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Monthly Archives: December 2014

The truth Jesus taught was a proclamation:  “The time has come, the kingdom of God is here ~ literally, heaven had come down in the person of Jesus.  Repent and believe the good news.”  

When Jesus said, “The time has come,” He was referring to the prophecy the angel had given Daniel when Israel was in captivity in Babylon many years before.  “Seventy weeks are given to your people and your city,” the angel told Daniel.  Since a day in prophecy stands for a year (see Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:60), the seventy weeks or 490 days represented 490 years.  

The angel gave the starting date for this prophecy.  “From the time of the command to return and rebuild Jerusalem until the Messiah arrives will be sixty-nine weeks.”  This command, which allowed the Jews to return to their land, was given by King Artaxerxes in the fall of 457 B.C.  From that date, sixty-nine weeks or 483 years later takes us to the fall of A.D. 27.  This was the time when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.  Soon after, He began His ministry.  

That is why Jesus could say, “The time has come.”  At just the right time, the kingdom of God had arrived.  

Then the angel also told Daniel that the gospel ~ the good news of the Messiah ~ would be preached to the Jewish nation for one week, or seven years.  But in the middle of that seven years, the sacrifices and services in the temple would come to an end.  In the spring A.D. 31, Jesus became the True Sacrifice on the cross.  At the moment He died, the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom.  The purpose and meaning of the sacrifices and services in the temple, became obsolete after His crucifixion.  

For three and a half more years, the disciples continued to share the story of Jesus with their Jewish nation.  But when Jesus’ follower Stephen was stoned to death in A.D. 34, the disciples began to scatter and carry the gospel to other nations and peoples around the world.  The seven years given to the Jews, had been fulfilled.  

Daniel’s prophecies pointed out the time of Jesus’ birth, the time of His ministry and of His death, and the time the gospel would be carried to other nations.  The Jews had the opportunity to understand these prophecies and to see them fulfilled in Jesus’ life.  After His resurrection, Jesus explained these prophecies to His disciples.  

The angel Gabriel, second-in-command in heaven after Jesus, brought those messages to Daniel.  Jesus would later send Gabriel to John with the messages of Revelation, which tell us when Jesus will come the second time.  As that book promises, God always blesses those who prayerfully study the prophecies in the Bible.  

At Jesus’ first coming, He introduced His kingdom of grace.  At His second coming, He will introduce His kingdom of glory.  And the Second Coming is predicted by prophecies just as the first coming was.  Jesus Himself gave us signs to watch for and said, “Watch, pray, and be ready at all times.”  That period is here; Jesus is about to return.  

The Jews misinterpreted the prophecies they were given.  They were looking for a different Messiah ~ one who would bring them power and glory ~ so they rejected Jesus and plotted His death.  If we let the cares of this world consume our thoughts.  And as we continue to ignore these sacred prophecies that point to His soon return ~ we will be as unprepared as they were, to meet our Savior at His return.   

If the leaders of Israel had accepted Jesus as the Messiah, they would have had the honor of carrying His message to the world.  Instead, the jealousy and suspicion they harbored grew into hate.  They worked to turn the people away from Jesus.

After the Sanhedrin rejected Jesus’ message and decided to kill Him, Jesus left Jerusalem, the temple, the priests, and the people who thought they knew so much about God’s law.  He left Judea to find a different class of people with which to share His message.  He needed to find the ones who would carry the gospel to the whole world.

Just as Jesus was forced to turn away from the leaders of the Jewish religion, others have been forced to leave their churches to share the truth about God.  The leaders of the Reformation did not plan to leave the Catholic Church and start new churches.  But when their church leaders would not allow them to share new truths about God, they were forced to leave.  Even today, some people have to leave their very own churches to follow truth as they learn it from Scripture.

So Jesus traveled to the province of Galilee.  The teachers in Jerusalem considered the Galilean people rude and ignorant.  They were different ~ they were more earnest and less prejudiced.  They were more open to learning truth.  Galilee was very crowded with more non-Jewish people living there than in Judea.

As Jesus walked through the countryside, teaching and healing, people from the cities and villages began to follow wherever He went.  Others came from Judea and other provinces.  The crowds got so large and so enthusiastic that Jesus often had to hide.  At that time, it was dangerous for large groups to gather because the Romans considered every crowd a potential for revolt against them.

But the people would not stay away.  Never before had the world seen or heard anything like this.  It was as if heaven had come down to earth.  The love Jesus showed and taught was like a feast to people starving for truth ~ for an understanding of Almighty God.

Jesus could not rescue John without risking His own mission, that said ~ it did not mean He did not care.  He felt the pain of John’s death.  Satan had failed to make Jesus sin, so he caused John’s death to make Jesus suffer.  

Many wonder why John was left to die in prison.  His fate won’t shake our confidence in Almighty God.  If we understand that John was honored to share the suffering Jesus went through to save humanity.  Everyone who follows Jesus WILL suffer in the war against Satan.  

John was not forgotten.  Angels kept him company, helping him understand the prophecies and promises of Scripture.  John would be an example and an encouragement to the thousands through the centuries who would suffer in lonely prison cells, or die by the sword, by fire, or by torture.  John’s story would reassure them that God had not forgotten them either.  

God never allows things to happen to His children that they would not choose for themselves if they knew the end from the beginning and could understand their part in His plans.  Neither Enoch nor Elijah, both of whom went to heaven without dying, were greater than John the Baptist who died alone in a dungeon.  

Of all the gifts heaven can give us, the heaviest trust and the highest honor goes to those who share Jesus’ suffering to save the human race. 

In spite of his doubts, John did not give up.  He remembered the Voice from heaven, the power of the Spirit that had touched him when he announced Jesus, and the promises of the Scriptures.  He sent two of his disciples to Jesus with a special mission.  

When they found Jesus they asked, “Are you the Messiah or should we look for someone else?”  Their question must have been bitterly disappointing to Jesus.  If John, His faithful prophet, did not understand His mission, how would anyone?  All day long, John’s disciples watched Jesus.  Finally, He said to them, “Go tell John what you saw and heard here.”  They carried the message and John understood.  He began to realize that Jesus’ kingdom was not about swords and armies, but about changing people’s lives AND HEARTS.  He also saw that the Jewish leaders would never accept that kind of Messiah.  He knew that his own prison sentence was a small taste of how Jesus would someday suffer.  Once again, John surrendered himself ~ in prison or out, in life or death ~ to God’s plan.  Jesus’ heart went out to John.  He did not want people to think that God had forsaken John.  Or that John had given up his faith.  Even in prison, John’s loyalty to God and commitment to His principles were firm as a rock.  

The Jews’ LEADERS had studied what the prophets said about the kingdom the Messiah would set up.  But they only looked for words that supported their hopes of defeating the Romans and having their own kingdom again.  When Jesus did not come as the Messiah they expected, they wanted nothing to do with Him.  The more directly He spoke to them, the more they resisted His words.

They would have accepted someone who wanted glory for himself because that person would have flattered them.  But Jesus taught SELFLESS love and they would not have none of it.  The same thing happens today.  Many people ~ even religious leaders ~ reject God’s Word so they can keep their own traditions.

Jesus knew that the priests and rabbis were determined to have Him killed.  Still He gave them a clear picture of His relationship with the Father and His mission to this world.  It left them in fear of the power of His presence and of His words.  Their guilty feelings became an even heavier burden to bear.  Instead of causing them to change their attitudes, it made them even more bitter.  They knew they had no excuse to oppose Jesus but they hated Him anyway.

Their plan had failed to undermine His authority or His popularity with the people; so they began to plot to kill Him.  They sent messengers around the country warning people that Jesus was a fake messiah.  Their spies followed wherever He went, reporting everything He said and did.                                                                                                                          The Savior of the world was now standing in the shadow of the Cross.

” ‘ I tell you the truth, whoever hears what I say and believes in the One who sent me HAS eternal life’ ” ( John 5:24)  

As His final proof to them that He was the Messiah, Jesus promised that God would call the dead to life through Him.  

The priests and leaders refused to see it, Jesus had broken their traditions and ignored their authority, so they would not believe in Him.  They criticized Jesus for doing exactly what He came to do ~ His Father’s work.  They felt no need to depend on a Higher Power, but Jesus had surrendered His will to His Father and depended on Him completely.  He did not many any plans for Himself.  Instead He followed the plans His Father unfolded each day.

We should completely depend on our Father in heaven.  He gives us work and the ability to do it.  As long as we surrender our will to God and trust His strength and wisdom, we will be guided to do our part in His plan.  Depending on our own wisdom and power will separate us from God and place us on the side of Satan.

The Sadducees ~ the other major religious group in the Sanhedrin ~ taught that there would be no resurrection after death.  But Jesus told them that one of His Father’s greatest works was to raise the dead.  He said, “The time is coming when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and live again.”  These people would witness the truth of the resurrection and the power of God.  That same power can also give new life to those trapped in sin.  Faith in that power will keep our souls free and pure.

Jesus did not apologize for His healing and He did not explain His reasons to them.  He turned their charges around and scolded them for having such closed minds and for being ignorant of the Scriptures they claimed they studied.  

” ‘ You carefully study the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life.  They do in fact tell about me, but you refuse to come to me to have eternal life’ ” ( John 5:39, 40)

Every page of the Old Testament ~ every story, every prophecy, every sermon ~ pointed to God’s plan of salvation, to the coming Messiah.  From the promise given in the Garden of Eden, down through the ages, God’s words to humanity promised that the Savior was coming.  Every sacrifice in the temple showed His death.

the Sabbath law says  that work to make a living should come to a halt, along with other efforts that have to do with the pursuit of worldly pleasure, profit, or selfish gain.  Just as God rested from creation on the seventh day, we should stop our DAILY routine/WORK, and save those HOLY hours for rest, worship, and WORK to help others.

The Pharisees ignored Jesus’ words about the Sabbath and focused on His words about God.  They could not argue with the scriptures He quoted ~ they could only try to turn people against Him.  “First He breaks the laws about the Sabbath and now He’s claiming that God is His Father.  He thinks He is equal with God.”

Now they were nearly beside themselves with rage.  If Jesus had not been so popular with the people, they would have killed Him on the spot.

Jesus of course denied their charges of blasphemy ~ of falsely claiming to be God.  “My right to do the things I do,” He told them, “is that I am the Son of God.  I am cooperating with Him in His work.”

Then the humble Man from Nazareth showed His true identity.  There He stood ~ the One who is worshiped by angels ~ the Son of God, One with the Master of the universe.  No human had ever spoken as He was doing or held himself with such majesty.  His words were unmistakable as He announced His authority in the world:

” ‘ The Father judges no one, but He has given the Son power to do all the judging so that all people will honor the Son just as much as they honor the Father’ ” ( John 5:22, 23).

The priests thought they were judging Jesus, but the opposite was happening.  Because Jesus identifies with humans, understands humans, and because He faced Satan and won, because He would die to offer them salvation, Jesus was qualified to judge all humans.  But HE DID NO SUCH THING, HE had not come to this world to judge it ~                           HE CAME TO SAVE IT.

Jesus came to build up the importance of God’s law, not to weaken it.  He came to free the Sabbath from all the unnecessary rules that made it a curse instead of a blessing.  He could have healed the crippled man on some other day of the week.  He could have healed him without telling him to carry away his bedding.  But Jesus was looking for a chance to challenge the way His people thought about the Sabbath.

Standing before the Sanhedrin, Jesus told them that helping the sick was very much in harmony with Sabbath laws.  He said that it was doing the same work that God does in helping ALL humans each moment of their lives.  

Does God stop working on the Sabbath?  Does the sun stop shining or the grass stop growing? Do the planets stop in their orbits or the oceans’ waves stand still?  

Jesus said, ” ‘My Father never stops working, and so I keep working, too’ ” (John 5:17).

God could not stop His work for even a moment or humans would become extinct.  We also have a work to do on the Sabbath day.  The sick must be cared for and those in need must be helped.  God’s holy rest day was made for humans.  

JESUS, OUR HEAVENLY FATHER ~ DOES NOT WANT ANY PERSON TO SUFFER WHO COULD BE HELPED ON THE SABBATH.  ALL SUFFERING MUST BE STOPPED ON HIS HOLY SABBATH.  

If the priests and teachers had not kept on interfering among the people.  Jesus’ teachings would have started a revival that would have changed history.  But in order to keep their power, the Jewish priests and leaders worked to discredit Jesus.  By forcing Him to appear before the Sanhedrin, they could make people doubt Him.  The people still had great respect for their (crooked) leaders, and if they publicly charged Jesus with breaking their laws, many would turn away from His teachings.

The priests tried to paint Jesus as not only guilty of ignoring the laws of their religion, but also guilty of treason to their country.  They suggested that Jesus was trying to undermine the customs of the nation, to create division among the people so that the Romans could step in and completely control the nation.

These plans did not come first from the Sanhedrin.  After Satan failed to trip up Jesus in the desert, he made plans with his fallen angels to blind the minds of the Jews so that they would not (could not) recognize Jesus as their Messiah.  By leading the Jewish leaders to reject Jesus and make His life and work as painful as possible, Satan hoped to discourage Jesus into giving up His mission. 

The Pharisees had twisted the God’s laws badly, especially the law concerning the Sabbath keeping.  The Pharisees and teachers added hundreds of rules that spelled out exactly what could and could not be done.  In other words DOOM, for simple, child-like FAITH.  The Pharisees made the Sabbath a pain instead of what God had intended a joy to keep.

God did not give us any commandments that cannot be kept by ALL people.  The healed man later went by the temple to give an offering of thanks, Jesus saw him there and spoke to him again.  “See, you are well now.  Stay away from that sinful lifestyle so nothing worse happens to you.”

What the Pharisees really wanted was to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the people.  In spite of everything they had said and done, He was gaining influence with the crowds and the Pharisees were losing it.

Many who were not interested in the critical lectures of the Pharisees listened to the teachings of Jesus.  They could understand the words He used.  He talked about God as a caring Father instead of a harsh judge.  He showed what God was like by His own actions.  By His works and His words, Jesus was breaking the power of the old traditions and man-made commandments.  He was showing a true picture of the love of God.

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