Matthew 7 – Destruction or Safety

The statement by Jesus in Matthew 7:13-14 is one of the hardest in the Bible for people to wrap their minds around.  He tells us:

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

Why is that difficult for many to accept?  The argument goes that since God is loving, He would never reject anyone.  “My god is a god of love.  He would never send anyone to Hell.”  Notice I don’t capitalize god here; that’s because people have conjured a god of their own making from their imaginations and desires.  They don’t worship the God of the Bible.

In fact, God does not reject anyone.  People choose to reject Him.  That choice is what leads to their eternity in Hell.  When a person strays from the Word of God and doesn’t sit under solid Biblical teaching, he is open to false teaching.  G.K. Chesterton said: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”

From that openness to believe in anything comes the false teachers and their diseased doctrine that Jesus speaks of in the next several verses beginning with Matthew 7:15-16:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits… ”

But the question becomes: How will you recognize the false fruit if you don’t know what is true and good fruit?  Only those of us who read and study God’s Word are able to do that.  You’ve likely heard what they say about how IRS Treasury agents are trained to discern counterfeit bills: they study only real ones.  That gives them the eye and feel to root out the false money.  So it is with us.

This leads to Jesus’ Words that follow in Matthew 7:21-23 where He warns:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Many people who walk the wide road toward destruction get on this journey that ends with Jesus telling them how God doesn’t know them by listening to the false prophets, believing the lies they tell, and choosing to trust their deceptive words because they have never made the effort to dig into Scripture to truly know who God is and what He wants for each of us.

This is exactly why Jesus follows all this up in Matthew 7:24-27 by urging us to be “like a wise man who built his house on a rock.”  Our rock is Jesus Christ and the Words He gave us to know Him more fully.

If we don’t forsake Him and His Word, He will never forsake us.

Matthew 6:24 – Believing Loyalty

When Jesus speaks about the problem of serving two masters in Matthew 6:24, His teaching goes to the heart of our relationship with God:

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Money is only one other master that people can serve.  The issue becomes one of serving any other god but Yahweh.  When we look at the ancient Israelites, what was it that always got them into trouble?  What was the very first of the Ten Commandments that God gave them in Exodus 20:3?

“You shall have no other gods before Me.”

Go to the Old Testament and read what God continually warned His people.  Pick a prophet and one of the warnings he gave.  Here’s Jeremiah 25:6 speaking the Word of God to the people of Israel in their captivity and exile in Babylon:

“Do not go after other gods to serve and worship them, or provoke me to anger with the work of your hands. Then I will do you no harm.”

Following after other gods was the continual problem Israel faced.  Time and again in their history, they came back to Yahweh but fell into apostasy by serving other gods that were such a temptation to them.  That resulted in God’s anger and judgment.  When they turned from Him, He brought them harm.  In Deuteronomy 28, God explicitly lays out the blessings He will bestow upon His people for being faithful to Him, but He also describes in great detail the curses they will bring upon themselves for turning to and worshiping other gods in disobedience to Him.

This whole idea about truly and faithfully following Yahweh or turning from Him is why King David was known as “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22).  We know the sins he committed; he was human – he made bad choices.  But the one thing David never did was to waver in his love and dedication to Yahweh.  He never followed any other god.  There is a term for this: BELIEVING LOYALTY.  David’s believing loyalty was to Yahweh and Him alone.

There are many gods in this world.  They often take different shapes or forms in today’s world from what they did in David’s day, but in the spiritual realm they are all the same.  The gods over the nations in the Old Testament were fallen spiritual entities.  They remain to this day.  Their purpose is the same now as it was then: they hate God – their creator – and they desire to thwart His plans and purposes for mankind.

The love of money – money as a master – is a god that tears us away from faithfulness and trust in God alone.  When Jesus said we cannot serve two masters, He meant that we cannot trust anyone or anything except God alone.  Our believing loyalty must be absolute to the God of the Bible.

When we trust God in this way, then it becomes possible for us to do what Jesus commanded in Matthew 6:33:

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”

When we do, “all these things,” i.e. food, clothing, and peace from the anxiety of tomorrow, will be added to our lives.

Genesis 15:4-5; 16:7,10 – Angel of the Lord

The ancient Israelite understanding of God was different from what it is today.  Religious Jews since the time of Jesus have actually rejected what their ancestors believed and knew about Yahweh.  Since Jesus came, the Jews have clung to the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” and insisted (like the Muslims) that God has no Son; He is One, and that’s it.

Scripture tells us otherwise right from the beginning.  The ancient Israelites knew this and even spoke and wrote of how Yahweh manifested in at least two ways.  Consider Genesis 15:4-5 in which God interacts with Abram:

And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

In these verses we see two interesting aspects of this interaction:

  1. The Word of the Lord came to Abram
  2. He brought Abram outside and spoke to him

Do you see it?  The Word of the Lord is a personal being.  “He” brought Abram out to look at the stars.  From this and subsequent instances in Scripture we know that the Word of the Lord is not just something spoken.  The Word is a physical manifestation of God.

Let’s look at what happens when Hagar flees from Sarai after having Abram’s child, Ismael, in Genesis 16:7, and what He subsequently spoke to her in verse 10:

The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur… The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.”

Who is the Angel of the Lord?  Notice that He said “I” will bring you many offspring.  Who but God can make that promise?  Only the Lord has that creative ability and the means to make a specific promise of this nature.  Thus, it is clear that the Angel of the Lord is Yahweh Himself, and that He appeared to her in person.

From these passages we gain an understanding of God that the Israelites knew: Yahweh had the ability to manifest in person.  Later in such verses as Psalm 110:1, it is clear that there are actually two Yahweh’s:

The Lord says to my Lord:

“Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

How can God speak to God unless there are two persons present?

It is from the Jewish Scriptures, the Tanakh, that the Hebrews developed an understanding of God that they called “The Two Powers in Heaven” or “The Two Yahwehs.”

When Jesus came, claimed to be Yahweh, i.e. the Second Power, and actually demonstrated through the miracles He did that He was the Angel of the Lord made flesh, the religious rulers rejected Him and changed their understanding of the Scriptures and what their ancestors had all believed.

A day is coming, however, when “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26) and the unbelieving Jews will believe.  Just as it says in Psalm 118:26 and Matthew 23:39, on that day the survivors in Israel from the Great Tribulation will say: “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Genesis 12:2-3 – God’s Promise to Israel

The prophetic Word that God gives Abram in Genesis 12:2-3 is one of the most significant in the entire Bible:

“And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

This Word outlines four major ideas:

  1. God will make Israel a great nation
  2. Israel will be a blessing to the entire earth
  3. God will bless anyone who blesses Israel
  4. If anyone curses Israel, God will curse them

This major prophecy is critical for us to understand today.  There is a blasphemous teaching that is rampant throughout Christianity today that God is through with Israel because of her disobedience over the years.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  God has made it very clear in these verses (and in many more subsequent passages in Scripture) that He cherishes Israel, that she has an important role to play in His plans for the world, and that there are consequences for how someone treats Israel – both good and bad.  Do not let anyone attempt to convince you that God has no further interest in Israel, and that He has reneged on His promise to His Chosen People.  That position is contrary to the Word of God and is in itself a curse upon Israel that will have negative consequences for all who believe it.

Immediately following God’s promise to Abram, He demonstrates this principle.  Abram will become God’s faithful and righteous servant.  Although Abram isn’t that yet, God brings His promise into action through Abram’s foolish lie about his wife Sarai being his sister when they are in Egypt (Genesis 12:13).  Pharoah sees the 65-year-old Sarai.  Because she is beautiful, he takes her into his household (not knowing that Abram and Sarai are married).

Despite this being an unintentional curse upon Abram through this action, God curses Pharaoh and his house with plagues (Genesis 12:17).  This alerts Pharaoh that something is wrong.  He confronts Abram, learns the truth, and makes things right with Abram and Yahweh before anything further can go awry.

Watch how people and nations speak about and treat Israel.  God is watching.  He brings swift justice upon any who transgress His Word.

Genesis 11 – Babel

The typical Christian thinking is that sin is the only problem in the world that Jesus came to overcome.  In fact, the ancient Jewish concept of what’s wrong provides a much bigger picture, and it actually paves the way for all that Jesus has done and will do prophetically so as to redeem the earth.

If we study and understand Scripture in this way, we see that there were three rebellions, not just one.  The rebellion we’re all familiar with, i.e. Rebellion #1, is the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  Eve was tempted by the serpent, believed its lie rather than God’s truth, and thus effectively rebelled against God in her disobedience.  This brought sin into the world.  But, if we truly look all around us, we see there is much more going on than can simply be attributed to sin.

The book of Genesis is so significant because it provides much of the foundation for the rest of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments.  Where does sin lead?  If left unchecked, what can result?  The answer is depravity.  Depravity is sin on steroids.  It is moral corruption and wickedness.  Was there an event that introduced depravity into the world?  Absolutely.

An event took place in Genesis 6:1-5, which is the basis for what God will often refer to as an abomination.  Some number of the sons of God left their heavenly abode in rebellion against God and procreated with human women.  This was direct disobedience to God’s command to them and resulted in Rebellion #2.  This “intermarrying” between spiritual beings and human beings brought such depravity among mankind, plus such wholesale corruption of the human bloodline, that God had no choice but to bring the flood and destroy everything on the earth.  Had He not done this, it would have been impossible for Him to fulfill His prophetic Word that the Seed of the woman (Eve) would come (fully human) to destroy the serpent and its seed, i.e. anyone who chose to rebel against God.

The account of the Tower of Babel incident in Genesis 11 provides us with the understanding of Rebellion #3.  God had told Noah after the flood – just as He had originally told Adam and Eve – to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28 and 9:7).  Instead, what did mankind do?  Led by Nimrod, who had migrated to Babel on the plains of Shinar (in what is today Iraq), men built a “tower with its top in the heavens” (Genesis 11:4) so that they could make a name for themselves rather than be “dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”  This tower is what we call a ziggurat.  It was meant to make a way to bring God down to man, in order to effectively control Him.

In God’s eyes, this was complete disobedience and rebellion against His Word.  Of course, it didn’t take Him by surprise, but He made an intriguing statement in v7: “Nothing that they [men] propose to do will now be impossible for them.”  To counter this problem, we see in v8-9 that God dispersed men throughout the earth and confused the single language, that had been present since the beginning, into multiple tongues.

Not to make this post too lengthy, but one other factor came into play in this rebellion.  In Deuteronomy 32:8 (and you must read the ESV – English Standard Version – translation to see this properly), God set His divine sons over the nations into which He had placed mankind:

When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,

    when he divided mankind,

he fixed the borders of the peoples

    according to the number of the sons of God.

These sons of God were obedient at the time God put them over the nations to rule.  Their job was to point men back to God while He raised up the nation of Israel to be His special inheritance (Deuteronomy 32:9).  Instead, these sons of God rebelled similarly to the fall of their brothers in Genesis 6.  In this case, however, they chose to copy Satan’s desire to be as God.  Rather than direct the peoples of the nations to Yahweh as the One true God, they became the gods over all the nations.  It is from this that we subsequently see gods such as Baal, Milcom, Molech, Chemosh, and many others throughout Scripture.  These gods remain in place to this very day.  They become the third reason that Jesus came, i.e. to redeem the nations back to Himself.

In summary, the three rebellions and the way that God is dealing with them through Jesus Christ are as follows:

* Rebellion #1 – sin.  Jesus takes away the sin of the world when someone believes in Him and is born again.

* Rebellion #2 – depravity.  Jesus sent the Holy Spirit as our Helper to council and guide us in the way of God’s righteousness.

* Rebellion #3 – nations following other gods.  When Jesus returns in His 2nd coming at the end of the 7-year Tribulation, He will destroy all those who hate God.  This will usher in the Millennial Kingdom, when Jesus rules and reigns over the nations of the earth from His throne in Jerusalem.  The rebellious sons of God – the gods of the nations – will join Satan in the lowest pit of hell while peace encompasses the earth for 1,000 years.

Isn’t God’s Word amazing?  There is so much more going on than what we might see upon a single reading.  God’s Word requires a lifetime and more of study for us to understand the bigger picture of His purposes.  He wants us to pursue this so that we will know Him more fully.

Genesis 6:1-5 – Sons of God

Genesis 6:1-5 is one of the most fascinating and troubling passages in the entire Bible.  Some people want to make what is conveyed here an entirely human scenario, but that completely misses what’s really going on and the larger Biblical narrative.

The text tells us that the sons of God (bene Elohim – Hebrew) took human wives.  Who were the sons of God?  In the Old Testament, it speaks exclusively about them as being members of God’s heavenly host; in this case, they were likely high ranking princes in the spiritual realm and members of what is referred to as God’s Divine Council.  (Note that in a number of passages in Scripture we see thrones (plural) around God’s throne.  Who sits on these exalted chairs?  Members of Yahweh’s spiritual family – members of His Divine Council – who have important positions in His kingdom.  An example of this is Daniel 7:9: “thrones were placed and the Ancient of Days took his seat.”)

The alternative theory to explain what’s going on in this scene is what’s known as the sons of Seth theory.  This theory attempts to explain away the supernatural aspect of these verses.  It assumes that Seth’s sons were referred to here as God’s sons, and that they were somehow more holy than other men alive at the time.  Moreover, it also assumes that the daughters of men – all human women – were somehow more wicked than Seth’s children.  Of course, that makes no sense.  In the fall of Adam and Eve, all men and women subsequently inherited a sin nature; none were Godly in the way this theory wishes to portray.

Just as there was an original rebel (the nachash in Genesis 3 that we presume is Satan), there were other rebels.  This passage in Genesis 6 tells us that.  Confirming verses in the New Testament such as Jude 6-7 and 2 Peter 2:4 speak of the angels “who did not stay within their positions of authority, but left their proper dwelling.”  As a result, “God did not spare angels when they sinned.”  What was their sin?  They rebelled against God; they disobeyed His command that their place was in the heavenlies and not to dwell among humans.

What did these angels – these sons of God – do?  They not only came to live on the earth; they also procreated with human women.  From this unholy action, giant beings known as Nephilim came forth.  This led to further intermarrying and wickedness throughout the earth so that God finally reached a point that He had to act.  He does this by destroying all life on earth through the flood.

What was the problem in all this?  Satan’s intent has always been to be like God, to replace Him, and to be God.  To accomplish this, Satan had to thwart God’s plans for humanity.  Thus, he introduced rebellion to Adam and Eve, which led to sin.  This resulted in God cursing Satan – the serpent – in Genesis 3:15, which effectively informed Satan that he was on a short leash.  A time would come when he would be completely defeated by a human descendant of Eve’s.  From that point, Satan was truly on a mission.  He would do everything in his power to keep this human descendant from ever being born, or he would kill Him before he could accomplish God’s purpose to finally eliminate Satan.

The fall of the sons of God was part of this larger narrative.  It is likely that Satan encouraged their disobedience.  (“Look at how beautiful those human women are.  Wouldn’t it be pleasurable to be like men on the earth and to lie with those women?”)  Regardless how this went down, Satan’s intent was to corrupt the gene pool.  If man’s DNA was corrupted and man’s blood no longer purely human, then no human descendant from Eve could be born.  Satan could prevent Jesus from ever walking the earth.  With this plan, Satan could annul the promises of God and make Him a liar.  He could ascend to the throne of God and take over if God lost His divine authority.

Further on in Scripture we’ll come across descendants of Nephilim known as Rephaim.  Somehow, the progeny of the wicked, disobedient sons of God would continue to be a problem to mankind that God would have to deal with.

Genesis 3 – The Shining Serpent

In the account of the serpent tempting Eve in Genesis 3, we tend to pass over the fact that this appears to be a talking serpent, and that Eve apparently had no issues with this.  When was the last time you had a conversation with a snake, whether it was a good or an evil one?

The Hebrew word for serpent is nachash.  As I’ve noted elsewhere (Awaken Bible Study Notes – Volume 1), the word nachash “is typically translated as serpent, which we all know.  However, there are variations of the word which give it additional, and very intriguing, meanings.  The word can mean the diviner, i.e. one who communicates with the supernatural realm.  It can also mean shiny, or shining one, such as a divine being from the heavenlies.  Moreover, serpents in the ancient Middle Eastern cultures were divine throne guardians.  Perhaps the Biblical writer wanted to convey all these associations to this serpent that tempted Eve?”

What does this mean for our understanding of this incident?  First, let’s consider what Eden actually was.  Eden was the place that God created where heaven and earth met.  It was a divine mountain garden.  (See Ezekiel 28:13-14: “You were in Eden, the garden of God…on the holy mountain of God.”)  From Genesis 3:8 we know that God spent time there: “…the sound of God walking in the garden…”  It was a lush and beautiful place; why wouldn’t He?  But, was God the only other being that frequented it?  No; at least one other did, i.e. the serpent.  How about others from the heavenly abode?

We know from many places in Scripture that God has a divine family, just as He has a human family.  In the Old Testament, members of this family are variously called sons of God (bene Elohim – Hebrew), angels, cherubim, seraphim, the heavenly host, etc.  Might they likewise have walked in this lovely garden?  Is it not perhaps reasonable to consider that their appearance might be exceptionally shiny, even radiant?  (They are divine beings, after all!)  If that makes sense, then the nachash was likely a shining one, just as its name implies.  As such, being an intelligent entity, perhaps a cherub (we know from Ezekiel 28:14, if the same being spoken of in this verse as “an anointed guardian cherub” is also Satan, whom we associate with the Garden of Eden), then his speaking to Eve would not have been unusual in the least.

Perhaps the nachash took on a serpent’s appearance, but his presence there was no surprise to Eve, and her having a conversation with him was not out of the ordinary.  Adam and Eve before their fall hung out with spiritual beings from what is now to us an unseen realm.  But they could see these holy ones and speak with them.  Someday, when we as true believers have our glorified bodies, we will once more be united with this other part of God’s divine family, as we also will be divine*.

 

* Just to clarify the word divine: we will not be gods.  Through our glorified nature, we will be like Jesus (1 John 3:2) and have the characteristics of His body upon His resurrection.  Much of what the angels can do, we will probably be able to similarly do, but even more; because in our gloried state, we will even judge angels (1 Corinthians 6:3).

Genesis 1:6-7 – Waters & Firmament

The Word of God is so much deeper than we imagine upon a casual reading.  There are often profound meanings that are easy to miss without further study.  For instance, in the reading of Genesis 1-2, the verses of Genesis 1:6-7 caught my eye.

Variously in different Bible translations, God says, “Let there be [an expanse – ESV & NASB] [a firmament – KJV] or [a vault – NIV]…”that is in the midst of the water or between the waters that are part of the darkness and void” (v2).  In the Hebrew, waters can mean exactly what we expect; however, they also have the meaning of danger and violence.  In reading the text, don’t some questions come to mind?  In its initial formation, what were the waters?  Where did they come from?  Seemingly, they were just there.

But then God divides these waters.  In the midst of them, i.e. in between them, He creates an expanse, a firmament, or a vault.  In this separated place are the heavens, or the sky as we know it, i.e. the place where the stars reside.

So think about this.  There is water below and water above the sky, i.e. the heavens.  How does that work?  How do the heavens keep these waters apart?  Where are the waters above the sky?

Here’s a thought.  If we think about this in-between space as a vault, maybe we can make sense of another term that we see elsewhere in the Bible.  In Jeremiah 10:13 and Jeremiah 51:16 the prophet says that God brings rain from the storehouses, or treasuries of heaven, in a time of war.  He unleashes rain and hail to destroy His enemies, bringing them danger and violence.  Look at what these two verses in Jeremiah say about this: “there is a multitude of waters in the heavens” (KJV).

What an interesting statement when we examine this in light of that place between the waters, where one definition is that it’s a vault.  Perhaps the storehouses of heaven are effectively this vault in the sky where God keeps the waters for His purposes at His chosen times.

There is so much more in God’s Word.  He gave it to us so that we might understand Him and His ways more.  Read His Word daily and use this opportunity to grow closer to Him.

Pastor Dana: Vision Sept. 14, 2020

This is a little different from what Pastor Dana has shared previously in that this is a vision rather than a dream.  The message is one that seems to speak directly to the church – the Bride of Christ.  It’s a word that is extremely important for those of us believing that we are part of the Philadelphia church – the one with little strength.  I love the final word that God imparts.  It’s one that has been on my heart for quite a while: “Stay braced and occupy until I come.”

Indeed, we are to occupy and go about doing the Lord’s business.  Stay in the Word.  Remain faithful in prayer.  Encourage one another.  Be a light in the darkness.  Preach the Gospel to those who are lost in season and out of season.

Jesus IS coming soon.  The message rings true: “Stay braced and occupy until I come.”

 

A vision I had last week

Posted by Dana Coverstone on Tuesday, September 22, 2020

 

Pastor Dana Prophetic Dream – Sept. 7, 2020

Pastor Dana Coverstone’s dreams continue.  God has chosen him as the vessel to bring these prophetic visions forward, but I can’t imagine the toll it’s taking on him.  This is heavy stuff.  I believe that America has reached the point of no return.  The antichrist spirits have infiltrated to such an extent that the hard hearts of the people in this nation will not change.

Our only hope is Jesus Christ.  In Him we have joy in the midst of this chaos and violence.  If you don’t know Him, seek Him and He will be found by you.  If you sincerely want to learn more about Jesus, please contact me.  Time is running out.  Jesus will soon be coming back for His church, and God will pour our His wrath on this unbelieving world.  Don’t be left behind.

A troubling dream I had last night about lady liberty. It has troubled me since 2:15 am.

Posted by Dana Coverstone on Tuesday, September 8, 2020