Issue 95 Spring 2010
Christian greetings in the name of our risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who
for our sakes became poor that we through His poverty might become rich. God was willing to submit his Son to an
agonising & shameful death, so that He might open to us the gate of
everlasting life – glory to His wonderful name.
We begin by looking at the convincing evidence for the resurrection as
an historical fact.
Evidence for the Resurection
The Holy Sites
When Truth becomes a Lie
Debt and the Election of 2010
Imposed peace in the Middle East
And I was left
Evidence for the resurrection [KK]
All four gospels include an account of the events of the first glorious Easter morning. But they present different views – Matthew & Mark are similar, Luke contains more information and John’s account is different still. How many angels? Who saw Him first?
All the scriptures agree that the body was not in the tomb where it had been placed after the crucifixion. Who could have taken it? Mary Magdalene was convinced that a human agent had been involved – ‘they have taken away my Lord’ [John 20:13]. Surely it wasn’t the Romans as they had no motive and as Matthew tells us they made the tomb as secure as they could, sealing the stone & setting a watch. The Jews certainly had a motive but they hadn’t got the body – else why did they not produce it when the disciples began to preach that Jesus had risen?
It could of course have been the disciples but their conduct after the resurrection showed that they were not deluded. You don’t lay down your life for what you know is an obvious untruth.
The very discrepancy between the accounts is evidence of their truth: if you were inventing a story would you not have been careful to make sure that each account was exactly the same: and you would certainly have omitted to mention the reluctance of the disciples to believe their Lord had risen!
One important incident is recorded by John alone. He mentions the race to the tomb with the older Peter, and reaching the tomb first he looks in but he does not go in. The impulsive Peter goes in first, followed by John who says ‘he saw and believed’. What did he see? Surely it was the fact that the grave clothes were undisturbed and the ‘napkin that was about his head’ was in a place by itself, as if the body had simply risen up through his shroud.
We look to Paul for the first account of the resurrection, where in 1 Cor 15:1-8 he lists those who saw the Lord after He was raised from the dead. Interestingly no mention is made of His appearance to Mary Magdalene but this is not surprising as Paul is making a case for the resurrection and a woman’s evidence would have been of no account. Paul tells us that Jesus appeared first to Peter. We have no written account of the meeting - I imagine it was far too intimate and precious a meeting for Peter to have spoken of it - but we know that it happened.
In Luke’s account Peter goes alone to the tomb and seeing it empty he ‘departed wondering in himself at that which had taken place’. We don’t know where he spent the day but we do know where he was in the evening and what had happened to him during the day.
The road to Emmaus
That first Easter evening two disciples walk the seven miles or so to a village called Emmaus. They are gloomy and dejected as they rehearse the events of the previous week. Jesus Himself joins them and asks the reason for their sadness. The disciples are amazed that anyone on a road from Jerusalem should be ignorant of what had taken place. As they explain Jesus upbraids them for their reluctance to ‘believe all that the prophets have spoken’ and asks them if the Christ ought not to have suffered as they had seen.
Then ‘beginning at Moses and all the prophets’ He explained to them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself. It was a thrilling bible study as Jesus ran through the many prophesies about his sufferings and death ending in His triumphant resurrection.
What would Jesus have included? Surely the Passover lamb whose legs were not to be broken [Exod 12:46, Ps 34:20]. Then we have the tree with which Moses healed the water in Exod 14:25, a picture of ‘the cross that takes our guilt away…that sweetens every bitter cup’.
He would surely mention Psalm 22 that speaks graphically of death by crucifixion 400 years before it was developed as a method of execution – ‘they pierced my hand and my feet’. And Psalm 69:22 ‘they gave me gall to eat, and when I was thirsty they gave me vinegar to drink’.
He would also have shown them Himself prefigured as the suffering servant, the Man of sorrows, in Isaiah 53. But He would also have shown the resurrection spoken of in Psalm 16:10.
No wonder their hearts burned within them, and when they at last recognise Him as He breaks the bread at supper they hurry back to Jerusalem that same night and find, not the dejected group they had left but before they had time to give their news they are told excitedly ‘the Lord has risen indeed and has appeared to Simon’ [Luke 24:34].
And there was Peter, not broken and suicidal as they had last seen him but a Peter transformed by his meeting with the risen Lord.
Other meetings with the Lord are spoken of in the gospels and in 1 Cor 15. One that isn’t is especially precious. It concerns the disciple Thomas, who was absent at our Lord’s appearance to the assembled disciples on the first Easter evening.
We get two glimpses of Thomas in John’s gospel, the first in John 11:16 when he encourages his fellow disciples - "Let us also go, that we may die with him." And at Jesus’ discourse at the last supper, where he expresses what many of them were probably thinking in John 14:5 “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
We see in Thomas a man who was thoroughly convinced by Jesus, loyal and dependable – now see him after the crucifixion feeling utterly deflated & let down.We sometimes call him ‘doubting Thomas’. I don’t think he doubted – that implies an uncertainty between possible alternatives. I think he simply did not believe in the resurrection.
But when a week later Jesus appeared Thomas makes no excuses and to his eternal credit simply utters that amazing confession ‘My Lord and my God!’ which brings Jesus to say ‘blessed are those who have not seen but believe all the same’.
The importance of the Resurrection
But why is Jesus’ resurrection so important? It is surely summed up by Paul in his letter to the Romans that Jesus was ‘declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.’
Three of his followers assert this truth of the divinity of Jesus – Nathanael in John 1:49, Peter at Caesarea Philippi in Matt 16:16, and Martha at Lazarus’ tomb in John 11:27.
As He himself had foretold His rising from the dead was the sign that He was who He said He was, the Son of God.
Our situation is desperate indeed without our Lord’s resurrection 1 Cor 15:19 ‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.’
But hallelujah we read in the next verse ‘but now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.’
As the High Priest was waving the first fruit sheaf in the temple ‘on the day after the Sabbath’ [Lev 23:11] in thanksgiving for the rest of the harvest, so our Lord was rising from the dead to guarantee that we also might be raised with Him.
The Holy Sites [PW]
In the West we were taken aback by the uproar from the Arab world over the designation by Israel of two national heritage sites. The tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s tomb in Bethlehem are both in territory claimed by the Palestinians.
King Abdullah stressed Jordan’s rejection and denunciation of Israel’s recent announcement calling it serious provocation. King Abdullah’s comments were followed on the 3rd March with a vigorous written protest from the Palestinian representative at the UN. The Palestinian protest over the designation of these sites was give wide coverage on our TV screens.
Prime Minister Netanyahu stressed that the action was to protect, preserve and provide better access for both Jews and Muslims. Despite that assurance The EU and UN sided with the Palestinians speaking as if Israel’s actions would undermine Muslim rights of access.
Why the uproar? We take it for granted that Israel has established historical links with the land. Not so with the Arabs. The Arab nations are constantly working to undermine Israel’s claim. Archaeological sites have been destroyed and history rewritten. The Arab’s recognise that, in the minds of people living in the West, this historical link with the land gives legitimacy to the state of Israel. Therefore any strengthening of Israel’s ties to the land is to be vigorously resisted.
When entirely reasonable and legitimate actions by Israel, which in no way hinder Muslim access to these sites, produce such a response, how can it ever be imagined that there can be peace between Arab’s and Jews? There can never be peace until the Arabs have a change of heart and that will not happen until Jesus returns.
When Truth becomes a Lie [PW]
The phrase, ‘the unconditional love of God’, crops up from time to time. It sounds big, as if it expresses a truth about a great magnanimous God. A God who is too big to condemn minor deviations from His will, a God who will turn a blind eye to our failings and carry on loving us no matter what. This is just the sort of God which would appeal to good people. Those people who are confident about heaven, for if there is a judgement, they being basically good will be waved through.
Is the love of God unconditional?
The love of God is unconditional, but not in the way that many people would like it to be. ‘God is love’ 1 John 4: 8. This is an absolute truth about God which defines His character. And the character of God defines love. If we want to understand love we need to understand God. It will take eternity to fully understand all that the love of God embraces, but there are some glimpses of His love revealed in scripture.
We did not have to be righteous or good to be loved by God. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8. As sinners God loved us. This tells us that His love extends to all people for all have sinned. None are too bad to receive his love and none so righteous that they deserve it.
It is a love which existed before we were created. We were chosen before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1: 4-5). Therefore it could not be dependent on our good works.
The love of God is not just a feeling towards us. Love is demonstrated by action. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation of our sins.” 1 John 4:10.
There is much more which could be written about the unconditional love of God. We can say with confidence that the love of God was extended towards the human race without conditions.
God is light
In the first letter of John we also read of another defining characteristic of God. “God is light, in Him is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5. In scripture darkness represents sin, (John 3: 18 – 21). Sin and sinners can never enter His presence. The abhorrence of sin is also an absolute. What good is it being loved if we are also excluded, condemned always to remain in the outer darkness where the light of God’s love can never come. Just as the love of God is unconditional so His abhorrence of sin is unconditional.
The conflict of two absolutes
How are we to reconcile these two absolutes ‘God is love’ and ‘God is light? Does the love of God towards us mean anything when we recognize the fact that we are sinful and full of darkness. There is an answer but it is not a comfortable one.
We must never confuse the unconditional love of God with the conditional terms of salvation.
God loves freely, but commands that all who would experience His love come by and through Jesus Christ. The love of God is unconditional, but salvation is conditional upon faith in the work of His Son. The unconditional love of God makes it possible for all to receive redemption in Christ but only if they put their trust in His Son.
The conditions on receiving salvation.
Jesus came to call sinners to repentance, (Matthew 9:13). The first condition on receiving salvation is the recognition of our sin. He could not help the self righteous. They would not admit their sinfulness and therefore could not see the need for a Saviour. Recognition of sin should lead to repentance. We have grieved the one who loves us so much. Our response is to express sorrow for the past and ask for help for the future.
This leads on to the second condition for salvation which is faith. Without faith it is impossible to please God, (Hebrew 11: 6). Repentance has brought us to the point of recognizing the awfulness of sin and its consequence which leads to eternal separation from God. Repentance has also made clear to us that there is nothing we can do to put right what is wrong in our lives. Faith trusts the word of the one who came to be the propitiation of our sins. He has opened up the way for us to be reconciled with God.
A third condition is that we must walk in the light, (I John 1: 7 – 9). Having recognized that we are sinful, having trusted Jesus that He has provided the way to be reconciled with the Father, we must continue to walk in the light. We are not to return to our old sinful ways but in the renewing power of the Holy Spirit lead lives pleasing to God.
Are we secure in Christ?
If there are these conditions to our receiving salvation, how can we ever be secure in Christ? Surely we will fail and be denied the love of God. Let’s go back to the previous proposition salvation is conditional but the love of God is unconditional. Our assurance comes through our faith in Christ. As soon as we put our faith and trust in Jesus, He starts working in our lives. The work He has begun He will complete, (Philippians 1: 6). By faith we believe that not only has Christ saved us but that He will continue to work in our lives until that glorious day when we see Him face to face. We will then have been changed into his likeness.
A repeated error
In earlier times the false prophets of Israel cried “peace, peace”. These prophets relied on the special relationship which God had with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They reasoned that because they were a chosen people, God would always bless and protect their nation. Their reasoning was twisted because it relied on a part of the truth, the part which suited them. The true prophets warned that, from the beginning, the
blessing of God was conditional on keeping God’s law. If the nation persisted in adopting the ways of the surrounding nations then judgement was inevitable.
The glorious truth of the unconditional love of God has been twisted in a similar way. It is true, but only part of the truth. This article was headed ‘When truth becomes a lie‘. When only part of the truth is presented it becomes a lie. In this case, it falsely reassures people that there is no need to repent, no need for faith in Christ and no need to reform our lives to walk in the light of God. If the unconditional love of God were to be the whole truth, then there would not be a final judgement or prospect of Hell.
A similar heresy arose in the second century AD. Named after Marcion, its first exponent, it emphasised the gospel of grace and rejected the wrathful god of the Old Testament. E.H. Broadbent in ‘The Pilgrim Church’ concludes: "Any error may be founded on parts of Scripture; the truth alone is based on the whole. Marcion’s errors were the inevitable result of his accepting only what pleased him and rejecting the rest".
A growing deception
When ‘the unconditional love of God’ appears in articles it is usually expressed quite emphatically, as if there is no greater truth. The point will be made, that as God offers unconditional love, then, if we are to express the character of God in our lives, we also should unconditionally love others. This argument is often used in the attempt to justify behaviour which deviates from scriptural standards. It is saying that if God loves us, because His love is unconditional, who are you to condemn us? Your criticism demonstrates failure to live according to your faith.
We do not judge. We have no right to judge for we are all sinners saved by grace. But also we do not wish to see people deceived. The false prophets of Israel encouraged a misplaced faith in part of the truth. The people were deceived and instead of repenting suffered judgement. The judgement on Israel was temporary. The judgement of Christ will be final.
In the church today a wonderful but partial truth has become a lie which gives a false sense of security. We need to be aware that it is one of many subtle deceptions spreading through the church as we approach the end of this present age.
Debt and the Election of 2010 [PW]
Writing this piece one week into the election campaign I have the feeling that the whole thing is being conducted like a phoney war. The spokesmen of the three main parties spend their time dodging the issues.
With the current levels of government borrowing, interest payments on Government debt are projected to rise to £58 billion per year by 2014. In context this is more than the entire schools budget. In April 2009 the Institute of Fiscal Studies predicted that it would take 25 years to bring government debt under control and require an additional tax contribution of £2,800.00 per year from every household. None of the parties are prepared to face the electorate with the tax rises and cuts that must take place whoever is in power.
Behind the government debt crisis there is a much bigger debt problem. The levels of private debt in Britain are staggering. The following figures are for the national debt when both public and private debt is added together. According to the CIA World Fact Book, in June 2009 the USA had accumulated $13,450 billion in external debt. That is debt owed to non residents. The UK was number two on the list of debtor nations with external debts of $9,088 billion. However the US has a GDP (gross domestic product which is the value of goods and services produced) of $14,260 billion. The UK GDP is only $2,149 billion. Our national debt problem, at 400% of GDP, is four times greater than that of the US and stands at $150,673 per person.
Our nation’s debt is due to living beyond our means for far too long. The banking crisis, its self sparked by excessive debt, has only exasperated an existing problem.
The incoming government, of whatever party, faces a no win situation. If it raises taxes or cuts spending, either way it will snuff out the artificial recovery based on continued public spending. But the financial markets will not tolerate for long, continued borrowing at the present levels. The more gloomy pundits consider that this election is only about who presides over the UK’s pending insolvency.
For many years a few voices have been raised to warn that our continuing rejection of God will inevitably bring judgement. There has been no repentance, no revival and most churches have not taken the warnings seriously. Judgement is fast approaching. As it becomes more difficult to borrow, our government will desperately try to shore up the national finances. It will turn to the Middle East, one of the few cash rich areas of the world and one which has already been a major source of loans. The loans will come because Islam has long seen the strategic importance of winning this nation. With the loans there will be conditions.
The last decade has seen a dramatic erosion of Christian values and influence in this country. I believe the next 5 years will see a rapid increase in Islamic influence. We are already dependant on the Middle East for our oil we now face the prospect of increasing dependence for our finance. In January 2009 Barclays Bank teetered on the brink of a full Middle East take over. Possibly just a foretaste of what is to come.
Imposed Peace in the Middle East [PW]
Rumours are rife that President Obama is preparing to impose his own peace deal on the Israelis and Palestinians. At present this is at the leaks and denials stage. According to the Middle East News Source, senior U.S. officials have told the Washington Post that President Barack Obama is fed up with the foot-dragging on the Israeli - Palestinian front. He is “seriously considering” proposing a new American Middle East peace plan by the autumn. One official was quoted as telling Post columnist David Ignatius that “Incrementalism hasn't worked,". He added that Washington would not allow the Palestinian problem to linger.
The Middle East News Source then speculated that the leak of the plan could be a move to pressure the Israeli government into softening its positions and refrain from implementing actions that the administration views as provocative, such as further building of Jewish settlements.
King Abdullah II of Jordan, in an interview, told the Wall Street Journal that when he visits Washington, he will push Obama to offer his own plan. This is because the "tremendous tension" in the region, over the failure to resolve the conflict, has resulted in a "tinderbox that could go off at any time."
It is thought that an imposed peace would closely follow the parameters set down by President Clinton. Clinton proposed land swaps to compensate the Palestinians for much of the land taken by Jewish settlements in the West Bank; billions of dollars in compensation to the Palestinians for giving up the right to return to their homes in Israel; an Israeli capital in West Jerusalem and a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, with an agreement on oversight of religious sites in the Old City. One of the most concerning aspects of Clinton’s proposals was that the Palestinian state would be geographically contiguous with Al-Quds (Jerusalem) as its capital.
“And I was left.” Ezekiel 9:8
The person who escaped, who could each say, “And I was left.” We are told that those were marked for mercy who did “sigh and cry for the abominations that were done in the midst thereof.” Now, we must be very particular about this. It is no word of mine, remember: it is God's word, and therefore I beg you to hear and weigh it for yourselves.
We do not read that the devouring sword passed by those quiet people who never did anybody any harm: no mention is made of such an exemption. Neither does the record say that the Lord saved those professors who were judicious, and maintained a fair name and repute until death.
No; the only people that were saved were those who were exercised in heart, and that heart-work was of a painful kind: they sighed and cried because of abounding sin. They saw it, protested against it, avoided it, and, last of all, wept over it continually. Where testimony failed, it remained for them to mourn; retiring from public labours, they sat them down and sighed their hearts away because of the evils which they could not cure; and when they felt that sighing alone would do no good, they took to crying in prayer to God that he would come and put an end to the dreadful ills which brooded over the land. (Spurgeon adds that this is not to say that we are to go around permanently miserable)
From the ‘The Greatest Wonder of Grace. C. H. Spurgeon
This quarterly newsletter has been circulated for the past 25 years. It provides an update on worlds events seen in the light of scripture prophecy and is prepared by Ken Kite and Philip Wren. We seek to help Christians prepare for the final turbulant years which will preceed the return of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He is coming soon, hallelujah.
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