Issue 87 Spring 2008
|Loving greetings in the
precious name of our risen Lord Jesus. As the days become longer
we know that the Saviour, the Light of the World, is still shining in
this dark and needy world. On Good Friday this year a crowd of
1000 Christians walked through the streets of Exeter to witness to the
sacrificial death of our Lord, while four sketches about the events
were enacted very professionally. Meanwhile, some 700 chocolate
eggs [the number the organisers expected!] were distributed in token of
Jesus’ resurrection that would follow three days later. In
spite of the evidence, a recent survey found that 40% of male clerics
in the Anglican church do not believe that He is the Son of God [the
figure rises to 50% for women]. In our Spring issue, and article
by Ken Kite considers the consequences if Christ did not rise and at
this Passover season Philip Wren directs our thoughts to Israel.
If Christ be not raised
Israel and the return of the Lord
While the nations slept
Out of the mouth of babes….
If Christ be not raised [KK]
The evidence for the bodily resurrection of the Lord is overwhelming. The empty tomb, the undisturbed graveclothes, the separate headcovering, the appearances of the risen Lord and the change in the disciples give us confidence in the scriptural accounts. The first of these [historically] is given by Paul in 1 Cor 15, where he raises the penetrating issue ‘if Christ be not raised’.
Who is Jesus?
It all centres on who Jesus really is. In the video ‘who is this Jesus’ an interviewer goes into a town high street and asks the general population that question. A minority give the correct reply: the majority seem to hold the view, as one character expresses it, that ‘Jesus was a good bloke, like any other good bloke’.
A great teacher?
Yet Gandhi, a Hindu, and one of the most perceptive men of the 20th century could speak beautifully about the message and personality of Jesus: ‘"Jesus occupies in my heart the place of one of the greatest teachers who have had a considerable influence on my life.” He even said that "I did once seriously think of embracing the Christian faith…The gentle figure of Christ, so patient, so kind, so loving, so full of forgiveness that he taught his followers not to retaliate when abused or struck, but to turn the other cheek, I thought it was a beautiful example of the perfect man..."
World Religions respect Jesus
If we look at the other world religions, we see the same respect and honour given to Jesus as a wonderful moral teacher. In fact, Jesus generally enjoys what is known as a ‘good press’.
To a Hindu Jesus is one of their many thousands of gods, an incarnation of one of the three deities who rule this world. He is said to be a true yogi.
A Sikh commentator said on the BBC that there is a wonderful parallel with the person of Nanak, the first Sikh guru. There is no direct connection between Christ and the Sikh gurus … but when we look closely at them, they illuminate each other.
Muslims believe that Jesus was a great prophet, second only to Mohammed, who was born of a virgin and ascended bodily into heaven: they do not believe that He was crucified or that He rose from the dead. They do, however, believe in Jesus’ second coming.
Being a religion that predates Christianity there is nothing in the Bhuddist scriptures about Jesus, but a modern Bhuddist has written of “Jesus as an enlightened being, a bodhisattva, whose message was not that much different than that of the Buddha’s. Jesus encouraged his followers not to harm others and to be kind, compassionate and to love others”
Adherents of the Baha’i faith believe that Jesus was a manifestation of God but not the only one.
Our friends the Jehovah’s witnesses believe Jesus must always be distinguished from - and is subordinate to - God. The group’s web site explains: “In every period of his existence, whether in heaven or on earth, his (Jesus’) speech and conduct reflect subordination to God. God is always the superior, Jesus the lesser one who was created by God. … After his resurrection, he continues to be in a subordinate, secondary position.”
The Jews, of course, do not recognise Jesus as their Messiah, but a modern Jew comments “While today there is still no unanimity of views about Jesus within Judaism, there is certainly a much more accepting view. To many Jews, he was born, lived and died a Jew. Some would clearly identify him with an element of the rabbinic community of the first century and categorize him among the reformers of that community.”
The real Jesus
But CS Lewis, the author of the Screwtape letters and the Narnia books put a different and altogether more real view of Christ in his book ‘Mere Christianity’.
"I am here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people say about Him: 'I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I do not accept His claim to be God.' This is the one thing we must not say. "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic - on the level of a man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a mad man or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
The witness of Scripture
Throughout the gospel of John, we have references to Jesus as the divine Son of God. To Nathanael’s wonderful exclamation in John 1:49 “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” and Martha’s confession at the tomb of her brother in John 11:27 “Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God” we can add the numerous statements from Jesus’ own lips [John 3:18, 5:25, 9:35, 10:36, 11:4]. John concludes near the close of his gospel that ‘these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.’ [20:31].
The other gospel writers give the same emphatic opinion. At the beginning of Luke’s account we read of the angel’s words to Mary at the annunciation ‘that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’ [Luke 1:35]. Mark tells us that the demons confessed Jesus as the Son of God in [Mark 3:11] and elsewhere. Matthew records Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi where in reply to Jesus’ question ‘But who do you say that I am?’ he replies “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus speaks of this as a revelation of the truth from God. [Matt 16]. On the cross the bystanders taunt Jesus in Matt 27:42 “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, “I am the Son of God.’ “
As if human witness were not enough, twice [at His baptism & His transfiguration] a voice from heaven says that Jesus is God’s beloved Son.
The witness of the resurrection
But the definitive witness is the resurrection. It authenticates His life and ministry & guarantees our resurrection too for He is the ‘firstborn from the dead’ [Col. 1:18, Rev. 1:5]. It proves decisively and emphatically, that Jesus is who He said He was, the Son of God
In 1 Cor 15:12-14 tells us that if Christ is not risen we are wasting out time, and a few verses later Paul tells us “ And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!”
Sin is not a popular word but the bible clearly states that ‘the wages of sin is death’ Rom 6:23. This is an eternal fact, which applies whether you believe in the bible or not. As Eph 2 makes clear without God’s mercy and grace we are lost eternally, Christian and non-Christian alike. However God has decisively intervened: ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved, and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
As Derek White once said at a CFI conference in Swanwick ‘our sins washed away in a sea of fathomless grace’.
Paul’s wonderful argument in Colossians 2: 13 - 15 shows again the nature of our predicament and God’s solution to it. ‘And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.’
Peter tells us in 1 Pet 1:3 that through the resurrection we are born again into a living hope. And if we turn back to 1 Corinthians 15:20-22 Paul gives the triumphant conclusion ‘But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.’ Glory to His name.
Israel and the return of the Lord [PW]
This May, Israel will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the State. That she has survived 60 years is a miracle. At the time of independence military experts thought that she had little chance of surviving even a few weeks. The odds in terms of available weapons and trained forces were heavily stacked against Israel, yet she went on to secure a victory which many Christians saw as proof that God was with her, proof that after 1900 years of exile the time had come for prophecy to be fulfilled in the Jews returning to their land.
The forerunner of the return of Christ
For 300 years evangelical Christians mainly in Britain and later in the USA had seen the return of the Jews to Israel as an essential forerunner of the return of Jesus Christ. Scripture indicates that the Jews will have returned to Israel in large numbers and the nation reborn at the time when Jesus returns, and one of the main purposes of His return will be to rescue the Jews at a time when defeat and destruction of their nation appear inevitable. For many Christians, with the fulfillment of prophecy in mind, the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 was a matter of great excitement.
Bible teacher John Hagee recalls that on the 15th May 1948 he sat mesmerised around the kitchen table in Channelview, Texas, as he and his family listened to radio reports about Israel’s Declaration of Independence: Israel was reborn in a day just as the prophets and his father, said it would be. His family took prophecy seriously. For them the rebirth of Israel was a miracle that proved the truth of Scripture.
I think that it is fair to say that most evangelicals, who believed in the return of the Jews, expected the Second Coming to follow soon after. Some, responding to the words of Jesus in Matthew 24: 34 ‘that generation would not pass away’, thought that there might be a delay of up to 40 years, a Biblical generation. (Note a Biblical generation is in fact 50 years and is defined by the time between the Jubilees). Now 60 years have passed, and at times it seems that the only sign of our Lord’s return is the world getting worse year by year. The disappointment of prophecy seemingly coming to a stop is one reason why interest in prophecy and support for Israel is on the decline.
Israel the Sign
I continue to believe that the re-establishment of Israel was of immense prophetic significance. In 1948 ‘the fig tree put forth its leaves’ (Matthew 24: 32). Jesus said that when the fig tree put forth its leaves you know that summer is near. To set the context of this brief parable we need to remember that the day before Jesus had cursed a fig tree, and Immediately it withered. This remarkable occurrence would have been imprinted on the disciples’ minds. On that occasion the fig tree was symbolic of the nation which had refused to listen to Jesus’ teaching. The withering warned of the destruction of Jerusalem and the nation which took place in 70 AD. It is natural to conclude that the becoming tender and putting forth leaves looks ahead to a time when the nation of Israel will be reborn. Jesus presented this as a sign of His return being soon.
There is a danger that the longer the Lord delays the more people will doubt prophecy. They will conclude that those who confidently interpreted the establishment of Israel as a sign of the Lord’s soon return got it all wrong. This is one reason why I have given prominence to an alternative interpretation of Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks (Daniel 9: 24 – 27). That interpretation understands the seven times seven years in verse 25 to refer to the Second Coming and It sets a period in which Jerusalem will be under Jewish sovereignty before the ‘Messiah the Prince’ comes. Therefore far from prophecy not being fulfilled, we are still in the count down years before the Messiah can return.
A prohecy of 10 Jubilees
I was interested to read an article in the March edition of ‘Israel Today’ that referred to the Talmudic scholar and mystic Rabbi Judah Ben Samuel. He lived in Germany 800 years ago and died in 1217. Before he died he left a prophecy that the Ottoman Turks would conquer Jerusalem and rule Holy City for ‘eight jubilee years’. A biblical jubilee year consists of 50 years, and therefore eight jubilee years last for 400 years. After the eight jubilee years the Ottomans would be driven out of Jerusalem and it would remain no-man’s land for one jubilee year. For the tenth jubilee year Jerusalem would return to the Jews, and then the Messianic end time would begin.
The conquest of Jerusalem by the Ottomans came about in 1517 AD, 300 years after Ben Samuel’s death. The Ottoman rule of Jerusalem lasted exactly 400 years until 1917 when the British drove them out. For the next 50 years the British and the Jordanians in turn ruled Jerusalem until 1967. According to this prophecy we are now in the final jubilee which will last until 2017. I am not prepared to say what will happen in 2017 but I share the view expressed in the article in ‘Israel Today’ that it will be a very significant year.
Those who take prophecy seriously should not give up. The prophetic clock is counting down. It is time to be both looking up in expectation and prepared to stand firm in the knowledge of our God. (Note: We should be cautious in giving credence to sources such as Ben Samuel about whom little is known, but when their prophecy has so far proved true and also accords with scripture it is worth taking some note).
While the nations slept [PW]
The School Governing Body (SGB) of a Christian-majority high school in Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa, has been taken over by Muslim parents. By law meetings must be held to elect members of the SGB. Apathy among the Christian parents meant that hardly any Christians showed up at an electoral meeting, allowing the Muslim parents to seize control of the SBG by winning six of the seven elected positions. In South Africa the curriculum of the school is established by the government; however almost all other management issues relating to the school are decided upon by the SGB. This includes decisions on the headmaster, staff, sport, culture and ethos.
This allowed the new SGB to instruct the long-serving principal to stop the traditional praise and worship at the morning assemblies and replace it with a minute of silence. The principal refused and was soon forced to resign. He was then replaced by a Muslim head who has stopped all Christian publications in the school. The Christian parents and pupils have demonstrated against the SGB and the new head and have even taken the matter to court. However, as the SGB was legally and constitutionally elected, the court found in favour of the Muslim SGB. The school has to abide by all SGB decisions.
A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.
'Very few people were true Nazis ' he said,' but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'
We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectra of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history.
It is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. The hard quantifiable fact is that the 'peaceful majority', the 'silent majority', is cowed and extraneous.
Communist Russia was composed of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.
The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a warmongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.
And, who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?
History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points: peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.
Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghanis, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.
As for us who watch it all unfold; we must pay attention to the only group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life. Let us hope that thousands, world wide, read this - think about it.
The author Dr. Emanual Tanay is a well known and well respected psychiatrist.
With these warnings in front of us, how should we respond? The above article was written from a secular perspective. If I thought like the secular world, without hope in Christ, every alarm bell would be ringing. Islamic expansionism poses a threat to the continuing existence of the West. One day the western world, just like the parents in South Africa, will wake up to find that all the cherished freedoms have been taken away. The western or British values (undefined), which our politicians like to talk about, will be no more.
But I am not secular in my thinking. I recognise that God is sovereign over this world. We live in the time when Jesus Christ is bringing our present age to an end. From both the study of scripture and the words the Lord has given me I understand that Islam is destined to play a central role in the fulfilment of end time prophecy. I believe that God will use Islam as his rod of judgement on Europe and in particular Britain, Germany and Russia. Should we be frantically interceding for our nation, pleading that we will be spared? I do not think so. The judgement is coming and must come. We should pray that the church is prepared and strong during this time and that when the judgement comes it is effective.
Manasseh was the most wicked of all the kings of Judah. It is said of him that he filled Jerusalem from one end to the other with innocent blood. Among his many crimes he murdered the prophet Isaiah. In response to Manasseh’s evil God sent the king of Assyria who took him captive to Babylon. Second Chronicles records that in his distress Manasseh repented. “When he was in distress, he entreated the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers.” 2 Chronicles 33:12. Manasseh repented and was allowed to return to Jerusalem. The judgement was effective in turning Manasseh back to God.
God is sending Islam to judge our nation. Pray that the judgement is effective in causing many to repent.
Out of the mouth of babes…. [KK]
"Further along the road less travelled" by M Scott Peck has the following story which nicely illustrates how God looks on confessed sin [Heb 10:17].
A little girl in a village in the Philippines said she was regularly talking to Jesus. Word spread in the village, then around nearby villages and eventually reached the ear of the big Monsignor in the capital. He decided the matter should be investigated and sent for the little girl. She was examined exhaustively but Monsignor still had doubts. So he hit on a plan. He told the little girl, the next time she spoke to Jesus, to ask what sins Monsignor had revealed during his last confession. The little girl agreed.
After Monsignor's next confession, the little girl was sent for. "Well", said Monsignor, "Did you ask Jesus what I said in my last confession?" "Yes," replied the little girl. "What did he say?" "He said He'd forgotten."