Part 1 of 3
14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:)
Some, or maybe even much of what you read here you've seen before in other of my stories and studies. It felt as if I had written some parts before, but I can't say for sure, or where I may have written it. Not withstanding, there are some things that cannot be expressed too often because they are important, and/or they face strong, hard-held traditional views they must contradict to be understood.
I suspect most of you who have read any of my more serious works are not surprised by what I'm saying here in this note, but I want to make sure you are as fully prepared as possible for what is to come.]
Have you ever been to a carnival or fair where they have a shooting booth? I suspect you have. They have ducks or some such target that will bob up and down, or they disappear just before you shoot at them, then bounce up in another place where you don't expect them to be.
I've been working for some time on what I expected to be a rather short and quick study on Lazarus and the Rich Man. As usual I researched the different opinions and observations of those who have also taken it upon themselves to investigate this parable. Having grown up in one of the Fundamental churches I expected everyone to have the same view of this story with maybe a minor variation here and there. What I found was opinions ranging from one far extreme to the other. I mean, this story is perhaps one of the simplest and most fully explained of the stories Jesus relayed to His people. How then can it be taken so many different and varied ways?
I have to interject the fact that I knew from the beginning that my own view, as it so often is, will be completely different than any of the others I find. But that's because I believe all the views are wrong, and the more commonly held a belief, the more wrong it's likely to be. Since I view the obvious so differently than the norm, why wouldn't I expect to find other people seeing things in many different ways as well?
Setting my own conflicting views aside, I noticed in my investigation that when a certain opinion is expressed, around that opinion are a number of critiques, criticisms and condemnations of both the opinion and the person holding that opinion. It seems as if there are some popularly-read people on the web who have nothing to do but find others to criticize and tear down, even when the subject is no more than a simple parable as this one. For myself, when I see someone pointing the finger, I automatically look at the person to whom the finger is attached and search out logs in that person's eye. Am I alone in this? I suspect I'm not. I think it's a natural tendency built into each of us, although far too many of us don't exercise this characteristic when the finger is owned by someone on "our side." And in fact, it's just those fingers, and our own, that we should be the most critical and suspicious of.
In the shooting gallery the targets have two characteristics that cause them to be difficult to hit. One they are constantly moving. This makes us have to try and shoot, not where the target is, but where we expect it to be when the bullet strikes. I think of trying to swat a fly. I swat where the fly is, and like magic the fly is not under the palm of my hand, but it's sitting peacefully on the back of the hand intending to squash it.
The second problem with hitting the target we run in to is that we're not sure which target we should aim at. I think of the quiz programs where the participant has reached the top of the heap, won all the marbles so-to-speak, and then they have to take a final risk and decide which door holds the prize they've won. If they guess correctly they win not only what they've worked so hard to win, but additional prizes as well. If they guess wrong, they lose everything. Should we shoot at the blue duck? Or is the prize we seek attached to the green and purple duck?
Those of us "in the know" realize that the one inside the booths, the one we're relying on to treat us fairly in his "game," has shifted the sights of the rifle we hold just slightly off kilter, causing it to miss the target when the rifle is aimed properly. It's not the intention of the man who owns the booth to help us win, but his objective is to cause us to lose so he can win our hard-earned wages. In order to learn which direction the sights have been shifted so we can compensate for the deception, we have to spend oodles of our money as we make several attempts trying to adjust for the deception. And even with having emptied our wallet through many attempts we are unable to see if we are shooting too high, too low, too far ahead, or too far behind the targets because we don't know where the bullet has struck. Then when we finally get the hang of the peculiarities of the rifle we hold, the man changes our rifle for another one we're unacquainted with, having its own set of peculiarities.
In my search to learn about Lazarus I find this same set of characteristics. People have set their target just a little off from others of their same bent, that is to say, from those who believe essentially as they do, and they batter that difference into the ground so-to-speak. It's not enough (in the commentator's eyes) that we're in the same realm of understanding as they themselves are, on the same team; but we must agree with every facet of the doctrine held by that person who has set themself up as a critic. When I read what each of the commentators and writers have to say, I have to struggle to find what it is one has said that's different from what the other being criticized has said. After taking several aspirins for the headache it causes me, I finally give up and wonder if it's all worth while.
Is it any wonders that people decide to enter the closest church or the prettiest church, or whatever it is they look for in a church, place their head on the chopping alter, and take the new head with the new thoughts that church has to offer? When we consider that it's near impossible to figure out which church is right, if any of them are right, and which one will send us to hell, if any of them will, and if there is in fact a hell to be sent to; then why not just go along with whatever we're told and hope for the best? If there is a hell, then we have many people to support our belief that we've avoided it merely by attending the church we have chosen. And as part of that package, we can sit back and point our finger at those who are doomed for the place we've missed by a hair and add to those lost souls' burden our own condemnation. If there is no hell, then we've lost nothing in our attempts to avoid it. If death is returning to dust, then our destiny is the same either way. If there is an eternal soul, and all our efforts to protect it is fruitful, then our attempt to shoot the correct duck with a bent rifle barrel is a success.
If I were to try to describe the Christian Church as an entity in the fewest words I could muster, I think I would have to say it's a self-serving, egotistic, condemning organization using God's Name to justify its irrational behavior. I doubt anyone would agree with me, especially about their own church. But as for me, I attend what I consider to be the best church in town, trying to do the best it can, and the more I learn about this church (as well as others), the more convinced I am that my description is appropriate.
One characteristic of the shooting gallery of ducks is the ducks keep moving. This makes them difficult to hit. There is one thing we can always count on at a shooting gallery, the duck will not sit still for us, and the target will not be where we want it to be when we pull the trigger. It will disappear or go the wrong way.
When I was in the Army I was trained to use a rifle. I had two strikes against me in my training. One I was a lousy shot. That of course was the intent of the training, that is, to make me better at hitting the target. The other strike against me is I hated the noise right next to my ear, and the painful "kick" of the rifle against my shoulder.
There is one thing I can say about the shooting range that differs from the shooting gallery of the church. The targets didn't move, and I could see where I hit so I could compensate for the inaccuracy of the rifle (as well as my own inability to use the weapon). If I repeatedly hit to the left, then I knew the sights of the rifle were at fault. If my pattern was all over the place, then I knew I had to work on my aim before I need worry about the possibility that the rifle was in error.
Policemen, I understand, have to deal with targets of varying degrees. Whereas all I had to do is learn to fire at what was in front of me, and not hit something or someone beside or behind me, a policeman must learn to use quick judgement as to his actual situation. His target can come up from before, from behind, or even above him. He not only has to learn to hit these moving and varied targets, he must learn to exercise instant judgement as to the real threat, or lack thereof, of the target. He may be in a situation where criminals are shooting at him, and yet when he detects a target, a possible threat, before he pulls the trigger he has to discern if it's actually a person wishing to do him harm, or a child holding a cap pistol or a woman carrying a broom. For myself, I would never wish to have to be in such a position or have to make such a decision. Yet, as Christians, that is exactly the decisions we have to make, but we refuse to accept. or acknowledge our responsibility to do so.
The targets are ever moving. At the shooting gallery the ducks are likely to all go in a forward direction, if they aren't ones that suddenly turn around and go the opposite direction without notice.
In the churches, and in the opinions expressed on the web and elsewhere, I find this same characteristic. The Churches are all moving, and they're moving in the wrong direction. I talk to the old timers, and they can see the extreme change their church has made from the time we were young, but in almost every case these people aren't aware that the movement is not forward, but toward the worldly view. Instead of resisting the move, they support the move and are glad for it. It feeds their carnal nature, and takes away any guilt for doing what they want to do that is contrary to what the Bible tells us to do.
Other churches I find are like the targets that shift from one direction to another. We see this in all the churches, even those hard-line churches we call the cults. In the beginning the churches wanting to change gears or direction are considered outcast by the mother church they move away from. Then over time we see the mother church change direction as well, often toward the direction of the dissenters. The churches are taking so many wild and unexpected altered roads that its hard to differentiate between those a church once (and still do) condemn and the one doing the condemning. They both have the same log in the same eye, but they're blind to the fact.
I said that in my reading about what people are saying on the web is so confusing that it makes my head swim. I find some commentators who when trying to describe the difference from what they believe and what the person who has written an article believes seems to prove that their views are exactly the same. Yet the item being criticized is, in my mind, like the gnat being swat at while an elephant is about to step on one's foot. I find that in almost every case (I'm leaving room for possibilities, I can't think of any exception) the thing or doctrine used to condemn others is of absolutely no significance whatsoever, while the thing that will make the difference between salvation and being lost is completely ignored. And beyond this, other than those in what we call the cults, the ones doing the most condemning of others (especially the cults, being condemned that is), there is no love or concern for the people condemned, but rather contempt. If we are in fact a Christian, and truly living the life Jesus said we're to live as representatives of His grace, then we would be out there doing all we can to bring those lost into saving grace. Jesus stayed with, and blessed the condemned, He only had harsh words for those who were doing the condemning. Which camp do we place ourselves in? Are we with the sinner, the "lost" who are blessed? Or are we in the camp with the Pharisees that Jesus condemned?
The churches, all of them so it seems to me, set as their primary goal and purpose the saving of the soul. Does it seem this way to you? They seem to believe that if they can get someone baptized or to come to the alter, they have saved a soul. "We had twenty people come to the alter and turn their heart over to Jesus today. We had twenty souls saved, redeemed from the clutches of the devil and brought into the arms of God." Do these words ring familiar to your ears? Millions and billions of people saved, yet our churches are declining in attendance, and in service to the Lord. The only difference between those outside the churches and in the churches is a membership card. Is this the "salvation" Jesus wants of us?
What is salvation? What does it take to be saved? We read in a few places that all that's necessary to be saved is to believe and be baptized and you will be saved. The thief on the cross it appears didn't even need to be baptized, as is the case with untold numbers of people who made their confession of faith on their death bed.
What is salvation? We assume salivation is life eternal in Heaven rather than in hell, a pit of fire. However, do we really know where Heaven is, or even what constitutes Heaven? I don't think we do. Nor do I believe Heaven or hell has anything to do with any of the common concepts being preached. There's no way I can explain my beliefs, or try to support them, or justify them in this single article. I will just state my position so you will know from which direction I'm coming so what I say will, if possible, make a little more sense. It will also give you that much more ammunition to fire at me if you happen to be one of the web critics I referred to earlier.
First of all, what is salvation? If we come from the concept that man is special to God, that man is born with an eternal soul, then we have to force the Bible to support these suppositions. What happens to the soul for eternity? It has to go somewhere. Where does it go? If a person dies, does the soul sleep? Or does the soul go to a waiting place until Judgement? Because of this faulted belief, doctrines have to be created to compensate for the missing spots not covered in the Bible. They're like the "missing link" the unbelievers are looking for to support their conjecture that there is no God.
Is man special in God's eyes? If so, why did He wipe out all those special people in one fell sweep during Noah's time? Why did He bring such torment on His "chosen people"? Why is He going to destroy the world in the future and cause the worst suffering the world has ever seen? Wasn't God's wrath abated by the death of His only begotten Son?
Maybe we're looking in the wrong direction for our answers. Maybe our barrel is bent, or our vision is faulty and we can't actually see what God is trying to tell us. Maybe we're one of the blind who insists that we're the only one who can see and that everyone has to agree with us, in spite of the fact that our doctrine has more holes in it then a rotting lump of Swiss cheese.
If we were to understand that we are nothing, that we don't have an eternal soul that God has to deal with, then maybe what God is telling us would make more sense. If we consider that in the Old Testament everything was performed on the physical plane, that there was no Spiritual battle being raged during those thousands of years, then we can better understand the plan of God. The promises made to the Hebrews were literal, physical promises. There were physical laws they had to obey. And there were physical sacrifices they must make if they were to correct their walk with the Lord. The physical was just a shadow of what God has in mind for His people.
When Jesus came to this world and began His ministry, the fulfilment of what the Jews had been preparing for was brought to man. The physical shadows that were designed to explain the Spiritual application was brought to an end. Jesus was the beginning of the Spiritual world, the Kingdom of God through the Holy Spirit (which is God, not a separate person, nor an affluence from God (See John 4:24.). Jesus said He came to preach the Kingdom of Heaven, and that's why He was sent (Luke 4:43). Jesus not only preached the Kingdom, but He demonstrated the Kingdom as well. Jesus was the embodiment of what God the Father is (John 14:9-10). What we see in Jesus is what the Father is. God is Spirit (John 4:24), and as Spirit He is unable to do for His creation all He wants to do. To compensate for this lack, He created man in His own image. However, man, beginning with Adam, chose not to do the bidding of God, but to please himself. We see a contrast of this nature in Moses. Moses, when given the chance to be rid of the burden placed on him, and to be the one through which God's people would come, denied the suggestion and said if they were to be wiped out, to wipe him out too (Exodus chapter 32). He showed concern for those who hated him even more than he did for himself. We see this in Jesus, and later in the Apostle as well. They laid down their lives for the brotherhood, for the world, rather than make things easy and comfortable for themselves (something rarely seen in the Church today).
We, as was Jesus, are to be more concerned with others than for ourselves. We are to sacrifice all for the people of God. We are to be the expression of God here on earth. What God wants, we are to fulfill. We preach that God is a loving God wanting only the best for His creation, even at the expense of Himself. Yet we don't exemplify this characteristic, seeking our own pleasure, and condemning those we see as unfit. Is this what God wants of us? Is it what we see in Jesus and the Apostles? If we're not showing the love we say God has for His people, then we're not of God. It's as simple as that. I may sit in school and be counted as a student, but if I don't study, I'll not be long in that school. It's the same on a job or in the military. In fact it's the same in prison. If I don't act as a good prisoner should, I'll pay the consequences. How much more is this true of those in the Body of Christ who seek and expect to live for eternity with God?
It is preached in the churches, and supported in the Bible, that Jesus did away with the old law, the Old Testament way of doing things. And with this I concur. However, that is not the end of the story, but rather the beginning. Jesus did away with the old, only to begin a new. Under the Old Covenant everything was done and expressed in a physical way. It was accomplished through the first Adam. This is all anyone understood at that time. The Spiritual aspects of the laws and of life were unknown to those before the cross, nor was it required of them. For this reason the Pharisees were unable to understand what Jesus was telling them, because what they knew to do, this they were doing. And because they only knew the physical aspects of the law, what Jesus was doing was outside what God demanded of them. Jesus was living the heart of the law. And those of us who take on the responsibility of furthering the work Jesus began must also fulfill the heart of the law. The law is to be placed upon our heart, not in stone. The law has not been done away with, it has been explained and demonstrated so we can better understand it and demonstrate it in our own lives
34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:)
31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:)
36Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38This is the first and great commandment. 39And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Mat 22:)
17Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. 18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. 19We love him, because he first loved us. 20If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? 21And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. (1John 4:)
8If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:)
Why is God silent today? Why isn't He talking to us through prophets and priests as He did in times past? Why is it we don't hear the true Word preached from the pulpits today?
God is not silent. He has already said all He needed to say. He has given us His Word, He has demonstrated His desire for us in vivid pictures and examples. And He has written His Word on the heart of those who desire to hear what He wants to tell us.
Why doesn't God speak to us today? If you're asking this question, then you haven't heard the Lord speak to you. If you have heard from the Lord, then you know my question is null and void. God speaks to us, first through our conscience. If we don't follow our conscience, if we don't desire to do His will for us rather than want to do our own will, then He need go no farther in His effort to communicate with us. If we obey our conscience, and search out areas in our life that cause static and interference in His communications with us, then He will further His efforts to speak to us. Some people have heard the Lord's voice. Others of us have felt His leading. And as I understand it, there are those the Lord has actually appeared to in one form or another. The Lord is active. The problem is not that God is silent, but that we don't listen to what He is telling us.
1Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, (Mat 23:)
When Jesus said this to His disciples, it was customary for the teachers of the day to read from the Scriptures. It's obvious they also had their traditions and their add-ons that they lived by that superceded and altered the Scriptures. But what they taught was the Word. Because of the add-ons and traditions the teachers lived by they were not living what they taught, but by what they believed in place of the Scriptures. Why can't we hear the truth from the pulpits these days? The Word is not taught anymore except to support the traditions and the doctrines of the church. It's doctrine we learn from the pulpits, and it's the doctrines that must be accepted in spite of their conflicting with the Bible.
Unlike with the Pharisees and the other teachers of Jesus' day, we have direct communication with the Lord. We are not to base our beliefs on what someone tells us, but upon the Word and on what the Lord says to us directly (which will never conflict with what He has said in His Word). Those who listen to and follow what they are taught in church, or from a book, can not hear what the Lord is saying. The Lord speaks to us through our heart. Paul, even though he knew, and we know, he was teaching the Gospel truth, had this to say:
10And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. 12Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. (Acts 17:)
6I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Gal 1:)
13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2Cor 11:)
Paul said that even his own preaching should be given careful scrutiny to see if it fit with the Word. And keep in mind that the only Word they had to study was the Old Testament. They did not have the New Testament at that time.
Paul also gives us a clear understanding why we should not listen to what others tell us without checking it out for ourselves. And we have to be careful that we don't just read the supporting verses given us by those who seek to deceive us. Anything can be proven from the Bible if only portions of the Word are considered. This is why I try to give many references, including those that seem to (or do) contradict the point I'm trying to get across.
Pastors have to preach what the church calls for or else they are not allowed to preach. Because of this we find people like Nicodemus who we see wants to be a follower of Jesus, and tried to defend Him, but was quieted by those he had to deal with on a daily basis. You may find a pastor who knows the truth, but he can't preach the truth because he will be evicted from his position.
Those who are not interested enough in the truth to study the Bible more than they participate in the things of the world are not demonstrating a desire to really know God, and they are highly unlikely to hear from Him.
44It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. 45And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. 46Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. 47The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. 48As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. 49And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. 50Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. (1Cor 15:)
17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2Cor 5:)
When we make the decision to become a Christian we have not entered a higher realm of humanity as is taught, although those doing the teaching are unaware they are doing so, we have entered the realm of the Spirit where nothing of the old Adamic race applies or is to be experienced. The things and the attractions of the flesh are to be repulsive to us. We are not given freedom to indulge in the world while believing we are above the condemnation of the world. If we are indulging in the things of the world, then we are not part of the Spiritual, but we are still carnal, of the first Adam.
Jesus did away with the first creation. But unlike what is preached, He did not lower the bar of obedience, He raised the bar to the optimum degree. Whereas in the Old Testament the requirements were attainable on a human level, under the New Covenant the requirements are unattainable on a carnal level. It can only be achieved through the workings of God Himself. But as in any other endeavor, it is not God's responsibility nor His desire to do all the work Himself. We are to strive with all our heart to rid ourself of everything Adamic. To see this effort in practice, read what Paul endured and the efforts he made to press for the mark of the high calling of God.
What is saved? Is saved being yanked out of the sea of humanity and placed in a boat? Consider a fisherman: the fish he likes he cleans and stores away. The fish he doesn't like he either uses for bait, destroys, or throws back into the sea. He doesn't keep those fish that do not meet his standards. What happens to the fish he wants to keep? Aren't they burnt so they can be used for his purposes? It's the same with those caught and brought into the Salvation boat (Mat 13:44-52). Paul said that complete sacrifice for God's purposes is our reasonable service (Rom 12:1). We're not brought into the boat for our sake, but for the sake of the One who took us in and kept us. If we turn sour on the fisherman, then the fisherman will treat us the same way he did the fish he first rejected (Heb 6:4-8).
What is saved? There are three stages of the Church God is creating. The first stage is that of man before the flood. For a thousand years mankind practiced and developed the attitudes of Adam and Eve. What showed itself as a seed in the Garden, became a full-fledged rotten fruit over time. There were exceptions to this, there were some good fruit that came from the barrel of rotten apples. Of course for a good fruit to remain good, it has to remain separate from the rotting fruit or it too will rot. Paul tells us to keep the rotting fruit, the "leaven" out of our lives, and out of the Church or it will cause the rest of the body to rot as well. We don't follow this advise, but instead we invite the rotten into our homes, our lives, and our churches. What will be the natural consequences of such an action?
In order to preserve the good fruit, God had Noah build an ark, a container, that would keep the good fruit from being destroyed with the rotten, selfish fruit. Then God used a flood of water to destroy all He had created, save those in the boat.
The world is made up of three elements, three separate parts. There's the heavens, the earth, and the seas. The heavens we find in the creation story is made up of two parts, that above and that below. In the natural this can be confusing, and I'm not about to go into the Spiritual aspect of this separation here. I've already covered this in another study. The sea we know to be considered in the Bible as representing the world of the unsaved, the unregenerated. What we don't seem to understand is that many of the unregenerated are not only in the churches, filling out the role call, but are serving as tares and wolves in leadership positions. In the story of the flood, the seas, the unworthy of the world, were destroyed. In other words there now existed two kinds of people, Noah, and his family. The "seas" were no more. We find wording to this effect in the New Testament (Rev 21:1).
From the ark there merged two classes of people who were saved. These were the family of Noah. Noah we see was righteous and that is why he was saved. As for the rest of the family we know nothing other than that they believed Noah, apparently helped him build the ark, and took the abuse they must have received from those about to be washed away with the Judgement of God. Were they, the family, righteous as well? I should think if they were it would have been so stated in the Bible. We only know thy had faith. And it may be that faith that saved them.
We find a similar incident in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. There were several in Lot's house just before the destruction. It would appear that the husbands of Lot's daughters were not as wicked as were those of their fellow townsmen. At least we don't read of them attempting harm to the angels sent to investigate the situation. But neither did they believe what they were told. Because of their unbelief, demonstrated by their lack of action, they were "counted with the unbelievers," and suffered their judgement (James 2:26; Luke 12:46).
There were four who were saved from the destruction, Lot's wife and his two daughters. Lot's wife, apparently one who was from the city, "looked back," assumedly with half a heart to return, and was turned into a pillar of salt.
Salt, among other things, was a substance used by an invader of a country to make it so nothing would grow and thereby causing that much more destruction to the enemy. The area of Sodom and Gomorrah was surely turned to an area of salt, which in my estimation is why Lot's wife was covered with salt (I doubt she actually became salt). And because no one else was salted, I assume she had turned around to go back and was no longer with the family who had gone on ahead.
Lot's wife was one who obeyed, and went part of the way, but like in the parable of the sower and the seeds, her obedience was short lived. Jesus said it's those who endure to the end who will be saved, not those who's seed falls on a rock or among the thorns.
Lot, then, is a story of three stages of salvation. It was those who endured to the end who made it to safety.
Noah had three sons. These sons, along with Noah's wife, were saved. They are now on the land of promise. But we do not see where everyone is the same. We know little about the wife of Noah other than she was his wife, a separate entity from the sons. She was also the mother of the boys, another option beyond the capability of the sons.
One of Noah's sons did something we learn much later is not accepted by God; he saw his father naked. Lots of stories have been conjectured as to what Ham might have done to his father, none do I believe. He had simply seen his father's nakedness, probably by accident not expecting his father to be drunk and nude, demonstrated by the fact that the other sons backed in to the tent to avoid "doing" the same thing to their father, that is, see him naked.
Ham now is cursed. He's saved, but he's cursed. The "sea" of humanity is gone, and we now have the "bride" and three sons. One of the sons is cursed. He's still alive, still saved, but he's "cursed."
What I've said here means little to those who haven't had a spark of recognition as to what I'm saying (or already know even better than I do what I'm talking about). And what I'm about to say will have even less significant to those who have not had this spark planted in them. If you disagree with what I'm saying, which you will, that's ok. It only means we have chosen to disagree. Hopefully that, unlike the rest of the Church, can remain a peaceful disagreement without name-calling and accusations like I described earlier that I find so frequently.
The Tabernacle, which is a picture of Heaven as explained by Paul (Heb 9:8-11) was divided into four sections.... You heard it was divided into three sections? No, four. In fact the Tabernacle in completeness was divided into five sections.
Let me explain. First we have the family, the nation of Israel. Out of the nation God chose the tribe of Levi (by lot it seems since Levi himself was not a particularly godly man in his flesh) to be "His own" (Numbers chapter 3&18). The Levites were the priests, and separated unto God. God then gave the tribe of Levi to the High Priest, which was Aaron at the time, to serve him and to do the work of caring for the Tabernacle.
The tribe of Levi situated itself immediately outside, and surrounding the Tabernacle. They were, all of them priests, but only those in perfect condition, and who mete the requirements were allowed to serve the Tabernacle (Leviticus chapter 21). An unclean, or a contaminated (less than perfect) priest still partook of the sustenance the working priests were allowed, but they weren't permitted to serve in the capacity they had been "called" to.
Today we are called to be priests to the living God. But being called to be a priest doesn't mean we're "chosen" (Mat 22:14).
There was a fence that encompassed the Tabernacle itself. Only a qualified priest was allowed into the Tabernacle area, and only priests which were perfect having no flaw, even a physical flaw, were allowed. We picture hundreds of priests walking around in the curtained area because there were hundreds of priests in the wilderness. In fact only a very few were in the area at one time, if for no other reason than that the entire area was only 150 feet by 75 feet in area, a large part of which was taken up by the Tabernacle tent itself. The priests had to be cleaned and prepared in orders to enter this area. They were allowed in the area dirty, but the first thing they had to do before doing anything else was wash thoroughly in the laver designed for this purpose. A priest could not remain in the area without cleansing themselves and making sacrifice for themself ( Ezek 44:5-9; Rom 2:25-27).
We, you and I, are called to be priests unto God. As priests we can not wander around the Tabernacle, the place where God resides and does His work, willy-nilly like we do in the world. We have a job to do, or we have no business being in God's place. And we had better prepare ourself for that purpose, or we will be ejected. We're priests to serve God's purpose. And God's purpose is to serve His people and prepare them for His presence and service, not to bring them in and fill the pews of the churches (Eph 4:12; Mat 5:48).
The first area of the Tabernacle of the five is the area outside the curtained grounds. This area can be likened to the "sea" in Noah's day, or to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Lot's day. This area is designated for destruction. "There will be no more sea."
The second zone we find is the curtained area of the Tabernacle. The curtain separating the Tabernacle from the world at large is composed of fine linen. Fine linen is symbolic of the righteousness of the saints (Rev 19:8). This area can be likened to the ark Noah built. This is the earth part of the Church. This Church is in the midst of the people God calls His own, in the Old Testament, the Israelites. We find then that in the family God calls His own there are millions of people destined for destruction. This in other illustrations is what the Bible refers to as Babylon. It is called by the name of God's people, but it serves itself and not God. In fact like in the time of Jesus, the Church of the day totally rejected their Messiah, the One with the ability to save them and elevate them to the stature they believed they had already attained to. This is Babylon, a church for church's sake, and not for God or for God's creation.
In the curtained area, besides a place to wash, is a brazen alter of sacrifice. Here the priests present sacrifices to God for themselves and for the people. The people bring their sacrifices to the priest, to the "door" of the curtained area, and allow the priest to sacrifice for them. They do not do the sacrificing themselves except in part. It's the priests who do the sacrificing for them. This does not mean a person can't (and shouldn't) sacrifice at other times for themselves. But for the ascribed sacrifices, it is the priest who must do the intercessory work.
There were six occasions (two sets of three) when all Jews were required to come to Jerusalem and sacrifice. These Feasts represent elements of God's plan of salvation for His people. We've seen three of these feast celebrated in the Spiritual, as they were foreshadowed in the natural under the Old Covenant. The Passover is well understood, and we know this to be past. The Fundamental churches all gather around the significance of this feast. The second feast is that of Pentecost, first fruits. Most of the churches it seems ignore this feast and believe that Passover, the cross, is all there is to salvation, to the purposes of God. However, most of these churches ignore the fact that the cross is not all-in-all; neither for the purposes of God nor for us. We are not to bow down at the cross as is suggested by the churches, but Jesus makes it clear that we're to climb up on the cross with Him and become part of His sacrifice for humanity (Mark 8:34; Mat 10:38; Luke 14:27). I see very few people, even those who somewhat understand this concept and even preach it, doing what is ascribed for us.
Even of those who say we must submit, kneel at the cross in total submission, I see nothing indicating they believe or practice what they preach.
In the main part of the Tabernacle (in the fence) there are three sections (the fourth will be described later) as there were on Noah's ark. As explained, there are very few people qualified for, leastwise allowed in the first part of the Tabernacle, the structure the Bible describes as a picture of the earthly heaven. Those in this area have reached what is pictured as Heaven. These are the ones in the ark Noah built, the ones who escaped the destruction of Sodom. But as we've seen, escape is not everything there is to being "saved."
In this "works" area (yes, priests are required to work, regardless of what you may have heard elsewhere) everything that touches the ground is made of brass. The alter is brass, the feet of the posts holding the curtains are brass, and the laver the priests washed in was made of the brass mirrors the women donated. In the works area brass is used. The only exception to this is the posts themselves which are of wood, and the tops of the posts and the crossbars which were of silver. Silver is considered to be symbolic of the Holy Spirit and redemption. We might think of this as how the Shekinah Glory watched over the Church (Israel in the wilderness), and guided the Church, even those at the tail end of procession.
Brass is used in the works area. Brass is like gold in some ways, but it lacks the value of gold. Brass is also much harder and less malleable, pliable then gold or silver. In the book of Revelation we read of brass being described as part of God's plan. We see brass as the legs and the feet of someone of significance. (Ezek 1:8; Rev 1:15, 2:18. Did you catch the connection?). The brass described in these verses is not common brass but has been highly refined, made pure in the fires of affliction. Brass we find is symbolic of man. In the outer area of sacrifice man is to become refined and suited for the presence and the purposes of God. If a person resists, or for some other reason such as ignorance (not having been told) does not allow themselves to be refined, they will not be suited for the next step in God's plan for humanity. The purification process can be equated to the parables Jesus gave us of fields of wheat or vineyards of grape vines, or even the trees John the Baptist referred to. Those plants that don't produce will be burned. Those that produce to varying degrees will be allowed into God's Promised Land. But as we're seeing, there are different stages of Heaven like there are different levels of salvation in the natural. Jesus referred to these stages as thirty, sixty and a hundred fold. All these fruit-producers will be taken into the Lord's barn, but as in the natural, all are not accounted as equal. The best producers in the natural are given more value than are the poorer producers. A cow that gives more and/or better quality milk is more valuable than one that give less milk. Cuttings from a good producing plant are worth more than one that is a poor producer. As in the natural, so in the Spiritual.
We see that in the end the "First heaven and the first earth will pass away, and there will be no more sea." (Rev 211-4) We've seen where the sea has passed away, and how that sea is symbolic of those outside the curtained area of the Tabernacle. All those, even in the Babylonian church, will be passé. But what about the earth? What might the earth be representative of?
In the creation process we see where the earth arises from the sea. It came from the sea, but was not part of the sea. In the natural this would not fit since we know there is just as much "earth" under the sea as there is above it. The difference is that the earth above the sea is to produce fruit after its own kind. Earth that doesn't produce is of little value and is useless for the most part. The worst of this kind of earth that doesn't produce we call desert and we avoid it if at all possible.
Earth then could be seen as this outer works area. Here is where a person proves themselves to be good producers of Spiritual fruit, demonstrating God's love to his or her fellow man. This is where the "metal" of a person is refined and the impurities, the "leaven" and "dross" is removed, making it suitable for the Master's use.
Earth is what the potter makes vessels from. In its natural state, earth is of little value. You and I are made out of earth. "From earth you were made, and to earth you will return" (Gen 3:19). Did you notice the lack of an eternal spirit mentioned here? That's because we are nothing but vessels, earthenware of one quality or another. The vessel that proves itself to be of little or no value is thrown out. The good vessels are brought in and used to contain things considered of much value. And what can be more valuable than the Holy Spirit of God? Jesus said that God is anxious to give us His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), and plant it in those vessels that prove themselves useful to Him (Jer 18:1-10; Rev 2:27). The vessels of low quality will be thrown "over the fence" we might say into the potter's field which is just on the outskirts of what is called "The valley of Gehenna," the place known to us as "hell," where the fire is not quenched because there is always something thrown in to it to keep it going (Mark 9:43-48).
Long ago when I was young , city dumps were like this valley. I would go with my parents when they visited the dump. Here I found people sitting on the back of their pickups or standing beside their car swapping things they had to dispose of rather than throw them over the edge into the ever-burning and smoldering trash heap below. Everything burned there, even garbage and dead animals. In Old Testament days, the bodies of convicted criminals and those too poor to have a burial were thrown in this valley, as well as the sewage and the garbage. "Hell" was not a place you wanted to hang around very long.
Earth then is the area where we as Christians are to work to prove ourselves. If we don't prove ourselves, we're sent back to the sea we've been drawn from to suffer the consequences of those we felt so superior to (Luke 12:46).
The Tabernacle itself, the tent, had a Vail that served as a door. Into this area very few priests were allowed. There were 24 "courses" of priests (as described in Solomon's time - 2Chron chapter 31) who served in the capacity as officials in this area. It appears that the High Priest or one of his sons usually administered this area themselves. There was no special preparation for entering this sacred area since the preparations had already been accomplished in the outer area. By this we can see that only those so chosen for the job, those qualified and cleansed and purified with sacrifices, were to ever be in this special area.
What is this special area very few ever get to enter a representation of? If we look around inside this area we see pictures of cherubims embroidered on the inner covers surrounding the sanctuary. Then again we see more cherubims embroidered into the curtain dividing the Holy of Holies from this area called the Holy Place, the working area of the priests we, the Church, now stand. Cherubims, we read, are pictured in the eviction of Adam and Eve from the Garden. These cherubims were given a fiery sword that turns every which way, and were to "mark" the place where God resides and that God created for mankind where he can have dominion over the earth.
On the north side of the tent, the sanctuary, there's a table of gold, gold indicating holiness, the quality of God and those who overcome (Zech 13:9; Rev 21:18). Gold is not found in the outer area, nor is brass, the qualities attributed to man in preparation for the presence of God, found in either the Holy of Holies or the Holy Place. Nothing of man, no matter how perfect that quality may be, is to be in the actual Tabernacle (1Cor 15:50).
The table of showbread held the loaves of bread destined to feed the priests who work in the Tabernacle. This bread was to be eaten at the end of the week, and then be replaced with new loaves every Sabbath. There were twelve loaves displayed on this table. These loaves are assumed to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. This sounds reasonable, but for some reason I doubt this assumption. As yet I find nothing about such an assumption that alters any facts, so I'll just allow it without comment.
Bread that has been sitting out for a week does not sound like much of a treat when we consider that all through the week the priests were eating freshly-baked bread. In my mind this bread is symbolic. The fact that this bread can be eaten is evidenced by the fact that David, while being pursued by King Saul, was given this bread to eat, him and his men. This in the normal is against the rules of the Tabernacle, but we find that God allows His rules to be broken when it serves His purpose.
There are those (I suppose many if not most or even all) preachers who say this is the "Hidden manna" the overcomer will be eating in the Kingdom. I don't think so, for reasons I'll explain later.
On the south wall of the Sanctuary there stands a large candelabra, a lamp stand having six "branches." This lamp stand is representative of the Church, which association is made clear by its use and reference in the Book of Revelation. The main stem of the candle stick is representative of Jesus, the "Vine" from which all the "branches," which is symbolic of us, the body of Christ, and these branches are fed by the very same special olive oils as is the main stem (John 15:5). Jesus said He is the vine, and we are the branches. If we don't produce the same fruit as did Jesus, the vine, then that is evidence we are not attached to the Vine, and therefore we are not drawing the "Oil" that is to keep our flame burning. In other words, we are not really all we believe ourself to be. We are "dead wood."
On the branches there are almond flowers. And at the top of each branch and the stem, forming a bowl that houses the oil and the wick, there is a flower just beginning to bud. Almonds are significant in two ways that I'm aware of. First, almonds begin to bloom long before the other fruit-bearing trees and plants. Second, it's an almond branch God used to illustrate who He has given authority over His Church. We find this in Aaron's almond rod (branch) that budded and was kept as a memorial in the Ark of the Covenant along with a pot of manna and the tables of the law. We as branches of the Lord, His body, are to produce fruit, fruit of righteousness and holiness. "If we don't love our brothers who we can see, how can we say we love God who we can't see?" (1John 4:20). Our actions are to be those of God here on earth. If they're our own works, then they are of nothing no matter how righteous they may appear (Isaiah 64:6). As the almond buds were evidence that God was working through Aaron, so the almond buds of our own life are to be evidence to the world (and to us) that we are part of the true Church (1John 3:20-24) and the Holy Spirit is working through us to do the will of God (Mat 5:16; John 13:35; 15:5-8).
The candlestick is made of one piece of beaten gold. It's not made of several pieces stuck on to the shaft as we would suppose, it is of one piece, meaning there is to be no separation between the shaft ("Vine") and the branches. Jesus, we know, suffered persecution and was beaten. We read this of Paul and other "branches" of the Church as well. Jesus makes it clear this will be the consequences of all who choose to follow Him (Luke 6:40; John 15:20). If we're part of the candlestick, the Church, the Body of Christ, we can expect to be treated the same as those who have gone before us (Mat 5:12).
Contrary to the other pieces of furniture, including the Ark and the tables in the Holy Place, the candlestick contains no wood. Wood is symbolic of that part of humanity that decays. Brass, as used in the outer court does not decay. Where there is decay, we have humanity, carnality, mortality. Everywhere we look we find some degree of humanity. There are those who believe they have risen above their humanity for one reason or another, and have "passed beyond the Vail." I won't comment on this. I think you probably think the same as I do about such an attitude.
Whereas everything is made of wood covered with a metal of one nature or another (except the implements and other such paraphernalia) the candlestick is not. Paul said we must keep all leaven, all sin out of our life and out of the Church. The Holy Spirit is to have free reign. The letters to the churches in Revelation can be much better understood if we keep this symbol and Paul's admonition in mind.
Standing directly in front of the Vail separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies is the alter of incense. Incense is symbolic of prayer (Rev 5:8; Ex 30:9). The law tells us that no "strange" incense is to be offered to God. This to me indicates that we are not to offer up polluted prayers, that is to say, we are not to pray for selfish things, nor to pray in an unholy condition. If we have a problem, a fault, a sin that we haven't confessed, repented of and are dealing with, then we're not to come to God as if we were an obedient child. This is made all the clearer by Paul's explanation of the Lord's Supper in Corinthians (1Cor 11:25-33). I notice that during communion, in spite of what we're told will happen to those who take the cup unworthily, no one ever refuses the ceremony. For the past two or more months I haven't knelt in prayer or taken communion with the rest of the church. Of course people wonder why I sit out this ceremony, but I know I am not in proper condition to do so "worthily." I have issues I'm dealing with. I'm just beginning to get a handle on my carnality where I feel ready to partake, and I have just begun to kneel when I pray (kneeling means submission, and if I'm bending to my carnal nature, I am not submitting to God), even though I'm far from overcoming the problems I'm dealing with. To me this "Christianity" thing is a serious matters, not a game or Cub Scout activity.
Notice how the alter of incense, prayer of the saints, is on the outside of the Vail. It is not in the area where God resides and where He meets with the people. And the alter of prayer is located well out of reach of even those priests working in the courtyard. Is this significant? I believe it is. Can God hear our prayers through the thick Vail that separates us from Him? I'm sure He can, and that He does. After all, those in this sanctuary have passed the tests of the outer court and now serve Him more directly. However, we see that once a year, after much ceremony and purification, the High Priest takes the prays of the people, symbolized by the incense he takes with him, to the Ark, within the Vail.
The Vail separates the place where God resides from the place where the Church performs its functions. The Holy Place is the Church age, the age in which we live and have lived since the beginning of the Church which began with Jesus. Those in the outer court, although in preparation for the right to be a part of the Church, are not part of the Church. If a person believes they can remain in the outer court without cleansing themself at the laver, and offering themself on the brazen alter in totality, yet consider themself a part of the Church Jesus establish, they are deceiving themself.
On the Vail there are cherubims embroidered as if they are an introduction or a protector of what lies within the Holy of Holies. Just what the Cherubims are representative of, or what they look like is a matter of speculation. However, neither of these questions are important in respect to this study. I think I know what they are, at least I think I know an aspect of what they represent, but again, that's not important as far as what we're looking at here goes.
From the outer court none of the items in the Holy Place can be seen or even suspected to exist. Those priests (and remember, only cleansed priests are allowed in this fenced area) can not see the candlestick or Vail or any of the Cherubims that are so strong a part of the Church. They, those in the courtyard, may be called "priest," but their capacity is limited to work. What do you suppose would happen to a priest in the works area who feels his being a priest excludes him from works? What do you think would be the result of a priest not checking himself out at the laver and cleansing what he sees, or who does not make sacrifice for himself on a daily basis? ("Take up your cross daily"). Do you know of any "priests" who teach that work and purification and sacrifice are no longer necessary? (Mat 5:19; 2Peter 2:1-3). If a person teaches such a doctrine, wouldn't you assume that such a person has not been to the laver and the brazen alter of sacrifice himself? Jesus spoke of those who follow a blind man. Do you recall what happens to those who do so? (Mat 25:14).
In this day and age we think of the Vail as having no significance because it was supposedly rent when Jesus died. Those who teach such a doctrine believe that because the Vail has been rent everyone, at least those who have been baptized, can willy-nilly venture into the presence of God without making any of the prescribed preparations. As you examine the Tabernacle, which we know to be the pattern of Heaven, does it seem as if anyone can enter through the Vail? Or do you see only a very select and carefully prepared few even being in a position to see the Vail, leastwise enter in through it?
Let's take a better look at the Vail that separates the church age from the presence of God. First of all, if the Holy Place where the candlestick is, where you and I reside at this present time is the Church age, then is it feasible that the area behind the Vail is symbolic of the Millennium? I suspect many people would say it is, and I'm inclined to agree. If this is the case, then the Vail being rent two thousand years ago would not have any effect on what would be seen as the entrance to the Millennium. Does this sound logical to you? I would say if there was any Vail rent that would effect the Church age, it would be the first vail that the priest entered through after making his sacrifice, not the second Vail where God meets with the people.
Let's take a closer look at this Vail that sets behind the alter of incense. The first thing I notice about this Vail is that the one rent was not in the Tabernacle but in the Temple. The Temple is symbolic, not of the wilderness journey, or of the Church age. Instead we associate the Temple with a stable period after the Tribulation. This being the case, then again, the Vail being rent would introduce us to the Millennium and not to the age we are now in.
Setting this possibility aside, let's take a look at the Temple and how it was constructed. We read that whereas the Tabernacle had Vails covering the entrance ways, the Temple had huge folding doors (1Kings chapter 6). These doors, especially the one that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies, had engravings of Cherubims on them, and the one before the entrance to the Holy of Holies was not of common wood, but of the tree that bears olives. Is this significant? I believe it is. But that significance is attached to many complicated detail I don't care to deal with here.
There is a door between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. When Jesus died, what was rent? Was it a door? That's not what my Bible says. It says a Vail was rent. Do you find a Vail in the Temple anywhere? I see where a Vail was made, but I don't see where it was put to any use (2Chron 3:14). But even should it have been set in place, there is still the door to contend with. If I tried to go through a curtain that blocked my entrance to a room I wanted to go into, and the curtain was opened for one reason or another; would that open curtain do me any good if there was a huge door behind it?
Let's see if there might be another explanation than what has been offered to us concerning the Vail that was rent.
When Jesus died a Vail was rent from top to bottom. Was a Vail rent as described? I believe there was, but I believe the renting of that Vail was not for the reason supposed, but as a symbol of a more important event taking place at the same moment. Let's look at what the Bible says about that precious moment:
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