Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy – The Coming of Israel’s Chosen King

 

By GF Herrin

 Part 1

Daniel 9:24 – 27

“Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy. 25 “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. 26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined. 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”

 

Daniel’s 70 Weeks prophecy is perhaps the best known of all prophetic Scripture regarding Israel and End Times. It also may very well be the most often misunderstood of all eschatological Bible passages. The prophetic passages in Dan. 9:24-27 give us a glimpse of key events that are to take place impacting Israel and its people. Understanding the Scripture properly influences greatly how one understands many other pieces of Scripture involving prophecy of things that to take place before the coming age. To properly understand the message of the prophecy of the Seventy Weeks is to understand God’s faithfulness and determination to bring forth Israel’s chosen King and Lord: Jesus Christ. Misunderstanding the Scripture is to underestimate God’s nature and faithfulness to His covenant people in respect to keeping the prophetic promises written of throughout the Old and New Testaments.

H.A. Ironside writes of the importance of understanding the Seventy Weeks prophecy:

For if the 70 weeks are to be misunderstood, then, an effort will necessarily be made to bend all the other prophetic Scripture passages into accord with that misinterpretation. But if we have a correct understanding of the teaching of this chapter, we can then see readily how all prophecy, without any forcing, falls right into place and is intimately linked with this the greatest of all-time prophecies (H. A. Ironside, Daniel, Kregel, 2005, 86).

A key to understanding the passages of the 70 Weeks in in understanding the context in which the revelation was given. It is clear from the passages in Daniel 9:1-19 that the revelation that Gabriel brought to Daniel was given to him in response to his fervent prayer. It is believed that the time period for the events described in chapter nine was approximately 70 years after Israel’s initial deportation to Babylon after the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. The text says that Daniel had been reading Jeremiah’s writings and understood that Jerusalem would remain desolate for seventy years.

Jeremiah’s prophecies clearly indicated a 70 year period in which Israel’s land would be left desolate:

Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations. Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp. And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years (Jer. 25:8-11).

Jeremiah revealed what the Lord said would come after the 70 years in exile as well: “After seventy weeks are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform my good word for you, and cause you to return to this place” (Jer. 29:10). When he came to understand Jeremiah’s prophecies regarding the seventy year exile that God had appointed, Daniel was prompted to pray for Israel’s forgiveness and for Jerusalem to be delivered from its time of desolation. As is evident in the words of 9:12, Daniel was familiar with the Law of Moses and the judgment that God would bring upon Israel if they were unfaithful to Him:

Moses writes, “I will heap disasters on them; I will spend My arrows on them. They shall be wasted with hunger, devoured by pestilence and bitter destruction; I will also send against them the teeth of beasts, with the poison of serpents of the dust. The sword shall destroy outside; There shall be terror within For the young man and virgin, the nursing child with the man of gray hairs” (Deut. 32:23-25).

He also would have known of the Scripture regarding the consequences of disobedience to God: “But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you” (Lev. 26:14-17).

But Daniel must have also understood the Scripture regarding God’s promised of faithfulness and mercy if only Israel would repent and turn away from its iniquities and call upon the name of Yahweh:

“But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me, and that I also have walked contrary to them and have brought them into the land of their enemies; if their uncircumcised hearts are humbled, and they accept their guilt– then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land. The land also shall be left empty by them, and will enjoy its Sabbaths while it lies desolate without them; they will accept their guilt, because they despised My judgments and because their soul abhorred My statutes. Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 26:40-45).

Daniel also understood from Jeremiah’s writings that God would never allow Israel to cease to exist as a people to Him. Jeremiah writes: “If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever.” Thus says the Lord: “If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord” (Jer. 31:36-37).

In Daniel 9:16, 18, Daniel appeals to God’s sense of righteousness and mercy in hope that He will turn away His anger from Jerusalem and His sanctuary. Daniel, in his sincere devotion to the Lord, is compelled to bring his humble petition to Him. There is nothing in the text to suggest that Daniel has excerpted words from prayers from people such as Nehemiah as some critical scholars have suggested (A. A. Bevan, A Short Commentary on the Book of Daniel, 1892, 150). It is Daniel’s familiarity with the Law, the writings of Jeremiah, and his intimate knowledge of the nature of God that enables him to compose such a humble prayer in chapter nine. This prayer serves as a great model for anyone needing to call upon the name of the Lord. Daniel, as a great man of faith, displays the kind of heart that God desires in His people. “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Ps. 34:18).

That his prayer is effective is evident in the swiftness with which Gabriel provides the answer to Daniel along with a revelation from God. Daniel pleadingly offers up a humble request on behalf of his nation, Israel, to be forgiven of sins and for Jerusalem to be restored back to its people. Understanding Daniel’s intended audience is a key to understanding the prophetic message that Gabriel brings to him. The revelation that Gabriel brings to Daniel directly addresses the remaining days for Israel. J. A. Seiss writes: “It is not the Jew and Jerusalem in one case, and Christians and the church in another. It is the Jew and Jerusalem first, last, and all the time, and nothing but the Jew and Jerusalem, and what pertains to them (J. A. Seiss, Voices from Babylon, 1879, 240). So, it is with the correct understanding of application that we must examine the prophecy of Daniel’s Seventy Weeks in 9:24-27.

“When you Fast…”

By GF Herrin

In today’s world, more than ever before Christians are inundated with a culture that seeks and occupies its time with anything but God. Think of the distractions we must face: TV, movies, books, magazines, iPhones, the internet, sports, “higher” education, sex, food, money, work, physical fitness and many more. We are bombarded by distractions coming at us from all directions. With so much to distract us from God, how do we stay hungry for Him?

Well, one way to remove distractions from our relationship with the Lord is through the discipline of fasting. John Piper’s book, Hunger for God, is an excellent resource that points to fasting as a tool to eliminate worldly distractions and draw closer to God. He points out the many benefits of fasting and emphasizes that it is a biblical discipline that we are called to do.

Remember, Christ mentioned fasting as an activity that all believers should practice when he said, ”But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face” (Matt. 6:17). Notice, the Lord did not say if we fast, as if it may or may not be something that we partake in, but said, when we fast.

Also, we who are earnestly waiting for the return of the Bridegroom are in a sense mourning because He is not with us, right now. As hard as it may be to visualize, this time is only temporary. One day, we believers will live with Christ in the New Jerusalem. However, right now, we are called to fast since our King is not with us. And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matt. 9:15).

Fasting helps us to separate us from the temporary meaningless things that keep us away from prayer, Bible reading, and fellowship with God. Jesus emphasized that these types of things would distract people from God’s word and ultimately from a healthy relationship with Him: “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word;but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful (Mark 4:18-19).

You may need to fast from food to get away from all of the distractions from this world. If you are like me, you have precious little time to spend with Lord. Communion with God, though, is a paramount activity for you to be fruitful for Christ. If you have a besetting sin, activity, or obsession that has become an idol in your life you need to get away from it. Get rid of it and strip away all of the things that are preventing you from drawing close to God.

Remember, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

Same Sex Marriage Laws Force Faithful State Magistrates to Resign their Posts

By GF Herrin

For years I have marveled at the faith of Christian missionaries at work in Muslim countries where they risk their lives to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As “infidels” they can be executed for violating oppressive laws that prohibit any faith other than Islam. Now, here in the United States, Christians, who endeavor to follow the Lord Jesus’ commandments (John 14:15), are coming under fire more than ever.

The recent ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court declaring that states should not have the right to set their own laws banning same sex marriage, has forced faithful Christian magistrates to make tough choices concerning their jobs. Shortly after same-sex marriages became legal in North Carolina on Oct. 10th, a memo sent to magistrates from the Administrative Office of the Courts said they could face criminal prosecution if they did not perform gay marriage ceremonies. Already, six state magistrates have resigned their posts

Imagine that! Christians in the state of North Carolina could now be prosecuted for being faithful to God’s Word, which prohibits homosexual acts. Marriage is clearly defined as being between one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24) in the Bible. To force a magistrate to preside over a ceremony authorizing a same sex union goes against a citizen’s religious freedoms that are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Considering the United States’ beginnings and its roots of being founded on Christian principles, persecution against Christians is inconceivable. It is evident more and more that America is now a post-Christian society. Now, more than ever, Christians are being forced to choose whether they will seek the praise of God or the praise of men (John 12:43). We should all pray for these Christian magistrates who have sacrificed their jobs to follow Christ.

See Related Article:

http://www.journalnow.com/news/state_region/nc-magistrates-resign-over-gay-marriage-rulings/article_ee6c4522-4db6-5ef2-91ca-62f2b310f611.html

 

 

The Shroud of Turin

shroud

Archaeological Evidence for Jesus’ Life, Death, and Resurrection

By GF Herrin

     One of the most widely debated pieces of biblical archaeology known to exist is the 14 `11 ” long by 3 ` 7 ” wide ancient linen cloth known as the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud is historically purported to be the burial cloth of Jesus. On the cloth itself is the image of the full body (front and back) of a crucified man with details of wound marks, blood stains, and what appears to be ancient coins (issued by Pilate between AD 29 – 32) on each of his eyes (Kenneth E. Stevenson and Gary R. Habermas, Verdict on the Shroud (Ann Arbor: Servant Books, 1981), 134, 79, 64 – 65, 27). If authentic, the Shroud could be one of the most important historical pieces of evidence for the resurrection of Christ.

The history of the Shroud can be definitively traced back to 1357 when Jeanne de Virgy, the widow of Geoffrey de Charny, exhibited the Shroud as the burial cloth of Jesus in a small church in the town of Lirey, one hundred miles southeast of Paris (Stevenson and Habermas, 14). The Shroud’s history prior to 1357 is less clear. There is reason to believe, though, that the Shroud may have been known at various times as the “image of Edessa”, the “Edessan image”,and the “Holy Mandylion” (Stevenson and Habermas, 17). In 525, the Mandylion cloth was found inside a wall niche in the Turkish city of Edessa (now Urfa). The cloth was taken to Constantinople where it was known as “the true likeness of Christ” (Stevenson and Habermas, 17). In 1204, the cloth disappeared from Constantinople after the city was attacked by Crusaders.

Interestingly, after the time of the cloth’s discovery in the sixth century, Christian art shifted in its characterization of Christ. Prior to that time, there were few similarities among various paintings of Jesus. Christ was painted as being beardless and short haired. Beginning in the sixth century, though, the majority of art characterized Jesus as having a beard with facial features similar to the image found on the Shroud. Thus, there is a possibility that artists used the Shroud as a model for their representations of Christ (Stevenson and Habermas, 16-17).

Prior to 525, a legendary history exists of the cloth dating back to shortly after the time of Christ. The story goes that a disciple (perhaps Jude, one of the Twelve) came to Edessa to heal Abgar V, a first-century ruler of Edessa who was stricken by leprosy. The ruler had written to Jesus while He was still alive and the Lord had promised to send a disciple to him. According to the account, Abgar was healed after seeing the cloth of Christ’s image and Christianity spread in Edessa as a result of the miracle.

There are questions regarding the location of the Cloth between the Mandylion’s disappearance in 1204 and the appearance of the Shroud in 1357. One theory is that the cloth was in the possession of the Knights Templars, a religious order that was charged with defending the “crusader territories” in the Holy Land. The Knights Templars possessed the power, strength, and religious ferver to defend the burial cloth from attacks during that time. So, it is natural to believe that they would have been the ones who would have been responsible for guarding it. Also, as part of their ceremonial rites, an image of God was displayed to the Knights in order for them to pay homage to it. When the Knights were finally displaced by King Philip of France in 1307, one of the men who was burned at the stake for his refusal to surrender was Geoffrey de Charnay, who had the same last name (spelling often varied) of the first owners of the Shroud, Geoffrey of Lirey.

In 1453, the House of Savoy took possession of the Shroud. Eventually, the King of Italy came from this family. The exiled King of Italy, Umberto II owns the Shroud, now. The Shroud was kept in a special chapel in Chambery, France where it was damaged in a fire that broke out in 1532. In 1578, the Shroud was moved to Turin, Italy, where it has remained, except for a six year period during World War II.

In 1898, Italian photographer, Secondo Pia, photographed the Shroud during an exhibit. It was during the development of his pictures that the photographer discovered that the figure on the Shroud is actually a negative image that can be seen clearly when viewed on film. Through the examination of the film it can be clearly seen that the figure on the Shroud appears to be the front and back of a man’s body who was crucified. The man appears to be 5 feet 11 inches tall, Hebrew, and approximately 30 – 35 years of age. He appears to wear his hair in a pigtail which would have been consistent with the manner in which a first century Hebrew man would have worn his hair.

Three of the pierce wounds found on the image on the Shroud are consistent with those of a man who was crucified. One pierce mark is visible on the left wrist which covers the right hand. There appears to be blood on the cloth that must have flowed from the hand wounds. There are also pierce marks on each heel where it appears that a single spike was driven to nail them together. In addition, there are between ninety and one hundred scourge wounds on the body which seem to indicate that the man was flogged severely. There is also a pierce mark on his side that matches the size of a wound that would have been made by a Roman lancia (spear). There are also multiple deep wounds all over the scalp of the man on the Shroud.

In 1978, the Shroud of Turin Research Project gathered a team of scientists in Turin, Italy for an in depth examination and analysis of the Shroud. From this study, they were able to determine that the stains found on the linen cloth were in fact blood. Official spokesman for the Shroud of Turin Research Project, Kenneth Stevenson, and Gary Habermas write:

Of particular interest is the fact that the wounds in their entirety exactly match the wounds Christ received as recorded in the gospels. More importantly, for scientific purposes, all of the wounds are anatomically correct to a surprising level of detail. They include such medically accurate facts as a characteristic “halo” around bloodstains suggesting the separation of blood and serum; flecking and rivulets true to blood flows in nature; and swelling of the abdomen that indicates asphyxiation, the usual cause of death in crucifixion. All of these medical facts, as well as others, were unknown in the fourteenth century.

In addition, the body seems to display indications that rigor mortis had set in but there are no signs of decay. This seems to indicate that the body exited the burial cloth shortly after being interred. What is additionally puzzling is that according to a scientific team pathologist, it does not appear that the body was unwrapped from the cloth since so many bloodstains were intact and un-wrapping it would have disrupted the bloodstains.

In addition, the scientists for the project found no evidence to support a conclusion that the image was the result of painting. There is no evidence to indicate that the image shows any form of pigmentation. In fact, the image on the linen is on the topmost part of the cloth. In other words, the image does not penetrate down through the thread of the cloth. An in depth analysis, in fact, confirmed the conclusions that Air Force scientists John Jackson and Eric Jumper reached in 1976 that the image is actually three dimensional.

In 1988, carbon dating testing was performed on a small piece of the shroud. After tests were analyzed for the material used, a carbon date of the middle-ages was determined. But in 2005, Raymond Rogers, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist, determined that the shroud sample used could not have been from the original cloth because it contained cotton. The Shroud had in fact been damaged in the fire of 1532. As a result, repairs had been done to part of the cloth. The cloth sample used for the 1988 Carbon 14 dating was from the repaired area which contained cotton (Raymond N. Rogers, “Scientific Method Applied to the Shroud of Turin: A Review”. [Online] Available: <http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/rogers2.pdf> [November 30, 2009]). Therefore, the Carbon 14 dating showed a later date for the Shroud than the cloth from the other areas might have shown.

In fact, there is reason to believe that the Shroud is of first century middle-eastern origin. Gilbert Raes, a professor at the Ghent Institute of Textile Technology in Belgium inspected threads taken from the cloth in 1973. He concluded that the thread used was a type commonly used in the middle-east in the first century (Stevenson and Habermas, 27). In addition, in 1973, Swiss criminologist, Max Frei, examined cloth taken from the Shroud. He found pollen spores from thirty-three different plants found in the middle-east and Turkey on the cloth sample. Since the Shroud has remained in Europe since 1357, it is likely that its history included a stay in Palestine and Turkey before 1357. Given that the Mandylion was apparently originated in Palestine, with some time spent in Turkey and given that the Shroud’s history must by necessity have included stays in the middle-east and Turkey, it seems reasonable to conclude the Mandylion and the Shroud are in fact one and the same.

Even with the findings that have indicated a pre-1300 origin, there have been fraud claims launched against the Shroud. In October of 2009, Italian researcher, Professor Luigi Garlaschelli, claimed that he had successfully reproduced the Shroud image using art techniques that would have been possible in the medieval times. In doing this, he has claimed that the Shroud was a 14th century fake (Luigi Garlaschelli, “Shroud Reproduction” [Online] Available: <http://sites.google.com/site/luigigarlaschelli/shroudreproduction> [November 30, 2009]). But, French Shroud researcher, Dr. Thibault Heimburger, analyzed the composition of the materials and the appearance of the reproduction in comparison to the actual Shroud. He states that Garlaschelli’s reproduction is the closest in appearance to the Shroud of any he has seen. But, Heimburger states that the materials used to reproduce the image are “very far from the fundamental properties of the Shroud image” (Thibault Heimburger, “Comments About the Recent Experiment of Professor Luigi Garlaschelli” [Online] Available: < http://www.shroud.com/pdfs/thibault-lg.pdf> [November 30, 2009]). He also states that the dry powder that was used to produce the image in the reproduction would have been lost in the process of all the rolling and folding of the Shroud over the years and there would not have been enough powder left to cause the chemical reactions between the acidic impurities and the cellulose that produced the color.

This recent attempt to reproduce the image on the Shroud artistically underscores some of the difficulties that must be overcome in claiming that it is the creation of an artist. First of all, the image on the cloth is in a negative form. Why would someone paint an image in a form that would show up better when viewed photographically? For that matter, how would someone in the first century or even the 14th century (when Jeanne de Virgy first exhibited “the Shroud”) possess the technology to paint it in a negative form? After all, the concept of negativity was not understood until photography was invented in the nineteenth century. As Habermas states: “It was almost ludicrous to suggest that a painter, depicting Jesus’ body as it might have appeared on his burial garment, would have chosen to do so with an artistry and detail that would have not been discovered for more than 500 years, until the invention of photographic process which his age knew nothing about.”

Also, there are some are basic things that the artist would not have known about. One is the location of the pierce mark on the wrist of the man on the Shroud. According to Habermas, if the artist had portrayed the wound location in the way that tradition and most artists illustrated, then it is more likely that he would have chosen the palm area instead of the wrist location for the pierce marks. In addition, it is unlikely that the artist would have known about the physical appearance of the extended abdomen which was caused by the medical condition of asphyxiation, the typical cause of death for the crucifixion victim.

Since the 1978 project, other scientists have closely examined the cloth samples to determine the origins of the image on the Shroud. The cause of the image on the Shroud is still unknown. There does not appear to be any indication that it was created by an artist, though. Both vermillion (a paint ingredient) and iron oxide are present on the cloth. But according to Dr. John Heller, Biophysicist and Professor of Internal Medicine at Yale, who examined the samples from the cloth, there is not enough of either to account for the image or the blood stains found on it (John H. Heller, Report on the Shroud of Turin (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983), 193 – 94). In addition, no foreign substance found on the Shroud can account for the image on the cloth (Stevenson and Habermas, 144). Analysis done on the blood stains have shown that there is strong evidence to indicate that the blood was on the cloth before the image was made (Heller, 202 – 03).

In all, the physical appearance of the man on the Shroud matches exactly what we would expect Jesus to have looked like after being struck with fists and staffs, mockingly crowned with thorns, scourged, crucified to death, and speared (Matt. 26:67; 27:26, 30, 35; John 19:31 – 32, 34). Being a first century Jew He would have had long hair and a beard, like the man on the Shroud. Having been struck in the face and crowned with thorns, he would have been bruised and bloodied in His face and scalp, like the man on the Shroud. Also, having been scourged, crucified and speared in the side He would have had multiple wound marks all over His body and pierce marks in His wrists, feet and side, like the man on the Shroud. We have no way of knowing for sure if the Shroud is authentic, but given the fact that it has been proclaimed historically to be the burial cloth of Jesus since 1357 and more than likely the first century, it certainly seems likely that it is so. If it is authentic, then it would seem that the Resurrection event itself was the cause of the image being radiated or scorched onto the burial cloth of Jesus. Regardless, the truth of the facts of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection does not depend on the Shroud in any way. There is more than enough evidence already to say that it is reasonable to believe in Him.

 

Itching Ears Continue to Want to be Scratched

 

 By GF Herrin

People may ask me, “why do you think we are living in the End Times?” To that question, I must say that in addition to our living in a time where the nation of Israel has been re-formed and Jerusalem once again belongs to the Jews, we are also today seeing the fulfillment of specific Scripture that warns us of widespread apostasy within the church and false teachers who will tell people whatever they want to hear.

Paul writes, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:3-5).

We have seen this passage fulfilled directly through several mainline churches’ reluctance to take a stand against homosexuality and same sex marriage. In fact, apostate churches such as the United Church of Christ, who sued the state of North Carolina back in May to overturn the voter enacted law banning same sex marriage stand as a clear example of a church turning completely against God’s word, which commands Christians to stand for the truth:

“Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim 4:2).

In addition to denominations such as the Episcopal church, which was a forerunner in blessing homosexual couples and has openly encouraged pastors active in the lifestyle, groups such as the Metropolitan church have dis-regarded Scripture passages forbidding homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-28; 1 Cor. 6:9). Also, congregations such as the apostate Holy Trinity Lutheran church in Charlotte, who have actually celebrated the recent allowing of same sex marriage in North Carolina, have openly encouraged disobedience to Scripture, also, with their stance.

Why have many churches fallen away from standing for the truth of Scripture? There seems to be a couple of reasons. The prevailing attitude of churches that encourage homosexuality seems to be one that emphasizes grace over the Law. While it is true that the grace of God brought about man’s salvation from eternal damnation (God the Father was not obligated in any way to send His son, Jesus to die for sins), it does not provide believers a license to sin (see Rom. 6:1-2, 15-16; Gal. 5:13; Jude 4).

The other attitude seems to be one of thinking that homosexuals are born “that way” and that Scripture does not apply here. So, since certain people are born with an innate attraction to the same sex, it must be considered “OK” if they act on their impulses and engage in sexual activity with that one person that they are committed to. But is attraction to the same sex not unlike a heterosexual man who may be predisposed to enjoy the viewing pornography? After all, a man might feel a great sense of excitement and arousal when he views certain pictures or videos involving women in various stages of undress. Shouldn’t he then be allowed to act on how he feels in various ways? And what if he is attracted to young girls? Shouldn’t it be ok if he has sex with a young girl as long as he is committed to her?

It seems to be a slippery slope. Plus, (given the scriptural references where Jesus spoke out against sexual activity in a non-monogamous relationship – Matt. 5:27-28; Matt. 19:4-5) this attitude of since “I was born this way”, seems to me to be an idol that stands between a believer and God. If you say that Scripture does not apply here or it must have been wrong, how do you then differentiate between what is true in Scripture and what is not? Were Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul wrong when they wrote of Jesus’ dying on the cross for sinners? Were they wrong when they spoke of the literal physical Resurrection of Christ as a typology of all born again believers who have put their trust in Jesus for their resurrection in the age to come (John 3:3; 11:24; 1 Cor. 15:13-19)?

In a recent conversation with a celibate believer who had come out of the homosexual lifestyle to follow Christ, it was apparent that Christians must reason together and evangelize to all in a spirit of love and not condemnation. In speaking biblical truth we must point them to Christ. We also need to put homosexual acts in the category of yet another sin (see Rom. Chapter 1, and 1 Corinthians chapter 6 for many others) that must be repented from in order to be born again. Ultimately, the goals of the Christian life should be to glorify God, to live holy, and to live out God’s true purpose for our lives.

Historical References for the Resurrection and the Events of the New Testament

By GF Herrin

    It is part of human nature to want to possess concrete evidence in order to confirm historical events that have taken place in the past. Archaeology, in its own way, is like a picture in time of an event that occurred in the past. It is evidence that points to the validity of actual historical events that took place long ago.

Biblical archaeology provides evidence for facts that previously may have been believed to be unverifiable. Archaeological documents composed by non-Christians provide even more confirmation of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Christian apologist Josh McDowell states: “Archaeology does not prove the Bible is the word of God. All it can do is confirm the basic historicity or authenticity of a narrative. It can show that a certain incident fits into the time it purports to be from” (Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 370). While Archaeology does not prove that the Bible is the word of God, it does provide a picture of Jesus as a historical figure. And as the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

With this picture concept in mind, below are several ancient historical references that give us a clear confirmation of the Resurrection and the Events of the New Testament. It can be ascertained from these references that Jesus existed, He worked miracles, and He was believed to have been resurrected after being put to death by Pontius Pilate (Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ, 1996, 189 – 90; 195 – 96.). In addition, this documentation presents solid evidence that Jesus was already worshipped as God by the time of the first century. These unbiased historical references are important because they validate the New Testament as a reliable chronology of the life and mission of Jesus Christ and His early followers.

One of the earliest known references to Christ comes from the Jewish Pharisee historian, Flavius Josephus, who became a court historian for Emperor Vespasian in Rome after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman Army in AD 70. Josephus wrote several books detailing the history of the Jews. One of his works, Antiquities, describes events in Jerusalem during Pilate’s time as governor. This historical reference pre-dates other known Roman extra-biblical references to Jesus. In this passage written between AD 90 – 95, Josephus writes:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, – a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day” (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities 18.3. The Works of Flavius Josephus. trans. William Whiston).

We can discern the following important facts from the passage:

1) Jesus performed good works/miracles and was recognized as a virtuous man.

2) He had many followers comprised of both Jews and Gentiles.

3) He claimed to be and was recognized as the Messiah by some.

4) He was sentenced to die and was crucified by Pilate.

5) His disciples claimed that He was resurrected from the dead and that they had seen Him.

6) He was founder of the “tribe” of Believers who took His name.

Another Josephus passage from Antiquities refers to the event of the death of James, the brother of Jesus: “So he (Ananus) assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others [or some of his companions]; and, when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned” (Josephus, 20:9). Clearly, in this passage there is the connection of James as a brother of Jesus. Also, there is a clear reference to Jesus being recognized as the Messiah.

The earliest known extra-biblical Gentile reference to Christ comes from the Roman historian, Cornelius Tacitus, (ca. AD 55 – 120), who lived through the reign of six emperors. Tacitus’ book, The Annals, which was written around AD 115, covers the period of Roman history from AD 14 to AD 68. Tacitus’ account describes the period during which Emperor Nero attempted to blame the great fire in Rome of AD 64 on the Christians (F. F. Bruce, Are the New Testament Documents Reliable?,1946,114).

Tacitus writes:
“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures…on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular” (Cornelius Tacitus, The Annals of Imperial Rome, trans. Michael Grant, 1973, 365).

This passage from Tacitus is important for a couple of reasons:

1) It provides early confirmation of the biblical reference that Jesus was put to death by Pontius Pilate (Matt. 27:26; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:24 – 25; John 19:16). Tacitus’ reference to “the extreme penalty” is a confirmation that Jesus paid for His “crime” by dying. That it is referred to as “the extreme penalty” could also confirm that Tacitus viewed crucifixion to be the most horrible form of capital punishment carried out by the Roman Empire (Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus,2004, 49).

2) The passage provides early evidence (from a Gentile government official no less) in the belief in Jesus as Deity. The phrase “mischievous superstition” likely refers to the belief in Jesus as the Messiah/God– man.

A parallel account to the Tacitus reference is given by the Roman historian Gaius Seutonius Tranquillas, the general secretary for Emperor Hadrian (AD 117 – 138). Seutonius also refers to the great fire in Rome and the punishment inflicted on Christians by Nero. An earlier account by Seutonius during the time of the Emperor Claudius (AD 41 – 54) refers to the early Jewish Christians who were expelled from the city in AD 49. This ancient reference provides further evidence for an early belief in Christ. The account also serves as verification of the passage in Acts 18:2, which describes Aquila and Priscilla’s departure from Rome because of Claudius’ demand that all Jews leave the city.

Another early reference to Christians and the crucifixion of Jesus is from the second century Greek satirist, Lucian, who writes:

“The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day – the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account…You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all times, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws. All this they take quite on faith, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property” (Lucian, The Works of Lucian, trans. A.M. Harmon, 2001, 11-13).

In this passage, we see historical confirmation that by the second century Jesus was commonly worshipped as God. Also, we see a reference to Jesus as a teacher who was crucified for the “rites” that He espoused. In addition, this passage provides confirmation in the early belief in life after death for believers who have put their trust in Christ. The passage also speaks of the early Christians’ identification as a unique family within itself and their collective denial of false gods.

Other secular passages that refer to the crucifixion, activities of early Christians or decrees or ordinances concerning them include references by Africanus, Pliny the Younger, and Emperors Trajan and Hadian. Altogether, these passages provide us with unbiased and reasonable historical proof that Jesus was who the Bible said He was. These passages also provide us information that is completely consistent with the teachings found in the New Testament.

The Lunar Tetrad of 2014-15

blood red moon

Eye on the End Times

Question: what do we know about the first time Jesus came to live among us?

There were signs, right?

The three Magi saw the star and knew a King would be born.

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him” (Matt. 2:1-2).

God said that the stars in Heaven were to serve as markers or signs.

Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; (Gen. 1:14).

What do we know about the people during His first Coming?

Well, for the most part, The Jews were not looking for Him! So, they did not know the time of His coming. In what I believe to be the most haunting passage in the New Testament, Jesus said to the Jews, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes…because you did not know the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:42-44).

But, what do we know about the time before at the end before the Messiah’s Return? Well, we know that Jesus himself said there would be signs before His second coming, also.

“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring;” (Luke 21:25).

“The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord” (Joel 2:31).

Four Lunar eclipses that are occurring in conjunction with biblical Feast days during 2014-15 would seem to serve as a type of sign, wouldn’t you think? After all, Scripture says, regarding the biblical Feasts, “These are the feasts of the Lord, holy convocations, which you shall proclaim at their appointed times” (Lev. 23:4).

If, for some reason, you have not heard of this amazing astronomical event (the lunar tetrad), here is the time table for the Lunar and solar eclipses events of 2014-15:

There will be four blood red moons (two have already happened) that will fall on four biblical feast days over the next two years….

This is extremely rare but not without precedent.

The other times it has happened in history they have served as monumental omens for events following soon after in the nation of Israel.

 

Here are the dates for the four that fall in 2014-15:

Passover                                    April 15, 2014

Feast of Tabernacles             October 8, 2014

Passover                                    April 4, 2015

Feast of Tabernacles             September 28, 2015

 

Two solar eclipses connected with God’s Holy Days in 2014-2015, also will occur:

Adar 29/Nisan 1(new year)     March 20, 2015

Feast of Trumpets                   September 13, 2015

 

Some History around what has happened in the past when blood red moons have occurred on Feast days: 

1949/1950- the years following Israel’s re-gathering as a nation -  and a time during which the new nation fought for its survival in a war of Independence

1967/1968 – Jerusalem was liberated on June 7th, 1967 and as a result of the Six-Day War, for the first time since 70 AD, the city belonged to the nation of Israel.

Before that, you have to go back to 1493/1494 for four successive lunar eclipses on Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles” – a time right after the Jewish expulsion from Spain and the opening up of the exploration of America, a country where millions of Jews live today.  See: http://www.fivedoves.com/letters/apr2012/denish419.htm

Prophecy in the News, writes, “This is most unusual. It is a rare occurrence for four lunar cycles on successive Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) observances. It will not happen again for hundreds of years. Four lunar eclipses occurring on the Feast of Tabernacles and Passover in two successive years are phenomenal. But add to them two solar eclipses on the two days that open the Jewish year Adar 29/Nisan1, just two weeks before Passover, and Tishri 1 (Rosh Hashannah) – is uncanny. On each of these six Jewish Holy Days, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give her light. Will this happen again in the 21st century? No.”

Now, I am not Date Setting for the Rapture of the Church, here (although I believe I received a word from the Lord concerning the general timing of His return 6 years ago). Since these are Feast days that we are talking about, and Jews everywhere were commanded to observe them, we could more likely be talking about an event that is significant to Israel. While it is possible that the Rapture could occur, maybe it is more likely that a war impacting Israel may take place. What I am referring to is more properly understood as “Stage setting”. There are quite a few significant events that have taken place the first lunar eclipse occurred on April 15th. I will write on that in my next post.

The key thing I want to mention here is that the Bible instructs us to be actively looking for Jesus’ return!

 

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20).

“Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them” (Luke 12:37).

“Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matt. 24:4)

“looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,”(Titus” 2:13).

“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things (Christ’s Coming), be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;” (2 Pet. 3:14).

 

Most people today will not be looking for him. Many churches completely disregard the study of End Times prophecy, thinking that it is too difficult to understand. Scripture is clear that people (some professing Christians even) will doubt the Return of Christ. I have witnessed scoffing and sneering from both non-believers and so-called scholars alike. A Duke divinity professor commented recently in a disparaging way casting his doubt on the validity of the doctrine of the Rapture. Folks, you may have all the biblical knowledge in the world, but it doesn’t mean that you know Jesus! And similar to Christ’s first coming when there was only a small number who knew the timing of His arrival (Luke 2:34, 38, John 1:39; 3:29) so it will be in the end. Take care to keep yourself from the entrapments of this world (look for a future post on the necessity of staying from idols).

Remember, “and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19).

Beware of the biblical illiterate among us: “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:3-4).

Maranatha!

The Ossuary of James

The Ossuary of James

 

Archaeological Evidence for Jesus’ Life, Death, and Resurrection

By GF Herrin

     In the Spring of 2002, Andre Lemaire, an expert on ancient Semitic scripts, was shown photographs of several ossuaries acquired by a collector who was an acquaintance. The collector had acquired one particular ossuary from a dealer in East Jerusalem. The collector had been told that the ossuary came from Silwan, an Arab village just east of the City of David (the old city of Jerusalem). There was an inscription on the side of the ossuary that says: “Ya’akov bar Yosef achui d’Yeshua”. In English: “James son of Joseph, brother of Jesus” (Hershel Shanks and BenWitherington III, The Brother of Jesus, 2003,11 – 12).

Many believe that this ossuary is the actual bone box of James, the brother of the Lord Jesus. Subsequent tests have proven it to be consistent with a box which has an ancient origin. Laboratory tests have analyzed the patina (the film formed from chemicals seeping onto it while being stored for hundreds of years in a cave) covering the ossuary and concluded that the inscription did not display any inconsistencies with material found on the rest of the ossuary. Paleographers who have analyzed the inscription first hand have found no sign of forgery, either. “The inscription is written in the Jewish script, it was done with a sharp instrument and I think it was done by the same hand. It is an authentic inscription,” Prof Gabriel Barkay of Bar-Ilan University explained.. Owner Oded Golan cites expert evidence from the trial showing the patina – a biological crust formed on ancient objects – inside the grooves of the inscription.”There is no doubt that it’s ancient, and the probability is that it belonged to the brother of Jesus Christ,” said Golan (from http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/25/burial-box-earliest-reference-jesus, December 2013).

It seems reasonable to date the ossuary as having originated in the first century. Biblical archaeologist and commentator Merrill Unger writes: “Not a single one of the numerous Jewish tombs in the region of Jerusalem can be dated to the period after AD 70. All inscribed ossuaries hitherto found in the vicinity of Jerusalem belong to the period 30 BC to AD 70” (Merrill F. Unger, Archaeology and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1962), 25). It is widely believed that James died in AD 62 (Shanks, 166 – 68). The first century historian, Josephus’ account in Antiquities provides historical evidence of the circumstance of his stoning which was overseen by Ananus (Flavius Josephus, Antiquities 20.9. The Works of Flavius Josephus. trans. William Whiston, 1901).

In addition, the fact that the discovered ossuary is inscribed with the name of deceased’s brother is in itself unusual. Most Jewish ossuaries in the area near Jerusalem from the first century mention only the deceased person’s name and his father’s name. However, in some cases there were exceptions if the deceased was associated with some good work for which he was well known. For example, one ossuary inscription referred to “Simon (Shimon) as the builder of the sanctuary temple” (Shanks, 77). It seems to be the case that James’ family wanted to honor him by associating him with his well-known brother, Jesus.

Biblical Archaeology Review editor Hershel Shanks provides a thoughtful analysis of the likelihood of all three names (James, Joseph, and Jesus) appearing on any ossuary from the first century period near Jerusalem. His analysis concludes that the odds of this occurring is amazingly only ¼ of 1%.[1] Given the fact that the odds are so low for all three names appearing together, and given that the ossuary has been verified as being an ancient inscripted first century antiquity found in the area where James had lived and died, it seems likely that this ossuary belonged to James, brother of our Lord. This discovery provides further verification of the historical reliability of the facts of the New Testament and ultimately of the resurrection of Christ.

 

 

 

The Importance of Sharing the Love of Jesus when Sharing the Gospel

 By GF Herrin

It is of utmost importance that when we share the Gospel with people that we not only present the clear message of man’s depravity and hopelessness without saving faith in Christ, but that we also show and live out the love of Jesus so that people can see the difference that His presence has made in our lives.

I was talking to a neighbor who had been laid off from his job whose previous boss was a professed Christian. This boss espoused Christian values and even eventually left the business world to devote himself to full time mission work in a third world country. However, to his employees, he didn’t demonstrate the meekness and kindness expected of a Christian and was even called “mean” by salesmen who called on him.

Similarly, at an Octoberfest in Hickory, NC, over the weekend, a street preacher spoke fervently in a condemning fashion, reasoning that given the state of America’s wickedness (i.e. rampant abortions being the norm and same sex marriage now being legal), “the lovey dovey message of the Gospel hasn’t worked in America.” It may be true that the God is Love message may have supplanted the God is Righteous, Holy, Majestic, Perfect, Omniscient message. However, His grace should always be preached and offered to any person who repents with a contrite heart.

In a world that can be so cold, uncaring, and cruel, it is of paramount importance that we Christians stand out as a different type of people – in a good way. There is a lyric from a Christian song (“We are One in the Spirit, by Peter Scholte), that I learned when I was a boy, that says, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love”. The apostle Paul wrote, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor. 13:1). A colloquialism I learned when I was a salesman long ago says, “People don’t care how much you know until they know that you care”.

We must demonstrate caring to others and live love out our faith wherever we are in the mission field, even if it is in a business environment or in a worldly occupation. If you are working a job that you may not particularly care for, it doesn’t give you license to complain and be sarcastic no matter what the tasks you have to do. Paul writes, “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15).

To control our actions and demonstrate love for others no matter what the circumstances, we must ultimately tame our tongues. This requires wisdom and the careful thought that a mature believer needs to develop. James writes, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13).

J. Ronald Blue writes, “To achieve ‘righteousness’, spiritual maturity, practical holiness, – the theme of the book of James – a believer must learn to speak with care. Winsome speech comes from a wise spirit. A controlled tongue is possible only with cultured thought. A mouth filled with praise results from a mind filled with purity.

A believer should stand confidently, serve compassionately, and speak carefully. He should be what God wants him to be, do what God wants him to do, and speak as God wants him to speak.”(p. 829, J. Ronald Blue in John Walvoord and Roy Zuck’s New Testament Bible Knowledge Commentary).

 

The New Testament Manuscripts Compared to Other Ancient Texts

The New Testament Manuscripts Compared to Other Ancient Texts

Author Book Date Written Earliest Copies Time Gap No. of Copies
Homer Iliad 800 B.C c. 400 B.C c. 400 yrs. 643
Herodotus History 480-425 B.C c. A.D.900 c. 1,350 yrs. 8
Thucydides History 460-400 B.C c. A.D.900 c. 1,300 yrs. 8
Plato   400 B.C c. A.D.900 c. 1,300 yrs. 7
Demosthenes   300 B.C c. A.D.1100 c. 1,400 yrs. 200
Caesar Gallic Wars 100-44 B.C c. A.D.900 c. 1,000 yrs. 10
Livy History of Rome 59 B.C-A.D. 17 c. 4th cent. (partial)
mostly 10th cent.
c. 400 yrs.
c. 1,000 yrs.
1 partial
19 copies
Tacitus Annals A.D. 100 c. A.D.1100 c. 1,000 yrs. 20
Pliny Secundus Natural History A.D.61-113 c. A.D.850 c. 750 yrs. 7
Various New Testament A.D.50-100 c. 114 (fragment)
c. 200 (books)
c. 250 (most N.T.)
c. 325 (complete N.T.)
+50 yrs.
100 yrs.
150 yrs.
225 yrs.
24,970