Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Grafted Into the House of Israel

How much time do you spend thinking about the implications of the doctrines you hold to?  Chances are, not that much time.  And when you do think of them, you probably just go with whatever your favorite minister says the implications are, without actually thinking about them for yourself.  Today, we will discuss the implications of the doctrine of being grafted in.  First off, have you ever thought about what we are grafted into?  If you read the linked passage carefully, we have been grafted into the House of Israel.  But what are the implications of that?  Let's read the passage carefully and find out.

11 I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. 12 Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!

13 For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them. 15 For if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? [Romans 11:11-15; NKJV]

23 And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, who are natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree? [Romans 11:23-24; NKJV]

Paul, talking to the Gentiles, says that they were grafted out of a while olive tree (which represents the Gentiles) and into a cultivated olive tree (representing the house of Israel).  And that some of the natural branches (the physical descendants of Israel) were grafted out of their own olive tree, yet can be grafted back into it.  This cultivated olive tree is said contrary to the nature of Gentiles, but we were still grafted into it.

Why were the natural branches grafted out in the first place?  Rebellion against God and the rejection of his Law.  But those who did not rebel, but believed, were not grafted out.  The Gentiles are grafted in through the same belief as the descendants of Israel.  But if we are grafted into the house of Israel, then we are grafted into the same covenant as Israel.  And if we are grafted into the house if Israel, and God's covenant with Israel, then aren't we expected to follow the same rules as the descendants of Israel?  That is, the Law of God?  Some may object and say "but we are under the New Covenant".  To that I say, read Jeremiah 31:31-34.

31 "Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." [Jeremiah 31:31-34; NKJV]

Like I said, we are grafted into God's covenant with Israel.  And when I said, "we are grafted into God's covenant with Israel", I was talking about the New Covenant, prophesied through the prophet Jeremiah, and fulfilled by Yeshua of Nazareth.  Under this New Covenant, God himself will write his Law on our hearts.  There is only one Law of God, which is the Torah (Torah literally means "instruction"), the first 5 books of the Bible:  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  That is what is written on our hearts, and we obey it by nature!

Another thing that Paul mentions in several places, is our adoption into the house of Israel.  For example, Romans 8:12-17 specifically mentions that we are adopted as the "sons of God" or "children of God".  And in Romans 9:1-5, this adoption is into the house of Israel.  And if we are adopted into the house of Israel, then we are expected to follow the same rules as those who were born into said house.  Also, consider this:  Is the one who is adopted required to know the rules of the house before being adopted?  Or are they first adopted, and later taught the rules?  They are adopted first, then taught the rules.  So it is with those grafted into the house of Israel.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Swearing vs Cursing vs Profane Language

A while ago, I addressed a few instances of Yeshua saying, "but I say" in what appears, at first glance, to be him nullifying the Law of God.  One of those instances concerns swearing.  But what's the relationship between swearing and cursing?  And since the use of profane language is often referred to as "swearing" or "cursing", what's the relationship between profanity and the other two?

First, let's address the issue of swearing.  Swearing is making a promise to do something, or to abstain from doing something.  Leviticus 19:12 makes it very clear that we are allowed to swear, but that we are not to swear falsely.  And if that were not clear enough, Numbers 30:2 makes it all the more clear that one must do as they swear to do.  And Leviticus 5:4 warns us to be careful when we swear, lest we sin by failing to keep an oath we swore recklessly.  Notice that Yahweh only gave provision for swearing by him.  And also note how the Pharisees abused the "you shall not swear by My name falsely" of Leviticus 19:12 to say that if you swear by something other than God's name, you may do so falsely.  Yeshua didn't take too kindly to that rule.  By the way, James 5:12 is the same situation as Matthew 5:34.  The "not" is a qualified not.  The context proves that the proper qualifier is "falsely".  Both passages say "do not swear falsely".  Nowhere are we forbidden from swearing an oath.

Cursing on the other hand, is to declare harm or misfortune on someone or some thing.  It's not a promise to do something, it's calling on God (or a false god) to bring judgement on someone or some thing.  Just like with swearing, the "New Testament's" teaching on cursing is also misunderstood.  Of course, it doesn't help that cursing and swearing are often conflated.  For example, Romans 12:14 says "bless and do not curse" in the context of blessing those who persecute us.  And in James 3:9-10, James rebukes those who curse others.  The context of this rebuke concerns doing evil with the tongue.  But we also have instances such as Acts 8:20-23, where Peter curses a man who just recently came into the Body of Messiah.  Again, Peter cursed someone who just became a follower of Yeshua.  The reason for this curse?  This man thought that the Holy Spirit could be purchased with money.

So cursing isn't forbidden in all circumstances.  There are times where cursing is absolutely called for.  And like with swearing, it's not something to be taken lightly.  And as shown in several instances, people can die from being cursed.  And also, as shown in passages like Deuteronomy 23:5, Yahweh has the ultimate authority over curses and what happens as a result of said curse.

So that leaves profane language.  Or to put it in layman's terms:  "bad words" or "curse words".  The concept that a word, by itself, is bad, is not from the Bible at all.  It's from paganism.  Words, in and of themselves, are not good or bad.  It's the context in which they are used that is good or bad.  Christians are generally taught to be offended by certain words because such words are "bad words".  But this teaching does not come from Scripture.  Now, obviously words have meaning, and it is important to take into consideration the meaning of a word when it is used.  Using the wrong words in a sentence can convey a meaning that is not the intended meaning.  But even this does not make a word by itself good or bad, since words by themselves are not good or bad.  It just makes certain words not fit to convey a particular meaning.  Yeshua warned that we will be held accountable for every careless word that is spoken.

If words by themselves are not good or bad, then what about passages like Colossians 3:8, or Ephesians 5:4?  Those passages are not condemning words that culture says are "bad".  Rather, they are condemning something known in Hebrew as "the evil tongue".  And if you look at the context of both passages, you'll see that both concern abstaining from evil, including evil speech.  Remember Deuteronomy 12:32.  Examples of evil speech would be lying, deceit, defamation, speaking maliciously about someone, and swearing falsely.  All of these things God hates (and speaking the names of other gods)!  Not the use of words that humans consider "bad" or "offensive".

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Spirits Are Not What You Think!

Spirits are typically thought of as immaterial, supernatural beings that are capable of influencing the material world.  And while it's true that some types of spirits are exactly this, the word for spirit is so incredibly broad that it can refer to even that which can only exist if it has a material host and is bound strictly by the capabilities of said host.  In these cases, if the material host is destroyed, then the spirit also is destroyed, and ceases to exist.  The word in Hebrew is "ruach", and in Greek is "pneuma".  These words literally mean "wind".

Wind refers to the physical movement of air.  You cannot see the wind, but you can see the effects that it has on some of the things that it interacts with.  When the Bible uses the word "wind" to refer to something other than moving air, it can be referring to anything that cannot be seen, but the effects of which can be seen.  By this definition, the software that you are using to read this article is also classified as a "spirit" or "wind".  Because you cannot see the software, but you can see its effects when it interacts with your monitor.

This word is translated as "breath" in places like Genesis 6:17, where the context is in a creature's ability to breathe.  This same word is also found in Genesis 7:22, but some translations skip translating it, since the word "neshema" (literally means "breath") is translated instead.  Other translations use "of the spirit" instead.  However, since the context is in the creature's ability to breathe, translating this word as "spirit" instead of "wind" or "breath" is actually incorrect.  Another example of the word being used in the context of a creature's ability to breathe is Job 34:14-15.  Specifically, the context is a person's ability to breathe, and what would happen if this ability was taken away.  In this passage, "ruach" is typically translated as "spirit" instead of "wind" or "breath".  This may be because the passage describes it as belonging to God.

There are some instances, the word is used to describe someone's state of mind, or their emotional state.  For example, Genesis 26:35, where the word is translated as "mind".  In Judges 8:3, the word is translated as "anger".  And in Genesis 41:8 and 45:27, it's translated as "spirit".  In fact, this seems to be the case in a great number of passages where the word is translated as "spirit" when dealing with human "spirits".  Just goes to show that you cannot always rely on the translation of Scripture to give you an accurate picture of what's going on.

Along similar lines, in Judges 9:23, Yahweh sends a "spirit of ill" between two groups of people, resulting in a civil war which destroyed both parties, which dealt treacherously with those who had previously rescued them from the Midianites.  This "spirit of ill" refers to how the group's relationship with each other went from one of friendship to one of hatred.  And in the case of 1 Samuel 16:4, the "distressing spirit" from Yahweh refers to Yahweh turning King Saul into a madman.  The "spirit" in this case is referring to the person's character.  The word can also refer to someone's motivation or lack thereof.  By the way, it is entirely possible that the "Spirit of God" can often refer to God's character, motivation, emotion, etc., and not what is typically thought of as the Spirit of God.

As far as I can tell, the first instance where a spirit is described as being a personal being is 2 Chronicles 18:18-22.  This does not by any means, mean that all spirits are personal beings, but this is the first indication that some of them are.  Though just because something is personified, does not mean that it's a personal being either.  For example, wisdom is personified in Proverbs 1:20 and elsewhere.  Also, I'm not counting 1 Samuel 28:13 (King Saul consulting a medium) because the word translated as "spirit" is the Hebrew word "elohim", which literally means "mighty ones", and typically refers to God, or one or more false gods (should be a hint as to what is actually going on in that passage), or a human being who is a ruler or has great influence, strength, or wealth.

When referring to human beings, I cannot find one instance where the spirit is described as an immaterial being controlling a material body.  On the contrary, we are described as having spirits, but none of those spirits are described as being "us".  Our "spirits" are part of who we are, but can be entirely removed from us and replaced with an entirely different "spirit" (eg: Ezekiel 36:26).  These "spirits" represent our character, or the desires of our heart (and yes, the heart is capable of having thoughts and desires).  There are very few instances where these spirits are even implied to be immaterial beings.

By the way, that's just the "Old Testament".  It's not really until the "New Testament" that we see spirits that are unmistakably described as immaterial beings.  That doesn't mean that they didn't exist until the "New Testament" era.  We just don't hear of them before then.  This in no way means that the nature of human spirits has changed.  In fact, the "New Testament" uses the word for spirit in the same way as the "Old Testament" in many places.  For example, Mark 2:8, where it refers to Yeshua's state of mind.  Or in Luke 8:55, where the intended usage is probably like that of Genesis 6:17, or Job 34:14-15.  That is to say, that the girl that Yeshua raised started breathing again.  In certain instances, like in Luke 13:11-13, it appears that the "spirit" may be referring to an unseen medical condition that the doctors of the day couldn't figure out, rather than an immaterial being.  Actually, the passage outright says it was a sickness, so the "spirit" likely refers to an unseen material cause of the sickness.  And it's also the case that it never states in this instance that Yeshua drove anything out.

What about places like John 19:30 or Acts 7:59?  The former is using the word like Genesis 6:17, and is likely a newer version of the idiom "he breathed his last" (Genesis 25:8).  The latter is probably a reference to Ecclesiastes 12:7, which states that the spirit (referring to the person's breath) returns to God while the person returns to dust.  It does not say that the spirit of the righteous returns to God.  It says the spirit returns to God, regardless of the righteousness or wickedness of the person.  The person who had it returns to dust.

There are two remaining issues concerning the topic of spirits:  (1) What is the nature of the Holy Spirit.  And (2) can spirits have a physical or defined form (material or otherwise)?  Let's start with the second question first, then we'll address the first question.

As mentioned at the beginning of the post, the word translated as "spirit" simply means "wind".  And a wind is something that cannot be seen, but has effects that can be seen.  So there is no reason, from this definition, that a spirit cannot have a physical (material or otherwise) form.  Some will object to this and quote a passage like John 4:24 ("God is a spirit") with Luke 24:39 ("spirits do not have flesh and bones"), asserting that no spirits have any physical form.  I touched on this in my post about the Image of God, but didn't go into detail.  So let's do exactly that.

A similar instance to Luke 24:39, where the disciples are frightened when they see Yeshua are Matthew 14:26 and Mark 6:49 (Yeshua walking on the water).  Now, Matthew and Mark do not use the word "pneuma" to describe what the Disciples thought they saw.  They use the word "phantasma", which is where we get the word "phantom" from.  "Phantasma" is used to describe a specific type of spirit.  In other words:  The Disciples thought that they saw a ghost.  Luke however, doesn't care about being specific about the type of spirit, though the situation is the same, but in a different setting.  So he uses the vague word, "wind", instead.  The vagueness of Luke should not be used to nullify the specificity of Matthew and Mark.  By the way, the word "phantasma" literally means "to blow".  Ghosts also do not exist.  Because of this, one cannot say, "the Image of God cannot be literal" just because God is a spirit.

Now, about the nature of the Holy Spirit/Spirit of God.  The Bible is actually very vague about this.  For example, it never says that the Holy Spirit is God, nor does it ever require you to believe that it is.  It also never says that the Holy Spirit is a personal being, though some Scriptures imply that it is while others imply that it is not.  Nor does Scripture require us to believe either way concerning that.  But there are some places where the "spirit of God" is clearly referring to God's character, desires, or state of mind or emotion.  Other than that, it would seem as if God never intended for us to know the nature of his Spirit, and that's assuming that we can even understand it.  In fact, 1 Corinthians 2:11 states that we do not know the things of God, implying that we cannot know these things.

To summarize:  A human spirit can refer to the person's breath, or the wind of a person's breath.  Or it can refer to a person's character, desires, state of emotion, or state of mind.  A person is not a spirit, and a person's spirit is not an immaterial being inhabiting a material body.  When a person dies (regardless of whether that person is righteous or wicked), the spirit returns to God while the person returns to dust (this is why a bodily resurrection is necessary for Judgement Day or to fulfill the promise of eternal life).

One more thing:  Do not conflate "spirits" with "souls".  The former is described as something that we have while the latter is described as something that we are (Genesis 2:7).  That's a topic for another post.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Resurrection Contradiction?

25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" [John 11:25-26; NKJV]

The above passage is one of several passages where Yeshua references the resurrection and promises eternal life.  The reason I bring up this passage is the apparent contradiction between Yeshua saying, "the one who believes in me shall live even though he dies" and him also saying, "the one who believes in me shall never die".  So how is this alleged contradiction resolved?  First, the passage is in the context of the resurrection.  Yeshua even states that much right before he said what he did.  Therefore, the rest of the passage shall be interpreted as if it is a statement of what will happen at the resurrection of the righteous.  Note that the one who does not believe in Yeshua will perish.

If the one who believes in Yeshua shall live even though he dies, then that is clearly a promise that the believer who dies shall be raised back to life.  I used to interpret verse 26 to mean that the soul leaves the body just before death, I have since learned (through some people pointing it out) that (a) souls are something that we are (Genesis 2:7), not something that we have.  And (b) the dead know nothing (Ecclesiastes 9:5)!  So that interpretation is ruled-out.  But again, Yeshua made it clear that what he is saying concerns the resurrection of the righteous, those who believe in him.  So the correct interpretation is that once you are raised at the resurrection of the righteous, you will never die again.

One interesting thing to note is that Yeshua counted the living among the dead and the dead among the living.  For example, in Mathew 8:22, he spoke of living people as if they were already dead.  And in Matthew 22:32, he spoke of dead people as if they were still living.  Matthew 22:32 is another passage who's context concerns the resurrection.  There are probably other passages like this.  So what's the idea behind counting the living as being dead and the dead as being alive?  If you answer the following question, you will have your answer:  What is the end result?  Those who are raised at the resurrection of the righteous will live forever.  Those who are not raised at the resurrection of the righteous will perish!

But there is not one resurrection, but two!  The resurrection of the righteous, which is the one that happens first (1 Thessalonians 4:16), and the resurrection of the wicked, which happens later.  At the second resurrection, there will be many people who will wish that they were not raised because of what will happen to them!

11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and [the Grave] delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and [the Grave] were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. [Revelation 22:11-15; NKJV] [see note at end of post]

This is what will happen at the second resurrection, the resurrection of the wicked.  They will be required to give an account of everything that they have done.  And because they do not have any atonement for their sins, they themselves will pay the penalty for their sins by burning up in the lake of fire!  All who transgress the Law of Yahweh and have not had their sins atoned for by the blood of Yeshua will perish in the lake of fire as punishment for their innumerable transgressions.  The same will happen to anyone who uses this atonement as a license to sin, and willfully do that which they know is contrary to the commands of Yahweh.  The atonement for sin comes from the blood of Yeshua by believing in Yeshua, the one who died for our sins and was raised from the dead.

The Greek word "Hades" is a substitute for the Hebrew word "sheol", which literally means "grave".  The definition of the Hebrew equivalent is prioritized, because the New Testament (with the exception of Hebrews) was written in Hebrew.  One of the definitions of "Hades" is also "grave", but usually refers to either a false god or the realm of said false god which has the same name.  This pagan association is also why I'm prioritizing the definition of the Hebrew equivalent.

Grafted Into the House of Israel

How much time do you spend thinking about the implications of the doctrines you hold to?  Chances are, not that much time.  And when you do ...