make this our goal and firm determination.

 

>>>>>

 

NEWS RELEASE: FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS

[Thanks to James Noble -- ]

 

Clinton signed into law Friday a bill designed to restore strong legal protections for religious freedom when conflicts arise with cities, zoning boards, prisons and nursing homes. Religious liberty is a constitutional value of the highest order, and the framers of the Constitution included protection for the free exercise of religion in the very first amendment," Clinton said in a statement after signing the bill. "This act recognizes the importance the free exercise of religion plays in our democratic society."

 

The law, which requires local officials to give special treatment to churches, synagogues and religious assemblies or lose their federal funding, is aimed at protecting historic cathedrals and storefront churches. Often these congregations run into conflicts with neighborhoods and business districts over parking, traffic, zoning or new construction, particularly if the members bring with them a new religion or style of worship. "No government shall impose a land-use regulation in a manner that imposes a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a person," except where officials can show a "compelling" reason, the law says.

 

Supporters, including a broad spectrum of religious and civil liberties groups, hope that the president's signature will end a 10-year struggle over the status of religious liberty in American law. But that seems unlikely. Local officials have protested the special protections for religious groups, and church leaders said they expect it to be challenged in the courts. During congressional debate, sponsors cited several disputes from the Los Angeles area to justify the law. In Hancock Park, some Orthodox Jews had sought to use a private home as a synagogue, but a homeowners' association objected and the city of Los Angeles refused to give them an exemption from the residential zoning ordinance. In Rolling Hills Estates, a small Christian church sued because it was barred from meeting in storefronts that were zoned for commercial activity.

 

In a Boston suburb, a Mormon church is set to open--without its steeple--as neighbors wage a legal fight to tear down the temple, which they say threatens the character of their community. An unusually broad coalition--from the Christian Coalition and Family Research Council on the right to the American Civil Liberties Union and People for the American Way on the left--came together to support the legislation. "We agreed the government should not be in the business of regulating people's exercise of their religion," said Christopher T. Anders, ACLU legislative counsel.

 

The National Assn. of Counties contended that the legislation represents an "unwarranted and excessive intrusion" into local government's land-use authority. "I have a lot of concerns about the bill," said Los Angeles Assistant City Atty. Anthony S. Alperin. "Rather than treating religious uses in a fair and equitable way with respect to similar uses, it treats them in a much different and more favorable way," even though religious uses can have the same effects on the surrounding neighborhood. "We should treat religious uses the same as other uses," he added. "We should treat them from a zoning standpoint on the basis of what their impacts are on the surrounding communities." Jan LaRue, the Family Research Council's senior director of legal studies, said: "This legislation doesn't guarantee that a religious claimant will always win. It only guarantees that claimant a chance." The law is a scaled-down version of a religious liberty bill that ran into sudden opposition last year. Gay rights leaders and civil rights activists were concerned that the bill would have allowed landlords and employers to refuse to deal with gays and lesbians by citing religious objections.

 

Two months ago, House and Senate sponsors agreed to narrow the bill so that it would address only land-use disputes and religious conflicts involving people under the control of others, such as prisoners and nursing home patients. Until 1990, the Supreme Court had said that the 1st Amendment's guarantee of the "free exercise of religion" usually required the government to make exceptions for religious claimants. The Amish, for example, could not be compelled to send their children to high school, it said, and states could not deny unemployment benefits to Seventh-day Adventists who refused to work on Saturdays. But in 1990, the high court reversed itself in a case involving two Native Americans who had been fired from state jobs after they ingested peyote, a hallucinogen that they said was central to their religious celebrations.

 

Speaking for a 5-4 majority in the case of Oregon vs. Smith, Justice Antonin Scalia said that religious claimants are not entitled to special exemptions from ordinary laws. The government can enforce laws against everyone equally, so long as a religious group is not singled out for discriminatory treatment. Scalia's opinion surprised mainstream church leaders because it left no room for the special status of religion. If it were read literally, for example, the Roman Catholic Church could have been sued for illegal sex discrimination because it refused to hire women as priests. Not surprisingly, Congress took up the issue and, in 1993, passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The measure directly reversed the Supreme Court's ruling and restored religion to a special place under the law.

 

However, the law's constitutionality was in doubt. A test case emerged in the small town of Boerne, Texas, where the city's historical zoning commission had refused to allow leaders of a Catholic parish to tear down and rebuild the facade of their mission-style church on the main street. Under the 1993 law, city officials were obliged to defer to the wishes of church leaders. But when the case reached the Supreme Court, the justices sided with the city and struck down the law as unconstitutional. Only the high court can determine the meaning of the 1st Amendment, the justices declared. Undaunted, Rep. Charles T. Canady (R-Fla.) drew up the measure signed into law Friday.

 

>>>>>

 

INTIMIDATION AND INTIMADATED

Mark Heber Miller – California –

 

 

The word “intimidate” comes from the Latin which means “afraid” or “fearful.” The dictionary defines intimidation as “1. To make timid; make afraid; overawe. 2. To force or deter with threats or violence.” So, it often has a negative connotation.

 

There is a negative, deliberate form of intimidation that has the purpose to cause others to be afraid or overawed. Sometimes this is used in what is called “the tyranny of authority.” Controlling religious hierarchies use this to cause the flock to be in fear and thus accept without question whatever that authority says.

 

There is a difference with a person who is intimidated, that is timid about expressing themselves in the presence of someone viewed as an authority. For example, a person ignorant of quantum mechanics will feel ill at ease in Physics 101 when a professor is present. No one likes to look stupid, and so sometimes this feeling of intimidation really comes out of self-pride or low self-esteem. Or, just plain lack of study and preparation. However, once a person has overcome this timidity, and becomes more knowledgeable, they will become less intimidated.

 

There are examples of being intimidated in the Bible. Let us look at two. First, Elihu in the case of Job and his three associates. He had listened to these older men speak for many days. He was intimidated by their years and wisdom. BUT, finally he spoke up. Job 32:6, 7 reports:

 

6 And E·li'hu the son of Bar'a·chel the Buz'ite proceeded to answer and say:

"Young I am in days

And YOU men are aged.

That is why I drew back and was afraid

To declare my knowledge to YOU men.

 7 I said, 'Days themselves should speak,

And a multitude of years are what should make wisdom known.' [NWT]

 

At first Elihu was intimidated even though these four men were not deliberately trying to intimidate him. After he had listened to his elders for awhile Elihu realized that he had something important to contribute. Elihu’s intimidation was out of respect and not personal pride.

 

The second example is Jesus himself. Now no one would accuse the Nazarene of trying to intimidate people. When explaining something very simple that you and I have no difficulty understanding, the disciples were intimidated – timid or afraid – to ask Jesus further about it. The Gospels record:

 

MK9:30 Now they left there and traveled through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know of the matter. MK9:31 For he was teaching his disciples, saying to them: “The Son of Humankind [Daniel 7:13] will be delivered up to the hands of men and they will kill him. But after he has been killed, he will rise on the third day.” MK9:32 However, the disciples did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him. [NCMM]

 

LK9:45 However, the disciples just did not understand this statement for it had been hidden from them that they might not understand. Also, they were afraid to ask Jesus about his statement. [NCMM]

 

The disciples had shown themselves filled with pride and jealousy on occasions, so it is possible that in this case it is not Jesus who intimidated them, but rather they allowed themselves to be intimidated because of their own pride.

 

It is true some men and women on the Internet use intimidation as a tool when discussing subjects with others. On the other hand, some times we allow ourselves to be intimidated out of a degree of our own self-pride. We are not always humble enough to admit others might know more about a subject than we do. Actually this is the case throughout life — there will always be others who know more about a certain subject than we do. We often pay such persons to do services for us because we do not know how to do it.

 

Sometimes, when entering a chat room or lurking on a talk list we may hold back from participating because we feel intimidated. In order to share there is something we can all do without fear of intimidation. Ask questions.

 

I remember very well when I was about 6 and learning to add and subtract I was much intimidated among my school mates. The reason? I was from a very poor family and could not afford to bring to schol the paper bottle caps from milk jars. You see, everyone used these bottle caps to add and subtract. Take away 3 bottles caps from 10 and how many do you have left? I just could not figure this out at first because I had no such bottle caps. I felt terrible – intimidated. But when my teacher realized why I was teary eyed she got me some bottle caps. At the close of the school year I was called in to a conference with two teachers. I was very intimidated by the thought and worried greatly. I remember it well to this day. BUT, these two teachers told me: “Mark, you ask very good questions in class. Please keep it up.” I sure felt good.

 

And life teaches that sometimes the very question we think the most stupid turns out to cut right to the kernel of a point.

 

No one should deliberately try to intimidate others. Neither should we take ourselves too seriously that we allow ourselves to be intimidated out of self-pride.

 

 

==== END FAITH PERSPECTIVES ====

 

 

 

 

STILL ALIVE!

After All These Years!

By Mark Heber Miller – California -

 

Today is September 24 and at 5 AM in the morning I turned 62. I should not be alive. I should have died a long time ago. BUT, after all these years, I am still alive. To my great surprise!

 

I was born with difficult and physical problems right out of the starting blocks. My mother prayed that I would be a Christian minister. Through out my early childhood I was one of those “sickly” kids with a “weak constitution.” Plagued by every kind of childhood illness I had my first of twenty surgeries when I was five. I failed the 3rd grade because of rupture ear drums due to complications during measles. I would awake after a night of pain with blood and pus all over my pillows. You could spot me easily in school. I was the kid with the big ears stuffed with cotton and called “Dumbo.”

 

 

Escaping Death

 

Before I was a teenager living in Washington state my father wanted to take me on a hunting trip. My mother, for her own reasons, demanded that I should not go. Returning form his hunting trip in the forests of Washington, my father was forced off a small bridge by a logging truck. He ended up trapped in the Chevy with the top crushed all the way down to the top of the seats, overturned in a stream. It was a long time before he was discovered because he was unable to get out of the demolished car. His only injury was a dislocated shoulder that popped back into placed on the way to this hospital in an ambulance. My mother always wondered what would have happened if I had been along – before the days of seat belts – and I have pondered my first “brush with death.”

 

A couple of years later in London, England my father wanted to take me to an air show. I was overjoyed because I used to study Jane’s Airplanes and was obsessed with jet fighters. I wanted to really – really -- go. Again for her own reasons my mother was adamant that I should not go. I could not figure out why. But, it became apparent later. At the air show one of the features was a fly-by at ground level of a British jet fighter. It was planned that the jet would break the sound barrier nor more than 100 feet above the ground BETWEEN stadium grandstands on right and left. The jet made its run and was approaching the staging area at 700 miles an hour. It plowed into the ground almost in the middle of the onlookers and exploded, sending engines and debris into the crowd. Hundreds were critically injured and killed. My mother wondered what had moved her not to let me go. I have wondered many times since.

 

I had always been bothered by lung and bronchial problems with childhood asthma. When my mother and father separated we planned to leave England from the Heathrow airport. That night a killer fog fell on London, so thick the heavy mist would actually go through key holes and under doors. The day we left 5,000 with respiratory problems died from this fog.

 

 

Near Drownings

 

At about the age of 10 we lived on a lake in Federal Way, Washington. Though I could not swim I loved to build rafts from old logs and paddle around. One day the raft fell apart and I was thrown into the water. I found myself, unable to swim, in deep water among lily pads. The more I struggled the more I became enwrapped in the lily pads. To this day I distinctly remember the color of the clear water with all these tentacles seeming to devour me. For some reason I forced myself to relax and before I knew it my hands grabbed a log and I was able to keep my head above water until I made it to shore.

 

Some years later, after I was married and had three children, I became interested in body and belly-board [Paipo] surfing along Newport Beach where we lived in California. The bigger the waves the better. Several times in surfing the great south swells that strike southern California in the summer I came so close to death that I was praying to God. These were moments when the waves on several beaches from Corona del Mar to Huntington Beach were at record heights. These ranged from ten to twenty-five feet and generally broke in shallow water.  On three occasions in three different places a friend and I were the only persons in the water while tens of thousands remained out of the water due to lifeguard warnings. In Corona del Mar waves were running ten feet and were complete “close outs” along the entire length of the State Beach.

 

There was no way to ride them as body surfers do. So instead we would take off underwater on a ten-foot wave and at the critical moment stroked hard to allow our bodies to be canon-shot out of the top of the wave. We fell two stories and dove into the water ahead of the wave. The problem was the water was only six feet deep and you had to count on hitting the bottom. The trick was to roll in such away that you tumbled on the bottom. THEN the wave would pick you up and recycle you “over the falls” for the second drop. Once I slammed against the bottom so hard the breath was knocked out of me. “Over the falls” I went again. I could see the beach and the thousands watching clearly. But I could not catch a breath. So the second time I was pounded on the bottom, rolled like a log until I was sure I was going to die this time. I pushed with all my might off the bottom and broke clear. Only I could not breathe because I had hit the bottom so hard before. I was washed ashore near unconsciousness.

 

Later we took on the infamous Wedge on one of the biggest days in memory. Again my friend and I were the only two in the water with thousands watching from the beach and the nearby jetty. My friend was nearly drowned when a waved rolled him along the bottom for over one-hundred feet until he was washed up on the steep beach at the foot of the crowds. Alone I took off on a wave that broke near the end of the Newport jetty. Some estimate it to have reached thirty feet. As the wave approached the shore with me speeding to the left in “green water” this wave struck a “slap wave” of over ten feet GOING BACK OUT. I was thrown high into the air and then slammed against the bottom. It was like being in a washing machine. Some compare this experience to crawling across a busy free way on your back with a three-hundred pound man jumping on your chest. Again I thought I surely was going to die. My friend vowed never to surf the Wedge again. Five fishermen were killed on that same wave when in completely washed over the jetty into Newport Bay. Hundreds scrambled and ran for their lives to escape that monster.

 

That same summer two more events happened in the largest surf along the southern California coast in years. At 39th Street on a ten-foot day I took off in a crowd and at the top of a two story wave looked down to see a frightened swimmer trying to escape. I fell right across his legs with my left chest. I still remember his look. The collision squashed all the air out of my lungs and then out of control I was slammed against the bottom. I went “over the falls” two times, each time seeing daylight but unable to take a breath. Each time I was rolled against the bottom until washed up on shore. I knew I was going to die right there. But, I did not. Indeed, after getting my breath I spent the next hour as a  Red Cross Water Safety Instructor helping lifeguards pull people out of impossible surf. That day I saved three people and assisted many more.

 

A bit later, my friend and I entered the water at the Santa Ana river jetty. The surf was consistently running well over ten feet. We road magnificent waves several times as the current pulled us north toward the Huntington Beach jetty miles away. Often the surf foam was so thick it was nearly impossible to get our heads above it. At one point we realized we could not get ashore before the pier so we agreed to start swimming out around the pier. Waves were breaking outside the pier that is about a half mile long. Near the pier we could hear the lifeguard tower announcing, “Bring the victims to the end of the pier.” It was impossible to save anyone in that surf and the surf boats could not get any nearer than the end of the pier between sets.

 

We swam around the pier and then started swimming in. It took two hours to swim toward the beach and the current carried us three miles north to another state park. We learned later that half a dozen persons died in that surf. Two bodies were found days later at the entrance to the Los Angeles Harbor. I had escaped death several times and looking back cannot believe I survived despite my foolishness. I cannot explain why I did this. Today they call these kind of people “adrenaline junkies” and they think they have even found the DNA that causes some people to become serious “risk-takers.”

 

 

Rock Climbing

 

Later when I moved to a state with the largest beach in America but was a thousand miles from any ocean – New Mexico – I decided to take up rock climbing. This was in the early 60s. Since I had no one to climb with I took up solo climbing. This is a technique of using a rope with a safety device moved up as one proceeds. The only problem is that on some “pitches” [or, rope lengths from belay to belay] the soloist must descend to release the lower anchors, and then re-climb a free rope to remove the anchors placed on the way up the first time. This requires three trips over the same ground JUST TO GET UP. AND THEN you have to get back down.

 

Once when preparing for the first solo ascent of Shiprock in New Mexico’s Four Corners I was descending over a cliff when a rock broke loose causing me to fall and swing out over an overhang. I could not touch the wall and was hanging in space about three stories above the ground. I was tangled in the rope and it was restricting my chest. Soon it became difficult to breathe. My arms and hands were going numb. Despite every effort I found to way to extricate myself. I seldom panic in these situations, but now I felt my body was going to be found days later hanging in this impossible situation. I began to cry – CRY! – to God! I began to offer my final prayers to Him. Suddenly, I remember I had a small pocket knife in my pants pocket. With great difficulty and care, despite hands so numb they had no feeling, I was able to get the knife out and open it. With my last bit of strength I decided the only thing for it was to cut the rope and take my chances in the fall. At least I would not die just hanging there. The rope snapped under my weight and I fell, unraveling from coils of rope. I was stunned in hitting the ground twenty five feet below. Fortunately it was sandy and as I lay there I wondered how badly broken I was. As I came to I slowly began to move, sure that my legs would be twisted and broken. But, by God’s grace, I was unhurt other than rope burns and some scraps. I stood, shaken uncontrollably and looked up at the naked end of the rope hanging above. That was not the last close call I had in climbing, but it was clearly the worst! I should not be alive. I should be a dried out mummy hanging as skin and bones on some great volcanic plug in the New Mexican desert. I was a full-time pioneer and congregation servant among Jehovah's Witnesses.

 

 

Suicide

 

Some years passed when I was living back in Corona del Mar, California. I had been among the first photographers to be given a free hand in China in 1979. I was at the height of my new career as a well-known graphic arts photographer. But there was something wrong in my life as a Presiding Overseer among Jehovah’s Witnesses. My marriage was in trouble. My children were having problems. I was under great pressure among unChristian JW elders in Newport Beach. I became seriously suicidal. I carried around a bottle of one-hundred 10mg Valium in a bottle wrapped in tape with “Death” written on it. It was in my pocket all the time.

 

One night I decided to finally use death as my escape from great pain. I secretly loaded my new convertible sports car and left for the desert. I was determined to swallow the Valium with vodka and be found dead in my tent in the Joshua Tree desert. But what if I just become ill and puked? I brought a ten-inch Buck knife and I intended to place it under my chest and just fall on it in my tent.

 

But something interesting happened on my way to kill myself. An angel of the Lord stood in the middle of a desert road at 10 PM at night under a full moon. Rounding a 30 MPH corner at exactly 30 MPH my sports car suddenly pirouetting on its nose, spun around and collapsed down on my head. I was dragged thirty feet underneath out into the desert in the ONLY PLACE this could have happened. There was only sand and brush beneath me.

 

I was pinned unconscious under the car. No one but God knew how injured I was at that moment. The seventh thoracic vertebrae was cracked open like a walnut with T6 smashed into it. My neck had compression fractures in two vertebra. My lower back had two compression fractures. I would loose three inches in height in a split second. One lung was collapsed and punctured. Ten ribs were fractured. A collar-bone was fractured. My heart had suffered such a terrible “third impact” that it was oozing blood into my abdomen. My left knee was torn and battery acid was tripping on my feet.

 

In this situation I began to come around with my face buried in sand and grit. Out of one eye I could see lights and movement. I began to hear the voices of the people trying to get me out from under the car. It was a miracle anyone was there at all. For my accident happened in a place hard to see from the road at night. Unknown to me at the time two rangers had been on a trail some miles away and had HEARD the crash. They radioed a ranger going in my direction on his LAST RUN of the night. He is the one that saw the dust still in the air. Had this happened a few minutes later, I would not have been found until morning.

 

After great difficulty the car was lifted with a jack in shifting sand and a body board was forced under me. I cannot describe the degree of pain I was in. I moved from consciousness to unconsciousness through unimaginable agony. I was going into shock and became extremely cold.

 

I was delivered to an isolated medical clinic in the high desert of Joshua Tree. Now a series of miraculous events occurred. The doctor who first examined me declared that I had only fractured a couple of ribs and called my wife to say she could come and get me. I was in great agony and passed in and out of consciousness. I could see a clock, however. I saw it move from 11 PM to 1 AM, to 2 AM, and then to 3 AM. I must have passed out, but when I came to again I saw a most lovely man standing over me screaming in a Pakistani accent. He was cursing the attending physician: “This man is dying in front of you and you do not know it! His blood pressure is 60 over Dopler.” I distinctly remember these words. Whether I was near-death or unconscious I do not know. This doctor had “accidentally” come from Eisenhower Memorial Hospital in Palm Springs on a tour of smaller clinics in the area. What would have happened if this doctor had not appeared?

 

When my wife arrived after a two hour drive I had already been given five Demoral shots but they had done little to stop the pain. I remember my wife saying, “Can’t you do anything for his pain?” The nurse had said, “We have already given him five.” I remember this. Much of the next week are a blur to me as I remained under critical care in this small clinic. Later I was moved by ambulance to Hoag Presbyterian Hospital in Newport Beach. Still, no one knew the degree of my injuries and my heart was still leaking blood.

 

An emergency angiogram was performed to determine the source of the blood loss. At the same time I was x-rayed. I can remember the physician’s words: “Jeeeesus Kee-rist!” as other doctors gathered. They could not believe what they saw. After a cat-scan – rare in those days – no one could believe that any person could survive these injuries. At the very least I should be paralyzed from my neck down.

 

After a week I was released to go home to spend much of the next year in a hospital bed. Though I did return to my duties as presiding overseer, giving my public Bible talks in a wheel chair, things were not going well. I had been reduced to swallowing Darvon with bourbon to kill the constant pain. After a year I returned to my cardiac specialist and told him what was happening to me. He called around in my presence to half a dozen doctors and got the very best specialist spinal surgeon in Orange County. The only thing left was radical surgery. It seemed some relief was possible. But only the worst lie ahead.

 

 

Code Blue and Near-Death

 

I was operated on in a ten-hour surgery to implant titanium rods with nuts and bolts over a one-foot section of my spine. Before going under I had begged God for His forgiveness and thanked him for turning me around in such a dramatic way. I prayed that I either awoke in the recovery room or in heaven. After a surgery so unique and radical that it was video tapped -- and one of the attending doctors wanted to write an article for the medical journals on it – I was placed on a bed called a Stricker-frame which is something like a waffle iron in which you are sandwiched with only a hole for your face. I will not go into all the details of what happened next because these are recorded in my book Messianic Confessions. Every two hours I was rotated – face down and then face up. Every two hours I was given another shot of morphine. But about three days into this one week experience I was accidentally given a double dose of morphine and at the same time left alone in ICU when the attending nurse injured her back in one of my rotations.

 

I went Code Blue. That is a hospital’s way of saying you have died and “crashed.” Because my nurse was not immediately present it took some moments before anyone responded to the alarm. I do not know all the details of this because it has been covered up by the hospital and doctors. It was later blamed on ME by my lying doctor who said I had a slight irregular heart beat – something I was born with! I plunged into the worst near-death experience one can imagine. It is retold in detail in Messianc Confessions and it was so vivid that I later wrote a 600-page epic poem on the experience called Across Infinity. I was “dead” for almost two minutes. I remember distinctly the resuscitation and it was not at all pretty.

 

At any rate I was brought back again from many “brushes with death.” For another year I was immobilized at home in a hospital bed. I strange thing happened because of the accident and the subsequent Code Blue – I lost much of my memory. I knew I was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and many faces were somewhat familiar but not any names. I some how knew I loved the Bible but could not recall its contents.  I determined in that year to go over the Bible and my beliefs.

 

This led to becoming self-taught in Greek as I studied the Greek New Testament comparing it to ten Bible translations which I read word by word. I also read the last ten years of all the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I read the twelve volume collection of Will Durant’s Story of Civilization. I read every National Geographic from the year 1948. I was like an alien visitor to this planet who knew nothing about it. In that year those damaged and broken synapses were reconnected by some kind of miracle.

 

During this time a most lovely Irish girl came to visit me several times. She was going to open an orphanage in Ireland. She was most kind and loving to me. But it is strange that no one remembers this person!

 

Well to make a story already too long short, I recovered though I remained disabled and dependent on pain-killers for the rest of my life. But other things were to happen more bizarre than anything that went before.

 

 

A Spiritual Resurrection

 

In 1988 I began to wonder what was wrong with my religion. I made even more intense studies – night and day. I became suicidal AGAIN! I could not understand what was wrong. I knew what Christianity should be, but most places I looked I could not find it – neither in doctrine or behavior. I set off to finish what I had started in 1979. But this time through great amounts of prayer and meditation I was able to pull myself through.

 

I spent the next years in private studies during which I read the Bible in a dozen versions over and over. I re-read and studied carefully the publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses, finishing a complete reading of what is called the Insight book. I was also working as a consultant to the Writing and Art Departments at Brooklyn Bethel. I made several trips lasting up to a month where I worked on the 9th and 10th floors of the World Headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I saw things that disturbed me. Things that lacked a true Christian spirit and love. I saw a hard and cold organizational form of Christianity. A corporate form of worship.

 

During the early 90s I went through great struggles among local elders in Riverside County, California. These drove me to great depression. Despite this I was secretly studying more than ever before. My wife, my sister and I planned to move to Spain to do missionary work. I had hoped that such a change would take me away from that form of Christianity I saw in the US. I was to discover there was no difference.

 

On a stop over in Holland where we stayed with friends I remained home very ill while the others went to the meeting. I became very sick, racked with enormous pain. I had been having dreams night and day of the Scriptures, trying to work my way out of a religious morass of confusion and disillusion. Night after night I saw nothing but Scriptural references on a blackboard, verses burning into my mind.

 

I reached such a state of panic and pain that I was crying out. I would have called for an ambulance if I could have reached a phone and been able to get through in English. I began to pray to God most earnestly. I began to beg him to kill me and end my agony. I begged him to reveal to me the answers to my questions and doubts, or let me die. “Answer my questions or let me die!” I screamed in pain to that empty house. I was curled up on a couch in the living room, lying on my side. What was to happen next I cannot explain. I do not know whether it was a hallucinating dream brought on by extreme pain or a heavenly vision. Like Paul, I did not know whether it was in the body or out of the body. I knew if I ever told this story Jehovah’s Witnesses would think me either crazy or demonized.

 

Instantly my pain was gone! A person stood before me to my right. He was tall, taller than I would have thought. He was a bigger man than I would have thought. His hair was black to his shoulders and smoothed with a perfumed oil which I could smell. His cloak was long with vertical stripes in black, warm brown, and what I would describe as French-vanilla. He sat beside me and touched me with his right hand. His words were simple and straightforward: “KEEP ON THIS PATH YOU HAVE CHOSEN. KEEP SEARCHING. KEEP ASKING. YOU WILL FIND THE TRUTH.” And then my visitor vanished. I cannot tell you whether this was the Lord Jesus. I had the powerful awareness that it was.

 

I rose completely free of pain and completely filled with enormous peace. That night I no longer had the unsettling dreams. I slept like a baby. I told no one of this experience.

 

In Spain I started all over in my Biblical studies. Now with the help of an IBM Think Pad and a Bible search program I settled in between pioneering and my duties as an elder to write down what now came to me as a flood of spiritual waters. I rejoiced with every day as all of my questions were answered. The Bible came together in one sublime harmony. I told no one of these studies and conclusions, but it was clear “my church was wrong.”

 

Many know the remaining part of this story. But in brief I returned to California, now separated from my wife. My laptop had been stolen in the Madrid airport, along with all my notes with thousands of pages. I determined to begin anew and take one year to decide FOR SURE about the truths I was learning. I would leave for long and isolated trips into the High Sierras and the Mojave desert. Each trip I brought along a new copy of the Christian Bible in a different version. I re-read this translation with yellow highlighter and red pen, making copious notes in the margins. I did this through over a half dozen versions. I had pages of notes, but now most of this was in my mind and memory.

 

Having almost finished my journey in answer to my prayers and vision, I decided to go one more time into the desert for two weeks without Bible, pen or paper. I devoted myself to prayer and meditation day and night. During the day I would limp with my canes out into the wilderness to be completely alone with my thoughts and God. Everything coursed through my mind like I was speed-reading page after page of the Bible, now stored in m memory. At night under the stars I wondered at God’s wisdom, power, mercy and love. Over and over I asked God what I was to do. I imagined – it was not a dream or a vision – Christ sitting across from me around a camp-fire. I would ask, “What am I to do? What am I to do?” The answer came each time: “What more must I say, Mark? It is right there in my own words.”

 

 

Prayers Answered

 

The last night I most earnestly prayed that our Father allow me the time to put down on paper for others my thoughts on the Bible from Matthew to Revelation. I prayed I would not die or be taken before I could leave behind some record of my own thoughts and studies. BUT, I had no way of doing this! I had no computer and I knew I could not physically write it with pen and paper. I prayed that if, indeed, that was His will He would somehow provide the tools for me to do this. No more than a week later, out of no where, the funds and means were provided to buy this little Japanese laptop upon which I now work.

 

My health was so poor that I prayed to Him to just allow me the time to accomplish this feat. I was somewhat panicky that I would never finish it before I died. I wanted to leave to others the blessings I had received. Not as something inspired, or delivered to me from heaven, but just the godly thoughts of one disciple of the Nazarene at the beginning of the 21st Century and the new millennium. It seemed daunting, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

 

I began with Revelation and Daniel! I had determined to produce a new “rendering” of the New Testament, at least in part. Each verse would have every phrase analyzed and compared with two dozen other versions. It would have cross-references and footnotes. Every important Greek word would be referenced. I would just put down on paper what was in my memory. Every chapter and paragraph would be topically outlined and themed so that others could learn to memorize where important subjects were.

 

Time passed and book by book I worked through the Christian Bible. But this would really do no good unless others had access to it. I was by then becoming acquainted with the Internet. I was completely ignorant of how to publish anything on the World Wide Web. I remember very well offering a formal prayer to the God of Jesus: “If You want me to publish this on the Internet, send me help.” TWO DAYS later I got a post from a brother I did not know who was across the country in Chicago. He wanted to know if I needed any help with the Internet. He volunteered to create and host as webmaster the web site that became known as Friends of the Nazarene. Two years later he remains very much associated with our Internet page.

 

Today one may download Nazarene Commentary 2000© with a complete reference on Matthew to Revelation. Also three years of the magazine Friends are readable on the Internet. In addition there were a half dozen full book-length publications available free to anyone who could download these. Over 10,000 people have in some way been encouraged by or visited the material. In addition I have personally sent out hundreds of reference works to interested individuals in 30 countries.

 

That was not the only help the Weeks family contributed to this effort. I must say that all the Weeks family have aided me in most critical times. From the beginning – after my JW pioneer sister threw me out – I had not a single penny in income and very few friends helping me at that time. The Weeks family and their unknown friends came to my aid so that I had a place to stay until this time. Also, a beloved sister provided a car, which had remained faithful until this month. It is marvelous how God works and how He moves His servants. These have not been the rich, but people of normal means who made sacrifices to assist a penniless Christian. To this day I thank God for these persons who helped the Helper without a personal agenda. [Psalm 54:4]

 

Nazarene Commentary 2000© in three volumes will soon be available in CD form. The first 10 copies are now available of Volume 1 – 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures [Matthew to Revelation] for a gift of $20.

 

Now, this little Japanese lap-top has had many millions of words pass through it. There is no way of knowing how many. I know the published words made available free to thousands has amounted to millions, thousands of pages, and thousands of researched footnotes.

 

SO, here I am on this little lap-top at the age of 62 – on my birthday. A man who a doctor told three years ago that it would not surprise him at all if I walked out of his office and dropped dead from a heart attack or stroke. I AM STILL HERE, AFTER ALL THESE YEARS. I have asked God that if it is His will I may be allowed to finished the Old Testament in a new version with the same format seen in Nazarene Commentary 2000©. So far, so good. I have finished some of the prophets: Daniel, Zephaniah, Habakkuk, Malachi. I have 25% of the Psalms finished and also a large portion of Proverbs. I am not as panicky as I was on the New Testament. As I can I work on the Hebrew Bible. It gives me more time to help others personally and presently I conduct email correspondence courses with brothers in America, Canada, Belgium and the Ukraine.

 

I AM STILL HERE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS! What is ahead? None of us can know. On both sides of my family everyone has lived into their mid-80s and died peacefully of strokes. As unthinkable as it is for me, I may have 20 years left. I cannot imagine living that long, but let God’s will take place.

 

After writing the above a visit to a doctor was sobering. I learned I may have been having “mini-strokes” due to plaque in arteries sloughing off and entering the brain. The interesting thing about this turns out to be a statement on medical coverage to the elderly in this country. There is an amazing new prescription that can safely dissolve this plaque. But it is $100.00 [USA] a month and Medi-Cal will NOT COVER IT and there is no way I can.

 

 

New Prayers

 

Would you like to know what I am praying for now? I can tell you before God that I have prayed for three things:

 

First, because I am so limited by physical health and strength I have prayed that God would provide a young man with the same love of the Bible I have. Someone who could devote his WHOLE life to the Friends of the Nazarene and other Christians. Someone who not only knows his Bible and the truths I have learned, but also would be willing to move around the country – and the world – to visit little home churches in need. I am convinced God would care for such a godly man. I know the Helper would use other helpers to provide for such a devoted and righteous person to care for the sheep no matter where they are in the world. That is one thing I ask for in the name of Jesus. And I have been looking for him.

 

Second, I have prayed that someone with the surplus would fund the hard publishing of several tracts, booklets, and books to be used by the poor who cannot afford a computer or the Internet.

 

Third, I have prayed that a Friends of the Nazarene commune and retreat might be created on a parcel of land where a marvelous library might be installed. This library of 3,000 volumes of rare books covering 150 years of Biblical studies is ALREADY waiting for such a kind individual. This commune would include ONLY persons dedicated and consecrated to God who would be willing to work in both physical and spiritual labor each day. It would be a place for true Christians all over the world to come and visit. A place where quarterly conferences could be hosted. A place where weekly worship and Bible instruction take place.

 

I hope soon to be able to move into a HUD apartment where I will have a living room where I can hold meetings and invite persons for Bible discussions. I know this will work out in time according to His will.

 

My dear mother, God rest her soul, prayed at my birth for me to become a Christian minister. Is it her single prayer – like Hannah – that which is being fulfilled by ALL that has happened to me? I do not know for sure. But I want to believe it is. She is gone now for over two years. She never got to read what was produced by that pneumatic pressure of God’s Spirit on me. I wonder – would she be surprised that – AFTER ALL THESE YEARS -- I AM STILL HERE.

 

I think not.

 

 

==== END ====

 

 

 

 

The Seven Things jehovah ABHORS

By Mark Heber Miller – California -

 

Though Jehovah is called a God of Love, He is also completely capable of hate. The Bible testifies that there are things and persons God hates. [Psalm 5:5; 11:5; 45:7; Isaiah 1:14; Hosea 9:15; Amos 5:21; 6:8; Zechariah 8:17; Malachi 1:3; 2:16]

 

In Proverbs there are some fairly well known verses that describe seven things God hates. Here is a discussion of each of these.

 

Proverbs 6:16-19: “There are six things Yehowah hates. Yes, even seven are disgusting to His soul …” [NCMM] That is, God loathes, is disgusted, detests, abhors certain attitudes and conduct. Indeed the second phrase grows stronger. God considers these seven an abomination, something He loathes, things detestable to Him. What are these seven things Jehovah hates and abhors?

 

 

1.    THE ARROGANT

 

Other versions describe this first attitude as KJV: a proud look; YLT: haughty appearance; KNX: the haughty look; BAS: eyes of pride; TAY: haughtiness. No one likes the arrogant but the arrogant themselves. The Bible elsewhere warns against egotism and haughty pride. Psalm 101:5 describes God’s hatred to such: Anyone of haughty eyes and of arrogant heart, Him I cannot endure.” [NWT] Proverbs 16:5 echoes the same: Everyone that is proud in heart is something detestable to Jehovah.” [NWT] Paul warns against such egotism: Let us not become egotistical.For if there is any one who thinks himself to be somebody when he is nobody, he is deluding himself.” [Galatians 5:26 NWT; Galatians 6:3 Weymouth Translation] The Nazarene also warned that such attitudes could defile a Christian. [Compare the Nazarene at Mark 7:22.]

 

Most people recognize arrogance or pride when they see it. Unfortunately, such prideful persons seldom see this hateful attribute in their own character. However, if we can see it in others, we can learn to recognize the disdainful quality in ourselves. In the Bible Satan is an example, as are the Pharisees. One identifying mark of the arrogant is the opinionated person. Some of these persons follow every remark or suggestion of others with something in the form of “No.” No matter what one says, the arrogant will come back with a negative or contradictory statement. They seem not satisfied that another have something to contribute and so they often interrupt. They have no idea what a period is and seldom to they let others finish their sentence. Such prideful persons are virtually a “lost cause” and change little throughout life. One must either tolerate them, and stay out of their company even as God would. For no one who hates something remains in its presence long.

 

 

2. THE LIAR

 

Or, KJV: a lying tongue; RHM: a tongue that is false. No one likes to be lied to, and everyone knows what it means to be lied about. False lips are something detestable to Jehovah.” [Proverbs 12:22 NWT] A lie is defined by some as withholding the truth from those who have a right to know. Lying often manifests itself in gossip or slander. In this form the liar wants to tarnish the reputation of another. Such lying is really motivated by jealousy, because the liar cannot tolerate someone more gifted or blessed.

 

Unfortunately there are more liars among Christians than one would suppose. Why can we say such a terrible thing? Because that is what the beloved apostle John says: If any individual claims, ‘I love God!’ and yet refuses to love another Christian --- such a person is a liar!” [1 John 4:20 NCMM Paraphrase] In other words, if a Christian says he or she loves God or Jesus and yet fails the test of 1 John 3:17 – they are liars. They are lying to themselves in self-deception, and they are lying to others as hypocrites.

 

 

3. THE BLOODGUILTY

 

That is, “hands shedding innocent blood” [NCMM]; KNX: take innocent life; BAS: take life without cause; TAY: murdering. Such persons were executed in Israel as Numbers 35:31 commands: And you must take no ransom for the soul of a murderer who is deserving to die, for without fail he should be put to death.[NWT] Deuteronomy 27:25 says the same: Cursed is the one who accepts a bribe to strike a soul fatally, when it is innocent blood.”  Jesus teaches that such can certainly “defile” a worshipper of God. [Compare the Nazarene at Mark 7:21.] John goes even further wen he writes: “Anybody who hates a fellow is guilty of manslaughter. You realize that anyone guilty of manslaughter does not have everlasting life remaining within.” [1 John 3:15 NCMM Paraphrase]

 

History is filled with the example of Christians and others shedding innocent blood. Millions of men and women are guilty of such bloodshed of the innocent. This has occurred in wars with over 100,000,000 killed in wars in the 20th Century. Millions of women have shed innocent blood and life by means of abortion. Some estimate this holocaust to be 50 million a year, or 1 billion in the last twenty years. They have, or someone else who did it for them, killed that “embryo” [or, substance] that God sees in the womb of a women. [ Psalm 139:16] They have stopped the life with “all its parts.” Others in more recent times have shed innocent blood through “ethnic cleansing.” Famous names scream God’s condemnation to Christians and heathens involved in shedding innocent blood – Nanking – where 250,000 Chinese were killed one at a time by the Japanese. Hiroshima – where 200,000 died instantly. Auschwitz and other infamous names where millions of different races and religions were killed by starvation, disease, and mass executions by Germans. Mi Li – where a small village was slaughtered by America soldiers.

 

 

4. THE HURTFUL

 

Proverbs puts it: “… a heart plotting HURTFUL schemes.” [NCMM]

 

That is, KJV: deviseth wicked imaginations; YLT: devising thoughts of vanity; JPS: wicked thoughts; AAT: plots mischievous schemes; MOF: a mind with crafty plans; JB: weaves wicked plots; RHM: contriving iniquitous devices; NWT: fabricating hurtful schemes. The Nazarene warns that such a trait could “devile” a worshipper of God. [Compare the Nazarene at Mark 7:21.]

 

Any of us knows what hurts us – deception, manipulation, slander, business cheats, belittling, and a long list of other matters. You know what hurts you, so do not do these to others. If it hurts you, it must also hurt others. In the previous verses the Proverbs described such a person: “There is a type of person who is completely worthless, going about with a perverse mouth. This person winks, makes hidden signals with the feet, and gives signs with the fingers. This person’s heart motive is perverse, constantly plotting mischief, sowing discord everywhere. But calamity will suddenly come upon this type of person – instantly broken without any healing.” [Proverbs 6:12-15 NCMM; compare Proverbs 17:4; 22:8] Often greed is behind what is hurtful. [Colossians 3:5]

 

 

5. THE EVIL-DOER

 

That is, “feet that are quick to run to evil.” [NCMM] Others render this: KJV: feet that be swift in running to mischief; YLT: feet hastening to run to evil; MOF: feat eager to go mischief-making; JB: feet that hurry to do evil. Several places in the Bible all the things that could be involved in the conduct or attitude of such an “evil-doer.” Compare Paul’s list about three dozen things in Romans 1:24-32.

 

Isaiah 59:7, 8 describes such a person hated by God: Their own feet keep running to sheer badness, and they are in a hurry to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts are hurtful thoughts; despoiling and breakdown are in their highways. The way of peace they have ignored, and there is no justice in their tracks. Their roadways they have made crooked for themselves. No one at all treading in them will actually know peace.” [NWT; compare Romans 3:15] Note the Nazarene’s teachings at Mark 7:22.

 

 

6. THE FALSE WITNESS

 

As one of things God hates Proverbs lists: “a false witness speaking lies.” The New Jerusalem Bible phrases this: “a false witness who lies with every breath.” Unlike the liar above, this is the type of person who would deliberately lie in a court of law or a judicial environment. It is condemned in the Law of Moses: You must not take up an untrue report. Do not cooperate with a wicked one by becoming a witness who schemes violence. You must not follow after the crowd for evil ends; and you must not testify over a controversy so as to turn aside with the crowd in order to pervert justice. As for the lowly one, you must not show preference in a controversy of his.” [Exodus 23:1-3 NWT] Jesus was the object of such false witnesses. [Matthew 26:59]

 

In courts in the United States a witness must swear with the right hand on the Holy Bible. Perjury or false witness is a serious crime and some in the US Senate have accused the president of such conduct. When testifying before appropriate authority, whether secular or within the Christian Church, God hates the person who would lie in their testimony, particularly if their motive is to injure another.

 

 

7. THE DISCORDANT

 

The last of the seven things that God hates is listed as “the person sowing discord among associates.” [NCMM] This is rendered by others as: YLT: sending forth contentions; NJB: sows dissension; RHM: sending forth strifes; NWT: contentions. Elsewhere the Bible warns about such a person hated by God. Leviticus 19:16 warns: You must not go around among your people for the sake of slandering.” [NWT] Paul lists such as a “work of the flesh” and the person who habitually creates disunity will not inherit God’s kingdom. [Galatians 5:20] The disciple James associates the discordant person with dangerous influences: “However, if you have in your heart bitter jealousy and selfishness, do not boast and continue to lie against the truth. This is not the wisdom which descends from above, but rather, is earthly, soul-like, demonic. For where there is jealousy and selfishness there is disorder and the practice of every kind of evil.” [James 3:14-16 NCMM]

 

The person who sows discord or disunity among Christian associates is being influenced by demons because Satan was the original rebel and discordant one. According to James jealousy is associated with disorder and contention. Often the discordant person is one who is jealous and thus speaks evilly of a fellow associate. Sometimes there is a Christian who is particularly gifted or blessed by God. This causes the evil-minded to become jealous and they strike out. Almost always this manifests it self in false testimony about the person. Or it may take some form of slanderous speech that calls into question the persons gifts and motives.

 

For example, two Christians may be discussing another in derogatory terms. Sometimes these can even be true, but most often they are half-truths. It may begin innocently enough: “Brother Elder, or Friend sister, are so capable. That is why I was surprised when …” In other words, almost in a satanic manner they begin with an apparently positive note, but end up speaking divisively. It may be: “So-and-so acts holier than thou,” or, “So-and-so is full of it,” or, “So-and-so is motivated by pride.” Whether these things are true or not, the end result is disunity among Christians.

 

When we consider the seven things Jehovah hates and abhors we shudder in our shoes. For in some way or another most have done these very things. If it has happened only once or twice we can humble repent and ask forgiveness from both God and the person who is the object of these hateful things. By the grace of God and His tender mercies through Jesus Christ, we can gain forgiveness as long as we do not become a habitual practicer of those seven things God hates.

 

 

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WHAT IS A TRUE “FRIEND”?

By Mark Heber Miller – California

 

 

What is a “friend”? The dictionary gives this explanation: “a person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; close acquaintance.” Of course there are degrees of friendship. There are friends and then there are “friends.” Many people call even the briefest of acquaintances as friends. There is a real difference between an acquaintance who is friendly and a true friend. The English root for “friend” is “lover.” So a true friend is one who has demonstrated loving concern over a period of time.

 

The Bible describes a true friend. “A real friend is always loving and is like a brother born just for the purpose of helping during difficulties.” [Proverbs 17:17 NCMM] “A friend sticks closer than any brother.” [Proverbs 18:24 NCMM] “The pain [of counsel] caused by a true friend are honest and trustworthy. … Also the wise suggestions of a friend is sweet to the soul.” [Proverbs 27:6, 9 NCMM] A friend ALWAYS comes to the aid of a friend in need. Friends are NEVER critical of one another. That is left for married couples. Friends NEVER gossip or slander one another, but rather ALWAYS defend one another. A true friend can keep a confidence. True friends are always welcome and may even impose on one another at inconvenient times. [Luke 11:5-9] There are false friends, however.

 

Pseudo “Friends”

 

Job’s so-called three “friends” treated him more like an enemy by accusing him of some hidden sins. Even one of Jesus’ “friends” ended up betraying him. [Luke 12:4; Luke 21:16] Friends can get into an argument that alters or destroys their friendship. [Acts 15:39]

 

There are other types of false friends, people who have an agenda to their supposed friendship. Proverbs 14:20 puts it this way: A poor man is odious even to his friends; the rich have friends aplenty.” [NEB] Neither of these are true friends, but rather acquaintances with hidden agendas or wrong motives. Proverbs 19:4, 6, 7 adds: “Wealth makes many friends; but a poor man is deserted by his friends. [LAM] … Many pay court to a bountiful man: all are friends of a man who gives presents. [MOF] … A poor man’s brothers all hate him; how much more do his friends stand aloof from him!” [AAT]

 

Some times it becomes necessary to be very cautious as to whom we seek out as friends. The prophet warns: "Do not put your trust in a confidential friend." [Micah 7:5 NWT] Jeremiah 9:4-5 cautions: "Guard yourselves each one against his own companion, and put your trust in no brother at all. For even every brother would positively supplant, and every companion himself would walk around as a mere slanderer, and they keep trifling each one with his companion; and they speak no truth at all. They have taught their tongue to speak falsehood. They have tired themselves out merely in doing wrong.” [NWT]

 

A person may have his or her own criteria for having a friend. Even Jesus said that his friends were those who obeyed his commandments. [John 15:12-14] Jesus was accused of being "a friend of tax collectors and sinners." [Matthew 11:19] For this and other reasons early Christians called others in the Nazarene community “friends.” [3 John 14] In reality all Christians should be true friends to one another, rejecting none. However, how does one become friends with another?

 

 

What Causes People to Become Friends?

 

Proverbs counsels: “A friend is found to be friendly.” In order to have friends one must begin by being friendly to others. However, there are several factors in creating friendships.

 

q       Geography. Normally, in order to have really close friends two people must live near one another. They must see one another frequently. Such friends may be later separated because of family or work but they often remain friends throughout their lives. With the Internet many have become friends who are in a common electronic geographic area. These often stay in touch daily and actually become confidants.

q       Shared Interests. To become real friends two people generally share some common interest. This may be religious beliefs, hobbies, work, or sports. Many famous friendships have developed in sports where two persons are normally required. Examples exist in mountaineering where two people must depend on one another for safety. The same happens in the military where two people develop a great bond because of common dangers in battle.

q       Time. It takes time to build a lasting friendship and it takes time to maintain such a friendship. People who started out as friends find their friendship dying because one friend does not stay in touch.

q       Love and affection. Since the root meaning of “friend” is “lover” then it is obvious that two friends like one another. Since the Bible teachers “love never fails” then friends will like and love one another no matter the circumstances. For example, say two people start out as friends but then life and circumstances throw one into poverty while the other remains rich. It is unthinkable that a true friend would now virtually abandon a friend. A true friend will share personal gifts and blessings with a needy friend.

 

A Biblical example of the above are David and Jonathan. Though there was a difference in their ages and backgrounds – one a shepherd and the other a prince – they became good friends. Their friendship is described in this manner: "Jonathan's very soul became bound up with the soul of David, and Jonathan began to love him as his own soul." [1 Samuel 18:1 NWT] David composed a poem to his friend: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women.”  [2 Samuel 1:26 NWT] It is true that married men and women may develop a relationship with a friend superior to their marriage. In other words, a woman, for example, may have a friend who is considerably closer than her mate. A woman may become jealous of her husband’s friendship with another man. If a husband or wife wants their mate as a friend they must act like a friend. This would mean, for example, not gossiping about one another, or not being critical of one another. Friends NEVER criticize one another while married couples due it almost daily.

 

 

Identifying True Friends

 

q       True friends never slander or speak negatively EVER of one another.

q       True friends share equally one another’s surplus

q       True friends ALWAYS come to the aid of one another – materially, emotionally, and spiritually

q       True friends know ABSOLUTELY that they can rely and trust one another

q       True friends ALWAYS know where one another is or is going.

q       True friends will make EVERY KIND of sacrifice to help one another.

q       True friends ALWAYS defend and protect one another.

q       True friends NEVER betray a confidence.

 

It is unthinkable – UNTHINKABLE – that a friend would be in need and the other not know it and not come to their immediate aid. This is particularly true if each one claims to be a Christian. For example, the disciple James writes: “My brothers, what is the profit if anyone says, ‘I have conviction,’ but does not have works? Is just his conviction able to save him? [For example], if a brother or sister is living without adequate clothing and lacks daily food, and anyone of you says, “Go in peace. Keep warm and well fed” -- but do not give them their bodily necessities -- what is the profit? Just so, conviction without works is dead by itself.” [James 2:14-17 NCMM] Such would be even more so then such brother or sister is a “friend.”

 

Never would a true friend behave like a Goat in failing to come to the immediate need of a friend. [Matthew 25:31-46] The beloved Apostle – who knew something first hand about love – wrote: “For example: if any of us has this world’s resources for maintaining life and is aware that another Christian is in need and yet slams shut the doors of his tender affections -- how is it possible that God still loves that person? My little children, make it your habit to always show loving concern, not in speech or words only, but in positive and real action.” [1 John 3:16-18 NCMM Paraphrase] It is completely unthinkable that a Christian with the means would not come to the immediate aid of a fellow Christian in need. And not just a token response, but rather one that actually helps the other to continue in their work as a Friends of the Nazarene. It is demanded by God that a true friend actually make a sacrifice to help a friend. The person who refuses to aid a brother or sister in real need would make themselves a “goat.” [Matthew 25:31-46]

 

Though the Christian with the means is duty bound to aid all in need, such are particularly bound by God to help those related in the faith. For Paul writes: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” [Galatians 6:10 Revised Standard Version]

 

Truly, as the Proverbs say, “A true brother is one who is there when there is a need.”

 

 

Interesting Quotes Regarding Friendship

 

Don't worry about knowing people, just make yourself worth knowing.
Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.

If you can buy a person's friendship, it is not worth it.

True friends have hearts that beat as one. If you cannot think of any
nice things to say about your friends, then you have the wrong friends.
Make friends before you need them.

If you were another person, would you like to be a friend of yours?

A good friend is one who neither looks down on you nor keeps up with
you.

Be friendly with the folks you know.. If it weren't for them you would
be a total stranger.

A friend is never known till he is needed.

Friendship is a responsibility... not an opportunity.

Friendship is the cement that holds the world together.

Friends are those who speak to you after others quit.

The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail and not
his tongue. Pick your friends, but not to pieces.

A friend is one who puts his finger on a fault without rubbing it in.

The way to have friends is to be willing to lose some arguments.

If a friend makes a mistake, don't rub it in....rub it out.

Deal with other's faults as gently as if they were your own.

People are judged by the company they keep and the company they keep
away from.

A friend is a person who can step on your toes without messing your
shine.

The best mirror is an old friend.

The best possession one may have is a true friend.

Make friendship a habit, and you will always have friends.

You will never have a friend if you must have one without faults.

Doing nothing for your friends results in having no friends to do for.

Anyone can give advice, and yet a real friend will lend a helping hand.

You can make more friends by being interested in them than trying to
have them be interested in you.

A real friend is a person who, when you've made a fool of yourself, lets
you forget it.

A friend is a person who listens attentively while you say nothing.

You can buy friendship with friendship, but never with dollars.

True friends are like diamonds, precious but rare;
false friends are like autumn leaves, found everywhere.

A friend is someone who thinks you're a good egg
even though you're slightly cracked. [Contributed by Sheila Passenger]

Concluding thought from the author: True friends are always welcome to one another’s home, indeed, often have keys in case of need. True friends do not need to ask the other to help themselves to the other’s refrigeration and food cupboard for that is a given.

 




==== END ====

 

 

 

Can Musical Instruments

Play a Part in Pure Worship?

By Doug Cunningham – Canada –

 

“The God [is] a Spirit and those worshiping Him must of necessity

worship spiritually and in harmony with Truth.” [John 4:24 (NCMM)]

 

 A footnote in Nazarene Commentary 2000© on John 4:24 says regarding spiritual worship:  “That is, true worship of God is not dependent on any material or physical place or thing in contrast to the nations and their worship of demons. It needs no candles, prayer beads, incense, or material temple.”

 

 Some have asked, might this imply that it would be inappropriate to use musical instruments in worship?  A brief history of music in the Bible, especially among the early Christians, will be helpful in answering this question.

 

 

Music in the Hebrew Scriptures

 

 Musicologist Kurt Sachs in his book The Rise of Music in the Ancient World tells us that "among the world's books, few can lay claim to greater importance for the history of music than the Bible.”

 

 In fact, the Bible's first reference to music is before the Flood, in the seventh generation following Adam: "[Jubal] proved to be the founder of all those who handle the harp and the pipe." (Genesis 4:21) This may describe the invention of the first musical instruments or perhaps even the establishment of some kind of musical profession.

 

 Words related to music [song, sing, singing, music] occur over 300 times in the Bible; most [47] occur in the Psalms which are understood to be hymns of praise to be sung to the accompaniment of musical instruments. Some of the Psalms include musical instructions in the heading to the Psalm.

 

 David, who wrote many of them, was the Bible's most notable musician. He was a highly skilled harpist, and he even had a reputation for developing new musical instruments. [1 Samuel 16:16-18; 1 Chronicles 25:1-31; 2 Chronicles 7:6; 29:27] He set aside 4,000 Levites, one tenth of the total, for musical service in conjunction with the preparations for the Temple (1 Chronicles 23:4, 5) Of these, 288 were "trained in song to Jehovah, all experts.”

 

The music organization begun by David was fully realized at Solomon's temple. The grandeur and magnitude of the music at the dedication of the temple can be appreciated from the fact that the trumpeters alone numbered 120. Freedom from dissonance is indicated by the inspired account of the music at its inauguration: "The [one hundred and twenty] trumpeters and the singers were as one in causing one sound to be heard." [2 Chronicles 5:12, 13] It was never intended to be a symphony orchestra, but only to provide accompaniment for the singing at the temple. Among the musical instruments mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures are the harp, lute, zither, bagpipe, flute, horn, pipe, trumpet, cymbals, sistrum, and tambourine.

 

 

Music in the Christian Bible

 

However, in the Christian Scriptures very little emphasis is placed on music and practically no mention is made of musical instruments.

 

Only once is Jesus reported singing. After the Passover meal it was the custom to sing portions of the Hallel [Praise] Psalms 111-118. Matthew 26:30 records, "Afterward they sang praises and they left for the Mount of Olives." The Greek word "they sang praises" is HYMNESANTES and is from the same root for the English word "hymn." No mention is made of any musical instruments here or anywhere else in the Christian Scriptures. In fact, there is a total silence as to instrumental music in Christian worship, except in a figurative sense. (Revelation 14:2)

 

 In the history of the first three decades of the early Church there is only one mention of singing. It is recorded at Acts 16:25 where Paul and Silas are described in their prison cell: "But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to the God -- and the other prisoners were listening to them." [NRS] Paul does write about his own singing: "I shall make melody within my inner self, but also within my mind." [1 Corinthians 14:15 NCMM]

 

 Of all the Christian Scriptures there are only three verses that directly mention singing among Christians. Ephesians 5:18, 19 exhorts: "Be constantly filled up with the Pneuma: speak to one another in musical psalms and spiritual hymns, singing melodiously to the Lord in your heart." [NCMM Paraphrase] Also, Colossians 3:16 encourages, "Let the teaching concerning Christ remain as a rich treasure in your hearts. In all wisdom teach and admonish one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and sing with grace in your hearts to God." [Weymouth Translation] And, finally James 5:14 tells the happy person, "If anyone is happy, let him sing praise [PSALLETO]." [NCMM]

 

 There are some verses in the Christian Bible that some scholars feel were originally from Christian hymns. [Ephesians 5:14; Philippians 2:5-11; 1 Timothy 3:16] Heavenly singing is also mentioned in Revelation 5:9; 14:2, 3; 15:3.

 

 

Are There Valid Objections to the Use

of Instrumental Music in Christian Worship?

 

 There are some persons and religious groups who strongly object to the use of instrumental music in Christian worship. Not generally known is the fact that such Protestant reformers as Martin Luther, John Calvin and John Knox opposed the use of organ music to accompany singing in church services. According to them, the organ was "an ensign of Baal" and instrumental music was as little needed in Christian worship as were "the incense and the candlestick."

           

 What objections do these raise, or what arguments do they make to support their position?  There are three that merit consideration.

 

1) As already discussed, there is no mention in the Christian Scriptures of the early Christians using instrumental music in their worship. Clement, writing in the second century said: “The one instrument of peace, the Word alone by which we honour God, is what we employ. We no longer employ the ancient psaltery, and trumpet, and timbrel, and flute.”

 

 2) Musical instruments were part and parcel of a ceremonial form of temple worship that is no longer practiced by Christians.

 

Eusebius, a church historian and bishop, writing a commentary on Psalm 91 in the 4th century said: “Of old at the time those of the circumcision were worshiping with symbols and types it was not inappropriate to send up hymns to God with the psalterion and kithara and to do this on Sabbath days (breaking the rest and transgressing the law concerning the Sabbath). But we in an inward manner keep the part of the Jew, according to the saying of the apostle...(Romans 2:28f.). We render our hymn with a living psalterion and a living kithara, with spiritual songs. The [united] voices of Christians would be more acceptable to God than any musical instrument. Accordingly in all the churches of God, united in soul and attitude, with one mind and in agreement of faith and piety, we send up a unison melody in the words of the Psalms.”

 

 In 1562, John Calvin agreed with these sentiments in his Sermons on Second Samuel: “It would be nothing but mimicry if we followed David today in singing with cymbals, flutes, tambourines and psalteries. In fact, the papists were seriously deceived in their desire to worship God with their pompous inclusion of organs, trumpets, oboes and similar instruments. That has only served to amuse the people in their vanity, and to turn them away from the true institution which God has ordained. ... In a word, the musical instruments were in the same class as sacrifices, candelabra, lamps and similar things.... Those who take this approach are reverting to a sort of Jewishness, as if they wanted to mingle the Law and the Gospel, and thus bury our Lord Jesus Christ. When we are told that David sang with a musical instrument, let us carefully remember that we are not to make a rule of it. Rather, we are to recognize today that we must sing the praises of God in simplicity, since the shadows of the Law are past, and since in our Lord Jesus Christ we have the truth and embodiment of all these things which were given to the ancient fathers in the time of their ignorance or smallness of faith.”

 

 3) The early Christians patterned their meetings after the synagogue, not after the temple; so Christians would not have used musical instruments, since nothing is recorded about the Jews using instrumental music in their ancient synagogues.

 

 In his book Purity of Worship, the Presbyterian M. C. Ramsay writes: “Those who maintain that Jewish worship had associated with it instruments of music fail to appreciate the facts; and some of the facts are as follows: The ordinary worship of the Jew was that of the synagogue, and it was always unembellished. The men of Israel were commanded to attend the temple worship only thrice annually. Throughout the remainder of the year, Sabbath by Sabbath, they met for worship in their synagogues. Their wives and children attended regularly the synagogue where the services were marked by simplicity.... Where there was congregational singing, there was no musical instrument. ... It is both interesting and informative to notice that the instruments of music were first used in synagogues at the beginning of the nineteenth century, that is, about the same time as they began to be introduced into Protestant [i.e., Presbyterian] churches.”

 

 Some have become extreme in their views. Arthur Allen, another Presbyterian, wrote in his Writings and Addresses (1964): “Instrumental music is a hindrance to pure spiritual worship, as its object is to afford a refined sensual enjoyment, pleasure and entertainment. Listening to the skill of the musician and appreciating the creative genius of a composer is certainly not conducive to spiritual worship, as it excites emotions that conflict with the sensitiveness of spiritual mindedness, and is therefore inconsistent with the nature of pure spiritual worship. The ecclesiastical rites and ceremonies of Israel were dispensed with as unsuited to the nature of spiritual worship.”

 

Certainly, this is not the majority view today. In some areas of the modern Church music has taken a role far larger than Christian instruction. Indeed, with many on television it has become almost one big "show".

 

 

“What is to be done then?”

 

 Whether this is right or wrong, it does not reflect either Jesus the Nazarene or his inspired disciples. Indeed, Paul asked the question about meetings when he said: "What is to be done then?" When he lists what might occur at meetings, he instructs, "one has a psalm." [1 Corinthians 14:26]

 

 Whether or not a group of Christians would choose to accompany such a psalm with a modern musical instrument would seem to reflect their view on just how to define “pure worship.”  Would refraining from their use be an extreme form of asceticism, as some claim, or, on the other hand, would using them violate the pattern established in the first century? Or can this question, like so many others, be left up to the conscience of the local group of worshipers?

 

“Let your willingness to yield become known to all persons.” [Philippians 4:5 NCMM] This would seem to be the wisest course when it comes to this issue.  Since the faith of some is strengthened when singing is accompanied by music (as long as it doesn’t overshadow the Christian instruction within the lyrics or draw attention to the musicians), would it not seem unreasonable to judge a group who worship in this way? Just as it would be unnecessary to find fault with those who see no need to introduce music into their Christian worship “in spirit and truth.”

 

 As in so many areas of Christian living and worship, balance is essential.

 

 

==== END ====

 

 

 

 

PRESS ON TO MATURITY

By Mark Heber Miller – California -

 

Regarding [Jesus] we have the word to speak and hard to interpret since you have become sluggish in your hearing. For there are those who ought to be teachers by now, but you have a need to be taught by someone all over again from the beginning the elementary principles of the sacred words of The God. You have become those needing milk and not solid nourishment. For every person partaking of milk is really unfamiliar with the word of righteousness because they remain babies. However, solid nourishment belongs to mature persons, those who through the use of their sensory organs have been trained like an athlete to be able to distinguish between what is good or bad. Consequently, having left the basic teachings of the Christ, may we pass along to perfection, not laying a foundation again of [“elementary principles”] -- repentance from dead works, faith toward God, teachings on baptisms, the laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and ageless condemnation. And, indeed, this we shall do if The God permits. [Hebrews 5:11-6:3 NCMM]

 

 

The Problem with the Modern Church

 

Two thousand years ago the apostle Paul as the hand-picked representative of Jesus Christ the Nazarene chastised many of the original Jewish Christians. He said that, despite many years as Christians, they had “become sluggish in their hearing.” Why? Though Paul wanted to explain to them words “hard to interpret” these Christians had remain spiritual infants. Babies who need to start all over again from “the beginning the elementary principles of the sacred words of the God.”

 

In an article last month the subject of what these “elementary principles” were was discussed in detail. They are listed by Paul in Hebrews 6:1, 2 –

 

q       Repentance

q       Faith

q       Baptism

q       Laying on of hands

q       Resurrection

q       Eternal damnation

 

One only need attend a modern church, or watch television evangelists on Sunday morning, to see that essentially these are the subjects taught week after week. Every Sunday it’s the same thing over and over. As a result VERY FEW among all the billions of Christendom have advanced beyond these fundamentals into true Christian maturity.

 

The above is even true of some religious organizations who claim to possess divine truth solely as God’s “channel.” Few of their millions of members really know the Bible. They remain immature babies who have learned to recite three dozen Bible verses. They cannot answer Bible questions from others without resorting to quoting from a handbook or the unassailable writings of founding church members, or current authorities with whom no one can argue.

 

 

You Ought to be Teachers

 

Paul writes that in view of the time these have been Christians they should be now actually be “teachers,” not just of the primary doctrines, but of those things “hard to interpret.” But, these still need to go back to fundamentals and learn them all over again before advancing on to where they should be. They are like someone who appears to be an adult suddenly stricken with a sickness and now confined to a liquid diet. They are not really “familiar with the Word of righteousness.”

 

What is required? Paul writes, “Solid nourishment belongs to mature persons, those who through the use of their sensory organs have been trained like an athlete to be able to distinguish between what is good or bad.” Thus, after relearning the fundamentals they need to then move on to “solid nourishment” normally identified with mature persons. Paul means those matters “hard to interpret” mentioned earlier.

 

One can see what these are merely by reading Paul’s epistle to the Christian Hebrews. If such was hard for Jews of the 1st Century, what would these teachings be to persons wholly unfamiliar with the Hebrew Bible and Hebrew forms of worship? For a modern Christian student this would require becoming familiar with such books of the Bible as Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. These would merely lay the groundwork for what is revealed in Hebrews.

 

So, what factors would be involved? First, Paul suggests the need for “solid nourishment.” That is, progressing on to the subjects in Hebrews? No one could really consider themselves a teacher unless they had mastered Hebrews. This would include learning a whole list of new words. It would involve understanding how the various “shadows” of the Hebrew form of worship are associated with Jesus Christ and his Church. It would involve paying close attention to scores of quotes and allusions by Paul to the Hebrew Bible. It would also include an understanding of what is required of a disciple of the Nazarene.

 

Second, “use” of this material is required. Use in two modes: a personal application to the Christian walk, and beginning to teach others what one is learning. There are always persons who will be babes or immature in the Christian Church. These need to be brought along to a mature understanding so that they too can become teachers. There is a world of unbelievers that need to learn of their opportunities before the Return of the Messiah. The more one uses the information learned in those things “hard to interpret” in Hebrews the more spiritually adult one becomes.

 

Third, time and energy are involved. For Paul compares this growth to maturity like athletic training. That is, as some versions put it: KJV: exercised; RHM: trained; TCNT: trained by practice; NOR: habitually in training. The Greek word here for “athlete” is GEGYMASMENA [1128] and literally refers to a “gymnast” and the rigorous training required to become such. This training is founded in time spent in “the word of righteousness” as well as the exercise in experiential use.

 

All human beings have the same amount of time – 24 hours in a day. One third of this time is used in sleeping. About one third or more is used in necessary work to maintain a family. Slightly less than one third remains for some other necessary things such as bathing, eating, and carrying for other important matters associated with life. Most persons have some time remaining and this may be called “leisure time.” It is often used in what is most important to a person – over-time work, recreation, television, reading of newspapers, books, periodicals, email, or browsing the Internet.

 

In some Western nations leisure time often equals time spent in work. Regardless of where one lives, this leisure time to one’s self will be used according to one’s interests. The God-centered, Christ-minded disciple will use some of this time in personal reading, meditation, and study of the teachings of the Nazarene and his inspired disciples. Indeed, how much is God-centered might even be judged by the spiritual use of this leisure time.

 

The serious Christian will be motivated by the inner pressure of the Pneuma, or God’s Spirit, to struggle to use this leisure time in doing exactly what Paul counsels above – to work at it like a gymnast. Anyone who has watched the gymnasts in the Olympics, or any other sport, can see the time required to become adept. And THIS is the use of leisure time by such athletes who also use time from work in order to become world class.

 

Paul uses another word, as did Jesus, in this connection -- AGONIA. Paraphrasing his words at 1 Timothy 6:12 he writes, “All of you continue to agonize the fine agony of the faith.” This is what Paul did as he confesses, “I have agonized the fine agony.” [2 Timothy 4:7; compare the Greek of Jude 3 – EPAGONIZESTHAI] Possibly he has borrowed from the Nazarene who had urged, “Agonize to enter through the narrow door, because I tell you that many will seek to enter but will not have the strength.” [Luke 13:24]

 

No where does God, Jesus, Paul, or anyone else, say this would be easy. It is not. It requires the same life-long dedication of a world-class athlete. It requires time. It requires energy. It requires heart-felt, Pneuma-driven effort. Those who do will be easy to spot, for they are characterized by two things. First, a depth and breadth of understanding and comprehension of those thing “hard to interpret.” Second, they are clearly recognized as those who know from the Scriptures what is “good and bad” as Paul says above.

 

 

Press on to Maturity

 

One just cannot remain an infant throughout life. Even in a physical sense, persons who do not mature are considered socially retarded. Though full-grown men and women they still behave like children. On the other hand, over many decades the “genuine disciple” becomes apparent in a degree of maturity possessed of wisdom balanced with humility.

 

Paul urges those he chastised above to “press on to maturity.” [NWT] Or as others render this phrase: NCMM: pass along to perfection; ASV: press on to perfection; MON: toward what is mature; WMS: progressing toward maturity; PME: go on forward to adult understanding; KNX: full growth; WEY: mature manhood. He says we will do this “if God permits.”

 

It has been observed among some Christians that they have got themselves in something of a rut after to many years walking with Christ. They love inspirational music that makes them feel good. They love sweet poetry and verse that makes them feel better. They love “the old rugged cross” and seem almost shackled to the instrument of execution upon which our Lord sacrificed his life. Though their heart is genuine, they have missed the point that our Lord does not want to remain at the foot of the Cross, but “go, and make disciples of people of all the nations." [Matthew 28:19] He wants them to become “teachers in view of the time.”

 

Many of these Christians have become quite comfortable in their non-sacrificing form of worship. Their search is only for personal happiness. They want nothing that bestirs their conscience or makes them twitch in discomfort. They recoil at anything that seems negative to them. They reject the advice and counsel of modern “prophets” in the Church who call them to that maturity Paul described. They acquire teachers “to have their ears tickled.” [2 Timothy 4:3] Nice and comfortable in their Western materialism, satisfied with their token charity.

 

They do not want “to press on to maturity.” They recoil at thoughts of prophecy or those “things hard to interpret” found in the teachings of Jesus and Paul and John. Even though the Glorified Nazarene himself -- who received God’s revelation and passed this on to his beloved apostle John and who in turn recorded the Christine visions for future generations [Revelation 1:1, 2]  -- inspired personal apocalyptic epistles, they argue in one form or another that we do not need these wondrous things. They give the strong impression that “all we need is Jesus” – not exactly clear as to what that means.

 

These Christians would have every disciple remain spiritual babies imbibing only the milk of His word. They would have them never become teachers of those “things hard to interpret.” Forever remaining only in the ABC’s of the “doctrine of Christ.” And why? Because deep down it is a matter of their own pride. They have not “pressed on to maturity” and as a result they remain ignorant of major portions of the Bible. Having others possessed of this knowledge of “solid nourishment” makes them look bad. It injures their pride to be around men or women who have truly made “advancement” in reading and speaking. [1 Timothy 4:11-16] They feel intimated because they cannot carry on a conversation into the depths of His Word. So, out of their pride they criticize those who have actually done what Paul urged – “press on to maturity.”

 

Paul himself compared the Church’s growth like that journey from babyhood to full maturity. In 1 Corinthians 13:11 he describes this process: “When I was an infant my speech was infantile. I thought like an infant. I reasoned like an infant. When I will have finally become an adult man, I will have made the infantile things useless.” [NCMM] And just so, these baby Christians still talk, think, and reason like spiritual infants. This is manifest very often in other characteristics, which Paul also describes at 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, “And so, brothers, I was unable to speak to you as [spiritual] persons, but rather as fleshly persons, as infants in Christ. I gave you only milk to drink and not solid food, because you were unable to accept up. Neither are you able even now. For you are still fleshly because jealousy and strife are in your midst. Are you not yet fleshly?” [NCMM] These words are almost a commentary on those words in Hebrews were have considered above.

 

It has been often observed that those who have refused to grow up spiritually are characterized by these very things Paul here mentions: jealousy and strife. Of course, it is easy to see that at the root of this jealousy and strife is the pride mentioned above. It is so easy to remain Christian infants who always just want to be held in the arms of Christ and his Church. They never want to get down off his lap and go out into the world and become dynamic full-grown men and women with Christ in their hearts.

 

Paul writes that this mature attitude is one to grow into: “And this until all of us attain a perfect unity of faith and a heightened relationship with the Son of God. Until we all together grow into perfect maturity measured by the full stature of the Christ. So we no longer remain babies, tossed here and there by (doctrinal) waves, carried aimlessly by every wind of teaching.” [Ephesians 4:13, 14 NCMM Paraphrase] These immature, baby Christians, lacking a solid knowledge of God’s Word, remain uncertain about their beliefs. As a result they are “ billow-tossed and shifted around … by every current of teaching.” [RHM, CON]  The mature Christian is not like a rudderless ship at the mercy of tossing seas. Only spiritual babies are “blown round by every breath of human teaching.” [TCN] An infant can be taught almost anything but a mature adult may follow reasonable logic founded on the Scriptures. It is a knowledge of the Scriptures which provide a firm anchor during Christian maturity.

 

Sadly some of those who have continued as babies despite years of exposure to Christianity begin to think they can understand “things hard to interpret.” Peter warned of this very thing in the infancy of the Christian Church: “Now in harmony with what our brother Paul wrote to you -- according to the divine wisdom given him -- he speaks of the same things in his letters. Now in his letters there are those matters difficult to comprehend. The uneducated and shaky are misinterpreting these to their own ruin.” [2 Peter 3:13, 14 NCMM Paraphrase] Some of these babies convince themselves that they clearly understand such letters of Paul as Romans or Ephesians or, God forbid, Hebrews.

 

 

Where to Begin?

 

Suppose a man or woman finds after an honest “look in the mirror” [James 1:23, 24] that despite many years as a Christian there are still babies? What can they now do? Paul says that unfortunate as it is such need to lay a new foundation based on the “first principles” and then “press on to maturity.” They may do this by prayerful meditation on “those things hard to interpret” in the Bible. Where to begin though?

 

First reestablished that firm foundation of “the doctrine of Christ” by reading over and over such things as the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5-7], Plain Teachings [Luke 6], Teachings to the Crowd [Luke 12], and the many parables of our Lord [Matthew 13]. Then move on to the prophecies of the Nazarene. [Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21] This may also involve a close and careful reading of the sources for Jesus’ prophecies. [Daniel 7 and 9] That would lead in time to a reading of Revelation, the very epistle of the Lord Jesus. [Revelation 1:1-3]

 

When reading Revelation do not assume that in one reading you will completely understand this magnificent series of apocalyptic visions. Read Revelation several times without drawing any conclusions. Prayerfully meditate on these “things hard to interpret.” After some months of serious and repeated considerations of Revelation begin to take some notes of some of the easier or clearer matters in the Bible’s last book.

 

This study will grow and grow as the adult Christian becomes more and more enlightened. In God’s own time they will actually become those the prophecies foretold: “And those Saints possessing wisdom will shine like the sun; and those who bring many to righteousness, like everlasting stars, even forever.” [Daniel 12:3 NCMM] May that be your happy lot because you did, indeed, “press on to maturity.”

 

 

==== END ====

 

 

 

 

 

WHO OR WHAT IS THE “GREAT CROWD”?

By Mark Heber Miller – California –

 

 

Below are the verses in the Bible that deal specifically with the Great Crowd, Revelation 7:9-17. These are from the 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures [NCMM]. The words in blue indicate phrases alluding to verses in the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. The location of these sources follow the blue letters. Read these verses carefully and several times and ask yourself, “Who is this Great Crowd?”

 

RV7:9 After these things I saw, and, look! a Large Crowd which no one could number. Out of all ‘nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues’. [Daniel 7:14] They stood in sight of the Throne and in sight of the Lamb [Isaiah 53:7] enwrapped with white robes. There were palm branches in their hands. [Leviticus 23:40, 43; John 12:13] RV7:10 They cried with a great voice, saying: “’Salvation belongs to our God’! [Psalm 3:8] To the One sitting upon the Throne [Isaiah 6:1] and to the Lamb.” [Isaiah 53:7] RV7:11 And all the angels stood to encircle the Throne. The Presbyters and the 4 Living Creatures fell upon their faces in sight of the Throne. They worshipped The God, saying: RV7:12 “Amen! The blessing and the glory and the wisdom and the thanksgiving and the honor and the power and the strength to our God into the Ages of the Ages. “Amen!” RV7:13 And one of the Presbyters answered me, saying: “These enwrapped with white robes, who are they, and where to they come from?” RV7:14 I immediately said to him: “My lord, you must know.” The Presbyter said to me: “These are the ones who come out of the Great Oppression. [Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:21] ‘They washed and whitened their robes in the blood of’ the Lamb. [Genesis 49:11; Isaiah 53:7] RV7:15 Because of this blood they are in sight of the Throne of The God. In the Divine Habitat of The God ‘they render sacred service to Him day and night’. The One sitting on the Throne [Isaiah 6:1] will tent over them. RV7:16 ‘They will not hunger or thirst anymore. The sun’s heat will no longer burn them. [Isaiah 49:10] RV7:17 Because the Lamb [Isaiah 53:7] in the middle of the Throne will shepherd and guide them to fountains of waters of life. [Isaiah 49:10] ‘The God will wipe out every tear from their eyes’.” [Isaiah 25:8] [NCMM]

 

There are several views on the identity of the Great Crowd of Revelation 7:9. Some view it as the sum total of the Gentile members of the Christian Church. Others see it as all the Church. A small minority understand the Great Crowd to be a secondary group of Christians who did not attain to heavenly life and thus survive Armageddon to live forever on earth in God’s New World.

 

What does a close examination prove? Mainly we here focus on whether the Great Crowd is a group seen in heaven or on earth? Are they spiritual Jews or are they spiritual Gentiles? Below are given over a dozen reasons why this Great Crowd [literally “large crowd”] describes a heavenly group of Christians from among the spiritual new “Israel of God.”

 

Our account begins with John’s words, “after these things.” This does not necessarily argue for an entirely new vision. It may very well be a continuation of the tally of the 144,000. For John now says he “saw” this Great Crowd. What John only heard before he now sees. He heard the roll call of the 144,000 – a group “out of all the tribes of Israel” -- and now he sees the results. Remember where John is when he sees this -- heaven. [Revelation 4:1, 2]

 

It is important to remember the prophetic context. What occurs in the seventh chapter of Revelation IS STILL WITHIN THE 6TH SEAL! The 144,000 are not “sealed” over a two thousand year period beginning in the 1st Century. It must begin about that time described with the opening of the 6th Seal:

 

12 And I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and a great earthquake occurred; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the entire moon became as blood, 13 and the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as when a fig tree shaken by a high wind casts its unripe figs. 14 And the heaven departed as a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and [every] island were removed from their places. 15 And the kings of the earth and the top-ranking ones and the military commanders and the rich and the strong ones and every slave and [every] free person hid themselves in the caves and in the rock-masses of the mountains. 16 And they keep saying to the mountains and to the rock-masses: "Fall over us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 because the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" [Revelation 6:12-17 NWT]

 

The fulfillment of the 6th Seal did not begin in the 1st Century. It seems to parallel the Nazarene’s words describing what happens just before he returns in his foretold Parousia. [Matthew 24:29-31] Thus, just at the moment when the celestial phenomenon occurs and humanity seeks to hide from “the great day of their [coming] wrath” the sealing of the 144,000, the rescue of the Great Crowd, must occur.

 

John says he now sees “a large crowd.” The Greek is ochlos polys [much] and not megalen [great]. The same term is used in the Gospels for crowds of several thousands. (John 12:12, 13) Note the “great crowd” of Luke 19:37, 38 is one of “disciples.” The only other occurrence of the term is at Revelation 19:1, 6 where it is heavenly.

 

John says no one was able to number or count this Great Crowd. Either the crowd is big enough so as to be difficult to count by a mere glance, such as a literal throng of 144,000. Or, it is an unknown figure and not yet numbered as the events have not been completed.

 

Now we examine the near dozen characteristics of this Great Crowd which prove they are heavenly and of spiritual Israel.

 

 

1. OUT OF ALL NATIONS

 

Note a similar phrase at Revelation 5:9 in relation to the Saints who will rule the earth. They are also said to be out of this global source. A similar phrase occurs in the LXX at Daniel 7:14. It may appear at first that this is a Gentile group as opposed to tribes of Israel. But one only needs to ask: “Where is Israel when it is scattered among all the nations?”  Isaiah 11:12 and Matthew 24:31 answer this question. Though being spiritual Jews they are of all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. Note in Revelation 9:4 that there are only two groups among mankind during the blowing of the seven trumpets: the unsealed harmed and the unharmed sealed.

 

Some who argue that though the Great Crowd are out of all nations, the 144,000 are only out of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. However, this same group believes Revelation 5:9, 10 speaks of all the 144,000 who are there describes as being “out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation.” [NWT] This is the same language used of the Great Crowd. The language would argue the 144,000 are the same as the Great Crowd.

 

 

2. STANDING BEFORE THE THRONE

 

In Greek this is literally “in sight of the throne.” This whole expression occurs 15 times (Revelation 1:4; 4:5, 6, 10; 5:8; 7:9, 11, 15; 8:3; 11:4, 16; 12:10; 14:3, 5; 20:12) and with the exception of Revelation 20:12 always means heaven. With regard to this latter occurrence, it is “a” throne, likely that of Messiah who is the judge. Since a throne has no sight, it must be the Large Crowd who can see the Throne as they are in heaven.

 

It is true that the Greek ENOPION is used in contexts where those “before God” are on earth. However, here it does not say “before God” but rather “before the Throne” or “insight of the throne.” In all the 15 occurrences of this full expression IT ALWAYS MEANS HEAVEN.

 

 

3. DRESSED IN WHITE ROBES

 

This Great Crowd is describes as being dressed in “white robes.” The Greek STOLE is generally used of kings and priests. (Matthew 12:38; 16:5; Luke 20:46; Revelation 6:11) Though the word is used of the Prodigal Son most interpreters understand this son to represent those repentant persons who return to the Father’s household, that is the Church. Both Strong and Thayers hold the view that the STOLE indicates persons who are royal or priestly. Thus, these are kings and priests like those at Revelation 5:9, 10.

 

 

4. THEY HAVE PALM BRANCHES

 

Since they are from “all the tribes of Israel” it does not surprise us that they appear as Jewish celebrants at the Feast of Booths. There is much of John 12:12, 13 here: a large crowd of disciples that go out to meet the Lord when he comes for the Jerusalem’s judgment on the Temple.

 

 

5. THE GREAT CROWD SINGS OUT

 

This Great Crowd singing a heavenly anthem is seen again at Revelation 19:1, 6 where the description is similar to that here: After these things I heard a great voice as of a Large Crowd in heaven, saying: “Alleluia! [Psalm 104:35] The salvation, the Glory, the Power of our God! … And I heard a voice of a Large Crowd, and it was like the sound of thunderous waters, [Daniel 10:6] saying: “Alleluia! For our Lord has reigned. [Psalm 93:1]” This Great Crowd is highly associated with the marriage of the Lamb and the sound of their singing is the same as the 144,000 at Revelation 14:2.

 

 

6. ANTHEM THEME

 

Both the anthem in Revelation 7 is the same as that in Revelation 19 – salvation. The language is possibly drawn from several sources such as Psalm 3:8. The word “salvation” in Hebrew is ha·yeshu·`ah'. [ = Jesus] A similar hymn to that of Revelation 19:1. It sounds like the same group of Revelation 15:2 – the Saints in heaven.

 

We cannot fail to note at this point that angels and others are seen in heaven “before the throne” just as the Great Crowd. [Compare also Revelation 4:10; 5:11, 14.]

 

 

7. THE ANSWER TO IDENTITY OF THE GREAT CROWD

 

This is the only part of the vision in heaven where the actual question of the identity of the Great Crowd is mentioned – and answered. No question was asked by John so it may have the sense of “responded” either to the logical flow or a look on John’s face.

 

Why does John not inquire about the 144,000? Unless he understands the Large Crowd and the 144,000 to be the same? Where is John when he sees the Large Crowd? In heaven. John is asked who this Great Crowd is and he reluctantly defers to the celestial presbyter.

 

The heavenly elder answers giving a direct identification of the Great Crowd. This represents the answer to the identity of the Large Crowd seen before God’s Throne. It is a clear allusion to Daniel 12:1 where these are Daniel’s “people who are written in the Book” (later called the Holy People at Daniel 12:7) who “escape” (or, are rescued) out of the Great Oppression.” The Nazarene also quotes Daniel 12:1 at Matthew 24:21 (Mark 13:19) in which the Elect are “saved.” Is it fair to conclude that the Large Crowd is the same as “(Daniel’s) your people” -- spiritual Jews -- and the “chosen ones” of the Nazarene?

 

These are said to “come out of the Great Oppression.” The whole phrase is tes thlipseos tes megales and virtually identical to that of Daniel 12:1 LXX. The Greek thlipseos is rooted in “pressure” and thus “oppression” is closer than tribulation. It is often used of persecution. (Matthew 24:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:6) Relief from oppression will come when the Lord is revealed from heaven. (2 Thessalonians 1.7) The Great Oppression is three and a half years long and is a reign of persecution against the Saints alive at that moment just before the Return of Christ. (Revelation 11:2; 12:17; 13:5, 7; Daniel 12:1, 7) Some incorrectly view the “great tribulation” as against the world, that is some kind of global Armageddon, when it is really an oppression against the end-time Saints. (Daniel 7:21, 25)

 

 

8. ROBES WASHED IN THE LAMB’S BLOOD

 

A conflate based on Genesis 49:11 and Isaiah 53:7. The same phrase occurs only one other time at Revelation 22:14 and are those who enter the Holy City New Jerusalem. No one else is ever identified as such. The Great Crowd are described as among those who enter the New Jerusalem.

 

 

9. IN HIS TEMPLE

 

The Great Crowd are described as being “in His temple.” In Greek the whole phrase is en to nao autou [in his Temple] and occurs exactly so at Revelation 11:19 where it is the “ark” seen “in heaven.” Compare the phrase in the LXX at 1 Samuel 3:3 and 2 Chronicles 4:7; also Luke 1:21, 22. The word group NAOS (15x) is always heaven. (Revelation 3:12; 7:15; 11:1, 2, 19; 14:15, 17; 15:5, 6, 8; 16:1, 17; 21:22) Any argument to place the Large Crowd in the “courtyard” does not work as Revelation 11:2 makes it clear that such is “outside the Temple.”

 

 

10. DAY AND NIGHT WORSHIP

 

The around the clock worship of the Great Crowd suggests they are priests. This is something not to be overlooked, it is a phrase often used of Jewish priests in worship. (Luke 1:74; 2:37; 1 Corinthians 9:17; He 8.5; 9.1, 6, 9, 14; 12.28; 13.10) It may be worship in general. (Acts 24:14; 26:7; 27:23; Romans 1:9; 12:1; Philippians 3:3; 2 John 3 ) It is the 144 cherubs who serve as silent sentinels within the tabernacle of Moses as they look from their positions on the tapestry.

 

 

11. GOD SPREADS HIS TENT OVER THEM

 

The Greek skenoseI means “dwell” and may infer “protect” by dwelling with someone. There is a slight difference here, skenosei ep and the skene ...mep’ at Revelation 21:3. One refers to God’s protection while the other refers to God’s dwelling with the same. Dictionary of New Testament Theology suggests: “Rev. 7:15 pictures one of the elders before God’s throne informing John that God would ‘encamp’ (skenosei) over those who had come out of the great tribulation; he would ‘shelter them with his presence,’ (RSV) dwell with them continuously within his temple.” (Volume 3, page 813)

 

 

12. NO MORE HUNGER

 

The Great Crowd are said to hunger no more. Of course, it may be the same kind of hunger as that of Matthew 5:6, but why would this be mentioned if this is not the same group of Saints who endure the economic pressure of Revelation 13:9, 10, 16, 17? Compare this hunger and thirst with that in the parable of Matthew 25:31-46, in the context of the Great Oppression in Revelation 13:9, 10, 16, 17. [Compare Daniel 7:21, 22, 25 with Revelation 11:2, 3; 12:14, 17; 13:5-7.]

 

 

13. THE LAMB WILL GUIDE THEM

 

The whole phrase in these two verses is a direct quote from LXX at Isaiah 49:10: “They shall not hunger, neither shall they thirst; neither shall the heat nor the sun smite them ... and by fountains shall he lead them.” Paul quotes Isaiah 49:8 himself and applies it to the Gentile Saints [or, anointed] in Corinth. (2 Corinthians 6:2) Paul quotes it before a synagogue in Acts 13:47 when he applies Isaiah 49:6 to Israel and the Gentiles Christians of his time. The context of Isaiah 49:8-12 includes an inference to sheep other than Israel and thus “other sheep” (John 10:16), or Gentile Saints. These applications by Paul of Isaiah 49 is proof enough that the Large Crowd are Saints with a heavenly destiny.

 

 

14. NO MORE TEARS

 

The phrase is straight from Isaiah 25:8 LXX. The “tears” are those of the Saints [or, anointed]. This verse is also quoted by Paul at 1 Corinthians 15:54 and applied to the attainment of immortality in the heavenly resurrection. The tears caused by the Great Oppression are wiped out instantly by the Rapture. (1 Corinthians 15:50-54; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) The parallel at Revelation 21:3 also likely applies to covenant Israel, those Saints who enter the New Jerusalem. [See the notes on Revelation 21:3.]

 

 

Comparing Revelation 7:15-17 with Revelation 21:1-4

 

Some argue that the “mankind” of Revelation 21:1-4 are those on earth and, therefore, those of Revelation 7:15-17 also will live on earth. Below are the verses in Revelation 21:1-4 from the 21st Century Version of the Christian Scriptures [NCMM]. Note in blue the many phrases that are borrowed from the Hebrew Bible. These prove that those being described are not persons who live on earth but citizens of the heavenly New Jerusalem.

 

RV21:1 And then I saw a New Heaven and a New Earth [Isaiah 65:17] for the first heaven and the first earth went off. And the sea is no more. RV21:2 Then I saw the Holy City New Jerusalem [Isaiah 52:1] descending down out of Heaven from The God. It was prepared like a bride adorned [Isaiah 61:10] for her husband. [2 Corinthians 11:2] RV21:3 I heard a great voice out of the Throne, saying: “The Tent of The God is with the men. [Leviticus 26:11] He will tent with them.  They will be His Peoples and The God will be with them. [[Leviticus 26:11; Ezekiel 37:27] RV21:4 He will wipe out every tear from their eyes. [Isaiah 25:8] Death will be no more. [Isaiah 25:8 Nor mourning, outcry, or pain will be any more. [Isaiah 65:17] The former things passed away. [Isaiah 65:17] [NCMM]

 

The phrase “new heaven and new earth” is straight out of Isaiah 65:17 and Isaiah 66:22. Peter also quotes Isaiah at 2 Peter 3:13. In Isaiah the context is a newly created Jerusalem, thus a New Jerusalem. The City is highly associated with God’s People, the Israel of God, as one would expect.

 

As discussed in 2 Peter 3:10, 12 these “first heavens and earth” likely is a reference to that demonic “heaven” which appeared after the deluge along with the “earth” of mankind that developed. (Ephesians 6:12) Literally in Greek they “went off.” This is variously rendered: KJV: passed away; KNX: vanished. When did this happen? In the Day of Jehovah according to Peter, likely the same as the Day of the Lord Jesus upon his Return prior to the 1,000 Years. Both the Satanic heavens which have ruled the earth are gone as well as that Devilish structure which obtained on earth. [Compare Revelation 11:15-17.] The earth, along with its atmospheric heavens, is to endure forever (Ecclesiastes 1:4; Psalm 78:69; 104:5; 119:90) as are the stellar heavens. (Psalm 72:5, 7; 89:37; 136:8, 9)

 

The center or focus of this part of Revelation 21:1-4 is the “holy city.” The designation occurs 16 times: Revelation 3:12; 14:20; 20:9; 21:2, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 21, 23; 22:3, 14, 19. The images echo Isaiah chapters 51, 65. Of course, if the Great Crowd are “in His Temple” then they are also in His holy city.

 

The Tent of God is said to be with “men.” It need not read “mankind” as though these were people on earth. This whole section is a compound paraphrase, or conflate, from several sources which all deal with the Saints. Leviticus 26:12: ‘I will walk among you and be your God and you will be my People (quoted in 2 Corinthians 6:16). Ezekiel 37:26-28: ‘I will establish my sanctuary in the midst of them [Israel] forever. And my tabernacle shall be among them [Israel] and I will be to them [Israel] a God and they will be my people [Israel].’ (quoted in 2 Corinthians 6:16) Jeremiah 31:33: “Then I will be their God and they shall be my People [Israel].’ (quoted in Hebrews 8:10) [Compare Zechariah 13:9.] All of these sources apply to Israel in a covenant relationship with God and not to mankind in general. Therefore, the context of Revelation 21:3 must have the Saints in mind.

 

The word “tears” indicates a reference to Isaiah 25:8. Whose “tears” are these? Judging from Isaiah 25:8 they are those of “my People Israel” and applied by Paul to the Saints [or, anointed]. (1 Corinthians 15:54)

 

The mention of “death” and the related phrase regarding tears is a paraphrase from Isaiah 25:9 which has been alluded to in Revelation 7:17. In Isaiah the context is “Israel” and Paul quotes this in application to those who gain immortality in the heavenly kingdom at 1 Corinthians 15:54. It must have reference to “death” among those Saints [or, anointed] within the City of God, New Jerusalem. Second Death still has authority over the “nations” alive on the New Earth during the 1,000 Years. (Revelation 20:6) If Isaiah 65:17-20 applies to this period, then: ‘Neither an old man who shall not complete his time and the sinner who dies at a hundred years shall also be accursed.’ “Death” is still effective among men and is not destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:24-26) until after the 1,000 Years. (Revelation 20:12-14)

 

In conclusion, Revelation 21:1-4 cannot be used as a parallel passage to prove the Great Crowd are Christians living on earth as opposed to the 144,000 in heaven. The 144,000 and the Great Crowd are the same and refer to the Saints [or, anointed] who are alive when the Great Oppression occurs and thereafter rescued at the Parousia of the Messiah. [For details see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000 in Biblical Articles dealing with the identity of the 144,000 and Great Crowd.]

 

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THINKING ON GOD’S NAME

By Mark Heber Miller – California –

 

God has a Name. His Name occurs about 7,000 times in the Holy Bible. Do you know it? Do you use it? You might ask, ‘Why is that important?’ Let Malachi 3:16 answer your question: “At that time those who revere Yehowah talked with each other, each with his friend, and Yehowah continued watching and listening. And a log of remembrance was written in His presence for all those in fear of Yehowah and for those who thought on His Name.” [NCMM] God has created a Book of Remembrance “for those who thought on His Name.” Have you ever thought about His Name?

 

WHAT IS GOD’S NAME?

 

Well, first, what is God’s Name? If you are using a modern translation of the Bible, where would you go to find the Name of God? Most Christians would not know. They might take a concordance and search for God’s Name and not find it. Why? Because by far the majority of Bible versions have removed God’s Name from His own book! It is as if Jeremiah’s prophecy has been fulfilled: They are thinking of making my people forget my name by means of their dreams that they keep relating each one to the other, just as their fathers forgot my name by means of Ba'al.” [Jeremiah 23:27 NWT]

 

God’s Name is composed of four Hebrew letters called the Tetragrammaton – YHWH [Yod, He, Wod, He]. The Name is explained in Exodus 3:13-16 when Moses met God at the burning bush. Most understand this divine Name to be Jehovah, Yehowah, or Yahweh. In the King James Version this name occurs only four times [along with a few place names]. The first is at Exodus 6:3, and another is Psalm 83:18. Most versions have replaced this Name with the designation “Lord” which is not a name at all. In the King James Version and some others where ever YHWH occurs LORD is capitalized. [Compare Psalm 110:1]

 

A few versions have restored Jehovah [YHWH] to most of its original locations. Compare, for example, American Standard Version, New Jerusalem Bible, Rotherhams, New World Translation. Unhappily, and possibly with eternal ramifications, most modern versions replace YHWH with the generic title “Lord.” For example, even the Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh virtually eliminates God’s Name altogether. Even when discussing Exodus 3:14, 15 this work chose to use LORD and not Yehowah. Their footnote admits YHWH did occur in the original.

 

Other modern and well known versions that omit God’s Name include The New English Bible, the New Revised Standard Version, the New American Standard, the New International Version, and many others.

 

It is interesting that Jeremiah’s prophecy suggests God’s Name would be forgotten in place of “Baal.” “Baal” means owner, master, or lord. Thus, as Jeremiah warned, certain false prophets would replace God’s Name Jehovah with just the designation “Lord.” Such an action is surely a violation of one of the Ten Commandments: "You must not take up the name of Jehovah your God in a worthless way, for Jehovah will not leave the one unpunished who takes up his name in a worthless way.” [Exodus 20:7 NWT] Surely one way to do this is remove the divine Name from His Word!

 

The New International Version illustrates the serious problem with this. When translating the Ten Commandments reads: “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” [Exodus 20:7] Even the Jewish version does the same. Is it fair to ask how a Bible translator can render this commandment where it is clear YHWH appeared twice – and omit it! Does any reader of that commandment come under divine guiltiness by removing YHWH and replacing it with LORD?

 

The result is that literally millions of Christians do not know what God’s Name is. They have, in affect, “forgotten His Name.” This becomes apparent when listening to some Christians talk. They will seldom, if ever, use the Divine Name Jehovah. They will most often speak of a “lord” but it is not always clear which “lord” is being mentioned.

 

To illustrate this note Psalm 110:1 where two “lords” are mention in the opening phrase, “The Lord said to my lord … “ Now the King James Version puts the first “lord” in caps – “LORD” – indicating that originally YHWH occurred here. Often some Christians may be speaking of a “lord” and though meaning Jesus, they actually use language borrowed from the Hebrew Bible where the context is speaking of Jehovah, and not Jesus.

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF GOD’S NAME IN THE PSALMS

 

The importance of God’s name is readily seen by just examining a few verses on the subject. By reading these verses we can actually “think about His Name.”

 

Many scores of times the Psalms mention God’s name and its importance.

 

Psalm 5:11 - “And those loving your name will exult in you.”

 

Psalm 8:1 - “O Jehovah our Lord, how majestic your name is in all the earth.”

 

Psalm 20:7 – “But, as for us, concerning the name of Jehovah our God we shall make mention.”

 

It was foretold in the Psalms that Jesus would use God’s Name within his Church: “I will declare your name to my brothers;In the middle of the congregation I shall praise you.” [Psalm 22:22; compare Hebrews 2:10-12]

 

One of the most famous psalms of all, the Twenty-third Psalm, does not being, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Rather David was inspired to write: “Jehovah is my Shepherd. …He leads me in the tracks of righteousness for his name's sake.” [Psalm 23:1, 3]

 

God is paying attention to the use or disuse of His Name: “If we have forgotten the name of our God, or we spread out our palms to a strange god, will not God himself search this out? For he is aware of the secrets of the heart.” [Psalm 44:20, 21]

 

Psalm 69:30, 31 – “I will praise the name of God with song, and I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will also be more pleasing to Jehovah.”

 

Psalm 74:10 – “How long, O God, will the adversary keep reproaching? Will the enemy keep treating your name with disrespect forever?”

 

Psalm 83:18 -  “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”

 

Psalm 91:14 - “That people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”

 

Psalm 96:8 - “Ascribe to Jehovah the glory belonging to his name.”

 

Psalm 113:2, 3 - “May Jehovah's name become blessed from now on and to time indefinite. From the rising of the sun until its setting Jehovah's name is to be praised.”

 

Psalm 118:26 - “Blessed be the One coming in the name of Jehovah; we have blessed YOU people out of the house of Jehovah.”

 

The Proverbs of Solomon also highlight the importance of God’s name: “The name of Jehovah is a strong tower.” [Proverbs 18:10]

 

Proverbs 30:4 asks all a challenging question. How would you answer it? “Who has ascended to heaven that he may descend? Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of both hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in a mantle? Who has made all the ends of the earth to rise? What is his name and what the name of his son, in case you know?”

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF GOD’S NAME IN THE PROPHETS

 

The Prophets thought much about God’s Name and proclaimed its importance often.

 

Isaiah 12:4 - “And in that day YOU will certainly say: "Give thanks to Jehovah, YOU people! Call upon his name. Make known among the peoples his dealings. Make mention that his name is put on high.”

 

Isaiah 42:8 - "I am Jehovah. That is my name.”

 

Isaiah 56:6 - "And the foreigners that have joined themselves to Jehovah to minister to him and to love the name of Jehovah, in order to become servants to him.”

 

Sixty times the phrase “the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah. “And my holy name I shall make known in the midst of my people Israel, and I shall no more let my holy name be profaned; and the nations will have to know that I am Jehovah, the Holy One in Israel.” [Ezekiel 39:7]

 

Joel 2:32 – “Everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will get away safe.”

 

Micah 4:5 - “For all the peoples, for their part, will walk each one in the name of its god; but we, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever.”

 

Micah 5:4 – “And [Messiah] will certainly stand and do shepherding in the strength of Jehovah, in the superiority of the name of Jehovah his God. And they will certainly keep dwelling, for now he will be great as far as the ends of the earth.”

 

Zephaniah 3:9 - “For then I shall give to peoples the change to a pure language, in order for them all to call upon the name of Jehovah, in order to serve him shoulder to shoulder.”

 

Zephaniah 3:12 - “They will actually take refuge in the name of Jehovah.”

 

Zechariah 6:12 - “They will actually take refuge in the name of Jehovah.”

 

Zephaniah 14:9 - “In that day Jehovah will prove to be one, and his name one.”

 

Malachi 1:6 - “’Where is the fear of me?' Jehovah of armies has said to YOU, O priests who are despising my name.”

 

Malachi 1:11 - “’My name will be great among the nations,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”

 

Malachi 2:2 - “’If YOU will not listen, and if YOU will not lay [it] to heart to give glory to my name,’ Jehovah of armies has said, ‘I shall also certainly send upon YOU the curse, and I will curse YOUR blessings’.”

 

Malachi 4:2 - “And to YOU who are in fear of my name the sun of righteousness will certainly shine forth, with healing in its wings.”

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF GOD’S NAME TO JESUS

 

Was God’s Name important to Jesus the Nazarene? Did he “think upon His Name”?

 

Most are familiar with what is called the “Lord’s Prayer” which contains the phrase, “Hallowed by your Name.” [Matthew 6:9 KJV]

 

In one of the three times God’s voice was heard from heaven John 12:28 records: “’Father, ‘glorify Your Name’!’ [Psalm 86:12] Then, a voice came out of the Sky: ‘I have glorified [my Name], and shall glorify it again!’” [NCMM]

 

Four times in the Nazarene’s final prayer with his apostles Jesus mentioned God’s Name and its importance: “I manifested Your Name to the men whom You gave me from out of the world of humankind. … Holy Father, watch over them because of Your Name which You have given to me. As long as I was with them I watched over them because of Your Name which You have given me.  … And I have made Your Name to them, and I shall make it known further, so the love which You loved me may be in them, and I in them.” [John 17:6, 11, 12, 26 NCMM]

 

In the Bible’s last book Revelation the Scriptures conclude with even more emphasis on the Divine Name.

 

Jesus promises that those Saints who come out victorious will have his Father’s Name inscribed on them. Revelation 3:12 declares: The person who conquers I will make a pillar in the Divine Habitat of my God and he will never leave it to go outside. And I will write upon him the Name of my God.” [NCMM] Will such blessed persons be among those who refused to use God’s Name while alive on earth?

 

At the Return of Christ and during his parousia-judgment, those who are rewarded are those who “fear God’s name.” Revelation 11:18 foretells: “And the nations were wrathful, and Your wrath came. The appointed time to ‘judge the dead’. [2 Timothy 4:1] To give the reward to Your Slaves the Prophets, ‘to the Saints’, [Daniel 7:22] to those fearing your Name’, [Malachi 3:16] the small and the great.” [NCMM] Can we imagine any persons among these who did not know God’s name?

 

In the prophetic future a political power with global control will “blaspheme the Name of God.” Revelation 13:6 warns: “The Sea Beast opened its mouth in ‘blasphemies’ [Daniel 7:8] against The God, to blaspheme the Name of The God, and the Tent of The God, and those tenting in heaven.” [NCMM] How will end-time Saints feel about this abuse of the very Name to be written in their foreheads?

 

The end-time Saints are described as having two names written on their foreheads – that of the Lamb and His Father, Jehovah. Revelation 14:1 describes these: “And I saw and look! the ‘Lamb’ standing upon the ‘mountain of Zion’. And with him 144,000, having the name of the ‘Lamb’ and the name of his Father written upon their foreheads.” [NCMM] Could any of these end-time Saints be those who did not use God’s Name or were responsible for removing that Name from the Bible?

 

Even in heaven the Saints are identified with the Divine Name. Revelation 15:4 asks the question once the end-time Saints are in heaven: “Who will not fear you, [Jeremiah 10:7] and not glorify your Name, Jehovah.” [NCMM]

 

In the very last chapter of the Bible it is made clear that the heavenly Saints as citizens of the New Jerusalem are identified by God’s Name. Revelation 22:4 promises: “They will see His face and His Name will be on their foreheads.” [NCMM] How will all these Saints be identified? By the Divine Name on their foreheads! Could such persons be those who did not use God’s Name in their earthly preaching, teaching, and worship?

 

 

THINK ABOUT GOD’S NAME

 

Did Jesus and the Christian Bible originally use YHWH in places where it quotes from Hebrew Bible verses? There is good evidence it did, though others disagree. For details on the use of YHWH in the New Testament see notes in Nazarene Commentary 2000. The 21st Century Version of the Hebrew & Christian Scriptures [NCMM], in both the Hebrew and Christian Bible, uses YHWH in every case where it seems reasonable the Divine Name should appear.

 

This overview of God’s Name Jehovah [or, Yahweh] in the Bible surely causes us to “think upon His Name.” There are serious reasons for us to prayerfully consider whether the Divine Name ought to take a more important part in our speech and worship. Or will many Christians continue to just refer to both Jesus and his God in the generic designation “Lord”? Will they continue to use Bibles that omit God’s Name as though it were part of a satanic plot to “make my people forget my name”? [Jeremiah 23:27] Will they continue to read from Bibles that are guilty of profaning God’s Name by removing it from its 7000 occurrences in the Scriptures? Below the prophet Malachi makes it clear that those who truly serve God have “thought on His Name.” Surely this is something to think about.

 

“At that time those who revere Yehowah talked with each other, each with his friend, and Yehowah continued watching and listening. And a log of remembrance was written in His presence for all those in fear of Yehowah and for those who thought on His Name. … So all of you will return and see the difference between the law-abiding and the lawless – between a person who serves God and one that does not serve Him.” [Malachi 3:16, 18 NCMM]

 

 

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The Church — An Organism 
1 Corinthians 12:12-28; Ephesians 1:22, 23
By James Noble - California
 
 

Over nineteen-hundred years ago Jesus Christ died and was resurrected back to heaven from which he came. Ever since then the followers he left behind, who comprise his Church, have looked forward to his returning as he promised. [John 14:1-3] Yet,  in a sense, Jesus never left this earth. He has been present for all these years. What? How can that be? Isn't that an irreconcilable contradiction? How could Christ be away in heaven and at the same time present on earth?

 

Before someone cries 'Heresy!' or jumps to an erroneous conclusion let us see what the inspired Scriptures say about this. Understanding the subject addressed here is vitally important to our standing with the Son of God and, therefore, also vital to our eternal future. Understanding anything, in general, is very much dependent on our first having a proper understanding of the essential concepts involved. Also, choice of terminology very much effects how we view a matter -- colors our perception, sometimes without our even being consciously aware of it.

 

With these thoughts in mind let us now examine the subject of how it is that Christ can in some manner be present on Earth at the same time he is in heaven and just what Christ's Church really is according to the Scriptures.

 

In Scripture the Church is described in many terms, such as:

 

 

 

 

 

All of these pictures of the Church have one thing in common —togetherness. If you love Christ you must love the Church. If you say you love God and His Son but you do not love the Church you are failing to comprehend what Jesus taught and are ignorant. As one minister put it, 'If you do not have fellowship with the saints here, you have no prospects of fellowship with the saints there.' Love for Jesus and love for what Jesus loves are inseparable.

 

But our focus is going to be on one analogy —the Church likened to Christ's body, with him as the head and we as the body's members.  Let's look at one scripture that says the Church is a body, 1 Corinthians 12:12-20:

 

"For just as the Body is one and yet has many members, all of these members though many are one body - so also the Christ.  For as in one Body we were all immersed into one Spirit- whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons - and all of us were made to drink one Spirit. Also, the Body is not one member but many. Even if the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand I am not part of the body,' this does not mean it is not part of the body.  And if the ear should ever say, 'Because I am not an eye I am not part of the body,' this does not mean it is not part of the body.  If the whole body was an eye, where is the hearing? If hearing is all there is, where is the smelling?  But now the God set each one of the members in the body just as He willed. Now if everything was just one member, where would be the body? But now [there are] many members, but one body." [NCMM]

There are four thoughts we will be examining in regard to this concept of the body. The first one is:

 

THE PERSON IS MANIFESTED BY THE BODY

How does anyone know you? Isn't it through your body, by what your body does? The body is what manifests any person in the world. The resurrected Jesus is a spirit (pneuma -Greek) and the same word is used to describe our inner self. No one could know what we are in spirit if we did not have bodies to make that known, could they? So it is with Christ.  How was the Lord Jesus Christ, an invisible spirit, to be manifested to the world over the past nineteen-hundred years? Through his body -the Church.

The church is the visible part of the invisible Christ. Together we manifest the life of Jesus Christ, manifest his person. This is a bit scary, isn't it? We have the responsibility of keeping Christ (his spirit, his character and his personality) present in the world until his foretold glorious return. What a heavy and yet marvelous responsibility that is!

It is very popular now for some Christians to wear bracelets engraved with the letters 'WWJD,' standing for, "What Would Jesus Do?" May we never think that we determine what Jesus will do. It is only Christ within us that does what Jesus wants done. Does that sound mystical? It is the Christian life. When we became Christians we gave up our will to do as we please with our bodies and turned our bodies over to Christ's will.

 

THE BODY HAS A MINISTERING PURPOSE

What is the purpose of a body? Each body has a ministering purpose in God's arrangement. The purpose of your body is to minister to you.  Your body is here to serve you. Your eyes are here so you can see. Your hands are here to feed you and to write for you. Your legs are here to carry you around. Your body is here to minister to you.

We as a body are here to minister to the Lord Jesus Christ. Many Christians, it seems, think they are here to do something for Jesus Christ.  He doesn't want you to do anything for him; he wants to do something through you. Just as your body ministers to you by doing what the head tells it to do, the Church is here to hear what the head says and to do it. Therefore we must listen to what our Lord says; we are to minister to him. And as members of the body of Christ we individually have purpose according to the gifts God has given us. This follows the illustration in 1 Corinthians 12 of the hand, the foot, the ear, and the eye.

In Europe during World War II there was a cathedral destroyed by the Nazi bombs.  After the war American GI's were there helping to restore the cathedral.  In the courtyard of that cathedral there was a statue of the likeness of Jesus.  The statue had been broken and was on the ground and they were picking it up and putting it back together. But they could not find the hands. They found every part of the statue but the hands.  Finally one of those GI's made a plaque to put at the foot of that statue, which said: "He has no hands but ours." That is true. We are his hands. We are his feet. We are the body of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Are you available? Are you willing to let Jesus be the manifested person in you? Are you willing to let your body minister to the Lord Jesus Christ, to his desires, to his needs? Are you saying 'Here am I, Lord! My hands are your hands, my feet are your feet!" Christ called you to his Church to serve him.

 

IN THE BODY THERE IS A MOTIVATING POWER

Your body needs something to motivate it. There is life in your body. If there was no life in your body you would have no power with which to move it. You would be a corpse. Look again at 1 Corinthians 12:13 -- “...and all of us were made to drink one Spirit” -- whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons -- and all of us were made to drink one Spirit." The life of your human body is your human spirit. The word spirit (ruach, Hebrew; pneuma, Greek) in the Scriptures is the motivating power. 'God breathed in the man's nostrils the breath {ruach] of life and the man became a living soul' -- he was animated by the spirit within him. When Jesus died upon the cross he 'gave up the spirit' and his body therefore was lifeless for three days. The body needs a motivating power.  The motivating power of the human body is the human spirit.  The motivating power of Christ's body is the holy spirit of God. Without the holy spirit of God there is no power in the Church.

Learn the difference between an organism and an organization. The Church is organized – but essentially it is not an organization,  it is an organism. What is the difference? An organization does not necessarily have life. There are many fine organizations, according to individual opinion, but they are not like the Church. There is something different about the Church. The difference is the holy spirit of God. "For as in one Body we were all immersed into one Spirit ...and all of us were made to drink one Spirit" and that one spirit is the holy Spirit of God. One may get together a group of people, gather them around some causes, get a building and call it a Church, but it is not a Church without the holy Spirit of God.

The Church is not a corporation with Jesus as the president. It is a body with Jesus as the head. It is an organism. It has life!

"For as in one Body we were all immersed into one Spirit." We are baptized by the holy Spirit into the Body of Jesus Christ. Water baptism only symbolizes this Spirit baptism. Not only are we placed into the Body of Christ but the Holy Spirit is placed into us and we have been made to drink of the one Spirit, just as we would drink water from the same source. When we are placed into the Body of Christ we receive our assignments as members, we receive our spiritual gifts. Perhaps you were put in the body as an eye to see things for Jesus, or maybe as a hand to hold things for Jesus, or maybe as a shoulder to bear burdens for Jesus, or maybe as a feet to go somewhere for Jesus, or maybe ... as a heart, to love for Jesus. God puts every member in the body and gives spiritual gifts as it pleases him. You receive your spiritual gifts when you are put in the Body of Christ. It is a birthday gift, when you are ’born again’.

 

IN EACH BODY THERE IS A MUTUAL PROGRAM

Let's go back to 1 Corinthians 12 and read verses 13-20: "Also, the Body is not one member but many. Even if the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand I am not part of the body,' this does not mean it is not part of the body.  And if the ear should ever say, 'Because I am not an eye I am not part of the body,' this does not mean it is not part of the body.  If the whole body was an eye, where is the hearing? If hearing is all there is, where is the smelling?  But now the God set each one of the members in the body just as He willed. Now if everything was just one member, where would be the body? But now [there are] many members, but one body." [NCMM]

The body is not one giant eyeball. What could it do if it were? The body is made of many interrelated members that each have a purpose in making the body function as intended. In a body, therefore, there is a mutual program. The members of the Church are to have but one agenda, and that is the agenda of Jesus Christ. We are all here to do one thing —to show the life of the Lord Jesus Christ to the community of mankind, to manifest him and to minister to him. In other words, to be a mutual program. A healthy body is coordinated. We can thank God that the Church is organized. [Ephesians 4:12-16]

There are three areas of mutuality:

1. We have the same life. "Even if the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand I am not part of the body,' this does not mean it is not part of the body.  And if the ear should ever say, 'Because I am not an eye I am not part of the body,' this does not mean it is not part of the body." Paul is here saying that we share a common life. God made us so that no one part of the body could function apart from the other as it ought to. A member of the body, such as the hand, can be beautiful to look at and see functioning, as for example when it is the hand of an excellent pianist producing music by playing the keys of a piano, or the hand of a sculptor creating wondrous forms from clay. However, the same hand is grotesque to us if it has been severed from the body.

There are parts of our body of which we are not aware, such as the liver or the pancreas or the spleen. These parts of the body are interior but not inferior. We take them for granted until they stop functioning as intended.  There are responsibilities in the Body of Christ that in the eyes of the world are thankless jobs, but in the eyes of Jesus they are not because all of us are part of the body. We can thank God for people who have discovered their gift and are ministering to the Body of Jesus Christ in whatever capacity is theirs to fill.

2. We have a mutual love.  In verses 25 and 26 of 1 Corinthians 12 it states: "So that there should be no schism in the body. But rather that its members should be anxious concerning one another.  And so whenever one member is suffering all the members suffer together; and whenever a member is glorified, all the members rejoice together [or with it]."  [NCMM]

We are to love one another. Why? We are in the same body! Every part of the human body has a purpose for which God designed it.  The Body of Christ is the same. There is no room for arrogance in this body, and there is no room for jealously. There can be no envy and there can be no rivalry. The members of the body cannot be at war. There can be no self-sufficiency in the body. All of us members need one another to keep the body healthy and functioning right. There can be no disunity. Why? We share the same life. We share the same love and...

3. We share the same Lord. "But all of you are Christ’s Body and members individually."  (1 Corinthians 12:27 NCMM) Loyalty to the Head, Jesus, has to be loyalty to one another. If your left hand is right with the head and your left hand is right with the head, they have to be right with one another. You cannot be loyal to Jesus without being loyal to his Church.

Do you see how this is different from being loyal to an organization?

 

Let’s look at this afresh from the vantage of another scripture. Ephesians 1: 22-23 also says the Church is Christ’s body, stating:

 

 He [God] also subjected all things under his [Christ’s] feet and made him [Christ] head over all things to the [Church]  which is his body, the fullness of him who fills up all things in all.”  [NWT] (Note: some interpret the “him” as Christ, others as God.)

 

In these two verses there are three terms that unfold much of the nature of the Church:  (1) Church, (2) body, and (3) head.

 

First consider the word Church. It is where we get the English word, ecclesiastical (and ecclesiology.) It really means “the called out ones.”  It was a commonly used word in the First Century. It described any group of people called out anywhere, for any purpose. To get at the heart of the Church,( which could also be translated assembly) we have to ask ‘ Who called them and for what purpose?’ In God’s vocabulary it means we, the Church, the people of God, are called out of the world by Jesus Christ unto himself. The called-out people of God!  Just in that description the nature of the Church is defined.  The Church is a People, not a building.

 

The second term, Body (Greek, soma;  Latin, corpus.)  The Lord uses the physical body in the Scriptures to unfold wondrous things about the spiritual body of Christ and spiritual life in Christ.  The Church is the body of Christ. Jesus was conceived in an earthly human body in Bethlehem when he walked upon this earth. Jesus now has a glorified spirit body and sits at the right hand of God the Father.  But Jesus has another body now in the world, and it’s you and me, the Church, the body of Christ.  We are now the hands and feet and arms and eyes and ears and mouth to speak the word of the Lord and show the love of the Lord in this world.

 

 We are the body of Christ. Think of that term. What is a body? A body is an organism — a living organism made up of many members but still one unit with all sharing the same common life. The Church is the body of Christ and the Church is an organism. It is not by nature a mere organization.  That’s a critical difference to see.  But some may say, “Wait a minute. I know churches. They get organized.” Well, yes they do, they can, and they should.  However, here’s the key difference: the Church of Jesus Christ is to get organized the way a body does, not the way an organization does.

 

Let’s think about that. How is the way an organization gets organized? People decide “You do this, you do that, you’ll be there, we’ll be here, this part will do this, this part will do that.”  You know there was a man in legend and myth who tried to put a physical body together that way.  His name was Dr. Frankenstein.  He did collect all the proper parts. He got them in strange ways in the wrong places, then, as the myth goes, he zapped them with a lightening bolt from heaven after he sewed them together, and he had a body, or so it looked like. No, it was actually just an organization of parts, and it stalked around frightening women and children.  You know, the Church often behaves like that. Too often the Church looks like a monster, scaring people  — because it has been organized as an organization. Oh, there seem to be all the parts there. But where did the life come from? What are all those strange parts sewn together?

 

If the Church of Jesus Christ is a body, it is an organism. How did our bodies get organized? It will give us insight into how the body of Christ is to get organized. How did you get organized? Why is your right hand coming out of your right wrist instead of your left ear? Not because someone organized it there. Not because some committee decided “Let’s stick it on there.” No. It just grew, nurtured in the life that your whole body shares together. And the hand became a hand, and the ear an ear. That’s the way it is to be in the body of Christ. We are all to be nurtured on the common life we share, the life of Jesus Christ. Christ in us who offers us glory, Christ who is our life. (Colossians 1:27; 3:4) And as we’re nurtured in that life each part of that body becomes what it is to be in that body, where it is to be, and doing what it is enabled to do. 

 

Yes, the Church is the People of God and the People of God are the living body of Christ. Every body needs a head. The body of Christ has a glorious head, the Head of Heads, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Son of God himself. The Scriptures show we are members of a glorious living organism —Christ’s very body here on earth, to serve him faithfully until that day he returns and raises us into heaven to share in spiritual glory by his side.

 

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