Celebrating God’s Promise: Israel at 70

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The return of the Jews to the land of Israel after centuries of being scattered in other countries, is an event which the Bible prophesied thousands of years ago.

THE JEWS SCATTERED

Just after the resurrection of Christ and his subsequent ascension to heaven, the Jewish people were taken from their land by the Romans and scattered among all nations as a punishment by God for their sins. This had been prophesied by Jeremiah many years before the event:

“Because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice… therefore, thus saith the LORD… I will scatter them among the heathen” (Jeremiah 9:13-16)

THE JEWS TO BE REGATHERED

This however, was not intended to be a permanent arrangement as Jeremiah went on to say:

“Fear thou not, my servant Jacob, saith the LORD, neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar and thy seed from the land of their captivity” (Jeremiah 30:10)

Whilst this prophecy awaits its fulfilment in the return of ALL the Jews to their own land, we are privileged to witness in our own day a partial return of the Jews to the land promised to their fathers. This is an essential part of God’s purpose in bringing about the settlement of the WHOLE nation in the land of Israel, as can be seen from Ezekiel 38:3-12. Here, the coming invasion of the land by Russia (see #7 in this series, Russia in Bible Prophecy) demands a strong settlement of Jews in the land, which has been the case since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. It will be interesting to trace the events which contributed to this development.

THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS

In the latter part of the 19th century, the intensification of anti-semitism in Europe prompted Theodore Herzl, a Hungarian Jewish journalist, to found the Zionist movement to provide a place of refuge for persecuted Jews. At that time there were very few Jews in the land of Israel (or Palestine as it was then known), and the land itself was suffering from years of neglect.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL ESTABLISHED

The Zionist movement gained momentum, though the Jews returning to the land were still very few. It was not until 1917 that any great change was seen. In that year the British government issued the following declaration (known as the Balfour Declaration after Henry Balfour, then British Foreign Secretary):

“His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national homeland for the Jews…”

At first, the return of the Jews to their homeland was only a trickle, but this slowly increased until (following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948) it became a flood, so that today (2001) there are around five million Jews in the land.

THE RETURN OF CHRIST

These events herald the return of Christ to the earth. Although the Bible foretold this partial return of the Jews, their complete restoration to their land will not take place until Christ is reigning from Jerusalem.

As could be seen in Jeremiah’s prophecy, the Jews were scattered because they disobeyed the law of God. In spite of this, God has promised to restore them to their land to keep the oath which he swore to the fathers of the Jewish nation for their faithfulness, and for His holy name’s sake (see Deuteronomy 7:6-8 and Ezekiel 20:21,22). So, when all the Jews are gathered from all over the world, it will be only those who turn to God who will be allowed to dwell in the land in the kingdom of God, and those who will not accept Jesus as their king will be purged out (see Ezekiel 20:33-38). Then God will put His law in the hearts of the Jewish people and they will serve Him, as Jeremiah again wrote:

“I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33)

As a result of the favourable position with their God to which the Jews will be brought, they will discover that they will no longer be the hated people of the earth and the scapegoat for all that goes wrong, but instead they will be sought out by the people of other nations (see Zechariah 8:23).

BLESSINGS FOR ALL

Those nations who recognise the Jews as God’s people and submit to the rule of Christ, the king of the Jews, will themselves experience the blessings and prosperity flowing from their obedience to Gods law.

Those individual men and women who now choose to obey God’s commands will experience more than prosperity. The apostle Paul, when writing of the position of the Jews relative to the Gentiles (or non-Jews) said:

“If the casting away of them (the Jews) be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving (or regathering) of them be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15)

Yes. Resurrection from the dead and eternal life in God’s kingdom on the earth is the hope of the faithful! Positions of rulership with Christ over the nations of the earth are also held out to those who follow Christ now (see Revelation 5:9-10).

So, What Does the Bible Say About Politics?

Should a Christian take an active part in politics to improve his or her country?

No. The Lord Jesus made no attempt to help rule his country. He resisted attempts to make him a ruler, and refused any position of power over others. The Lord knew that his Kingdom was “not of this world”, and that his first duty was to preach the gospel. A Christian should carefully avoid becoming mixed up with the affairs of the world.

Sometimes governments may do things that Christians cannot support — for example, going to war, or promoting gambling. Nevertheless as far as possible, a Christian should keep himself out of public affairs, and devote his energy to preaching the gospel and doing good to those in need; this was the example given by the Lord Jesus. (See John 6:15Luke 12:14John 18:36; 2 Timothy 2:4).

Should a Christian help others to gain political positions by voting in elections?

No. By voting a man shows that he is interested in politics, and a Christian should not be interested in politics. A Christian should accept whatever rulers God allows to be appointed, and pray that God will help them rule wisely. (See Daniel 4:25; Proverbs 2l:1; 1 Timothy 2:12).

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Decisions, Decisions

Life is full of decisions. Whether we think about them or not, our life is made of moments in time when we have to make this choice, that choice or another choice.

There are basic ‘everyday’ choices that we might take for granted, such as “What shall I wear today?” or “What shall I eat today?” There are more complex ‘life’ choices: “Who are those I choose to be my friends?”, “What do I choose to do with my time, my effort, my money?”, “Where and what do I choose to study or work for?” Sometimes we have plenty of time to mull over our thoughts, run them past others, discuss them at length; other decisions we make are instantaneous, reactive and spontaneous.

Every choice brings an opportunity to make a decision. Every opportunity to make a decision is an opportunity to include God in the life we live – however small or huge that decision may seem. God is looking for those who make their decisions considering Him first, with His Son at the centre of the choice being made and with His word at the heart of what they do.

This is the exercise of our conscience. With the word of God in mind – what is right, and what is wrong? Why is it right, or why is it wrong?

Some answers are clear, others are not and we must take care to recognise that life is not full of decisions we can always boil down to black and white. Yet in all our decisions God is looking for us to exercise our ability to choose His ways above our own and that of others who demand our allegiance.

“We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

Life is full of choices. Not everyone’s choices will be the same and the extent of the choice we have as individuals will depend on the circumstances and opportunities with which we are presented. However, each choice and the decision can impact deeply on our ability to keep God at the front of our thinking. Godly choices, decisions made based on a desire to do the will of God and bring Him glory, will undoubtedly bring us into conflict with those who do not share God’s values and principles; for this we should be prepared. Jesus’ advice was for us to focus our minds clearly on God’s promise of the kingdom:

“Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” (Matthew 6:33)

EDWARD CARR – Faith Alive

What Should a Christian’s Attitude Be Towards the Laws of Our Country?

A Christian should always obey and respect national laws because “the authorities are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1-5).

A Christian should be a good, law-abiding citizen, honestly paying his taxes. (Titus 3:1Romans 13:6-7Luke 20:25).

Nevertheless, in the very rare case that a government passes a law that goes against God’s laws (for example, if we are ordered to worship idols, or to join the army) then we must “obey God rather than men”. (See Acts 5:29).

A Christian should not take his brother to law. (1 Corinthians 6:18).

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Does the Bible promise faithful Christians will go to heaven?

No. the Bible promises that faithful followers of Jesus will live for ever on earth.

The Bible also says that nobody has gone to heaven, except Jesus. (See Psalm 115:16Acts2:34John 3:13).

A few Bible passages are sometimes thought to teach that Christians are promised eternal life in heaven. But they can all be shown to agree with the teaching of the rest of the Bible. For example, “my Father’s house”, of John 14:2 is not in heaven. God’s house is the temple, as John 2:16 shows. The greatest of all temples is a spiritual temple, and the believers are living stones in that great house that is still being built (See 1 Peter 2:5). God’s house is therefore on earth, and because of this the Lord Jesus says (in the next verse John 14:3), “I will come again and receive you unto myself”.

 ”Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11

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Bible Hell and Your Hope

There is no denying that the Bible speaks about hell and that hell is a reality in the life of us all. However, it is not the ‘Hell’ that some Christians have written about and warn us against in the strongest possible terms. Few people, whether Christian or not, believe in the old belief that hell is a place of fiery torment somewhere below the earth, presided over by a supernatural devil where the unfaithful and unrepentant dead are tortured for eternity.

It is a tragedy that this old doctrine was such a stumbling block to true Biblical teaching, as it has no foundation in the Bible. Unfortunately, the denial of this view of hell has often gone with a total rejection of the doctrine of sin and belief in God. It is equally untrue that ‘hell’ is a state of mind. An understanding of the Bible’s teaching concerning hell is dependent on a correct understanding of Bible teaching on sin and death.

The Bible teaches that sin entered into the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve and that, as a result, Adam and Eve were condemned to death. We inherit their sinful nature and we are all, therefore, sinners under the sentence of death. We find God’s judgment recorded in Genesis 3 v 17-19. In the New Testament the apostle Paul is clear in his teaching:
Romans 3 v 23: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.’

Romans 5 v 12: Therefore, just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.’

Sin is an unpopular word to Twenty-First Century ears but it is at the heart of the human condition. In Bible terms, sin is disobedience to God and death is the punishment for sin. If it were not for the work and sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, then the Christian is in a pitiable condition.

The truth about the Bible’s teaching on hell is both simple and beautiful. In the Old Testament, the word translated ‘Hell’ comes from the Hebrew word ‘Sheol’ and is actually translated ‘Grave’. Two quotations illustrate this meaning perfectly:
Psalm 16 vv 9-10: ‘Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also shall rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave ( hell), nor will you let your Holy One see decay.’
This psalm is a prophecy of the Lord Jesus Christ and speaks of His resurrection from the grave ( see Acts 2 vv 27-32). It is unthinkable that Jesus went to the conventional hell, as a place of torment. One of the earliest Christian creeds, is called the ‘Apostles Creed’, where we read that Jesus suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell, and on the third day was raised from the dead.
Jonah 2 vv 1-2: ‘From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave (hell) I called for help, and you listened to my cry.’
The fish was a living grave and to see it as the conventional hell is out of the question.

In the New Testament, where the original language was Greek, the word ‘Hades’ that has the same meaning as the Hebrew word ‘Sheol’ is translated ‘the grave’,as seen in the following quotations:
1 Corinthians 15 v 55: (A.V.) ‘O death, where is thy sting? O grave (Hades), where is thy victory?’
Acts 2 v 27 is a quotation from Psalm 16 (see above) and is applied to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 2 v 31 (A.V.): ‘He seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, that His soul was not left in hell (Hades, i.e. the grave), neither His flesh did see corruption.’
Another word, ‘Gehenna’, is also translated ‘hell’ in the New Testament and Jesus was fully aware of what the word meant. Gehenna refers to the Valley of Hinnom, where Jerusalem’s refuse, including the bodies of executed criminals, was destroyed by fires which were never quenched; these fires burnt so that all was consumed and the word is used to describe the utter destruction of unrepentant sinners. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used the word ‘Gehenna’ to describe the seriousness of sin in God’s sight:

Matthew 5 vv 29-30: ‘If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell ( gehenna). And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.’
Jesus is not teaching self-mutilation but is rather showing that sin is abhorrent in the eyes of God. The crowd hearing Jesus would have understood the use He made of ‘Gehenna’ and would certainly not have seen the Lord’s words as referring to a place of eternal torment.

All these verses explain that ‘Hell’ is the grave and not a place where the unrepentant sinner will be tortured for eternity, a place where the Devil reigns supreme. The Bible does not recognise such a power of evil and other answers in this series will show that the Bible sees the ‘Devil’ as a personification of sin.

If we see all references to ‘Hell’ in the Bible as simply referring to the grave then our understanding of death will be in line with the teaching of Scripture. We are mortal because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve and without the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ and God’s mercy and grace, we will all die and remain in the grave. The Christian hope is resurrection at the second coming of Jesus. The apostle Paul teaches the doctrine of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 and this chapter needs to be read in its entirety. It includes these magnificent words of hope and joy for all true believers:
1 Corinthians 15 vv 21-22: ‘For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive.’

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Let’s Talk About Jesus, the Son of God

Who is Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. He had no human father, but was conceived when the power of God, called the Holy Spirit, worked a miracle on his mother, who was a virgin. (See Luke 1:3235Matthew 1:20-25Matthew 3:17John 1:49John 10:36).

He was, nevertheless, a human being who grew up, hungered, thirsted, wept, suffered and died like other human beings. (See Hebrews 2:11Luke 2:52Isaiah 53:3John 11:35John 19:33).

What was the work of Jesus, the Son of God?

  1. To reveal his Father, Almighty God, to the world in a way that men could understand. (See John 1:18John 12:45John 14:9John 17:626).
  2. To show the glorious qualities of his Father — holiness, righteousness and love. (See John 1:14-41Romans 3:24-26).
  3. To show to men the full meaning of Christian service and obedience. (See Luke 22:42John 5:308:29).
  4. To preach the gospel. (See Luke 4:189:6; and 20:1).
  5. To die for us. (See John 10:1115Acts 2:23).
  6. To bring us back to God. (See Ephesians 2:16Romans 5:10John 14:6).

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