Tag Archives: New Testament

The Search for the True Church

7 Dec
The Search
Is there a true church in the world today? And if so, how can it be identified? Of all the religious questions facing the modern truth-seeker, this is certainly the most demanding and also the most frustrating. Conflicting voices from every quarter declare that they have the answer. Denominations, sects, and cults make strident claims based upon emotional interpretations of isolated Bible texts.
The average Christian today has been so totally turned off by these exaggerated boasts that many have even discounted the possibility that any “true church” could really exist. Others have questioned the criteria by which any church could be tested and rated as “truer” than another.
It is very important to recognize that no church can be proven superior because its members are without sin. People are people, and all are subject to the same frailties of human nature. Yet, it is also true that every Christian has access to the same mighty power of God for overcoming those frailties. Therefore, any church today will necessarily be made up of individuals who are at varying levels of personal sanctification. The wheat and tares will still be mingled together, and no church will be made up entirely of perfect people.
But the question remains: Is there some valid way to identify the church which is closest to the biblical standards of truth? Some feel that the distinctive name of the organization will set it apart as the right one. Obviously, this could be no accurate test, because the choice of a name would reveal nothing about the spiritual nature of that church. Such shallow claims only serve to discourage intelligent searchers after the truth.
It must be apparent to all that if God has a special church in the world today, He will reveal it clearly and explicitly in His holy Word. The information must be couched in language that will appeal to human logic and should consist of more than just vague generalities or insinuations.
I am reluctant to make any claims for what you are about to read, although I know very well that it could revolutionize your life. Do not scan or read lightly the material which follows. I ask only that you study it prayerfully and with an open mind. Then judge it on the basis of the Scriptures and your own spiritual convictions. If it is truth, the Holy Spirit will guide you into joyful recognition of it. My personal feeling is that you will find this experience to be the most exciting adventure you have ever had in God’s Word.
Our quest for truth will focus upon the twelfth chapter of Revelation. Limited time and space does not allow for an exhaustive study, but two principles will be given priority—accuracy and simplicity. Over twelve hundred years of history must be dealt with only briefly as we follow the absorbing story of the true church to its surprising climax. Further confirming evidence for the historical part of the prophecy has been provided in my book entitled “The Beast, the Dragon, and the Woman.”
The Woman Symbolizes the Church
      Revelation 12 is basically the narrative account of a beautiful, sun-clad woman and her descendants. “And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Revelation 12:1).
Here we are introduced to one of the most familiar symbols in the Bible. In both the Old and the New Testaments, God represents His people by a woman. As the bridegroom, He is married to the church. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2).
All through the Bible we can follow the record of this symbolism. God said in the Old Testament, “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman” (Jeremiah 6:2). And again, “Say unto Zion, Thou art my people” (Isaiah 51:16). The church is called Zion and God compares it with a beautiful woman. In the Old Testament, Israel was the chosen people so often portrayed as being married to God.
In the New Testament, the true Israel of God is no longer a nation but a church composed of Jews and Gentiles who receive Christ as their Savior. Therefore, the woman of Revelation 12 flashes us the picture-story of the church at the time of Christ. The clothing of sunlight typifies the glorious New Covenant of grace, and the twelve stars represent the twelve apostles. The moon under her feet indicates the fading glory of the Old Covenant in the presence of the true Lamb of God.
Now begins the thrilling part! We are going to follow the unfolding future of that true church of our Lord Jesus. The next verses vividly delineate the course of truth through the ages. We want to know where that woman can be found TODAY! Don’t miss a step of the prophecy as we trace the vicissitudes of the true church right down to the present day!
The first thing we discover is that the woman is about to give birth to a baby. “And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads . . . and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and to his throne” (Revelation 12:2-5).
Who is this man-child destined to rule all nations and who was caught up to heaven? Only one person can meet this description—Jesus Christ. And who does the dragon represent, who tried to kill Christ at His birth? It was Herod, the representative of Rome, who sent out the order for all babies of two years and under to be slaughtered. Ordinarily, the dragon is used as a symbol of Satan, but in this case, the devil was working so closely with the Roman power to kill Jesus that the dragon also symbolizes Rome.
How did Jesus escape the diabolical decree of Herod? Joseph and Mary were warned of the danger in a dream and fled to Egypt with the infant. Later, after the death of the tyrant, they returned and settled in the town of Nazareth.
Even though the devil was foiled in his initial plot to kill Jesus, he did not abandon his purpose. Repeatedly, he sought to take the life of Jesus, and finally, he managed to bring Him to that mockery of a trial where He was tortured, crucified, and buried. But the grave could not contain the Son of God, and on the third day He burst out of the tomb. Later, He ascended to His Father in heaven.
Persecution of the Church
     With no direct access to Jesus, the dragon (Rome) now turned his anger against the followers of Christ, the church: “And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child” (Revelation 12:13).
These words provide only a tiny hint of the horror of the violence which broke forth against the apostolic church. Practically all the early disciples and church leaders were martyred for their faith. Cruel pagan emperors turned the sporting arenas and coliseums into theaters of death for those who followed the true gospel.
Soon pagan Rome yielded to papal Rome, and the persecutions continued with even greater force. Millions died under the terrible inquisitions which sought to eradicate all opposition to the papal system. Historians estimate that during the Dark Ages more that fifty million people laid down their lives rather than yield up their Protestant faith.
But let’s follow the tragic story in our prophetic outline. Revelation 12:14 tells us what the true church did as the pressures of persecution built up to a climax: “And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.”
In order to escape extinction, the faithful Protestant refugees fled back into the Alpine mountains and valleys holding onto the true doctrine delivered by Jesus. Another book of Acts could be written about the heroism of the Waldenses, Huguenots, and Albigenses who refused to surrender their faith during those centuries of fierce oppression. God fought for them, and sometimes the pursuing armies of Rome were cut off by mysterious avalanches and rock slides. At other times the mountain streams were reddened by the blood of those faithful ones who sealed their devotion to the truth with their lives. The Revelation prophecy gives a symbolic picture of the desperate attempts made to wipe out those minority Christians who were now in hiding for their very survival: “And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood” (Revelation 12:15).
How long was the true church to remain out of sight in the wilderness? The prophecy declares it would be for “a time, times, and half a time.” How mysterious! What is meant by this strange description of the time period involved? When would it end? The answer is found in verse 6: “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”
Now the picture begins to clear up. One verse says the woman was in the wilderness for 1,260 days and the other verse says she was there for “a time, times, and half a time.” These two periods are equal. This means that a “time” has to be a year in prophetic symbolism, “times” is two years, and “half a time” is half a year. When we add up the one, the two, and the half, we get three and a half years. And that is equal to exactly 1,260 days, using the Bible reckoning of 30 days to the month.
There is one more principle of prophetic interpretation to take into account here. In symbolic Bible prophecy a day always stands for a year. You will find the key for that principle in Ezekiel 4:6: “I have appointed thee each day for a year.” It is laid down elsewhere in these words: “. . . forty days, each day for a year” (Numbers 14:34).
Please note that this applies only to symbolic prophecy, and cannot be read into other portions of the Scripture. A day is used for a year only in the setting of an obvious prophetic context. This places the woman in her wilderness hideaway for the full period of 1,260 literal years.
Our conclusion must be, then, that the true church could not appear in the world until the end of the 1,260 years. Did such a thing happen to the true people of God? How long did the papal power continue to suppress the true doctrines by the exercise of her religio-political authority?
Here is a fascinating point of history. In a.d. 538 a decree by Emperor Justinian went into effect which assigned absolute spiritual preeminence to the church of Rome. Gradually, this religious tyranny drifted into union with civil powers until eventually kings were forced to seek permission from the pope before they could begin to rule. This authority remained in force until the year 1798 when Europe was rocked by the French Revolution. In the subsequent rebellion of the oppressed peasants against the privileged clergy, the pope was captured in 1798. The papal property was confiscated, and the French Directory government decreed that there would be no more Bishop of Rome. The oppressive rule of the papacy ended exactly 1,260 years after it was inaugurated in A.D. 538.
Three Marks of the True Church
     This brings us to a most important observation: THE TRUE CHURCH COULD NOT APPEAR IN THE WORLD UNTIL AFTER THE YEAR 1798. It was to remain in hiding until the end of the 1,260 years, and that “wilderness” period ended in 1798. We have before us now one of the most amazing marks of identification for the true church. It is not based on some emotional feeling or upon some strained interpretation of a single Bible text. It is rooted in a prophetic revelation of a specific time period which can be verified by scores of historical records. The woman (church) simply could not make her appearance until the inhibiting powers of papal opposition had been taken out of the way. That prophesied event took place in 1798, and the truth which had been clothed in sackcloth now began to emerge from obscurity, soon to appear as the glorious remnant of the woman.
Now we are brought to an actual description of the woman as she would appear before the world sometime after the year 1798: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).
This text is one of the most crucial to be found in the entire Bible. Nowhere is there a more concise description of the last-day remnant of the original apostolic faith as it was preserved through the ages. Here is an actual verbal definition of the true church for the present day. It is so important that we are going to analyze every word in order to extract the full meaning. If the true church can be discovered at all in the Bible, this will be the verse to reveal it.
“AND THE DRAGON . . .” Who is the dragon? There can be no question on this point. In Revelation 12:9 the dragon is called “the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world.”
“WAS WROTH . . .” What does that mean? “Wroth” is the Old English word for “angry.” It simply means that Satan was angry. Whom was he angry with? “WROTH WITH THE WOMAN . . .” Who was the woman? We have already found that she is the true apostolic church, representing the great, original teachings of Jesus.      “AND WENT TO MAKE WAR WITH THE REMNANT OF HER SEED . . .” Here a new word is introduced into the picture. Satan is going to fight against the REMNANT of the true church. What is a remnant? It is the last end piece on a bolt of cloth. It is exactly like the first piece that came off the bolt, but it happens to be at the very end and is always a small piece.
What does this tell us about the remnant of the woman? It is the last part of the true church, at the very end of time, which will be holding the exact same doctrines as did the early, apostolic church. But let’s read on.
“WHICH KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS OF GOD. . .” What commandments would this be referring to? This designates the great moral law written by the finger of God on tables of stone. The Ten Commandments reflect the character of God, reveal His will for all His creatures, and form the basis for all morality and true worship.
Here we are confronted with the second intriguing mark of identification of the true church. Not only must it arise some time after the year 1798, but on the authority of the Word of God, it would have to be keeping ALL the Ten Commandments of God.
But now let’s finish reading this fantastic verse. “AND HAVE THE TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST.” Here is another characteristic of the true remnant. Not only will this last-day church arise after 1798 and keep all the Ten Commandments, but it will have the testimony of Jesus. But what is the testimony of Jesus? That is an unfamiliar phrase, and we need more than human wisdom to uncover its meaning
Notice how the Bible specifically defines this expression for us. If this text truly contains the heart of ultimate truth for us, the Word of God would have to clarify every part of it. The definition is provided by the word of an angel sent all the way from heaven to explain it to John. “I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
There it is! We know now without a shadow of doubt that the testimony of Jesus is the SPIRIT OF PROPHECY. And this is the third great mark of identity for the last-day true church!
Let me ask you something: Does a spirit of excitement rise up in you as these plain biblical statements zero in on the mostsought-after secret in the Word of God? We are getting closer and closer to identifying the special people of God in our day and their special message. And we are doing it by allowing the Bible to make the identification. We have not fabricated a single one of these three definitive characteristics. No one can honestly challenge their application to the end-time church of Jesus Christ. That remnant church will have to possess all three of these biblical tags of identity:
1. ARISE AFTER 1798      2. KEEP ALL THE TEN COMMANDMENTS      3. HAVE THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY
I know that some are already puzzling over that third mark. The “spirit of prophecy” is just about as incomprehensible as the “testimony of Jesus.” But stay with me, and we will get the explanation for that point very shortly.
A Fourth Identifying Characteristic
     Right now I would like to add a fourth crucial mark of identification to our list. We have found this church to be the last, end-piece of historic truth. It will be proclaiming the final message of God just before Jesus returns. In fact, if God has any kind of special counsel or warning for the world at the end of time, He would surely give that message through His last-day remnant church. I think we can all see the logic of this conclusion.
Does God indeed have such a message, and is it identified clearly in the Bible? Jesus indicated that the proclaiming of a certain definite truth would immediately precede the conclusion of human history. Listen to His words: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matthew 24:14).
The last sign of Christ’s coming will be a worldwide preaching of the “gospel of the kingdom.” After that, the end will come. Now follow me closely. John the Revelator actually saw in vision the fulfillment of Christ’s words. He wrote, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice . . .” (Revelation 14:6, 7).
The next few verses describe precisely what that special last proclamation of the gospel will consist of. Then immediately John said, “And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle . . . and he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped” (Revelation 14:14-16).
Did you catch that? The end comes just as soon as this particular “gospel” message has gone to every nation on earth. Jesus said the same thing, “this gospel . . . shall be preached in all the world . . . and then shall the end come.”
I submit to you that whatever this message is, it has to be the most urgent and compelling one that human ears have ever heard. Both John and Jesus testify that upon completion it will usher in the glorious kingdom of Christ.
Can we know what that final warning will contain? John spelled it out so simply that none need be in doubt. “Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come” (Revelation 14:7). Notice that a part of this last call of God will be announcing that the judgment has already started. “IS COME,” not “will come.” We must look and listen for the preaching of such a pre-advent judgment message to all nations of the earth.
The next part of the first angel’s message is this: “And worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of water” (Revelation 14:7). Does that sound familiar? It should, for it is quoted almost word for word right from the fourth commandment of the decalogue, which strongly indicates that the Sabbath will be a part of the “gospel” proclamation which must go to the whole world just before the end.
How do you worship God as the Creator? Right in the heart of the Ten Commandments God wrote the answer: “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it” (Exodus 20:11).
True worship stems from a recognition of God’s creative power and authority, and the Sabbath is God’s own established sign that He is the maker of everything. Over and over throughout the Bible God claims worship BECAUSE He created all things. “thou are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: FOR THOU HAST CREATED ALL THINGS.” (Revelation 4:11).
God challenged the false gods repeatedly because they could not create. “The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth . . . He hath made the earth by his power” (Jeremiah 10: 11, 12). “God himself . . . formed the earth and made it . . . I am the Lord; and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:18).
The Sabbath was instituted by God as a great reminder-sign of His sovereign authority as the only God to be worshiped. The Creator set in motion the arbitrary cycle of the seven-day week to mark off the true Sabbath, so that the world would be without excuse in knowing whom to worship and when. Thus the first angel’s message called for men to “worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea”—a call to true Sabbath-keeping.
The second and third angels’ messages described by John can be summarized briefly: “Babylon is fallen . . . If any man worship the beast . . . and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:8-10). Contrary to the opinion of many, this plain, bold preaching of the beast message is included in the everlasting gospel of God’s kingdom. Even warnings against the mark of the beast will be heralded to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. THEN THE END WILL COME!
We are now prepared to add a fourth characteristic to the list of three others. The true remnant church of the last days will surely be used of God to carry His final warning message to all inhabitants of planet earth. That message will include (a) the judgment hour is come, (b) true Sabbath worship, (c) the fall of spiritual Babylon, and (d) the mark of the beast.
This completes the amazing array of specific characteristics of the present day’s true church:
1. ARISES AFTER 1798      2. KEEPS ALL TEN COMMANDMENTS      3. HAS THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY      4. PREACHES THE MESSAGE OF THREE ANGELS (Revelation 14) ON A WORLD-WIDE SCALE
Could any thinking person be indifferent toward what we have discovered thus far? We have in our hands right now the key to unlock one of the most fantastic spiritual secrets in the world. God has concentrated all the clues in this one, tremendous, prophetic chapter of Revelation. Look at the marks of identification. This is God’s list, not mine. I simply lifted them from the inspired pages of God’s Book. What do they tell us about the true church today?
First of all, it could not have arisen before 1798. This eliminates most of the great popular Protestant churches of the world. Practically all of them were formed before 1798. Secondly, it would have to be a church which keeps all the Ten Commandments. At first glance, this would seem to be a very poor definitive test for discovering which church is right. Surely all of them would teach and practice obedience to the great moral law of God— or would they? The fact is that very few contemporary denominations even lay claim to keeping all the Ten Commandments. Most of them admit freely that they do not observe the seventh-day Sabbath required by the fourth commandment. They observe the first day of the week instead of the Sabbath.
The Spirit of Prophecy
     Under the inspiration of God, John declared that the remnant of the woman would have the “testimony of Jesus.” Since that expression is somewhat ambiguous, John later gave a clarification which still leaves much to be desired. He said simply, “The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).
At least this is moving in the right direction, but we must now discover what John means by that expression, “spirit of prophecy.” Whatever it is, it ranks high with God, because He designates it as one of the ways by which to recognize His true church in these last days.
The picture begins to clear up when we examine the full context of the statement. An angel appears to John, and John falls upon the ground in awe and admiration. Said the Revelator, “And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God; for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10).      In this verse, please notice who is described as having the testimony of Jesus, or the spirit of prophecy. Only John’s “brethren” are identified as having it. Now we must seek for some further information as to who John’s brethren were. The Word does not fail us. In Revelation 22:8, 9 John repeats the story of the angel and adds a little more detail. “And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets . . . worship God.” John’s brethren were the prophets, and they alone are said to have the spirit of prophecy.
Suddenly, the whole puzzle falls into place. The only ones who had the spirit of prophecy were the prophets themselves. If just knowing prophecy and preaching it could be called the “spirit of prophecy,” then many modern teachers and evangelists might qualify. But the Bible makes it exceedingly clear that it is the actual ability to prophesy. In other words, it is the gift of prophecy. Only the prophets had it.
This fact is supported by the apostle Paul. “That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; Even as the testimony of Christ (spirit of prophecy) was confirmed in you: So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:5-7).
Here the testimony of Jesus is called a “gift” instead of the “spirit” of prophecy. And the implication is very strong that the gift will be in operation at the return of our Savior.
With this inspired insight from Paul we are back on familiar ground again. We have no problem with the term “gift of prophecy.” The New Testament epistles are filled with references to all the gifts of the Spirit, including the gift of prophecy. Paul told the church at Ephesus just how and when the gifts were bestowed: “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men” (Ephesians 4:8).
Little comment is needed on this. It is a well-known fact that when Jesus returned to heaven He left certain special “gifts” or abilities with His people on earth. In fact, they are named: “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:11).
For what reason did Jesus endow certain ones in the church with these appropriate spiritual gifts? “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12). He did it to build up the believers and strengthen the church. These gifts were to mature and perfect the leaders of the body of Christ as they sought to edify the members.
The next verse tells exactly how long those gifts would be needed in the church. “Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the nature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
If language has any meaning at all, these words convey one idea very clearly. All the gifts which Christ placed with His church were to continue operating until the very end of time. They would be needed to bring the church to perfection and to the fullness of Christ’s stature.
Dare we ask the next obvious question? Where are these gifts today? If they were intended by our Lord to do their sanctifying work right down to the end of time, then they should all be seen operating in the churches around us. Let’s inquire if they are. Do we find teachers in most churches today? The answer is yes. What about pastors and evangelists? Practically all denominations have them. What can we say about apostles? Since this word literally means “missionaries,” (coming from a Greek word meaning “one who is sent”), again we can say that most modern churches qualify on this particular gift.
So far, so good. But we have one more inquiry—what about prophets? From most religious quarters there is no ready reply to this question. Practically no church claims that such a thing has ever been a part of its ministry.
But why? If all the other gifts are necessary, why should prophets not be necessary as well? It was certainly counted so in the early church. In fact, all the spiritual gifts were very much in evidence, according to the book of Acts. “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon . . .” (Acts 13:1). Here we have evidence that two of the gifts, teachers and prophets, were a part of the church at Antioch. Then in Acts 21:9 we read that a “man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.” Notice that these four women from one family were appointed by the Spirit to be prophetesses. They had the spirit of prophecy.
Why Did Prophets Disappear from the Church?
     It is obvious that all the gifts were operating equally in the apostolic age and immediately afterward. But why did the gift of prophecy seem to drop out of sight after two or three hundred years into the Christian era? We do not have the same record of it through the ages as we do the other gifts. Why don’t we find prophets in all the churches of today along with pastors, teachers, etc.?
We dare not avoid the question as so many millions of Christians are currently doing. The Word of God meets the issue head-on and pulls no punches in the process. It is easy to see why most churches try to ignore the absence of this gift in their midst, especially when we discover the reason for its absence.
That post-apostolic period is not the first time that the spirit of prophecy had been removed from among God’s people. The truth is that God was dealing with the church then in the same way He had always dealt with His people. All through the Old Testament God led and instructed them by two divine agencies—the law and the prophets. Through the prophet Jeremiah God spoke to Israel, “If ye will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, To hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you . . . Then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth” (Jeremiah 26:4-6).
THE LAW AND PROPHETS! The two go together. Not only do they refer to the writings of Scripture, but they also refer to the two means of divine guidance. “Keep my law and hear my prophets” was the requirement of God. And the sacred record indicates that if they rejected one of those divine agencies, God would remove the other also, because they were actually rejecting His leadership. On numerous occasions the children of Israel turned away from the law of God, only to find the prophetic voice silenced as well.
Jeremiah wrote, “The law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from the LORD” (Lamentations 2:9). Ezekiel put it this way: “Then shall they seek a vision of the prophet; but the law shall perish from the priest, and counsel from the ancients” (Ezekiel 7:26). The wise man laid down the very same principle: “Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Proverbs 29:18).
In times of open disobedience of His law, God used the prophets only to rebuke and to call back, not for counsel or guidance. When they turned from the law, they understood that they were also forfeiting the only other avenue by which they could receive divine direction. In his apostasy Saul cried out, “God is departed from me, and answereth me no more, neither by prophets, nor by dreams” (1 Samuel 28:15).
We have a perfect example of this in Ezekiel 20:3 when the people came to inquire after God’s counsel. “Son of man, speak unto the elders of Israel, and say unto them, Thus saith the LORD God; Are ye come to enquire of me? As I live, saith the LORD God, I will not be enquired of by you.” Why would He not answer them in this case? Verses 11-13 give the answer: “And I gave them my statutes, and showed them my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them. Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the LORD that sanctify them. But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness: they walked not in my statutes, and they despised my judgments, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; and my sabbaths they greatly polluted: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them in the wilderness, to consume them.”
Surely we can see that the reason God gave no divine direction was because they _had forsaken His law and had broken His Sabbath. It was the violation of the fourth commandment which especially provoked the displeasure of God.
Now we are prepared to deal with the question of prophets in the New Testament, and why they disappeared after two or three centuries. What happened to God’s law at the very same time the gift of prophecy disappeared from the church? The history of that early period shows that the Sabbath was set aside in favor of the pagan day of the sun. A disgraceful compromise with heathen sun-worship led to an open rejection of the true seventh-day Sabbath. And when this happened, God did exactly what He had always done before when His people turned from His holy law; He withdrew the guidance of the spirit of prophecy. Prophets disappeared from the church.      This brings us face-to-face with an exciting and challenging question. Is there reason to believe that when the church restores the law and begins to observe the Sabbath again, that God will also restore the gift of prophecy to the church? This leads us right back to that dynamic prophecy of Revelation 12 and God’s description of the true remnant. Now, for the first time, we can see the full significance of that seventeenth verse: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Do you see it? The law, so long neglected, is right back where it belongs—in the church. And hand-in-hand with the law is the testimony of Jesus, which is the spirit of prophecy. Think of it! The law and the prophets get back together again in the last remnant piece of God’s true apostolic church! All the gifts are again operating as they did in the days before the apostasy.
Remember that a remnant has to be exactly like the original except that it is on the very end, and it is a small piece. This fantastic prophecy reveals that there will be an end- time restoration of the faith of the apostles. The same Sabbath will be restored. The same gifts of the spirit will be manifested, and all the great apostolic doctrines will be stripped of the effects of 1,260 years of papal distortion.
A church, called the remnant, must appear on the scene some time after 1798. It will restore the foundation of many generations by keeping the Sabbath, the same one that Jesus made for man during creation week, and the same Sabbath He observed when He was on the earth. In that church will be manifested the true gift of prophecy. Under the anointing of unusual spiritual blessing and power that remnant church will carry the special last warning message of Revelation 14 to all the countries in the world. As we have already discovered, this glorious gospel of the three angels includes the present-hour judgment, the Sabbath, the fall of Babylon, and the beast message.
This church is identified again by John in these words: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). Do not overlook the fact that these commandment-keeping saints are empowered to do what they do only by trusting Jesus. When you find them, they will not be boasting of their righteousness, or depending on their good works to save them. Above all people they will have a loving, personal relationship with the Savior they worship. Their obedience will be based solely upon the merits of Christ’s imputed and imparted righteousness. They will keep the commandments because they have been saved by grace and not to gain any favor with God.
By this time you are probably in a state of excited curiosity as to whether any church in existence can meet the incredible conditions laid down in the Bible. Many claim to be the true church, but their claims are not based upon the requirements of the Word of God. Only those who fit the four specific marks outlined in the book of Revelation can be qualified for consideration. Just suppose we could find only one church in the world today which meets all these biblical tests. Could we expect it to be a perfect church with flawless members in it? On the contrary, it would surely be composed of average men and women, subject to the same failings as all other human beings. It would have to be a comparatively small church to meet the criteria of “remnant.” Jesus said the way of truth was narrow and “few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14). Again He declared, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man” (Luke 17:26). None should be deceived by trusting great numbers, the majority. The saved will be comparable to the eight souls taken into the ark at the time of the great flood. Truth has never been popular, and it will be less so in the final age of sensual pleasure and materialism. The remnant church will not be found among the great, popular churches with their indulgent life-styles. Said Jesus, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Paul’s counsel was: “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Corinthians 6:17). To Titus he wrote, “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly . . . a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
These and many other related verses seem to indicate that the true church of the last days will be looked upon by the world in the same manner that Jesus and His followers were esteemed in their day. Since the remnant is merely an extension of the great original, it will be despised by the majority, counted as peculiar, and finally, like the early church, as worthy of death. The book of Revelation exposes a diabolical plan of the end-time “beast” power to enforce a mark on every individual, and those who will not receive that mark will be condemned to death. As you might suspect at this point, those who resist that beast mark will be those who “keep the commandments of God, and have the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12). In other words, the remnant church.
Again, it must be emphasized that all those who belong to the remnant church will not necessarily be saved. Like all other churches it consists of ordinary people who must maintain a constant saving relationship with Jesus Christ. It is undoubtedly true that there will be people saved and lost out of all denominations and sects. Every person will be judged on the basis of revealed truth, and how he obeyed what he knew. Members of the remnant church will have great light, and they will be judged accordingly. Many will fail the test, because they depend on their knowledge of the truth rather than the saving merits of Christ’s righteousness. This is why it is altogether possible for many even in the “remnant” church to be lost. Others who have not so great light will be accepted if they know Jesus and walk in all the light that has been revealed.
But after making those observations, we must also concede that God has a special church with a special message which is designated as the “remnant” of the woman. It will appear near the end, holding the same doctrines as did the apostolic church, keeping all the Ten Commandments (including the Sabbath), having the gift of prophecy, and preaching Revelation 14 to the entire world.
Does Any Church Meet the Four Tests?
     Is there such a church in the world right now which meets all the requirements of these biblical texts? God does not leave us to wonder. He has made the marks so distinct and clear and simple in the Bible that all can know what to look for. Is it difficult to match the four great distinguishing signs with the hundreds of confusing church names and bodies? Not at all.
How many of those churches arose after 1798? A small minority. And how many of this minority are keeping all the Ten Commandments, including the Sabbath? Very few. They can be counted on the fingers of one hand. How many of these few also have the spirit of prophecy? And finally, how many are proclaiming the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14 in all the countries and languages of earth?
The sifting and eliminating has led us down to just one church, believe it or not. It would be less than honest to leave you hanging at this juncture, wondering if God had described some impossible, hybrid church that would never exist. Out of all the ecclesiastical systems in existence at this date, there is only one that fully meets the biblical criteria of the remnant.
This must be our conclusion based upon historical facts and not because we have any axe to grind for some particular church. The inspired record of Revelation 12 contains no emotional bias toward any existing church. The most disinterested person would have to come to the same conclusion after examining the full, prophetic picture. This leaves no room for boasting or pride. The secret was not revealed by any man but by the Word of God.

As we name the church, it must be with some trepidation. There will always be a few ready to charge us with sectarianism in spite of the undeniable evidence before us. Others will allow personal prejudice to rob them of this glorious truth.

The only church fulfilling the prophetic description of the true remnant is the Seventh-day Adventist church. Arising around 1844 this movement of destiny began the predicted program of restoring the truth which had been lost or distorted during the Dark Ages. One after another of the original doctrines of Christ and the early church were returned to their former luster and beauty. As the authority of the law and the Sabbath was re-established, God did exactly what He had promised to do: He restored the beautiful spirit of prophecy to the remnant church. That gift was manifested through the life and teachings of Mrs. Ellen G. White. This young woman, with only a grammar school education, received special revelations that extended over a period of more than six decades. From her inspired pen poured more than seventy books, many of which were acclaimed by the highest secular critics to be matchless in form and content.

Although the gift of prophecy served in a powerful manner to give impetus to the new movement, it professed only to be a “lesser light” to the sovereign authority of the Holy Scriptures. In harmony with the Bible rule to “try the spirits,” every manifestation had to be tested by the Word of God. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20). Had her writings not conformed to the Bible in every respect, they would have been rejected as counterfeit, but they spoke in perfect agreement with the Scriptures. In no way have they been considered a part of the sacred canon of Scripture. Though inspired by the same Spirit, they do not add to nor take away from the Holy Writ, but like a magnifying glass they bring out the beauty and truth of the Word.

Perhaps the greatest wonder of all is how the emerging remnant church, in the providence of God, settled upon the very same doctrines of Revelation 14—the ones specified by Jesus and John as the final message—as the heart of its teaching. But there is yet another miracle! How could that infant church, with only a few hundred members in 1860, reach out with its unpopular message and evangelize every country in the world? Yet, that is exactly what has happened! The work of Seventh-day Adventists has been established in countries representing nearly 100 percent of the world population. And every one of these unique doctrines of Revelation 14, including the judgment, the Sabbath, and the beast message, is being witnessed to those nations.

There are several churches which qualify on the first point of identity, and there are a few who fit the second also; but, it is a singular fact that only one church conforms perfectly to all four points. With a simplicity and logic that appeals to human reason, God has fulfilled His promise to guide us into all truth. The next move must be up to us. What will we do about the persuasive conclusions to which we have been led?

No one can avoid making a decision over this kind of truth. We can decide to accept it, or reject it. We can choose to obey or disobey. But one thing is certain—you can never be the same again, no matter which decision you make. Conviction has a way of staying with us even when we try to ignore or banish it. You can never forget the things you have learned about the true church. You are now in possession of the most sought-after secret in the whole Bible.

I would urge you not to make a decision to accept it just because it has convinced you intellectually. No one should join the church, which is the body of Christ, unless they have been drawn spiritually into a relationship with Jesus.

Behind the fantastic prophecy of the true remnant I want you to see the Lamb of God dying on the cross in your place. He hangs there because of sin—because someone did not love Him enough to obey Him. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

We can’t obey Him until we have knelt, broken-hearted because of our sin, and accepted Him as Lord and Savior. Love for Him provides both the motive and the power to fulfill His Word. If you haven’t accepted Him already, make that your first decision. Then under the strength of that new love relationship follow Him into service as a member of the true remnant church.

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Purity & Power!

13 Nov
Are you tired of hurting your loved ones and wounding your conscience?  Do you live in constant regret for your past mistakes?  Have you ever wished you could take a bath and come out clean inside and out?  Then we have great news for you… you can! God has a plan that can totally wash all your sins away and supercharge your character – preposterous? Not at all! Christ says, “We are buried with him by baptism” (Romans 6:4). When you accept Christ, the old life dies and the Lord promises to forget all our sins!  Not only that, He can help you overcome every sinful habit in your life. Did you know the cross is mentioned 28 times in the Bible, but baptism is mentioned 97 times? It must be pretty important then, and no wonder, because it signifies a new life with the haunting, sinful past buried and forgotten forever.  Read the Bible’s amazing facts on this incredible subject… you’ll never be the same!
This verse makes it clear that baptism is necessary for salvation.

1. Is baptism really essential?

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Mark 16:16.

Answer:   Yes, indeed! How could any language or words make it plainer?

Circumstances made it a human impossibility for the thief on the cross to be baptized.

2. But the thief on the cross was not baptized, so why should I be?

“For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalms 103:14.

Answer:   Neither did he restore what he had stolen, as the Lord specifically directs in Ezekiel 33:15. God holds us accountable for what we can do, but He also recognizes the limitations of “dust.” He will not require a physical impossibility. Could the thief have come down from the cross, he immediately would have been baptized. This is the only example in the Bible of an exception to this rule. God wanted to make certain that no one would be presumptuous in refusing baptism.

Only ONE method of baptism is biblical, not 14.

3. There are many ordinances called baptism. Isn’t any one of these acceptable, provided a person is sincere and earnest about it?

“One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Ephesians 4:5.

Answer:   No! There is only one true baptism. All other so-called baptisms are counterfeits.
Note: The devil’s “buffet” plan for baptism says, “Take your pick. The method of baptism doesn’t matter. It is the spirit that counts.” But the Bible says, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” Ephesians 4:5. It also says, “Obey, I beseech thee, the voice of the Lord.” Jeremiah 38:20.

Jesus was baptized by immersion.

4. How was Jesus baptized?

“Jesus … was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened.” Mark 1:9, 10.

Answer:   By immersion! Notice that after the ordinance, He came “up out of the water.” Jesus was baptized “in Jordan,” not on the bank, as many believe. John always found a place to baptize where “there was much water” (John 3:23), so it would be deep enough. The Bible commands us to follow Jesus’ example (1 Peter 2:21). Any baptism other than immersion breaks this command. The word “baptism” comes from the Greek word “baptizo.” It means “to dip under or submerge or immerse.” There are eight different Greek words in the New Testament used to describe the application of liquids. But among these various words–meaning to sprinkle, to pour, or to immerse–only the one meaning “to immerse” (baptizo) is used to describe baptism.

Philip baptized the Ethiopian by immersion.

5. But didn’t the disciples or the apostles change the method of baptism?

“They went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip.” Acts 8:38, 39.

Answer:   No! Please notice that Philip, a leader in the early church, baptized the treasurer of Ethiopia by immersion precisely as John baptized Jesus. And the apostle Paul warned that any who teach contrary to what Jesus taught should be “accursed.” Galatians 1:8. No person–no matter how godly–is authorized to change God’s words and commands.

All forms of baptism other than immersion come from people rather than Scripture.

6. Since Jesus and the disciples baptized by immersion, who introduced these other so-called baptisms which exist today?

“In vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” Matthew 15:9.

Answer:   Misguided men introduced other forms of baptism in direct contradiction of God’s Word. Jesus says, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” “Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.” Matthew 15:3, 6. Worship that follows human teaching is “vain.” Just think of it! The sacred ordinance of baptism has been changed and made of little consequence during truth’s hazardous journey through the centuries. No wonder the Bible exhorts us to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” Jude 3.

There are three simple things a person must do prior to baptism.

7. What must a person do to prepare for baptism?

Answer:
A. Learn God’s requirements. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them … Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19, 20.
B. Believe the truth of God’s Word. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Mark 16:16.
C. Repent of and turn away from his sins and experience conversion. “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Acts 2:38. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” Acts 3:19.

When I am baptized, I affirm my belief in Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

8. What is the meaning of baptism?

“Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:4-6.

Answer:   It represents the believer following Christ into His death, burial, and resurrection. The symbolism is perfect and filled with deep meaning. In baptism the eyes are closed, hands are folded, and breath is suspended as in death. Then comes burial in the water and resurrection from the watery grave to a new life in Christ. When raised from the water, the eyes open and the candidate begins breathing again and mingles with friends, a complete likeness of resurrection. The great difference between Christianity and every other religion is simply the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. In these three acts is made possible all that God desires to do for us. To keep these three vital acts alive in the minds of Christians until the end of time, the Lord instituted baptism by immersion as a memorial. There is no symbolism of death, burial, and resurrection in other forms of baptism. Only immersion fulfills the meaning of Romans 6:4-6.

 Death to sin.  Old life buried in the waters.  Raised a new person in Christ.

New Christians are like toddlers learning to walk.  They sometimes slip and fall.

9. But a person shouldn’t be baptized until he is certain he will never slip and fall, should he?

“If there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.” 2 Corinthians 8:12.

Answer:   This is like saying a baby should never try to walk until certain that he will never slip and fall. A Christian is a newborn “babe” in Christ. This is why the experience of conversion is called “the new birth.” The ugly, sinful past no longer exists for a child of God. A person’s sinful past is forgiven and forgotten by God at conversion. And baptism symbolizes the burial of that old life. We begin the Christian life as babies, rather than adults, and God judges us on our attitude and the trend of our life, rather than on a few slips and falls that we may experience as immature Christians.

Baptism is a glorious event because it symbolizes the burial of the old life of sin and the beginning of a new life in Christ.

10. Why is baptism an urgent matter for a converted sinner?

“And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Acts 22:16.

Answer:   Baptism is a public testimony that the repentant sinner has been forgiven and cleansed by Jesus (1 John 1:9) and that his sinful, traitorous past is behind him. No incriminating evidence against a person exists after conversion.
Men and women today stagger and struggle along under heavy loads of guilt and sin. This contamination and burden is so devastating to the human personality that people will go to almost any length to achieve a sense of forgiveness and cleansing. Many have been driven to the psychiatrist’s couch, where human beings earnestly attempt to assist other human beings. But the real help is found in coming to Christ, who says to all who approach Him, “I will be thou clean.” Matthew 8:3. Not only does He cleanse, but He crucifies the old nature of sin within you. Burial in the water of baptism symbolizes the burial of the ugly corpse of the old sinful life. The ordinance is of utmost importance because it publicly represents the most stupendous provisions ever made for people.

Philip baptized the Ethiopian treasurer the same day he accepted Christ as his Saviour.

11. How long does it take to prepare for baptism?

Answer:   That depends on the person. Some grasp things more quickly than others. But in most cases, preparation can be made in short order. Here are some Bible examples:
A. Ethiopian treasurer (Acts 8:26-39)baptized same day he heard truth.
B. Philippian jailer and his family (Acts 16:23-34)baptized same night they heard truth.
C. Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-18)baptized three days after Jesus spoke to him on the road to Damascus.
D. Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48)baptized same day he heard truth.
At conversion, God:
1. Forgives and forgets our past.
2. Miraculously transforms us into new spiritual beings.
3. Adopts us as His own sons and daughters.
Certainly no truly converted person would want to delay baptism, which publicly pays tribute to Jesus for working all these miracles.

God is pleased with people who are baptized by immersion.  Is He pleased with your baptism?

12. How does God feel about the baptism of a converted person?

Answer:   He said at His Son’s baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:17. So, today, God is well pleased when a person is baptized by immersion in harmony with His command. Those who love the Lord will always strive to please Him (1 John 3:22; 1 Thessalonians 4:1). Is God pleased with your baptism?

Baptism is the official entry into God’s church. Being baptized without joining God’s church is unbiblical.

13. Can a person experience true baptism without becoming a member of God’s church?

Answer:   No! God clearly outlines this. Notice the steps:
A. All are called into one body. “Ye are called in one body.” Colossians 3:15.
B. The church is the body. “He is the head of the body, the church.” Colossians 1:18.
C. We enter that body by baptism. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body.” 1 Corinthians 12:13.
D. God’s converted people are added to the church. “The Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Acts 2:47.

If Jesus is speaking to you about baptism, do not put it off.  Baptism is a public expression of your desire to follow God fully.

14. Notice four things that baptism does not do:

Answer:

First Baptism itself does not change the heart of man it is a symbol of the change that has taken place. A man might be baptized without faith, without repentance, and without a new heart. He might even be immersed after the example of Jesus, but he would simply come up a wet sinner instead of a dry one, still without faith, without repentance, without a new heart. Baptism cannot make a new person. Neither can it change or regenerate anyone. It is the transforming power of the Holy Spirit that changes the heart in conversion. One must be born of the Spirit as well as born of water.
Second Baptism does not necessarily make a person feel better. It doesn’t necessarily change his feelings. Some people are disappointed because they do not feel different after baptism. Salvation is a matter not of feeling, but of faith and obedience.
Third Baptism does not remove temptations. The devil is not through with a person when he is baptized. But Jesus is the helper of every believer. He says, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Hebrews 13:5. No temptation will come without a way of escape. This is the promise of Scripture (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Fourth Baptism does not guarantee salvation. It is not a magical rite. Salvation comes only as a free gift from Jesus Christ when one experiences the new birth. Baptism is a symbol of true conversion, and unless conversion precedes baptism, the ceremony is meaningless.

 

Tips For Resisting Temptation

3 Nov
By Doug Batchelor—-
An Amazing Fact
A teenager in Virginia was shocked to find a two-headed turtle behind her home. She caught the poor creature and watched as the two freakish heads did a tug-of-war over a piece of food she gave them—or it! According to scientists, two-headedness can occur in all animals, but the lifespan is typically short. The reason is that each head tends to work independently of the other, controlling its own side of the body, and therefore creating disunity, confusion, and frustration. Unless one head takes primary control, the creature will soon die from starvation and indecision.
Introduction – Fundamental Truths
     Since the entrance of sin into the world, a war has been raging in every human heart between the spirit and the flesh. Every person desiring to serve God feels the battle between these two opposing masters. And Satan is always exploiting our physical and emotional desires to sever our relationship with the Lord. “Your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2 NKJV). The Bible begins with the serpent tempting Adam and Eve and follows with the world’s deterioration. The New Testament begins with Satan tempting Jesus and follows with the world’s salvation. When humanity fell after that first subtle temptation in the garden, it lost the pure loving motives with which it had been originally created. Selfishness took its place, and the result has been devastating: death, disease, war, crime, pain-the list goes on.
God has called us to holiness. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15, 16). But without supernatural aid, men and women are powerless to resist the evil desires and motives of the carnal heart.
Yet God will never ask us to do anything that we are incapable of doing without His help. He has not abandoned His rebellious creation, and He made complete and final provision for its restoration. The purpose of His plan of salvation is to restore within you and me the image of Christ, so that we might be called the sons of God. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:3, 4).
Many believe it is a sin to be tempted. This is not true. The Bible declares, “For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesuswas tempted in the wilderness, so it can’t possibly be a sin to be tempted. Rather, it is a sin to give into temptation. Shakespeare wrote, “Tis one thing to be tempted, Another thing to fall.” Christians must not allow the carnal nature to dictate what they do; they must allow the Spirit to direct their path and not the flesh.
If we truly want to follow Jesus, we can choose to resist those actions and thoughts that we know are contrary to His will. Thankfully, through Jesus, God has provided everything we need to successfully resist evil and be overcomers. So we might naturally ask ourselves, “Since I am a follower of Christ, what did Jesus do to resist temptation?” For one thing, He quoted the Bible. Knowledge of His Word makes for the first and best defense against temptation. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). Second, we need to pray! Even Jesus turned to prayer to resist temptation. “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38). I could easily expound on just these two basic points, prayer and the Word, to develop an entire book about fighting temptation. But instead, I want to use these fundamental truths as a foundation to highlight 12 practical keys to resist and overcome temptation. I also want to give you some Bible passages that you might recite, as Jesus did, when you are tempted. I believe this basic biblical ammunition, along with regular and sincere devotions, will mark your path with more consistent victory.
Remember the Reward
     “It’s easier to endure the darkness when you believe in the approaching day.”
I am certain that one reason people are so easily overcome by temptation is that they lose sight of their eternal perspective. If an angel appeared to you right now in all his brilliant glory and said, “Repent! Jesus is coming soon,” would it be easier for you to resist temptation—at least for the rest of the day? Sure, because your faith would be strengthened that your reward was real and near.
Hebrews 11:24-26 says, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Moses was in line to rule Egypt during the zenith of its power and wealth. That position of influence would be a terrible temptation for anyone. But Moses looked to God’s eternal reward and was able to resist the devil’s temporary earthly treasure.
Don’t forget the glory God has in store for you. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). It is so much easier to resist temptation if you believe you are really saved. If you mistakenly think you can work your way into being saved, you will actually erode your ability to resist. But when you believe you are saved, it’s a lot easier to behave like a son of God.
“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). It’s easy to resist a jellybean when you know you are on your way to a feast!
Believe in the Badness of Sin
     You also must remember how bad sin is—with or without a reward. Paul says “That sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful” (Romans 7:13). You need to truly know that sin is very ghastly, and if you need a reminder, go back about 2,000 years ago to Calvary and see what sin did to Jesus. As Christians, we can’t embrace sin because it is filthy, ugly, and deadly. Sin caused the death of our beloved Jesus.
The Bible says, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1 NKJV). We need go beyond the basic emotion of loving God. Like Job, a part of loving God is hating evil. God wants us to hate sin because He hates it. “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Psalm 119:104).
Don’t be deceived when the devil tries to portray sin as something desirable and attractive. He’s a genius at making something filthy and crooked look clean and harmless. But don’t be mislead, because that pretty picture will end up killing you. You need to come to the place where you love God so much that you would rather die than deliberately sin and grieve Him.
“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.”
Don’t Love Money
     I could write out a long list of individual temptations, but I’ve chosen to include money specifically because next to pride, it’s the big one. But the money I’m writing about isn’t so much about dollar bills as it is about the trap of materialism and power. I believe Christians should work hard, earning and saving and giving as much as they can. Yet there is a constant danger that money could become our god.
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9 NKJV). I’ve seen people make such foolish choices, like gambling away their savings, because they want to get rich quick. They keep yanking the slot-machine lever because the devil tells them that maybe if they drop in just one more quarter, they’ll hit it big. Not to mention that they’re throwing money away when it could be used for saving souls.
“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Serving God and your desire for money is impossible. Money is a power, and not all power is bad. Money can be a power to do good or evil—a double-edge sword. We pray in our churchesthat the Lord will bless our needs financially, but we don’t want to become slaves to loving money. If your heart is with your money, it can’t be with God. God has asked us to be prepared to leave our full nets, tax booth, and houses filled with possessions without looking back. “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
Get Ready to Flee
     Few speed records are broken when people run from temptation. Generally, they crawl away from temptation hoping it catches up with them. Sometimes temptation comes through a door we deliberately leave open. Suppose that you accidentally spilled kerosene all over your clothes and somebody nearby lit a match. Where would you go? As far away as you could and as fast as possible! That should be the attitude of a Christian toward temptation. Paul said, “Flee fornication” and “flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 6:18; 10:14). So flee from sin, and don’t leave a forwarding address.
Don’t miss this: When you run from temptation, you head toward God. “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:7). When you know something is sinful, don’t engage or banter with the devil, because he is the master of rationalization—that’s how Eve fell!
It breaks my heart when Christians try to justify their sins. There is no limit to the arguments with which the devil can supply you. As soon as you know something is wrong, flee! The bravest man runs from temptation; the fool flirts with it.
You also don’t want to wait until you get so old that all those desires of youth fade away and you deceive yourself into thinking you have gained the victory. “And desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home” (Ecclesiastes 12:5 NKJV). Your heart may still be corrupt. Flee now, actively. You must commit yourself to God while you can still experience His renovating grace in your life. Jesus’ power is sufficient even for our hot-blooded youth. Remember when Joseph was tempted, he fled from Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:12).
John Dryden said, “Better to shun the bait than struggle in the snare.”
Don’t Follow the Crowd
      A common reason Christians easily fall into temptation is the reasoning, “Everybody’s doing it, so it must be okay.” That’s the devil’s favorite “lemming logic.” It’s also why Peter denied Jesus. Just a few hours before betraying Jesus, Peter vowed, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matthew 26:35 NKJV). And when Peter made that statement surrounded by his friends, he was very sincere. But when Jesus was taken into the judgment hall, it was no longer popular to be with Christ. Peter gathered with Christ’s mockers around a campfire, and the longer he stayed, the easier it was to act and talk like Christ’s enemies.
By letting the crowd measure our values, we become like the crowd. And the Bible says the crowd is usually wrong. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat” (Matthew 7:13). Christians have to think for themselves. They must resist peer pressure—they have to be different. If a billion people believe a lie, it’s still a lie.
In the end-times, there’s going to be two very religious groups—one with the mark of the beast, the other with the seal of God. The former group will be the larger. Just because a large group of people is being religious, it does not mean it’s God’s group. Generally, the Bibleís great men and women are the ones standing for right when everyone else is bowing down.
Also keep in mind another reason to not follow the crowd is because the crowd is watching. While you don’t want to follow the crowd, you should live a life the crowd can look at. People are more impressed, and many have been converted, when they have seen Christians maintain their faith under pressure. One weak compromising act might spoil an entire lifetime of witness.
Plan to Stay Busy
     Hanging behind the check-out register in a Cincinnati candle shop is a large sign that reads: “There is a very good reason for this sign being here and you standing in front of it reading it. It is here to keep you busy. We realize how annoying it can be just standing around doing nothing, trying to find someone to help you. So, we have this sign here for you to read, and hope that by the time you finish reading it one of our salespeople will have found you.”      A little later it adds, “P.S. If not, please read this sign again.”
Most people hate to be idle because God created us for activity. You’ve heard the expression, “Idleness is the devil’s workshop.” That’s not a direct Bible quote, but Ezekiel 16:49, 50 comes close. “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters … therefore I took them away as I saw good.”
The sin of Sodom and Gomorrah wasn’t simply perversion and sexual immorality. The valley of Sodom was lush with vegetation and abundant with food. Life was easy for her inhabitants. Lot moved there because it offered him a life of leisure. But when a person doesn’t have anything to do, chances are the devil will help the carnal heart to concoct something evil. “Idleness is the parent of all vice.”
Sin begins in the human mind, which is designed to concentrate mainly on one thing at a time. If we stay busy, especially focused on doing something good like witnessing or helping the poor, we don’t have time to think about evil. E. G. White said, “Strength to resist evil is best gained through aggressive service.” One of the ways to stay out of trouble is to be aggressively involved in serving Jesus. After the fall, when God told Adam, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread,” it was intended to be a blessing for man to stay busy and out of trouble (Genesis 3:19). But an idle person tempts the devil to tempt him.
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15,16 NKJV). An Italian Proverb adds, “He that labors is tempted by one devil; he that is idle, by a thousand.”
Have a Plan!
     We often stumble into sin because when we see temptation coming, we just wait like a deer caught in the headlights to see what might happen when it arrives. But it’s better to be prepared in advance. Proverbs 22:3 advises, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished” (NKJV). A wise man surveys the road for potential trouble. If he spots a band of robbers, he thinks, “I’d better hide or change routes because I don’t want to be robbed!” But the fool says, “Wow. I think there are bandits down the road. I wonder what’s going to happen when they get here.”
Christians will often do that with temptation. We say, “I wonder if I’ll be tempted if I watch this program, read this magazine, or drink this stuff.” I think it was Ben Franklin who said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And Jesus said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:29). If you have an area of temptation you know will drag you down, take whatever advance measures of prevention you can, no matter how desperate, to keep from being overcome.
If you are trying to quit smoking, then avoid friends who smoke or places where you are more prone to be tempted. In the very least, plot a way of escape. If your temptation is overeating, make an advance decision to place an appropriate amount of food on your plate and plan to stop when it’s gone. Millions nibble their way into sin because they don’t think ahead. This leads me to the next point very well.
Know Thyself
     Alex was trying to save all the pennies he could to buy a new baseball bat, but he had a real struggle. One night as he said his prayers, he fervently requested, “O Lord, please help me save my money for a baseball bat. And, God, don’t let the ice cream man come down this street!”
A Spanish proverb instructs, “Be not a baker if your head be of butter.”
When someone joins Alcoholics Anonymous, he or she is first supposed to admit to being an alcoholic. This admission can represent a tremendous breakthrough, because the person recognizes their weakness. Likewise, it’s one of the first steps in becoming a Christian, to admit that we are a “sin-a-holic.”
“If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10). “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). The Bible says that we must not trust in our own strength. We must be very cautious when we begin to think we have a handle on a certain temptation and say, “It won’t bother me anymore. I’m strong enough. I’ve got the victory!” Thatís when we are especially in a position to fall. Some Christians are even proud of the areas they have overcome, but they’re only setting themselves up for the devil to knock them down. On the night of His betrayal, Jesus warned Peter: “This night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times” (Mark 14:30). But Peter boasted, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Mark 14:31). Jesus was warning Peter that he didn’t really know how weak he really was.
Even when you’re helping somebody else overcome weakness, you need to pray with him or her, but also recognize that you’re in danger of making the same mistake. When a rescuer is pulling a person from rushing water, they have to be careful that they don’t get pulled in too. So we must always be vigilant to recognize our weakness. “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Watch out for temptation—the more you see of it the better it looks!
Overcome Evil with Good
     We sometimes leave ourselves wide open to compromise when we fail to fill the vacuum left by forsaken bad habits. I have known people to gain victory over one addiction only to replace it with another because they did not find a positive substitute to fill the vacancy.
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).
If you are struggling with an eating disorder or food addiction, you can’t simply give up eating. The secret is to learn to “eat what is good” (Isaiah 55:2 NKJV). “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). If you have a problem nibbling chocolate through the day, buy some grapes or almonds. Have you even thrown away those cigarettes? Get a box of toothpicks or some sunflower seeds (but not chocolates).
If someone has insulted or cruelly used you, do not retaliate with evil but kindness. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink” (Romans 12:20 NKJV). Overcome evil with good. When a hawk is attacked by kingbirds, it does not make a counterattack, but soars higher and higher in ever widening circles until the tormentors leave it alone.
Care for Your Health
     Temptation often comes not at our strongest moments, but during our weakest. When we are at the limits of our strength, patience, love, and health, we are tempted to be un-Christian. Beware; Jesus’ temptation began after 40 days of fasting. He was tired and hungry. When Peter denied Jesus, he was also very tired.
Our ability to resist basic temptations might be greatly influenced by everything from regular exercise, or lack of, to body hormones. Often when we are sick or when our reserves are drained, we react in negative ways. Most marital arguments occur at the end of the day when one or both spouses are tired and hungry. Get enough sleep and eat good food at regular times. One of my favorite authors also advises, “By the indulgence of perverted appetite, man loses his power to resist temptation.” Excessive sweets can give you a temporary rush only to be followed by feelings of depression and irritability.
You may not always be able to avoid fatigue or hunger, but if a soldier is passing through a minefield, he is much more careful where he steps. Avoid sensitive discussions or demanding tasks during these volatile times. Jesus said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). But that does not mean we should not try to do everything in our power to improve our health and as a result improve our moral resolve. A good night’s rest, a little exercise, and nutritious breakfast can make you feel like you’re ready to take on Goliath.
Recognize Your Escape
     When boarding a plane, I make a mental note of emergency exit locations. I’m not paranoid, just prudent. For me, the very best means for overcoming temptation is recognizing that God has provided a way of escape for every one of us. Remember this passage: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Now that’s some very good news. We don’t have to rely on our shaky faith; we can rely on God because He is faithful!
Now when you are tempted, you can say, “God is measuring what He allows the devil to bring against me, and I’m able to handle it with His grace.” You never have to say, “I can’t bear to resist the devil any longer.” By saying that, you’d be calling God a liar!
The Egyptians pursued the children of Israel from behind, and as they fled they also found that mountains were on both sides and river lay in front of them. It seemed like a very hopeless situation. But God had promised that He would be faithful, and He provided a way of escape. The Bible is full of stories like these that seemed hopeless, but God was faithful. And He’ll use even dramatic rescue attempts to help you. When it looked like there was no food to feed the crowd following Jesus, God was faithful to bring food even out of heaven for the followers.
So every time you think, “I don’t see any way out,” remember these stories and make up your mind to trust God and watch for His way of escape. Even with the most devilish temptation at your doorstep, say, “I’m going to trust God. I’m going to do the right thing.” God will make an escape for you.
Surviving a Fall
     In 1944 over Germany, Flight Sergeant Alkemade jumped from his blazing bomber and fell headlong 18,000 feet. He survived without a scratch because his fall was broken by snow covered fir trees on a slope.
I’ve saved for last what I believe to be the most important key to overcoming temptation. You already know that Jesus is able to keep you from falling (Jude 1:24). But if you do fall, don’t stay down.
If you are in Christ, you have the greatest power to resist wrong. To abide in Him is to abide in His Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Noah, Enoch, and Abraham walked with God. And you can do the same today by getting on your knees and petition for strength. God will send every angel in heaven to save you from sin, rather than let a trusting child fall when pleading for His help. But we must choose to follow Jesus, rather than the lies of the devil. God has made us free moral agents, and the devil cannot make us sin.
By God’s grace, you and I can resist every temptation through His Spirit. But remember that if you do fall, don’t give up. Many people who fall down, stay down. They say, “Oh well. I’m lost now; I may as well surrender to every other temptation.” God can help you recover lost territory, and He will save you from future temptations. You might need to spend three days sorrowing and searching just like Joseph and Mary when they lost Jesus, but He will be waiting for you in His Father’s house.
The devil may dishearten you with his wicked whisperings saying, “I know you! I tempted you, and you did it! You’re no good. You call yourself a Christian, but you’re just a hypocrite. In fact, you aren’t even saved!” But I believe the Christian life is progressive. The Bible promises, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1). If you sin, and we all do, don’t give up. If the devil tricks you, and you fall down, don’t stay down. Don’t let your past failures be an excuse for future compromise. God can help you overcome everything. You just take it one day and one step at a time.
Steps in One
     Summarizing all these steps is actually very easy. The most precious way to overcome any temptation has to be because you love God. You know that sin hurts God, and when tempted you need to say out loud, “I can’t do that because I love God.”
Erwin W. Lutzer said, “Our response to temptation is an accurate barometer of our love for God.” The more you love Jesus, the less the attractions of the devil will hold sway over you. Remember how much Jesus loves you by remembering the cross when you are tempted, and then return that love by resisting the evil before you.
We’re all tempted, but the Lord has promised that we can be overcomers through the “exceeding great and precious promises” found in the Scriptures. Jesus will teach us how to overcome. The devil could not make Jesus sin, nor can he make us. Give great thanks to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:57). Ask Him for overcoming power, and joyfully dive into the pages of His Word.

Who Is Michael The Archangel?

2 Nov
AN AMAZING FACT
When King Humbert of Italy inherited the throne, Naples teetered on the verge of insurrection against the monarchy. Politicians urged violent measures to force the people into submission, but the king did not allow this. Then cholera suddenly broke out in the city, and the dreaded disease raged with fury. The young king, ignoring the warnings of his advisers, left the palace and went alone through Naples’ crowded hospitals. Moved with devotion and love for even his disloyal subjects, he ministered to them with his own hand. Many suffering people breathed prayers of gratitude to this young medical servant, not knowing he was the very king they spurned. When the plague was finally checked, many learned the true identity of the noble nurse who had cared for them. Naples then became a conquered city—not by force, but by the love and pity of the monarch it once refused. From then on, the people of Naples became Humbert’s most loyal subjects.
The Michael Enigma
Questions frequently arise in Christian circles about the true identity of the mysterious biblical character known as Michael, sometimes called “Michael the archangel” and “Michael the Great Prince.” Some claim that Michael is the highest of the heavenly angels, one of the covering cherubs, or a special messenger like Gabriel. And therefore, he is a created being. Others, such as Bible commentator Matthew Henry, assert that Michael is simply another of the many names for Jesus Himself. Can we know the real identity of this mysterious being? Obviously, the key to deciphering this puzzling question is found in the Scriptures. “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little” Isaiah 28:10.
A quick look in a Bible concordance reveals that there are 15 references to the name Michael in Scripture. Ten of these are simply people named Michael. In fact, the entry for “Michael” in the lexicon a Greek and/or Hebrew dictionary states, “The name of an archangel and nine Israelites.” It is the identity of Michael, the archangel and prince, mentioned in the last five references that we seek in this important study.
The first three of these references to Michael are in the Old Testament book of the prophet Daniel. The last two are mentioned in the New Testament books of Jude and Revelation. With an honest study and comparison of these and other verses, clues quickly emerge that lead us to an inescapable conclusion of Michael’s true identity He is none other than Jesus—He is not a created angel or cherub, but this name is another of the many grand titles for God’s eternal Son!
At first glance, the Old Testament appears to portray Michael as a prince, and the New Testament describes Him as an archangel. But by looking at other related Scriptures where similar language and wording are used, we will see an interesting pattern emerge. Warning
Before you proceed any further, please carefully read and digest this next thought. Because the word “angel” means messenger, it is used very freely and broadly in Scripture. Sometimes, men are called angels in the Bible 1 Samuel 29:9 Galatians 4:14. And sometimes angels are called men Genesis 32:24. And in other places, as will be soon shown, God Himself is identified as an angel! Of course, even angels are called angels.
Typically, when a person thinks of an angel, they picture one of the many levels of winged, ministering spirits known as angels, seraphim, or cherubim. Unlike Jesus, these celestial beings are created. There are some cults that teach that Jesus, before His earthly incarnation, was really just a powerful angel that had a feud with His wayward fellow angel Lucifer. In turn, this means that Jesus is a created being who has been promoted by the Father and therefore not the eternal God as Christians accept. This study categorically rejects that view. Jesus is, and always has been, God’s eternal Son and indeed God Himself. Any comparison made to Jesus as an angel in this study is simply in the classical sense as a greatest messenger of salvation and is in no way intended to diminish from His eternal divinity.
The Key Is in the Name
     First, let’s consider the meaning of some words and names. In the Greek New Testament, the word “angel” means “messenger,” and “arch” means “chief, principle, greatest, or highest.” So “archangel” simply means “highest or greatest messenger.” The Hebrew name “Michael,” found in the Old Testament, means “who is like God” or sometimes it forms a question: “Who is like God?” So the title Michael the archangel can be translated as “The greatest messenger who is God.” Whether this name is a question, statement, or a challenge will be clear by further study. One angel did profess to be like God. That covering cherub fallen from the heavenly courts is Lucifer, who became the devil or Satan, by claiming to “be like the most High” Isaiah 14:14. In Revelation 12:7, Satan is opposed by “Michael and his angels” and is cast out of heaven.
The Angel of the Lord
     The phrase “angel of the Lord” is found 68 times in Scripture. Sometimes it applies to Gabriel who appeared to Daniel, Zacharias, and Mary. But Gabriel is called “an” angel of the Lord (Luke 1:11). He is not referred to as “the” angel of the Lord. Neither is he ever called the archangel. (And while we’re on the subject, the popular angel Raphael does not appear anywhere in Scripture.) Gabriel is probably one of the two covering cherubs who flank the throne of God. Remember that he said to Zacharias, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God,” (Luke 1:19). Lucifer once held the other position before his fall (Ezekiel 28:14). If the highest rank held by an angel is that of the covering cherubs by the throne of God then who and what is an archangel? And who is this mighty individual identified as “the angel of the Lord” who performs such prominent roles in the redemption of man?
God the Father created all things through Jesus (Hebrews 1:2; Ephesians 3:9). It is not implausible to assume that if Christ came to earth and became a man in His battle against Satan to save human beings, He might also have in some way identified with the angels to protect them from Satan’s evil influence in heaven. In fact, there are several references in Scripture to a mysterious being identified as “the angel of the Lord” before Christ’s earthly incarnation. Yet each time He is mentioned, there are clues to His identity. Let’s review them briefly in the order in which they appear.
Hagar
     After Hagar the handmaid of Abraham bore Ishmael, she and the barren Sarah could no longer coexist peacefully. Sarah dealt severely with her now haughty hand- maid until Hagar fled into the desert. “And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness” (Genesis 16:7). The angel told Hagar to go back and submit to Sarah and promised that her son, Ishmael, would be the father of a great nation. When the “angel” disappeared, Hagar “called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me” (verse 13). It appears Hagar recognized that the “angel of the Lord” who had spoken to her was really God. But keep reading; it gets clearer!
Abraham
     God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on mount Moriah. Just as he was about to plunge the dagger into his son of promise, the angel of the Lord stopped him. “And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham:’ and he said, ‘Here am I.’ And he said, ‘Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me'” (Genesis 22:11, 12).
It is clear that Abraham was offering his son to God and not to a mere angel. “And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, ‘By myself have I sworn,’ saith the Lord, ‘for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, … because thou hast obeyed my voice'” (Genesis 22:15-18). In recounting this experience of Abraham in Acts 3:25, Peter also identifies this “angel of the Lord” who made a covenant with the Patriarch as God.
Jacob
     While fleeing from his angry brother Esau, Jacob had a dream in which God confirmed the covenant of Abraham to him. After receiving assurance that God would be with him and bring him back safely to his home in Canaan, Jacob vowed to return to God a tithe of all his increase. He set up the stone he had been using for a pil- low and anointed it with oil to solemnize his vow. Then he named the place Beth-el, or house of God, since God had appeared to him there.
Twenty years later, Jacob was on his way back home, not a penniless fugitive, but a wealthy man. God decided to remind Jacob who had really brought him success. Here’s how Jacob recounted the story: “And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I” (Genesis 31:11). In verse 13, this “angel of God” identifies Himself: “I am the God of Beth-el, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me.”
Then, when Jacob wrestled with a heavenly being (Genesis 32:22-32), he was given a new name and blessed him. Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (verse 30). In the New Testament, Jesus is the one who blesses His people and gives them a new name (Matthew 5:3-12; Revelation 2:17). As you can see, it is becoming increas- ingly clear that the angel of the Lord is Jesus Himself.
When Jacob was on his deathbed blessing Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, he used the terms “angel” and “God” interchangeably. “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads” (Genesis 48:15, 16).
The Scriptures are very clear there is neither a redeemer nor savior but God. “I, even I, am the LORD, And besides Me there is no savior; Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer” (Isaiah 43:11, 14). Once again we see that the angel who redeemed Jacob is another name for our Redeemer, Jesus!
Moses
     Moses saw a burning bush that was not consumed. “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (Exodus 3:2). Verse 4 identifies this angel: “God called unto him out of the midst of the bush.” And in verse 6 He identifies Himself again. “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” The angel of the Lord identifies Himself as God!
In his last sermon before he was stoned to death, Stephen agrees with the Exodus account. “And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the Lord came unto him, Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Acts 7:30-32).
Israel
     In another instance, the children of Israel were led through the wilderness by God. “And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night” (Exodus 13:21). Moses later describes this being that led them this way: “And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them” (Exodus 14:19). Again, “the angel of God” is identified as God.
Balaam
     The angel of the Lord again figures prominently in the story of Balaam and his talking donkey. It is this angel who saves the donkey from her merciless master and nearly kills the covetous prophet, who is on his way to curse God’s people (Numbers 22:21-35). After Balaam’s close brush with death, “the angel of the Lord said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shall speak” (verse 35). The next chapter reveals who put the words in the prophet’s mouth: “And God met Balaam: … And the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus shalt thou speak” (Numbers 23:4, 5). Here again, “the angel of the Lord” turns out to be God Himself.
Judges
     Now let’s move on to the book of Judges, where we read, “And an ‘angel of the LORD’ came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you” (2:1). By now we should recognize a pattern. Just who brought the Israelites out of Egypt and made the covenant with Israel that He would never break—the angel of the Lord or pre-incarnate son of GOD Himself? Yes! The answer is both, one and the same.
Gideon
     Gideon has an encounter with the angel of the Lord in the book of Judges. The angel tells Gideon that the Lord is with him. Gideon points to the oppression of Israel by the Midianites as evidence to the contrary. “And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee?” (Judges 6:14). Throughout the rest of the narrative, the person speaking to Gideon is identified interchangeably as the Lord, the angel of the Lord, and the angel of God.
Manoah
     Samson’s mother, the wife of Manoah, was barren. “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman” (Judges 13:3). This angel told her she would bear a son who would deliver the apostate Israelites from their heathen oppressors. She quickly called Manoah, who prayed for another visit from the “man of God.” When the angel came the second time, Manoah asked him his name. The King James says that the angel told Manoah that his name was “Secret,” with a margin notation that translates it as “Wonderful.” This immediately makes us think of Isaiah’s familiar prophecy that Jesus would be called, “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The name “Wonderful” for the angel of the Lord who appeared to Manoah connects this “angel” with the coming Messiah who was to be called “Wonderful.”
Once again, after seeing this “Wonderful messenger,” Manoah declared they had seen God. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, because we have seen God!” (Judges 13:22).
No One has Seen the Father
     Suddenly we have more leads than we can follow! We can clearly see that “angel of the Lord” is frequently identified to be God Himself. But the Bible states, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1:18). John 6:46 also tells us, “Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.” Obviously, since no man has seen God the Father, all of these Old Testament sightings of God as the “angel of the Lord” must have been Jesus, God the Son, veiling His glory so they could endure His presence without being consumed.
The Angel of the Covenant
     One of the most famous messianic prophecies is found in Malachi 3:1: “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.”
The messenger of the covenant spoken of here in Malachi is clearly a reference to the advent of Jesus Christ. The word translated as messenger (mal’ak) is the same exact word used in the previous Old Testament passages translated as angel of the Lord. So this would also be a proper translation: “Behold, I will send my angel, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the angel of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. What could be clearer?
Rebuking the Accuser
     There is one more important reference in which the angel of the Lord appears in the Old Testament. The prophet Zechariah was given a vision of Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord. Satan is standing at his right hand to resist him. Here we see two adversaries contending over a sinful human being. Joshua’s filthy garment symbolizes his sin. (Zechariah 3:3).
In this narrative, the name changes quickly from “the angel of the Lord” (verse 1) to “the Lord” (verse 2), indicating again that they are the same. Then the Lord makes an interesting statement. “And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan” (Zechariah 3:2). There is only one other place in Scripture, Jude 9, where this sen- tence is found—and Michael the archangel speaks it!
In the short epistle of Jude, we witness a vignette similar to Joshua and the angel in Zechariah. “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (Jude 1:9). The situations are amazingly parallel: Christ and Satan are contending over the fate of two of God’s great human leaders (a living one in the case of Joshua, and a dead one in the case of Moses). The debate is ended abruptly when Jesus says, “The Lord rebuke thee.”
This passage raises another valid question. Some people are confused by part of this verse in Jude 1:9 where Michael rebukes the devil. They wonder: If Michael is really another name for Jesus, then why does he invoke the name of the Lord when rebuking Satan? Why not do it Himself as He did when tempted in the wilderness. “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan” (Matthew 4:10).
In studying the Scriptures and language of Jesus, we quickly see it was a very common practice for Jesus to speak of Himself in the second person, as in Luke 18:8: “Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” And if there is still any lingering question, we have this other clear Scripture in Zechariah 3:2, where the Lord does the same thing Michael does in Jude. He invokes His own name when rebuking the devil. “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, Satan!'” Perhaps these Scriptures are examples of God the Son, appealing to the name of His Father in rebuking Satan.
Michael the Prince
     Michael is mentioned more in Daniel than in any other book in Scripture. (See Daniel 10:13; 10:21; 12:1.) In all three references, He is called a prince—your prince and the great prince. Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah (Isaiah 9:6) reveals oneof the key names he says that would apply to the Messiah is “Prince of Peace.”
There is another verse in Daniel 8:25 where the “Prince of princes” is mentioned. Again, the cosmic conflict is being played out with Christ on one side and the devil on the other, with humanity serving as the battlefield. “Prince of princes” is actually the same term that is translated “prince of the host” in verse 11. This is similar to “Lord of lords” (Psalm 136:3), “God of gods” (Deuteronomy 10:17), and “King of kings” (Revelation 19:16). All these are titles of deity. He is even referred to as “Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 9:25).
Who is this being that the angels call the Great Prince? Let’s let the Bible tell us.
Isaiah 9:6: “And his name shall be called …The Prince of Peace.”
Acts 3:14, 15: “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and … killed the Prince of life.”
Acts 5:30, 31: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and  hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour.”
Revelations 1:5: “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth.”
These verses clearly echo with three verses in Daniel in which Michael is called a “prince.”
Is Michael Only One of Many?
Daniel 10:13 is probably the most difficult verse regarding Michael: “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” It appears at first glance that Michael is only “one of” the chief princes. This is an unfortunate translation in the King James. The word “one” comes from the Hebrew word “echad,” which is also frequently translated as “first,” as in the president’s wife being called “first lady.” (See Genesis 1:5; 8:13.) This changes the whole meaning of the verse to Michael being first of, greatest or highest of, to the chief of princes—again a reference to Jesus. The prince of the kingdom of Persia who withstood the angel was no doubt the devil who frequently appears working in the shadow of earthly monarchs such as the king of Babylon, the king of Tyre, and the Roman power (Isaiah 14:4, Ezekiel 28:2, Revelation 12:4). And remember that Jesus calls Satan “the prince of this world” (John 12:31).
Daniel 10:21 says, “But I will show thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and there is none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.” Notice here that the angel refers to Michael as your Prince. Who was Daniel’s prince? In the previous chapter, we see the answer. In Daniel 9:25, Daniel’s Messiah is called the prince, which is another clear indication of Michael’s identity! So Gabriel is saying that Michael the archangel is Jesus, who knows all the truth of Scripture. Michael Stands Up
The final reference to Michael in Daniel is in chapter 12: “And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people.” Notice here that Michael is not called a great prince but “the great prince.” Is there any prince greater then Jesus? He is also identified as the one who “standeth for the children of thy people.” This means that He intercedes, defends and even stands as a substitute. Who could this be other then Jesus?
Commenting on this verse, Matthew Henry states: “Michael signifies, ‘Who is like God,’ and his name, with the title of ‘the great Prince,’ points out the Divine Savior. Christ stood for the children of our people in their stead as a sacrifice, bore the curse for them, to bear it from them. He stands for them in pleading for them at the throne of grace.” Jesus is clearly the one who always stands in our place and for our defense.
Michael standing up is also a reference to the Lord preparing to come. Notice that Michael is so exalted and powerful, his standing launches the great time of trouble. This in turn is followed by the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection (Daniel 12:2).
The Voice of Michael
     If we isolate and examine the word “archangel,” we see another interesting match. The only other passage in the Bible that uses the word “archangel” is 1 Thessalonians 4:16. And note its context: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” It is the voice of the archangel that raises the dead in Christ, and the Lord Himself who shouts it. This indicates that they are one and the same. Jesus is the one who shouts with the voice of the archangel, or “greatest messenger,” to raise the dead!
Obviously, angels don’t have the power to resurrect the dead. Only God who gives life has the power to restore it. “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself. … Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth” (John 5:26, 28, 29).
In Jude, we see the archangel contending with the devil for the body of Moses, who, incidentally, was resurrected and taken to heaven from whence he appeared on the mount of transfiguration to encourage Christ (Mark 9). In 1 Thessalonians, the apostle Paul describes the resurrection as happening in response to the voice of the archangel. Again we see the parallel between these two verses; both describe the archangel in the act of resurrecting.
Worshiping the Commander
     In Revelation, Michael is portrayed as leading the heavenly hosts, or armies, in the war against the rebellious Lucifer that took place. “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels” (Revelation 12:7). Here the term “dragon” is a symbolic name for Satan, the leader of evil (verse 9), so it is very safe to assume that Michael is another emblematic name for Jesus, the embodiment and leader of good. But there is more evidence.
Just as Israel was preparing for its first battle after crossing into the Promised Land, Joshua had an encounter with an unusual warrior. “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so” (Joshua 5:13-15). Not only did Joshua worship this being, but the heavenly captain received his worship. If he had been a mere angel, he would have rebuked Joshua just like the angel rebuked John for trying to worship him (see Revelation 19:10; 22:8, 9).
In each case in which the angel of the Lord accepts worship, it is clearly the Son of God. But where regular, created angels are worshiped, they refuse it! Even Jesus reminded Satan in the wilderness, “For it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Luke 4:8).
In fact, all the created angels are commanded to worship Jesus as they did during His first advent. “And again, when he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him” (Hebrews 1:6). The devil is infuriated because he knows that someday even he will be compelled to acknowledge Jesus as king and worship Him. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10, 11).
Notice the striking connection that even Paul makes between an angel of God and Jesus. “You received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” (Galatians 4:14). The phrase “Lord of hosts” appears 245 times in the Bible, and it refers to the “commander of God’s angelic army.” So the “captain of the Lord’s host” that Joshua saw was not an angel, but Jesus Himself. That explains why He demanded that Joshua remove his shoes. The place was holy because Jesus was there, just as Jesus’ presence at the burning bush made that ground holy for Moses. So Michael, the captain of the Lord’s host, or army, is another title for Jesus.
Who is as God!
     When Philip asks Jesus to show the disciples the Father, Christ responded: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). Some think that God’s Son waited 4,000 years to personally intervene in the affairs of man. Not so! Though it is true that the incarnation occurred 4,000 years after man’s fall, God the Son has been personally involved in the history and affairs of His people. This is why Jesus said; “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Jesus appeared personally to Abraham when the Patriarch interceded for Lot (Genesis 18:26).
What a wonderful truth that Jesus, God’s eternal Son, has ever been actively occupied in watching over, providing for, and protecting His children! He spoke face to face with Abraham and Moses and wrestled with Jacob. He led the Israelites through the wilderness, providing food and water and victory against their enemies.
Remember that the title “Michael the archangel” means “The greatest messenger who is as God.” It was Jesus, “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), who brought the greatest message of hope, the gospel, to our perishing world!
Conclusion
     In conclusion, we see this majestic and mysterious being, sometimes called Michael, sometimes the angel of the Lord, sometimes the commander of the Lord’s army, veiling His divinity and appearing in the form of a humble angel. Yet this same enigmatic being has the power, authority and attributes that belong only to God. He evicts the devil from heaven; He resurrects the dead; He intercedes for the saints; He judges and then stands, launching the great time of trouble. He redeems the saints and receives their worship. He offers us a new name.
Now you may know who Michael is, but the devil knows too, and it won’t save him. The big question is: Do you know Him as Jesus your personal Lord and savior?

Is Sunday Really Sacred?

19 Oct

 

A Wrong Turn

 

One of David’s most beautiful prayers is recorded in Psalm 43:3. “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.”

This same earnest petition to understand God’s Word should be in the heart of every sincere seeker for truth. A willingness to learn and to obey must characterize all of those who expect to be enlightened by the Holy Spirit. To such, the beautiful promise of the beatitude will be fulfilled. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

But it does no good to pray for the truth if we have no intention to obey it when God answers our prayer. One of the greatest favors God can bestow upon us is to give knowledge of His Word. And the most presumptuous thing anybody can do is to pray for an understanding of God’s will and then refuse to obey, for any reason whatsoever, when the answer comes.

Many people are guilty of pulling the Bible down to match their poor, weak experi­ence, instead of bringing their experience up to meet the requirements of the Word. There is only one great decisive test of truth, and that is the Bible. Every religious thought, every book we read, and every sermon we hear should be measured by the infallible rule of the inspired Scriptures. It does not matter what we were taught as children, or what the majority is following, or what our emotions lead us to think or believe. Those factors are invalid as a test of absolute truth. The ultimate question must be answered: What does the Word of God say on the subject?

Some people think that if they are sincere in what they believe, God will accept them and save them. However, sincerity alone is not enough. One can be sincere, and be sincerely wrong. I remember driving to West Palm Beach, Florida, several years ago. At least I thought I was going there. It was night, and I had not seen any road signs for quite awhile. Suddenly my car lights picked up a sign that read, “Belle Glade 14 miles.” Heartsick, I realized that I was traveling in the opposite direction from West Palm Beach. I was on the wrong road. No one could have been more sincere than I was that night, but I was sincerely wrong. Now, I could have continued down the road saying that somehow, somewhere up ahead I might find West Palm Beach. Instead, I turned the car around and went back to the place where I took the wrong turn and got on the right road leading to West Palm Beach. That was the only right thing to do.

 

Closed Minds and Majority Rule

 

God’s Word has a lot to say to those who are willing to be corrected. The people to be the most pitied are those who have closed minds. They will resist any information that varies from their personal views. Their minds are made up, and they don’t want to be bothered by the facts. This is especially true concerning the subject of the Sabbath.

Multitudes have inherited opinions about the day to be observed weekly, and they find it very difficult to look objectively at any other viewpoint. Many of them know that one of the Ten Commandments requires the keeping of the seventh day of the week. They also know that the seventh day is Saturday. Yet they tenaciously follow the tradition of observing a different day from the one God commanded. They worship on Sunday, the first day of the week, for which there is no biblical command.

Why do they do it? Most Sunday keepers have simply accepted the practice of the religious majority in the community where they were raised; assuming that it has to be right because so many are doing it. Is this a safe assumption? Has the majority usually been right in religious matters?

The Bible clearly answers these questions in the negative. Every available source of information reveals that in religious matters, at least, the majority has always been wrong. Jesus Himself said, “And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man” (Luke 17:26). Only eight people went into the ark to be saved from the flood. Christ taught that only a comparable few would be saved at the end of the world. Said He, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:13, 14).

It is very true that the great majority of Christians today, including many famous evangelists and theologians, are keeping Sunday instead of the seventh-day Sabbath. That fact alone should not over impress anyone.Taken by itself, in the light of Christ’s words, it should raise a flag of warning. Truth has never been popular with the masses. And those in the majority today, as in all past ages, are not really looking for truth as much as they are looking for a smooth, easy, comfortable religion that will allow them to live as they want to live.

What, then, should be the test of the Sabbath truth? Just one thing, and one thing only—the Word of God. Unfortunately, millions have never studied the Bible for themselves on this subject. I propose that we test the Sunday-keeping practice of this majority group and find out if it is correct. If it is biblical, then all of us should accept it and faithfully keep every Sunday. If the Scriptures do not support it, then we should diligently search the Word until we find the day that our Lord has endorsed for us to keep.

The most honest way I know to approach this subject is to take a look at absolutely everything that the Bible says about the first day of the week. There are only eight texts in the New Testament that refer to Sunday, and by carefully studying these verses we can be certain that all the evidence for consideration is before us. If there is any biblical authority for keeping the first day of the week, it will have to be found in one of these verses.

Are we willing to face the consequences of this kind of exhaustive study? Here is where our prejudice will be tested! Can we open our minds completely to whatever this objective search reveals? These are not trick questions. Personally, I do not care which day is found to be the Sabbath. If the Bible teaches it, I will gladly keep Monday, Thursday, Friday, or Sunday. Long ago, I decided to be a Christian and to follow the Word of God wherever it would lead, regardless of my feelings. It makes no difference to me which day I keep holy, as long as it is the one commanded in the Bible! I hope you feel the same way as we begin our examination of every single reference in the New Testament that mentions the first day of the week.

 

Resurrection on Sunday

 

Let’s begin with the first Gospel. Matthew writes, “In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre” (Matthew 28:1). Here we have some very interesting proof that the Sabbath could not possibly be the first day of the week. According to this recordthe Sabbath was ending when the first day was beginning. They are two successive days. Based on Scripture no one could truthfully call Sunday the Sabbath. It would be both confusing and unbiblical.

The substance of Matthew’s testimony is simply that the women came at dawn on the day following the Sabbath and found that Jesus was already risen. This harmonizes perfectly with the next Gospel, which adds a few more details. Notice that Mark equates the dawn with “the rising of the sun.” He wrote, “And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepul­chre?” (Mark 16:1–3).

These parallel Gospel accounts clear up a common misconception that has arisen over the meaning of Matthew’s words “as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week.” Some have interpreted this to be just before sundown on Saturday evening. Since the Hebrew reckoning would establish the end of the Sabbath at sunset, they assume that the women came just before the first day was ushered in at sundown.

Here we see the value of comparing text with text. Mark’s words make it impossible to hold the view that the women came Saturday night and found the tomb empty. He lists the very same women as coming at sunrise Sunday morning, but they were asking the question, “Who shall roll us away the stone?” Obviously, if they had been there the night before and discovered an empty tomb, they would have known that the stone was already removed from the door. Thus, we can understand clearly that Matthew’s “dawn” is referring to the early morning visit at sunrise on Sunday morning.

The third New Testament reference to the first day is a simple narrative statement in Mark 16:9, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.” Little comment is needed here, because the verse is only repeating the same story of the resurrection early on Sunday morning. The important thing to note is that nothing is said in any of these texts about the first day of the week being holy. There is no intimation of anyone observing the day in honor of the resurrection.

 
Locating the True Sabbath

One of the most complete word pictures of resurrection events is found in the Gospel of Luke, and here we read the fourth reference to the first day of the week. “This man (Joseph of Arimathaea) went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on” (Luke 23:52–54).

Before reading further, let us carefully examine the inspired description of this crucifixion day. The vast Christian majority agrees that these events transpired on the day we now call Good Friday. Here it is called the “preparation” day, because it was a time for making special arrangements for the approaching Sabbath. In fact, the text states very simply “the sabbath drew on.” This means that it was coming up next.

What else happened on that day Jesus died? “And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how his body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment” (Verses 55, 56).

During the rest of that fateful Friday, the devoted women bought the anointing materials and made further preparation for their Sunday morning visit to the tomb. Then, as the Sabbath was ushered in at sunset, they “rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” This identifies that holy day as the specific weekly Sabbath of the Ten Commandments and not the Passover or some other feast-sabbath that could have fallen on any day of the week.

The next verse tells what the women did on the day following the Sabbath. “Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre” (Luke 24:1, 2).

First, we notice that the women came to do their regular labor on the day of the resurrection. Modern churches refer to that particular first day of the week as Easter Sunday. There can be no doubt that Jesus was raised sometime during the dark hours of that early morning. In none of the Gospel recitals do we have any evidence that the women, or anyone else, attached any sacredness to the day on which the resurrection took place.

Luke’s account of that eventful weekend proves beyond any question that the true seventh-day Sabbath can still be precisely located. He describes the sequence of events over three successive days—Friday, Saturday, and Sun­day. Jesus died on the preparation day, and the Sabbath was approaching. Christians now refer to it as Good Friday. The next day was the Sabbath “according to the commandment.” Since the commandment plainly designates that “the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord,” that Sabbath had to be Saturday.

It is very interesting to note that Jesus rested in the tomb on the Sabbath from His work of redemption, just as He had rested from His work of creation on the Sabbath.

On the day following the Sabbath, Jesus rose. Today it is referred to as Easter Sunday, but the Bible designates it “the first day of the week.” In the light of these indisputable, historical facts to which all Christianity subscribes, no one can plead ignorance of the true Sabbath. It is the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Luke’s record is such a perfect chronological account of those three days that even the most simple and uneducated can locate the biblical seventh day on our modern calendar.

Now we are prepared to examine the fifth New Testament statement concerning Sunday. “The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre” (John 20:1). There is very little new information in John’s description of the resurrection. Like all the other writers he gives no indication whatsoever that the first day of the week was ever counted holy or kept holy by anyone. So far, the significant common thread in all the Gospel stories has been a total absence of such evidence

 
For Fear of the Jews

John mentions the “first day” again in the same chapter, and this has often been misin­terpreted as a reference to Sunday worship. “Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you” (John 20:19).

Even though this gathering behind locked doors took place on the same day as the resurrection, was it a special commemoration of that event? The circumstances make it impossible for such to be the case. The text plainly states that they were gathered there “for fear of the Jews.” The frightened disciples had already learned that the tomb was empty, and they expected shortly to be charged with stealing away the body of Jesus. They huddled together in the locked room for protection and reassurance.

The fact is that they did not believe Christ had been resurrected from the dead. Mark’s account reveals that they totally rejected the testimony of Mary and the other disciples who brought word of actually seeing the resurrected Lord. “And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them. Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen” (Mark 16:10–14).

Based on these words, we must quietly pass over that embarrassing Sunday afternoon meeting in the closed room. It was not an occasion of unrestrained joy over the resurrection, as some have portrayed it. In fact, there was not even any recognition on the part of the disciples that a miracle had taken place. They were fearful, depressed, and unbelieving. When Jesus appeared to them He spoke words of strong rebuke because of their lack of faith and because they had rejected the testimony of their own companions. How misleading it is to make this a happy memorial service honoring the resurrection!

Thus far, we have carefully studied six of the eight New Testament references without finding a single instance of Sunday observance. In fact, every one of them reveals a consistent, total ignorance of any recognition of the first day of the week for worship, prayer, rest, or honoring the resurrection. The Gospels were written several years after the events transpired, giving many opportunities to the Holy Spirit to inspire the authors with the full facts. Jesus told His disciples that the work of that Spirit was to “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). If first-day observance had been any part of truth, then the Holy Spirit would have been divinely obligated to reveal it to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. So said our Lord.

Now we turn to the two remaining references. If we find no evidence in these texts, we will have to abandon the search, for there is nowhere else to look. Paul and Luke are the final witnesses who mention the first day of the week, and both of them have been grossly misrepresented in what they said.

No Sunday-keeping in Corinth

In 1 Corinthians 16:1, 2, Paul wrote: “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come … whomsoever ye shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.”

Please carefully notice what the apostle said, and what he did not say. Many have assumed that a religious meeting was held and a collection plate passed. This is not the case. Paul was writing special appeals to the churches in Asia Minor, because many of the Christians in Jerusalem were suffering greatly for lack of food and daily necessities. Paul asked the church at Corinth to gather food, clothing, etc., and store it up at home until he could send men to transport it to Jerusalem. The expression “lay by him in store” in the original Greek gives the clear connotation of putting aside at home. Even Sunday advocates agree to this.

There was no service held on the first day of the week. The gathering up and storing was to be done on that day. Why did Paul suggest that this work be done on Sunday, and what was involved in getting it done?

First, the letter would have been shared with the church on the Sabbath when they were all gathered for worship. The first opportunity to do the work would be the next day—the first day of the week. Keep in mind that there was an apparent food shortage in Jerusalem, and the need was not primarily for money. Such famine conditions were not unusual in areas of the Middle East, as Luke reminds us in Acts 11:28–30.

The church in Rome gives a clue as to the special needs of those suffering Christians. “But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things. When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain” (Romans 15:25–28).

Here the apostle touches a tender spot in his eloquent appeal. The Roman Christians owed a great debt of gratitude to the mother church in Jerusalem that had sent teachers to evangelize them. Paul urges them to return carnal, or material, gifts in appreciation of the spiritual truths received from them. What kind of gifts did Paul have in mind? It is very interesting that he describes it as sealing to them “this fruit.” The Greek word used here is “karpos,” which is the universal term used for literal fruit. It can also have the connotation of “fruits of one’s labor.”

This throws light on Paul’s counsel to the Corinthian Christians to do their work on the first day of the week, “so that there be no gatherings when I come.” Such work as gathering and storing up produce from garden and field would certainly not be appropriate on Sabbath. In these verses, Sunday is identified once again as a day for secular activities and gives no indication of religious observance.

 
Paul’s Longest Sermon

This brings us to the final reference that could provide any support for Sunday sacredness. In Luke’s history of the early church, he describes the dramatic farewell meeting, which Paul had with the believers in Troas. Those who grasp for any tiny excuse to justify their disobedience of God’s commandments have grievously distorted this account in the book of Acts. Because it is the only record in the New Testament of a religious meeting being held on the first day of the week, we should examine it with special care and interest.

The full context reveals that it was a night meeting. “And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. In addition, upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. And there were many lights in the upper chamber, where they were gathered together. And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: … and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead. And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted. And we went before to ship, and sailed unto Assos, there intending to take in Paul: for so had he appointed, minding himself to go afoot” (Acts 20:6–13).

There are some very unusual things about this all-night meeting in Troas. First, it had to be a solemn, poignant occasion for the speaker and congregation, as well. In verse 25 Paul declared, “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.”

It is obvious that this farewell meeting was held on the dark part of the first day of the week. There were lights in the room, and Paul preached until midnight. It is important to understand the Jewish way of reckoning time. Days were not counted according to the pagan Roman method, from midnight to midnight. In the Bible, the day begins at evening.

Genesis describes all the days of creation week in the same way—“The evening and the morning were the first day … the evening and the morning were the second day,” etc. In other words, the evening always comes first in the day.

This explains why the Sabbath is described in these words, “It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, … from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath” (Leviticus 23:32). But when does the evening begin according to the Bible? “And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils” (Mark 1:32). Since the Pharisees taught that it was wrong to heal on the Sabbath, the people waited until the Sabbath was over before bringing their sick to Jesus. Therefore, they brought them “at even, when the sun did set.” Moses wrote, “Thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun” (Deuteronomy 16:6).

In Nehemiah, we are given another description of the beginning of Sabbath. “And it came to pass, that when the gates of Jerusalem began to be dark before the sabbath, I commanded that the gates should be shut, and charged that they should not be opened till after the sabbath” (Nehemiah 13:19). This definitely places the first moments of the Sabbath at sunset, when it is beginning to be dark.

Now we are ready to apply this sound Bible principle to the first-day meeting of Paul in Troas. The night setting would require that it be held on Saturday night. The Sabbath ended at sundown, and the first day of the week began. Paul, who had stayed a full seven days so that he could be with the people over the Sabbath, decided not to leave with the ship on Saturday night. Instead, he fellowshipped all night long with the believers and then walked twenty miles across the peninsula on Sunday morning to join the boat at Assos.

Incidentally, Paul’s missionary companions, including Luke, who chronicled the highlights of the carefully scheduled voyage, manned this boat. It is very significant that they would not go out to sea until the Sabbath was over on Saturday night. Toiling at the oars and sails would have been no more proper for a holy day than Paul’s twenty-mile walk across the isthmus on Sunday morning. Neither Paul nor his fellow travelers would have indulged in those secular activities on God’s holy Sabbath.

Why Eutychus Dropped Out of Church

The New English Bible actually states that the meeting was held on Saturday night. The chief focus of the story seems to be upon the raising of Eutychus from the dead after he fell out the window. The dauntless Paul, after ministering on Sabbath and all night Saturday night, walked twenty miles on Sunday morning to join his companions in Assos. They had stayed with the ship as it sailed around the peninsula on Saturday night, after the Sabbath was over. That long journey on foot by Paul the next day would have been very inappropriate on any kind of holy day.

Some have equated the breaking of bread with the communion service, but such a view cannot be supported from the Scriptures. Luke assures us that those early Christians broke bread daily. “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:46).

The Bible cannot confirm the contention that Paul celebrated the Lord’s Supper with the believers in the upper room. The wording seems to indicate that it was a common meal they shared together. “When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten…” (Acts 20:11). Here we find that eating was associated with the breaking of bread. It is unlikely that the communion meal would be referred to in this manner.

But even if that farewell meeting had included the celebration of Christ’s suffering and death, it would not lend any credence to Sunday observance. We have seen from Acts 2 that bread was broken daily, and nowhere is the Lord’s Supper linked to any particular day. It is surely obvious to anyone that the Troas meeting was not a regular weekly worship service. The importance of that all-night session appears in the miraculous raising of the young man Eutychus, and in the fact that Paul would never see them again before his death. The particular time frame—all Saturday night—has no spiritual significance whatsoever. Luke, the careful historian, does not even record any of the content of Paul’s marathon sermon, although he faithfully documents the miracle of the resurrected youth. Apparently, it was the way Eutychus dropped out of church, and not the day on which it happened that Luke is seeking to establish.

We have now completed an intensive examination of each one of the eight New Tes­tament references to the first day of the week. Not one of them has offered the slightest evidence that Sunday was ever sanctified by God or celebrated by man. God’s great infallible test-Book has revealed that the majority is following tradition instead of truth. Millions have been deceived into blind adherence to an empty pagan symbol.

I am reminded of the story of a Russian czar who took a walk one morning in the border area of his extensive palace grounds. There he saw a soldier with a gun on his shoulder marching up and down near a deserted corner of the courtyard wall. He asked the soldier, who was apparently on sentry duty, what he was guarding. The man replied that he was only following orders and did not know why he was assigned to that particular spot. The czar asked the captain of the guard what the soldier was doing, but he had no idea either. The general in charge of the palace security was consulted, but he could give no reason for the assignment. Finally, the king ordered a search of the dusty military records, and the mystery was unfolded. Years and years before, the queen mother had planted some rose bushes in that corner ofthe courtyard, and a soldier had been sent to protect the tender plants from being trampled. Later, someone had forgotten to cancel the order, and the daily sentry ritual had continued through the years—soldiers with their guns, guarding nothing but an empty rose plot.

Today there are millions of sincere Christians who are religiously trying to protect the sanctity of Sunday. They don’t realize that there is really nothing to guard. The first day of the week is just as devoid of holiness as the deserted courtyard of roses. Jesus said, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13).

The Day They Kept

Now that we have exhausted all possible sources for Sunday keeping without finding the smallest favorable evidence, let us turn to the inspired history of that early church. If they did not keep the first day of the week, which day did they observe? The book of Acts establishes a consistent pattern of seventh-day Sabbathkeeping. On one occasion, Paul was petitioned by the Gentiles to hold an exclusive service for them on the Sabbath. “And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next sabbath … And the next sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear the word of God” (Acts 13:42, 44).

There are some very interesting points in these dynamic verses that validate the Sabbath practices of Paul and his fellow Christians. After preaching in the synagogue, where the Gentiles were not permitted to enter, Paul was besieged by the Gentiles with an appeal to preach to them “the next Sabbath.” Many have charged that Paul only preached in the synagogues on the Sabbath because he had a ready-made crowd of Jews to work on. This is a false claim. In this instance, Paul made an appointment to minister to the Gentiles on the following Sabbath, and according to verse 43, many of those who heard him that day were “proselytes” to the faith. This means they were converts to Christianity, and Paul and Barnabas “persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.”

How interesting it is that their Sabbath worship is spoken of in the context of continuing in God’s grace! Modern critics of the Sabbath try to label Sabbathkeepers as legalists who are aliens to the grace of the gospel. Not so the writers of the Bible, who constantly associate obedience with true salvation by faith.

In Acts 16:13 we have positive proof that Paul kept the Sabbath even when there was no synagogue and no Jews. He was ministering in Greece, where there were only a few scattered Jews and no synagogue at all. What did he do on the Sabbath? “And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a river side, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spoke unto the women which resorted thither.”

Even with no church to attend, the apostle sought out a spot where religious worship was carried on—a place of prayer by the river—and preached to those who went there. Surely, no one can fail to discern Paul’s deep commitment to the Sabbath as we follow him in this unusual outdoor mission. Just suppose this Macedonian experience had taken place on the first day of the week instead of the Sabbath. Without question, it would be cited as absolute evidence for Sunday worship, and we would have to concur. But what possible arguments can one present against this example of Paul in true Sabbathkeeping?

Again, we read about Paul’s customary practice in these words, “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures” (Acts 17:2). “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks” (Acts 18:4).

Finally, we cite the great apostle’s per­sonal testimony that he never kept one Sunday holy in his whole life. Just before his death, Paul made this emphatic statement to the Jewish leaders, “Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing against the people, or customs of our fathers, yet was I delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans” (Acts 28:17).

Think for a moment! If Paul had ever deliberately broken the Sabbath, or kept another day than the seventh, he could not have declared truthfully that he had done nothing against Jewish custom. On the strength of this unqualified declaration by a man of unimpeachable integrity, we close the search for Sunday keeping authority in the Bible. It just is not there.

Had we been able to find it, our religious obligation would, without doubt, be much easier to fulfill. We would have the support and example of most of the great religious institutions of the land, both Protestant and Catholic.

But we are not looking for the most popular way or the most convenient way; we are looking for the Bible way. And we have found it. In all honesty, we must declare that the prevailing custom of keeping a different day from the one commanded in the great handwritten law of God is contrary to the Word which will finally judge us. No amount of popular, majority opinion can annul the weighty testimony of a plain “Thus saith the Lord.” We must stand upon the Bible and the Bible alone for our doctrine on this subject.

The Word of God declares, “The seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work” (Exodus 20:10). Until we find some indication in the Bible that God retracted that moral law which He introduced to the world with such a fanfare of power and grandeur, we will accept the Ten Commandments as still relevant and binding today. God said what He meant, and He meant what He said.

Some argue that God exempts us from the fourth commandment because it is impossible to keep the seventh day in the competitive, industrialized society in which we have to earn a living. It is undoubtedly true that Satan has manipulated the economic world to the distinct disadvantage of the Sabbathkeeper, but Godhas never required the impossible. It is never necessary to break one of God’s commandments for any reason.

You may say, “But my employer requires that I work on Saturday, and I can’t let my family starve.” The answer to that dilemma was given by our Lord long ago in the Sermon on the Mount. He said “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). The preceding verse defines “these things” as food, clothes, and job. Jesus is simply telling us that if there is ever a conflict between obeying Him and obeying our employer, we should put Him first. Material considerations should never be made more important than doing God’s will.

In every case, God honors the faith of a Christian who decides to keep the Sabbath regardless of what happens to his job. Many times God works miracles by making special arrangements for the Sabbathkeeper. In some cases, He allows His children to be tested by losing their jobs, and then opens up better ones in response to their faith. Nevertheless, the “things” are always added when we trust Him and obey, regardless of the circumstances.

The real secret of keeping the Sabbath of the Lord is to have the Lord of the Sabbath in our hearts! It is love that leads God’s chil­dren to choose death rather than disobedience to one of His commandments. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The apostle John defined love in these words, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 John 5:3).

Thus, it is not so much the question of a day as it is of a way—the way of obedience through love, or of disobedience through lack of love. Mark it down and never forget it! Keeping the Sabbath, even the true seventh-day Sabbath, is an operation in futility if it does not proceed from a heart full of love and devotion to God. Without love, all law keeping becomes mechanical and miserable, but with love, every commandment becomes a joy and delight. Make this kind of personal love relationship the basis of your Sabbathkeeping, and it will be the happiest day of your week, for the rest of your life!

 

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