Scripture Revealed

A Revelation of Jesus Christ - Revelation 1:1

World Without End – Amen!

End of the World or End of an Age?

The world is coming to an end!  Why?  Because the Bible says so!  Or does it?  Modern Bible prophecy teachers declare that we are living in the last days and that these are the end times!  But does scripture predict an end of time?

What exactly does the Bible mean when it mentions “the last days”?  It is important to define Biblical terms.  Does scripture define the term “the last days” as the end of time or simply the end of an age?  What does scripture reveal about this important subject?  Let us start at the beginning – in the book of Genesis.  In Genesis chapter 6 we read the account of God destroying the world with a flood.  Then in Genesis 8:21 the Lord declares that he will never again destroy every living creature “as I have done.” 

Genesis 8:21-22 (KJV)  – And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

Destruction by Fire?

Somehow Christians go from the Lord promising never “again smite any more every thing living” to a belief that in their future the Lord will once again destroy the earth by fire.  The go-to term here is “as I have done.”  Is this referring to destroying the earth by water or does it refer to “every living” creature?  I was taught (and taught) many years ago that it refers to the water.  Stop and think!  Is the point the Lord trying to make about mercy or destruction?  Why did God bring the flood in the first place?  Wasn’t it because of sin?  However, in Genesis chapter 8 we see the Lord looking thru the ages and acknowledging that “man’s heart is evil from his youth.”  Yes, God destroyed the world by the flood because of wickedness.  The Lord, being all-knowing, knew that man would not change.  Moreover, even though the Lord knew man would not change He still vowed to never again destroy the world – by any means.

However, the clear testimony of scripture does not stop all of the end time theories that insist that God will destroy the world because of man’s evil. The view goes something like this: the world will get worse and worse until God has had enough and will then destroy it.  However, the destruction will not be by a flood but by fire.  Of course, scripture is cited, that seems to support their view.  Alternatively, does it?  Let us see what the scripture reveals.

The End of Time or the Time of the End?

First, let us dig into some common terms when studying the “end times.”  Search your Bible and see if you can find the term “end of time.”  It is not there!  What we do see is the term “time of the end.”  There is a vast difference between the two terms.  Some translations, like the King James Version (KJV) in Revelation 10:6 states that “there should be time no longer.”  This expression is clearer in other translations:

NKJV – Rev. 10:6 – “that there should be delay no longer.”

NASB – Rev. 10:6 – “that there will be delay no longer.”

ESV – Rev. 10:6 – “That there would be no more delay.”

NIV2011 – Rev. 10:6 – “There will be no more delay.”

The point here is that if you are going to Revelation 10:6 as your go-to scripture to support the idea that time will end that interpretation just does not stand up to scrutiny.   John, the Apostle, was seeing the imminent fulfillment of all things the Old Testament Prophets had foretold.  John knew that all those Old Testament prophecies were for the time of the end.  For example, the Lord told Daniel that his visions were not for his time but a time in his future:  

Daniel 12:4But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”

Other Old Testament prophets who were told by the Lord that their predictions were for the “last days” included Isaiah and Joel. 

Isaiah 2:2 (KJV)  – And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’S house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it.

Joel 2:28 (KJV)  – And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

So while Daniel, Isaiah, and Joel were told their prophecies were for the “time of the end,” John was told, “there should be delay no longer.”  In other words, the time of fulfillment had arrived when John wrote the book of Revelation!  John, along with other first century Christians, were living in “the time of the end.”  However, this “time of the end” was not the same thing as the “end of time.”  Time was not ending; an age was ending.  This is the reason that John wrote in 1 John 2:18 (KJV) “we know it is the last hour.”  John wrote this close to 2,000 years ago.  So nearly 2,000 years ago John is saying it’s “the last hour”. 

In other words, the time of fulfillment had arrived when John wrote the book of Revelation!  John, along with other first century Christians, were living in “the time of the end.”  However, this “time of the end” was not the same thing as the “end of time.”  Time was not ending; an age was ending.  This is the reason that John wrote in 1 John 2:18 (KJV) “we know it is the last hour.”  John wrote this close to 2,000 years ago.  So nearly 2,000 years ago John is saying it’s “the last hour”. 

Peter knew that the things the prophets predicted were not for their time but for a time in their future.  The salvation spoken of by the prophets was not for their time but Peter’s day.  This salvation had been revealed to those first century Christians. Peter believed and preached that the day of salvation, spoken of the prophets had arrived.  Peter realized that he was living in the “last times” (1 Peter 1:20). 

1 Peter 1:10-12 (KJV) – Of which salvation the prophets had enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

1 Peter 1:20 (KJV)  – Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

You see, the Old Testament prophets looked ahead to “the last days.”  It was going to be the end of an age but not the end of the world or the end of time.  It was going to be the end of the Jewish Age; the end of the Temple sacrificial system.  These prophets looked forward to the arrival of the Messiah who would come in “the last days.”  This was the time of the end that the disciples asked about on the Mount of Olives.  Let us look at their questions in two Bible translations the King James Version and the New King James Version:

Matthew 24:3 (KJV)  – And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

Matthew 24:3 (NKJV)  – Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”

Do you notice the difference between the KJV and NKJV?  The KJV uses the expression “end of the world” while the NKJV uses the word “age” instead of “world.”  In the Greek, it is aion from which we get the English word “age.”  Jesus then goes on to give the signs in Matthew 24:14 and declares that the “end of the age” would occur in that generation:

Matthew 24:34 (KJV)  – Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

Jesus told his disciples that the end of the age was to occur with the coming judgment in the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.  He said it would happen before all that generation (those Jesus was speaking to) passed away. 

Matthew 16:27-28 (KJV) – For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

There are no scriptures that speak of an “end” that is far removed from the first century.  The Apostles always used language such as 1 Peter 4:7 where they declared “the end of all things is at hand.”  What does that language tell you?  Peter penned those words nearly 2,000 years ago.  It does not seem like Peter was referring to our day, does it?  This “end of all things” that Peter was referring to could not have been the end of time but the end of an age – the Jewish Age.  It was the end of the Old Covenant and the beginning of a better Covenant – the Covenant of Jesus Christ.

The Christian Age

So the Old Covenant, Jewish Age did come to an end just like the prophets foretold, and it happened during the time our New Testament scriptures were written.  The Old passed away, and the New was ushered in.  The new age is the Christian Age.  The scriptures reveal that the Christian Age will have no end.  This fact was stated by the Old Testament prophets.

Isaiah 9:6-7 (KJV)  – For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Isaiah 9:6-7 is a prophecy regarding the coming of Christ and His rule.  Christ would sit on the throne of David and “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.”  Did you catch the power of the language?  Christ’s throne is endless!  It is not limited to 1000 years nor even until the end of time.  We see similar language in the book of Daniel.  Christ’s Kingdom will never be destroyed, and it will stand forever!

Daniel 2:44 (KJV) – And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Daniel 7:13-14 (KJV) – I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Other promises of an everlasting Kingdom are given in the New Testament.  An angel told Mary that Jesus would be given the throne of David and that “of his kingdom, there will be no end.”. Now, look at Ephesians 3:21.  Paul refers to the “the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages,” and then he concludes “world without end.”

So, what is the point here?  Well, the current, traditional view of “the end time” teaches that the church age is only temporary.  The traditional views of “the end” say the church will give way to the kingdom or Christ will give up his throne at the end of time. Both views contradict scripture about the unending nature of the Christian Age! Many prophecy teachers put forth the idea that the church is some type of interim measure and that we are presenting living in the church age.  What these views fail to define is what exactly is the Kingdom of God.  We explored the Biblical meaning of the Kingdom of God in this article: The Kingdom of God .  

Heaven and Earth Shall Pass Away

All right, so we know that scripture speaks of the end of the age, but it also says the Christian age will have no end.  So then which age was to end?  The answer is simple.  It was the Old Covenant age of Israel!  It was pointing toward the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the end to the Old Covenant system of animal sacrifices.  It is referred to as “heaven and earth” or their Covenant world.  This Old Covenant “heaven and earth” was to give way to a “new heavens and earth.”

The metaphoric language of the Old Testament prophets can be confusing to us modern-day English speakers.  In Isaiah 51:5-6 we see the Lord predicting the destruction of “heaven and earth.”  God promised to destroy the old world and give them a new heaven and earth.  These worlds are not physical worlds but covenant worlds.  This is what Jesus was referring to in Matthew chapter 24 when He predicted the destruction of the Temple within the generation of his disciples. In Matthew 24:35 Jesus said that “heaven and earth shall pass away.” 

We posted an article regarding the passing away of heaven and earth which can found in this article Heavens and Earth Shall Pass Away.

Isaiah 51:5-6 (KJV) – My righteousness is near; my salvation is gone forth, and mine arms shall judge the people; the isles shall wait upon me, and on mine arm shall they trust. Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.   

God’s new world would stand forever.  This new world would make way for the new creation of Christ.  Scripture reveals that there is no “end of time,” but there is “time of the end.”  This “time of the end” would be the end of the Old Covenant Age of Israel. Its end would usher in the New Covenant “heaven and earth” of Christs’ Church. 

Melting Elements?

However, don’t the scriptures teach that the very elements of this world will “melt with a fervent heat”?  This subject was thoroughly covered in our article entitled Melting Elements.   The idea of the elements melting comes from a misinterpretation of 2 Peter 3:10.

2 Peter 3:10 (KJV) – “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

We need to examine the meaning of this word “elements,” which is the same word used several other times in the New Testament. The Greek word for “elements” is “stoicheion” and means “something orderly in arrangement – element, principle, rudiment.”  Some in other words the “elements” referred to in 2 Peter 3:10 is not referring to the physical creation but the elementary principles or rudiments of the established order.  The “elements” that were going to melt with a fervent heat were the principals or rudiments of the Old Covenant.  This would, in turn, give way to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.


The scriptures reveal that the church was established by Jesus Christ to be a preaching, teaching, evangelizing body of born-again believers.   Scripture proclaims that the church is to have NO END.  Therefore, any view that speaks of the end of the church age goes against the testimony of scripture. The “time of the end” and “last days” that the Bible refers to is speaking of the end of the Old Covenant Age.  The Old Covenant, “Heaven and Earth” of Israel, was to give way for the unending “new Heaven and Earth” of the Messiah and His Church.  

In the book of Revelation John, under the inspiration of the Spirit, writes about a city “where our Lord was crucified” being destroyed.  The dead bodies would lie in the street of the great city.  There is only one “great city” in the world where Jesus Christ was crucified, and that was Old Covenant Jerusalem.  The city along with the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Roman Army led by General Titus. 

Revelation 11:8 (KJV) – And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.

Then later in chapter 21 of Revelation John writes about a “new heaven and a new earth.”  John then sees a “holy city,” a “new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven.”  This “new Jerusalem” was prepared as a “bride adorned for her husband.”  John saw a vision of the New Covenant Church!  The “tabernacle of God” would be with men and dwell with them.  This is a reference to the infilling of the Holy Ghost that occurred on the day of Pentecost and continues to this day. 

Revelation 21:1-3 (KJV) – And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

You see all of the scriptures referring to the end-time, the end of time, the last days, melting elements and the passing away of heaven and earth do not refer to the end of planet earth but the end of Old Covenant Israel.  The destruction of planet earth simply is not represented in scripture.  Heaven and earth have already passed!  The Kingdom of God presently rules in the hearts of God’s children who are obedient to His word.  Scripture reveals that the “kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom 14:17).  Any other interpretation of scripture simply holds people in an unnecessary fear of the future. When the scripture declares “world without end” we can all say “amen”!   

Related articles: There Should Be Time No Longer;  The Last Days of What? ;  Melting Elements;  Heavens and Earth Shall Pass Away;  The Kingdom of God

Apocalypse 29. Satan bound for 1000 years. Revelation cap 20 v 1. Mortier's Bible. Phillip Medhurst Collection – 1700

The Binding of Satan

What does the binding of Satan mean?  Revelation chapter 20 verses one thru three mentions the binding of Satan.  These passages are about Satan being bound at the beginning of “the one-thousand-year reign of Christ.”   Here’s the scripture in Revelation chapter 20:

Revelation 20:1-3 (KJV) And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

Many Christians assume that neither the Kingdom of God in which Christ is king or “the binding of Satan” has taken place.  But is this the testimony of scripture?  Is this what the scriptures teach?  Let’s explore this subject together to learn what the scriptures reveal!

I believe the first order of business is to define some terms.  The Merriman-Webster Dictionary defines the word bind as “to confine, restrain, or restrict as if with bonds”; “to put under an obligation”; “to constrain with legal authority” and “to make secure by tying.”  So, this idea of binding Satan can mean to restrict his work or to cause him to have less ability.  Binding can refer to a decrease in the power of someone or something.  The definition of bind includes a physical as well as a non-physical binding.  For example, in Mark 5:4 we see a man bound with an unclean spirit.  The people in his community had bound him with “fetters and chains.”

However, binding can be non-physical, such as being “bound” by an oath or obligation or as Webster states “to constrain with legal authority.”   Christ stated, in Matthew 16:19 that I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Satan is Limited

The impotence of Satan is demonstrated in Job chapters 1 and 2.  In these chapters, we see that before Satan could touch anything belonging to Job that he had to get permission from the Lord.  If the book of Job has any lessons, it’s that Satan has no power over a righteous man.  This power to bind evil is also invested in the Church, the body of Christ. Look at the following scriptures:

Matthew 16:18-19 (KJV) And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Luke 10:17-19 (KJV) And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.

Satan is “bound” when the saints submit themselves to the Lord. Resisting Satan will cause him to flee!

James 4:7-8 (KJV) Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.

 1 John 4:4 (KJV) Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.

 Defeated, Conquered and Bound

When the saints are dead in their sin, the Lord forgives us of our trespasses.  The long list of charges that Satan has bound us with are blotted out and nailed to the cross.  It was Jesus Christ who “spoiled principalities and powers.”  Christ made an open show of these defeated principalities and powers when He triumphed over them.  Jesus Christ destroyed the devil who had the power of death.  The scriptures below clearly illustrate how devils’ power is reduced or bound.

Colossians 2:13-15 (KJV) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

Hebrews 2:14 (KJV) Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

Satan Bound for (only) a Thousand Years?

Revelation chapter 20 verses one thru three are the go-to scriptures when discussing the binding of Satan for a thousand years.  First, should we take the thousand years as a literal one thousand years?  What does the word a thousand mean?  Will Satan only be bound for a thousand years?  Well, it’s been almost two thousand years since the resurrection of Christ!  To understand how we should interpret a thousand years let’s see how the word was used in other scriptures.

Job 9:1-3 (KJV) Then Job answered and said, I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God? If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.

Deuteronomy 7:9 (KJV) Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;

 Psalm 50:10 (KJV) For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.

Can God only answer a thousand questions?  Will God’s covenant and mercies only apply to a thousand generations?  If God only owns the cattle on a thousand hills who owns the cattle on hill one thousand and one?  We know the answer to that question, the Lord does!  So it appears that the word a thousand can represent something other than exactly a 1000.  Let’s look at some of the Bible commentaries on Revelation 20:1-3:

  • As seven mystically implies universality, so a thousand implies perfection, whether in good or evil” – Jamieson, Faust & Brown Bible Commentary.
  • “But it is not likely that the number, a thousand years, is to be taken literally here, and year symbolically and figuratively in all the book beside” – Adam Clarke’s Commentary.
  • A thousand years. I am not prepared to say that this blessed period shall be limited to a thousand years…” – Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament.

He Did It!

Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil.  Jesus demonstrated His power by castings out devils by the “Spirit of God.”  The casting out of devils was a sign that the kingdom of God had arrived, in the days of the first century Church.  Jesus entered the house of Satan by first binding him.  The scriptures reveal that Satan is a bound foe.

1 John 3:7-9 (KJV) – Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose, the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.

Matthew 12:25-29 (KJV) And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.

Final Thoughts

You might be asking yourself “well if Satan is bound how come there is still sin in the world”?  Well, what do the scriptures have to say in regards to the cause of sin?  Look at James chapter 1 verses 13 thru 17:

James 1:13-17 (KJV) Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

In my view, the binding of Satan for a thousand years should not be taken literally.  A better interpretation is to view the term “a thousand” symbolically and figuratively.  Satan has been “bound” ever since Jesus gave us the victory over death, hell and the grave.  Our spiritual chains are loosed when we are baptized by God’s Holy Spirit.  We become part of the Kingdom of God which is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Romans 14:17 KJV)”.  We are no longer under the authority of Satan.  He is forever defeated and bound!

Holy Cow, another Red Calf!

The following article is reposted with the permission of T. K. Burk!

In Numbers 19:1-22 we find a command for the sacrifice of a red heifer and the usage of its ashes. These verses describe a sacrifice that is unlike any other and that is central to Old Testament purification. For almost two thousand years there has been no red heifer meeting the specifications necessary from which this ash can be made. But recently there are reports of the birth of such a calf in Israel. This has led many Christian preachers that teach the prophecy view of “Dispensationalism” to tell their audiences this calf is a fulfillment of Bible prophecy, whose arrival means the construction of the third Jewish Temple cannot be far behind.

Dispensationalists believe that most of the prophecies about Israel are to be read literally as written. This creates a prophecy view that has God’s plan for Israel being different than His plan for the Gentiles (non-Jews). Their claim about this calf is nothing new for them for they have made the same claims about other red calves in the past. Each time they did this they ignored the obstacles that blocked their predictions. The obstacles I speak of are commandments in the Bible, each of which must be met before any red heifer can fulfill God’s requirements for sacrifice. This study will explain why these requirements have not been met in the past, and why they cannot be met now or at any time in the future.


I remember when a red calf named Melody was born in Israel in August 1997. The news at that time proclaimed Melody was the first red calf born in centuries that met the biblical stipulations. It was expected that once she reached age she would be sacrificed to create the red heifer ashes necessary for Jewish purification. This hubbub didn’t last long because as Melody grew, the rabbis found her sprouting different colored hairs. The result of her not being a true redhead made Melody’s ashes unkosher for ritual purification.

Jewish tradition in the Talmud says there have been nine red heifers sacrificed to date. The last of these around 15-16 AD. It also teaches that the tenth red heifer (which is to be the last) is made into ash by the Messiah. This is to happen at a time when the third Jewish Temple is built. The Torah requires a small portion of red heifer ash be mixed with clean running water to ritually cleanse the impurity associated with being near or touching a dead body (see Number 19:1-22). The Temple Institute of Israel is an organization dedicated to the rebuilding of the third Jewish temple. Its International Director, Rabbi Chaim Richman, said this about the biblical necessity of purification:

“The ceremony of the Red Heifer is a purification or cleansing ceremony. G-D is approachable in the pure state. He demands it. Purification is a ceremonial process by which ‘things’ are made holy that one may approach G-D Who is holy. For this purpose are the ashes of the Red Heifer to be used. The physical ashes of the Red Heifer according to G-D have the ability to make a thing or person ceremonially pure or clean.

The opposite of purity is impurity. Everything is impure until ‘cleansed’ with the purifying ashes of the Red Heifer. In the impure state a thing cannot approach G-D. The ashes of the Red Heifer ‘purify by making a thing ceremonially clean as commanded by G-D. Only by the ashes of the Red Heifer can G-D’s Holy Temple which is a House of Prayer be approached to obtain Spiritual Purity through prayer.” (Chaim Richman, The Mystery of The Red Heifer, Understanding The Concept of Biblical Purity)

Notice that Richman explained that purity is needed to make the impure pure. Thus, he believes a pure red heifer must be sacrificed to resupply these ashes before any Jew can begin the building the third temple. This would be a completely red animal with no defects and has never worn a yoke (see Numbers 19:2). The last red heifer ashes were lost during the 70 AD destruction of the Second Temple. As a result, every Jew from that time until now is considered ritually unclean according to Old Testament Law. Because of this absence, Rabbis like Richman have been waiting on an animal to be born that can fulfill God’s command for purification.

The red heifer is chosen by the purity of its coloring. To date every calf thought to qualify was later disqualified because they did not meet rabbinical scrutiny. But even if a red heifer is found acceptable, only a priest that is ceremonially clean can prepare it for its ashes. Such purification requires the sprinkling of the ashes of a red heifer (see Numbers 19:9). Without these ashes, no priest is ceremonially clean, which means, no priest can burn a red heifer for its ashes. So, a priest cannot burn a red heifer to make red heifer ashes unless he is first cleansed by the ashes of a red heifer. This endless cycle makes the birth of a red heifer, without already having the ashes of a red heifer, a Catch-22.

So, when Prophecy Teachers print in their magazines or broadcast on their radio or TV shows that furnishings, garments, and red heifers are being readied for a “third Jewish Temple,” just remember that these things mean nothing without a purified red-heifer-ash-washed priest. I will next explain why a cow not being a true redhead is not the only thing standing in the way of it becoming red heifer ash.


Before a red heifer can be made into purifying ash, there must be priests with a written lineage to prove they have a pure Hebrew bloodline (see Exodus 6:14-25; Numbers 3:1-5, Numbers 3:17-39, Numbers 26:57-61; Nehemiah 7:4-73; Nehemiah 12:1-26; Matthew 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38). Such written lineage is important since God disqualifies any priest, and his offspring, from serving at His Temple if his blood is intermingled with gentile blood (see Nehemiah 7:5, Nehemiah 7:63-64; Ezra 2:61-62, Ezra 10:11-19). If you’re one that believes a written lineage establishing a “pure Jewish bloodline” back to Abraham and Adam still exists, ask yourself why the lineage for the priest candidates in Rabbi Richman’s Temple Institute is researched only back to their great-grandfather. This is where this practice is admitted:

“Kohanim, priests directly descended from Moses’s brother Aaron, are recognized by the Institute as such IF THEIR PATERNAL GRANDFATHER OBSERVED THE TRADITION.” (Jerusalem Post, Third Temple Preparations begin with Priestly Garb, 2008)

Tracking your lineage to your “paternal grandfather” would in no way satisfy what is biblically commanded to qualify a man to be a Jewish priest.

Since no written lineage exists today, some preachers claim that DNA can be substituted as evidence. DNA experts would disagree for they know there is no test that can prove the purity of a bloodline. Thus, there is no test that gives absolute proof of a pure Cohen bloodline going back to Aaron’s priestly family and beyond. Therefore, DNA evidence cannot meet God’s stipulations for qualifying a person for the Levitical priesthood. This 60 Minute’s broadcast focused on the good and bad of DNA testing:

“‘This business of genetic genealogy is fraught with limitations. For one thing, it can only provide information about a tiny fraction of our ancestry. Because we get half our DNA from our mothers and half from our fathers, almost all of our DNA gets shuffled and remixed every generation, making it impossible to trace what comes from whom. There are just two bits of DNA that remain pure – the ‘Y’ chromosome, which passes directly from father to son, and something called ‘mitochondrial DNA’, which passes unchanged from mother to child.’

Hank Greely, a law professor at Stanford University, has studied this new field. He worries that people don’t realize just how many ancestors they actually have.

‘Eight generations ago both you and I had 256 great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents.’ Wait, you’re saying if you go back eight generations we have 256 great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents? ‘Yes, it doubles every generation. So you’ve got two parents. You have four grandparents. You have eight great grandparents. Sixteen great-great grandparents. And it adds up fast. It adds up so fast in fact that if you go back 20 generations you’ve got over a million grandparents.’

1,048,576 to be exact. And in each generation, DNA testing can provide information about only two of them.

‘So you could be Peruvian on your mother’s mother’s mother’s side. Japanese on your father’s father’s father’s side. Swedish on everything else.’ And you’ll never know. ‘You’ll never know the Swedish from the ‘Y’ chromosome from the mitochondrial DNA.’” (60 Minutes, Rebuilding the Family Tree)

Not only do those candidates hoping to perform animal sacrifices or become the Jewish High Priest need a written lineage proving they have a pure Kohanim bloodline, but more specifically, they must prove they are from the priestly line of Zadok (see Ezekiel 43:19, Ezekiel 44:15-17, Ezekiel 48:11-12). Why a lineage from Zadok? It is no coincidence that the name Zadok means “righteousness.” It appears his descendants were chosen because of Zadok’s faithfulness to David’s throne. He stood with David during the time of Absalom’s rebellion (see 2 Samuel 15:24-29). He also stood with Solomon in preference to Adonijah (see 1 Kings 1:8, 1 Kings 1:39). Because of his fidelity, God made Zadok’s decedents the exclusive line of priests to serve at the altar of sacrifice and in the office of High Priest.

The dilemma for Dispensational teachers is there is no such written lineage to prove who is and who is not of the priestly line of Zadok. DNA testing certainly cannot do this. Nevertheless, the Bible demands a proven lineage, for, without it, there can be no purification from the ashes of a red heifer…ashes which only a Zadok priest can prepare…and the problem goes around and around and around (see Numbers 19:3–10).

Jewish High Priest

                        Jewish High Priest

Names on tombstones, DNA testing, and tracing one’s family tree back to a paternal grandfather does not satisfy the command for carefully documented genealogy like those found in the book of Numbers, Matthew 1, and Luke 3. Regarding priestly genealogy, the following quote is from Rabbi Alfred J. Kolatch. He has authored about 50 books including The Jewish Home Advisor, This is the Torah, and Jewish Book of Why. In His book, Inside Judaism: The Concepts, Customs, And Celebrations of the Jewish People, he writes:

“Despite the acceptance of proselytes the equals of unborn Jews, in Jewish Law certain limitations are placed upon the convert, the most oppressive being that of a priest (Cohen) may not marry a convert, although a daughter of a Cohen may marry a convert. The reason offered is since early proselytes came from heathen stock, they were considered tainted. Therefore, a priest, who was expected to be as unblemished as the sacrifice he offered on the altar, was not permitted to marry a woman whose past life might reflect negatively on his character, or stigmatize his offspring.

Today, only the orthodox community abides by these restitutions. The position taken by the Rabbinical Assembly (Conservative) is that since today’s priests in general are of uncertain genealogy and there is no way to prove they that they are descendants of the family of Aaron of the tribe of Levi, the ruling has lost its validity. They also argue that it is unfair and even embarrassing to admit a female proselyte to the Jewish fold, but then to deny her the right to marry a Cohen, based on a regulation that might have had validity when the Temple existed but is no longer a factor in Jewish life. The reestablishment of the Temple, they argue, is not anticipated. The Reform and Reconstructionist rabbinate share the Conservative view.” – Inside Judaism: The Concepts, Customs, And Celebrations of the Jewish People, Alfred J. Kolatch, The Priestly Family, page 135

Did you see that Kolatch admitted that today “There is no way to prove that they are descendants of the family of Aaron of the tribe of Levi”? That should be enough to silence those Christians claiming this newly born red heifer is evidence of a soon to be built third Temple—but, shockingly, it is not.

Now that I’ve shared why no red calf will ever align with Bible prophecy, let’s look at how Bible prophecy is already fulfilled through its sacrifice.


Jesus made it clear that the Old Testament is a God-inspired work that speaks of Him (see John 5:39, John 5:46; Luke 24:27 and Hebrews 10:7; Acts 26:22). Much of what is written in the Torah serves as a type and shadow of what Jesus came to do. The book of Hebrews speaks of how Jesus both fulfilled and superseded things like angels, the Sabbath, the High Priest, Melchisedec, the Tabernacle and its furnishings, and Old Testament animal sacrifices. There is no reason to think what Number 19 says about the red heifer and its sacrifice is any different. Therefore, the red heifer there was expected to be fulfilled by the (then coming) Messiah. While under the inspiration of God’s Spirit, the writer of Hebrews penned these words:

“For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:13-14, ESV)

Jesus did fulfill what the red heifer and its ashes are said to do, but His sacrifice does that and yet so much more! Here are some examples of this:

  • The red heifer had to be free from blemishes. Does this describe Jesus? Yes, it does. Here’s a partial list of those who examined Jesus and declared Him blemish free: John the Baptist (John 1:29-30), Pilate (see Luke 23:4, Luke 23:14), Herod (Luke 23:15), the Apostle Peter (see 1 Peter 1:19, 1 Peter 2:22), and the High Priest and Jewish Sanhedrin found Him so blemish free they were forced to seek false witnesses to bring false accusations (see Matthew 26:59-60).
  • The red heifer was sacrificed a distance from the Temple. Does this describe Jesus? Yes, it does. After Pilate pronounced his decision, Jesus was led away to “Calvary,” which is also called “Golgotha” (see Matthew 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17) and “the Skull” (see Luke 23:33). His cross stood a short distance outside Jerusalem and her temple, thus He suffered outside the camp (see Hebrews 13:12).
  • The red heifer sacrifice was a perplexity and not easily understood. Does this describe Jesus? Yes, it does (see 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 1:23). The red heifer sacrifice stumped the sages. They could not understand how the priest making the sacrifice was ritually unclean while the one sprinkled was ritually clean. Their confusion was because they did not understand the substance of this sacrifice would be fulfilled in Jesus. The pure being made impure is when Jesus, who knew no sin, took sin upon Himself on the cross. This action made sinners [the impure] into sinless saints [the pure] (see Hebrews 9:11-28; 2 Corinthians 4:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). This aligns to the command that the red heifer have a perfect coat of red. The color red is viewed as symbolically speaking of sin. Only through Jesus can red be made white like snow (see Isaiah 1:18; Revelation 7:14). And, like the red heifer’s sacrifice included an emphasis on its blood, Jesus’ blood is what washes away the stains of sin (see 1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5).
  • The red heifer sacrifice was a type of cleansing for Leprosy. Does this describe Jesus? Yes, it does. The Bible requires items used to cleanse a leper be burned with the red heifer sacrifice. These were cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop (see Leviticus 14:4). Biblically, leprosy is a type of sin. Jesus became all that is needed to cleanse a man or woman of their sin (see Matthew 8:3; Mark 1:42; Luke 5:12-13; Psalms 51:7).
  • When red heifer ashes are mixed with fresh running water (living water) they create “water of separation.” Does this describe Jesus? Yes, it does. (see Numbers 19:9, Numbers 19:17). The “separation” in Numbers 19:9 is the Hebrew word “niddah” (H5079). In the Torah, niddah speaks of a woman’s impurity during her menstrual cycle. The following verse has the prophet Zechariah speaking of a time when a coming purification would cleanse the people of God from their niddah: “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness (niddah)” (Zechariah 13:1 ESV). Jesus is that fountain (see 1 Peter 1:2; Hebrews 12:24; Revelation 1:5). The “water of separation” created a means by which God’s people are made clean from their impurity of sin and its death (see Ephesians 5:25-6; Hebrews 10:22).
  • The red heifer was unique, for it is the only sacrifice in the Torah that cleansed a person from their nearness or contact with death. Does this describe Jesus? Yes, it does. A corpse is symbolic of sin and death. Jesus’ sacrifice cleanses those who are Born Again in Jesus name from their sin and the death that accompanies sin (see John 3:5; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16). As a result, the sacrifice and purification Jesus provides is unlike anything found in the Bible (see Luke 1:35; John 1:1-2, John 1:14; Matthew 17:5).
  • The Talmud has the tenth red heifer being sacrificed by the Messiah when the third Temple is built. Does this describe Jesus? Yes, it does. Though the Talmud is not inspired scripture, Jesus’ sacrifice did occur before the building of the third Temple (see John 2:19). Remember, Jesus never prophesied of the building of a stone and wood third temple. Neither did any of His apostles. What they did speak of is a New Covenant Temple that would be built from “lively stones,” which means, it is built from the assembly of Jesus’ believers. This new building would be the place where God dwells (see John 14:15-17, John 14:23; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 6:19; 2 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 2:18-22; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Peter 2:5).

The sacrifice of the red heifer and its ashes did make the defiled ceremonially clean. However, the purification spoken of in the Law, Psalms, and Prophets would be a cleansing that would come through the prophesied Messiah. This is not a yet unfulfilled promise since it is already available through the Messiah, Jesus Christ!


While working for a prophecy magazine some years ago, I had the opportunity to talk with some Jewish men who have devoted their lives to building the third Jewish temple. These men are often known by Dispensational teachers who teach a “soon coming” third temple. However, none of these men had access to the things necessary before this temple can biblically begin. Though this is true, the organizations these men represent are partly funded by well-meaning Christians. Make no mistake, when the first and second Jewish temples existed, they stood as God’s salvation plan to mankind. Hence, if a third temple is built it will represent the same. So, how can a believer financially support the rebuilding of the Old Covenant system of animal sacrifice and also say they believe Jesus’ sacrifice replaced that system with a better New Covenant plan of salvation? I ask this because the core message in these two testimonies is clearly at odds with each other (read 2 John 1:10-11).

I am hoping those who have read this study can now agree with what Jewish Rabbis know to be true, which is, there exists today no written lineage proving a pure bloodline of Zadok, and without such evidence, no man can meet the specifications God established for becoming a Jewish priest. What this means is nothing relating to red heifers, red heifer ashes, or the building of the third Jewish Temple or its furnishings can be described as a “fulfillment of Bible prophecy,” or even as one that is “the greatest fulfillment since the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.” That said, there is a prophecy message still needing to be told, which is that the tenth and last red heifer has already been born and sacrificed for the purification of those defiled by the death and uncleanness of this world. This purification was not fulfilled by a red cow named Melody, or by any other animal, but instead, it comes through the name of the prophesied Messiah, Jesus Christ!

© 2018 TK Burk. All Rights Reserved.

Commissioning the Twelve Apostles depicted by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1481.

The Apostles Doctrine

Easy Believism vs. The Doctrine!

Modern Christianity often attempts to remove the absolutes of the scriptures.  What I call easy believism seems to be the hallmark of many churches in this day.  What do the scriptures reveal regarding this vital subject?  What is doctrine?  And what exactly is the Apostles Doctrine?  Doesn’t doctrine tend to divide people?  Can’t we all just follow the leading of the Holy Spirit?   One fact is certain, and that is the 1st Century Church continued steadfastly in the Apostles Doctrine.

Many Christians tend to shy away from any discussion of doctrine.  First off what exactly is doctrine?  Well, it’s simple!  Doctrine is simply a body of principles presented for acceptance of belief.  In other words, it’s something that is taught; a teaching.  No one can escape doctrine.  Everyone, whether they know it or not, believes and practices some type of doctrine.  And that doctrine may be true, or it may be false.  The early church experienced explosive growth because of the apostle’s doctrine.

Acts 2:41-42 (KJV)“Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.”

Did you catch that?  Three thousand people (souls) gladly received the words of Peter, the Apostle in one day. And notice what they did with that word: they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, fellowship, breaking of bread (eating), and prayer.  That word stedfastly indicates that these new believers did not waiver or deviate from the word that was delivered to them by one of the Apostles (Peter).  The Apostles agreed on the vital importance of doctrine.  The following scriptures record the Apostle Paul’s advice to a young minister by the name of Timothy:

1 Timothy 4:12-16  (KJV) “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.  Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.  Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery.  Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all.  Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.”

Notice in the verses above Paul’s emphasis on “doctrine” and the “word.”  And it wasn’t any ole doctrine but “the doctrine.”  Paul also advises Timothy to give “attendance to reading” implying that Timothy should study the holy scriptures for himself.  Paul concludes his advice to Timothy by saying that continuing in “the doctrine” (teaching) will save not only Timothy but those who hear Timothy.  That’s a very powerful concept don’t you think?

 Doctrine – the Foundation of the Church

Psalm 11:3 declares that “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”  In other words, to have right standing before God, we must have a true and solid foundation.  In the physical world a house that is built on a weak or shaky foundation will not last.  Likewise, in the spiritual realm the only things that will last, and have permanent lasting results, are those principles that are built on truth.  Scriptural truth becomes the basis or foundation for our spiritual house.  The Word of God is the basis for all truth!  John 17: 17 declares “thy word is truth.”

The Apostles Doctrine – Essential for Truth

The Apostles were the only men that had a truly intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.  They sat at His feet for three and a half years.  Just before His ascension, Jesus gave the Apostles perfect understanding of the Scriptures.

Luke 24:44-49 (KJV) “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.  Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:  And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”

What is vital to understand, is that the Apostles, and only the Apostles, had an understanding of Old Testament scriptures that no one else ever had. It was Jesus Himself that personally opened their understanding of the scriptures. And therein lies the key to correct scriptural interpretation.  The Master Himself opened up their understanding of the scriptures.  This special relationship qualified them to author and establish all of the doctrinal foundations of the Church.  These essential truths would be the foundation upon which the true Church would be built on. Therefore any attempt to change or minimize the teachings of the Apostles is a grave error.

How To Know Truth from Error

Is there a full proof way to know truth from error?  Is there a litmus test of sorts that we can apply to a Church’s teachings (doctrine)?  In the marketplace of ideas and teachings how in the world can we ever be sure that what we are being taught is God’s truth?  The scripture itself reveals how we can know truth from error. Paul writing to the Galatians tells us just how to know truth from error:

Galatians 1:6-9 (KJV) “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Paul the Apostle was as serious as he could be with the saints in the Galatian church.  Why?  Because they had already started to waiver from the doctrine that they had been taught by the Apostles.  In this scripture what Paul is doing is pronouncing a death warrant upon anyone, including the Apostles, who would change or pervert the teaching (doctrine) that the Galatians had been given.  Paul’s’ use of the word “accursed” shows the true seriousness of the matter.  Because “accursed” literally translated means “eternally damned”! 

Well, so far we’ve heard from Peter and Paul regarding the importance of doctrine. What about John the Apostle?  Did he agree with Peter and Paul?  You can bet he did!

1 John 4:6 (KJV) “We (the Apostles) are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”

 Wow!  John doesn’t mince his worlds.  John is coming out just as strong in his admonition.  And John does it by making three important doctrinal points:

  • The Apostles were of God.
  • Hearing the teaching of the Apostles was equal to hearing God.
  • The difference between truth and error is established: To teach what the Apostles taught….is truth; to teach anything different….is error!

Doctrine – Vitally Important

The Apostles agreed.  Doctrine is vital to salvation and righteousness.  The doctrine of the Apostles needs to be taught and cherished.  Paul continues to warn Timothy is the following scriptures:

2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV)All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”

 2 Timothy 4:2-4 (KJV) “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season;reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

Jude, the Apostle, echoes the sentiments of Peter, Paul and John, in his epistle:

Jude 3 (KJV) “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith, which was once delivered unto the saints.”

Doctrine – Worth Fighting For!

 The truth of God’s word is built on the teachings of Jesus Christ which were handed down to His Apostles.  Any intellectually honest investigation of the scriptures will conclude that the Apostles doctrine is the very foundation that the truth was built upon.  It’s no wonder that Satan attempts to minimize the importance and value of sound doctrine.  The seed of doubt is planted with the words “Yea, hath God said…?”  The attack on Apostolic doctrine goes something like this: “What or who are you committed to? Jesus Christ or to some doctrine that’s taught at your Church?”

The scriptures reveal that you can’t be committed to Jesus Christ without being committed to the Biblical “Doctrine of Christ.”  And not just any “Doctrine of Christ” but the doctrine (teachings) as they were set forth in the Gospel accounts.  The doctrine that was practiced and taught by the faithful Apostles of Jesus Christ of the 1st century A.D.!  The foundation of the New Testament Church was the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone.

Ephesians 2:19-22 (KJV) “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

John 7:17 (KJV) “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

John 17:20 (KJV)Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;


In this world of confusion and shifting sands it’s comforting to know that God’s Word is solid and unchangeable.  Twelve men sat at the feet of Jesus Christ for a three and a half years.  They followed the Master wherever He went.  They learned of Him and had their understanding opened up like no one else.  What they received from Jesus Christ they delivered to their world of the 1st century.  Their letters, known as epistles, became the foundation of Church.  We can know truth from error.  Anyone who teaches and preaches what the Apostles taught and preached has the truth of God.

Anyone who deviates from the teachings of the Apostles are in error.  Those who gladly heard the words of the Apostles in the 1st century continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine.  What the scriptures reveal is that to hear the teachings of the Apostles is to hear the very words of Jesus Christ.   They didn’t waiver or vary the teachings that they had received from the only men who walked and talked with the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christians of today must heed Paul’s warning: we must continue in the doctrine and in doing so we will save both ourselves and those that hear us.

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Trial of Apostle Paul – Painting by Nikolai Bodarevski

Who Is Your Momma?

Early in the book of Galatians, Paul, the Apostle, pointed to a problem for the Galatian believers.  What Paul identified was that some of the Galatian Christians wanted to impose Judaic customs on other believers.  Some Galatians believed that Mosaic (Jewish) customs were essential to salvation while others claimed they were essential for spiritual growth.  In Galatians, we see Paul strongly arguing against these ideas and teachings.

Paul starts his letter to the Galatians by defending the Gospel and his Apostleship.  Paul reminds them that his salvation and growth as a Christian was independent of men and even separate from the Apostles in Jerusalem.  Paul comes out against the teaching that Diaspora believers must become like Judaics to be right with God.

Paul makes it clear to the Galatians that the only true children of Abraham were believers in Jesus Christ whether they be Judeans or Diaspora believers. In fact, Paul states that believers in Jesus Christ are the true inheritors and heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant which includes all its blessings and promises.

Galatians 3:7 (KJV) – Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

No Special Privilege

The Abrahamic covenant of the natural seed of Abraham was a type and shadow of the spiritual seed through Christ.    Paul shows in Galatians chapters three and four that the “seed of Abraham” had come to full fruition through Christ.  Galatians 3:29 (KJV) states that “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”  This spiritual “seed” is a progression of birth and privilege through the circumscisioin of flesh of the spiritual circumcision of the heart.

Galatians 3:28 (KJV)  – There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

In Galatians 3:28 Paul describes the make-up of the Church.  In Christ’s Church, there is no ethnic, blood or gender distinction.  Even someone that is being held as a slave can enter the Kingdom.  While the Bible does not condone slavery, it was a reality in the first century.

Abraham’s Seed

Galatians 3:29 (KJV)  – And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

This one passage in Galatians serves to wind up of the promises of the Old Covenant.  In this one verse, we see the Law, the Temple and circumcision abolished.  This one scripture progresses the mission from the Old Covenant into the New Covenant as a light to the world.  This one passage ends any claims of exclusive rights and privileges of the Mosaic (Jewish) nation.  This one sentence provides the key to the understanding of the Law, the Psalms, the Proverbs and the Prophets of the Old Testament.  In Galatians chapter three, Paul intended to show that being a child of God is directly related to believing in the same manner that Abraham believed.  And in doing so, the Galatians would inherit the promises that God gave Abraham.

A Return to the Law – a Bad Idea!

Galatians 3:23-25 (KJV)  – But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith comes, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

Christ had come, but the Galatians wanted to return to the Law.  They wanted to go back to having a tutor or the law.  Instead of graduating from school they yearned to return to the schoolmaster.  They wanted to return to the shadows and types of the Old Covenant instead of the living reality of the New Covenant.  They wanted a return to circumcision of the flesh rather than circumcision of the Spirit.

Galatians 4:21 (KJV)  – Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?

Most Bible commentators see Galatians 4:21 as the most difficult Galatian passage to understand.  Paul is using a form of argument that is very Hebraic.  And while his first-century readers could understand what Paul is saying we might have difficulty today.  In this verse, Paul is speaking to those who want to go back to Hebraism and take Jesus with them.  They want to fully return to the Law of Moses.  In effect Paul is addressing those who want a hybrid religion.  While these Galatians intend to believe in Jesus, they also want to live under the law as a means of pleasing God.

Paul is asking these Galatians if they have considered the implications of what they are about to do?  While the Galatians certainly wanted to please God, they were going about it in the wrong way.  Paul warns them to stop and think.  Then Paul, in the next two verses takes them back to Genesis chapter 25.

Galatians 4:22-23 (KJV)  – For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.

As you may remember Abraham had two sons – Ishmael and Isaac.  Paul uses the birth of these two sons to provide a Bible lesson to these Galatian believers.  Here’s a brief history: Abraham was a prosperous businessman in Ur of the Chaldees when God appeared to him.  God told Abraham to take his wife Sarai, leave the land, and go to a land that God would later show him.  Just before choosing Abraham, God had disinherited all nations and peoples because of their sin.

The Biological Clock

Genesis 12:2 (KJV)  – And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

Genesis 13:16 (KJV)  – And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.

These two verses point to the great promises that God has for Abraham and his “seed.”  The only problem is that Abraham was 75 years old and Sarai was 65 and without children.  Well in the course of time Abraham and Sarai did arrive in Canaan, the land God promised them.  While in Canaan, God repeated the promise in Genesis 13:16.  Well, ten more years passed and still no son!  The old biological clock was ticking away.  About this time Sarai suggested that Abraham take Hagar, Sarai’s Egyptian maidservant. Sarai, now 75 years old concluded there was no way she could have a child.

Genesis 16:2 (KJV)  – And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.

Hagar became pregnant, and a son named Ishmael was born.  Abraham is now 100 years old, and Sarah is 90.  Both of their bodies are good as dead.  There’s no natural way they are going to have a child together.  Well just when Abraham and Sarai are at their lowest point God shows up.  God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah which means Princess.  Abraham’s name was also changed from Abram being honored Father to Abraham, father of many nations.  Both these name changes are directly related to the Covenant promises.

Son of the Promise

Genesis 17:21 (KJV)  – But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.

God then makes in clear verse 17:21 that Ishmael was NOT the son of the promise.  God revived the bodies of Abraham and Sarah and nine months later Isaac was born.  The name Isaac means laughter.  It is kind of funny that a 100-year-old man and a 90-year-old woman could have a child.  Paul uses this familiar story in Genesis to drive home spiritual points.

The Judaics (Jews) revered Abraham as their spiritual father.  An according to many of the Judaic Pharisees if you were a physical descendant of Abraham then you were in good standing with God.  Paul is telling them here “not so.”  Paul states that it is a matter of faith and not the family tree.  While Ishmael was born according to the flesh, Isaac was born as a result of God’s promise.

An Allegory?

Galatians 4:24-25 (KJV)  – Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.

Paul points out that these things are an allegory.  An allegory is a story that can reveal a hidden or deeper meaning.  The problem in Galatia was this: the Judaizers taught that you had to follow the Traditions of the Elders be saved.  And that meant being circumcised and keeping the the Law of Moses along with the Traditions of the Elders.

The Judaizers were asking “Who’s your father”?  Paul was saying I’ve got another question – Who’s your mother?  The Judaics were very proud of the fact that they were the descendants of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac.  It was part of their “bragging rights” so to speak.  But Paul turns there most prized “bragging rights” on its head by saying, “No, you are the descendants of Hagar!”.

Paul is telling them that by taking matters into their own hands by seeking to keep the law, they become children of the slave women and not the free women.  Paul points out that these two women represent the two covenants of God.  Hagar represents the old covenant, and Sarah represents the new covenant.

Hebrews 8:7-8 (KJV)  – For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:

In Hebrews, Paul points out a huge difference between Sarah and Hagar.  Sarah represents “grace” and Hagar represents the “law.”  Sarah stands for trusting God alone.  Hagar represents trying to please God thru our own efforts – the flesh.  The sons born to Abraham represent the way of faith (Isaac) versus the way of works (Ishmael).  Sarah, the Princess, is the linage/line of faith, while Hagar, the Alien, is the line of works. There is no third line.

Galatians 4:25-26 (KJV)  – For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.

Grace and Law

What happened on Mount Sinai?  Answer – the giving of the Law of Moses.  The “Jerusalem which now is” referred to the Jerusalem of the first century which was the world headquarters of Judaism.  The Law cannot save anyone.  The people who lived in Jerusalem in those days followed the Law.  Hagar, the slave woman, gave birth to a slave son (Ishmael).  Ishmael stands for everyone who is enslaved by Law-keeping as a means to salvation.  Slavery comes from slavery; bondage comes from bondage.

Paul’s argument is the most startling in prophecy.  Hagar, the Egyptian bondmaid, is identified with Jerusalem and Jewry.  Sarah is identified with the true Church, the New Covenant, and the heavenly Jerusalem.  This allegory declares that earthly Israel is regarded as Ishmael, in bondage to the Law and not free.

The true church is the spiritual Israel to whom the promises made to Abraham apply.  Hagar and her son Ishmael stand for the Jerusalem of Paul’s day, which is the earthly Jerusalem now.  But what if the New Jerusalem is from above?  Let’s look at Revelation.

Revelation 3:12 (KJV)  – Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

What’s important to keep in mind is that two covenants are being compared and contrasted.  The earthly Jerusalem is the Old Covenant, and the heavenly Jerusalem is the New Covenant.  In this passage of Revelation John tells us that this New Jerusalem is the city of God.

Revelation 21:9-10 (KJV)  – And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife. And he carried me away in the spirit of a great and high mountain and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God

Jerusalem Above

Who is the bride?  Who is the wife of the Lamb?  The answer is the New Testament Church.  Jerusalem above is the wife of the Lamb, which is the church.

Galatians 4:27-28 (KJV)  – For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.  Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

In Galatians 4:27-28 Paul quotes from Isaiah 54:1.  Paul applies this verse in Isaiah by explaining that at first Sarah had not a child.  But when the promise was fulfilled her children exceeded that of Hagar.  This verse ties back to Genesis 17:16 where God said of Sarah “She shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.”

Sarah = Isaac= New Covenant = Jerusalem Above = The Church

Sarah gave birth to Isaac, not by reliance on herself.  This birth was an act of God from above and a fulfilled promise.  Spiritually Sarah is the mother of all Christians.  For like Isaac Christians are the “children of promise.”  Our lives are not merely the product of human resources but of God’s supernatural work in the Spirit.

Galatians 4:29 (KJV)  – But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

The phrase “after the Spirit” is synonymous with “according to the promise.”  It’s the opposite of the phrase “after the flesh.”  In Genesis, we read Ishmael persecuting Isaac.  The phrase “even, so it is now” refers to the Judaic (Jewish) persecution of Christians in the first century at the time Paul wrote Galatians.  Paul’s greatest enemies were not pagan philosophers of Athens or the Romans but the fanatical Judaic Pharisees.  Paul rarely had any problems with Gentiles unless they were stirred up by the Judaics.  During Paul’s day, there was a bitter struggle between fleshly and spiritual Israel.  Much of the New Testament writings were designed to encourage Christians to hold fast under Judaic (Jewish) persecution because relief would soon come.

Galatians 4:30-31 (KJV)  – Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

These two sons are typical of the two Israels of God.  They are metaphors of the Israel of God.  One Israel was born after the flesh, and the other was born after the Spirit.  Paul again refers back to the Genesis story of Hagar and Ishmael.  Abraham had to cast out the bondwoman and her son Ishmael.

Romans 9:6-8 (KJV)  – Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

The above verse in Romans is a good summary of what we have been discussing.  “They are not all Israel, which are of Israel” means that physical Israel is not the true Israel of God.  That is the children of the flesh are NOT the children of God.

How about you?  Who is your momma?  Are you born of the flesh or of the Spirit?  Do you still think there’s some way you can help God out with your salvation?  Do you think you can be good enough to merit salvation?  The Ishmaels of this world trust in themselves.  The Isaacs of this world trust in God alone for salvation.

Related articles: Seed of Abraham

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Knowledge Shall Increase and Then the End

For the last 30 years, I have heard that an increase in technology, knowledge, and travel are sure signs of the “end times.”  All one has to do is look at the tremendous advancements in computing power, and you’d have to conclude that knowledge and technology are rapidly increasing.  The go-to scripture that is cited is found in Daniel 12:4:

Daniel 12:4 (KJV) But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

Seal the Book, Daniel!

Let’s look at this verse, pick it apart to see what the scriptures reveal.  The two signs that are mentioned here are an increase in human knowledge and travel.

Like many, I taught that Daniel was referring to the rapid development of both travel and technology.  Our great-grandfathers traveled by horse-drawn carriages but today we travel by commercial jet.  According to some, man’s institutional knowledge is doubling every two and one-half years.  The facts are there: who can deny the marvels of our century?  I certainly can’t and won’t.  So don’t these facts concur precisely with Daniel’s prophecy that the end is near?  Radio program hosts and book authors declare that because “knowledge” has increased, they can say with certainty that we are living in the “last days.”  But is this really what Daniel had in mind?  Is it possible that many Christians miss the timing of this “knowledge” because they are looking for something to come in their future?

In Daniel 12:4 the Lord tells Daniel to “shut up the words, and seal the book even to the end.”  Daniel 12:4 is a direct parallel to Revelation 22:10.  Both Daniel and John received a vision of “the time of the end.”  While Daniel was told to seal up the book until the time of the end John was told to unseal the book!

Don’t Seal the Book, John!

Daniel lived around 586 B.C., over 2500 years ago.  So as I write this in the year 2017 over 2500 years have passed since the Lord commanded Daniel to seal the book.  Then at “the end” the seal would be loosened, right?  About 500 years passed from the time Daniel was told to seal the book until John wrote the book of Revelation.  This is what the Lord told John to do:

 Revelation 22:10 (KJV) And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand.

So Daniel was told to seal the book, but John was told not to seal up the book?  Why?  Because the Lord said, “the time is at hand.”  So does it make sense that John’s vision was referring to a time and events nearly 2000 years in his (Johns) future? And if words have any meaning does the phrase “the time is at hand” mean 2000 or more years in John’s future? I certainly don’t think so.

Daniel 8:26 (KJV)  And the vision of the evening and the morning which was told is true: wherefore shut thou up the vision; for it shall be for many days.

Not only was Daniel’s vision for many “days” (years) in his future it also concerned what would befall the “Jews” in the latter days.

Daniel 10:14 (KJV)  Now I am come to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days: for yet the vision is for many days.

So after “many days” what exactly befell the Jews? The answer is found in Matthew chapter 24 and Luke chapter 21.  During the Olivet Discourse Jesus told his gathered disciples that “there shall not be left there one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down (Mat. 24:2).  Jesus, in Luke 21:20-22, warned his disciples and the Christians in Jerusalem to flee the city when they see it surrounded by armies.

Luke 21:20-22 (KJV)  And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.

So was Jesus’ prophecy in Matthew 24 and Luke 21 fulfilled?  Sure was!  In the year 70 A.D. the Roman General Titus marched on the city, surrounded it, broke down the walls and destroyed the Temple as well as the city of Jerusalem.  The days of vengeance mentioned in Luke 21:22 occurred in 70 A.D.  This marked the end of the Old Covenant, the Levitical priesthood, and the Jewish Age.

The “knowledge” that Daniel refers to is NOT scientific knowledge but spiritual knowledge.  It is the wisdom given by the Holy Spirit to understand the deep things of God.  This spiritual knowledge is also referred to in the book of Habakkuk:

Habakkuk 2:14 (KJV) For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

During the days of Habakkuk, in the Old Testament, this knowledge had not been revealed.  However, it was revealed to those in Paul’s day (1 Cor. 2:6-10).  While the Spirit led men living in Old Testament days they didn’t understand how those promises were to be fulfilled.  However, once the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost, they started to understand the knowledge of the glory of God.  God’s glory was revealed in Jesus Christ.  God’s promises were fulfilled in Christ.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (KJV)  But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Peter also referred to this increase of spiritual knowledge.  Peter was aware of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the grace of God thru the Spirit of Christ.  These Old Testament prophets inquired and searched diligently, but they did not understand how God would accomplish His plan. This “knowledge” of the Gospel of grace was a mystery to them.  But to those in the first century (and to us), the mystery was revealed.  Even the Gentiles would be partakers of God’s promises “in Christ” (Eph. 3:3-6, 8-10).

 1 Peter 1:10-12 (KJV) Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.

Do you see the connection between the “knowledge” spoken of by Daniel and the New Testament writers?  This was spiritual “knowledge” of the redemption plan and the redeemer.  This plan took a man beyond the carnal justification by works to the Spirit of God.  The knowledge of Jesus Christ causes us to glory in Him.  By the Spirit, we can safely say that we know Him.

I realize some of you might be thinking “well yes, knowledge began at the day of Pentecost, but it’s still increasing today and will continue to increase until the end”.  Well, that brings us to another scripture in the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 11:9 (KJV) They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

Isaiah 11:9 says that knowledge must increase until the earth is full of the knowledge of the Lord.  Again this “knowledge” is not technological but spiritual.  Daniel did not have jet travel or computers in mind when he prophesied that “knowledge shall be increased.”  It’s the knowledge of salvation revealed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  When the light of the knowledge of the glory of God shines down on us we no longer need to run around searching for redemption – it is right before our eyes!  I have received the “knowledge” that Daniel spoke of – have you?

Want to know more about this “knowledge”?  Please see the following articles:

The Truth of God and Being Born Again

The Gift of the Holy Ghost

Water Baptism – Burial

Repent and Believe the Gospel

Salvation – The Gospel

The Last Days – Of What?

Perilous Times Shall Come!

This past August I decided to reward my two youngest children by taking them and their mother on a Caribbean cruise.  It was their first cruise and trip out of this country.  We packed our bags and away we went.  Of course one of the best parts of cruising is the shore excursions.  There were many shore excursions to choose from on our three country stops.  One activity that I wanted to introduce my children to was snorkeling.  So during our stop in Roatan, Honduras we decided to snorkel in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean.

As Christians, we believe in modest dress.  It is possible to dress modestly even when going for a swim or in our case snorkeling.  I can guarantee that my wife and daughter weren’t wearing bikinis nor were my son and I in Speedos!

Upon arrival at the snorkeling location, we saw a group of young Honduran men waiting at the end of the pier.  These young men would serve as guides for our snorkeling adventure.  One of the guides, however, hurriedly made a beeline for us.  His name was Omar, and unlike his counterparts, he was modestly dressed.  Omar introduced himself and explained that upon seeing us, he knew we must be Apostolic Christians.  After telling me about himself and his Church, he partially quoted from 2 Timothy chapter 3 and asked if I thought we were living in “perilous times.”

Here’s the entire passage that Omar was referring to:

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (KJV)  – This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

I responded to Omar’s question by directing his attention first to the phrase “in the last days.”   I pointed out that we are not living the “last days” because the inspired authors of the New Testament said that they were living in the “last days.”  I cautioned Omar that we must first determine what these first century Christians meant by the term the “last days.”  When they heard the term “the last days” would they think of a time thousands of years in their future?   The “last days” that the disciples were speaking of was from 30 A.D. to 70 A.D. That is the last days of the Old Covenant.  This 40 year period was the transition period between the two covenants – the Old and the New!

I suggested that Omar look up every scripture in his Bible that contains the phrases “last days” or the “last times.”  When he had done this, he would see that the disciples believed they were living in the “last days.”  Their belief makes it difficult to stretch the “last days” over a period of thousands of years, continuing past our day.

Which Last Days?

Here are some of the scriptures that reveal that the disciples believed they were living in the “last days”…

Hebrews 1:1-2 (KJV)  – God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;

The epistle (or letter) of Hebrews was written for Jewish Christians who lived in Jerusalem.  The letters’ purpose was to encourage Christians to persevere in the face of persecution.  At the time Hebrews was written some believers were considering turning back to Judaism, and it’s system of law.  They were doing this to escape persecution for following Christ.  The theme of the epistle is the doctrine of the person of Christ and his role as mediator between God and humanity.

Notice that the inspired writer of Hebrews chapter one uses the phrase “in these last days.”  He is obviously referring to the “days” that they were living in.  The writer didn’t say “those last days” did he?  And what happened “in these last days”?  Well, the writer of Hebrews and his companions were “spoken unto” “by his Son.”  The “Son” was a reference to Jesus Christ.

1 Peter 1:20-21 (KJV)  – Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

Again in 1st Peter chapter 1, we see the phrase “in these last times” used.  “These last times” denotes the times that the apostles were living in – the 1st century A.D.  Peter is referring to his “times,” not a day thousands of years in their future.  Peter is placing himself as living in the “last times.”

Acts 2:16-17 (KJV)  – But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:

Here in Acts chapter 2, Peter reaches back into the Old Testament writings and quotes from the prophet Joel chapter 2 verses 28-29.   Peter reminds these believers that the Holy Ghost is being poured out just as Joel prophesied.  Peter is a witness to this outpouring knowing that this a fulfillment of scripture.

1 John 2:18 (KJV)  – Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.

John, the Apostle, was the author of the books 1st, 2nd and 3rd John, the Gospel of John and Revelation.  First John was written during the 1st century A.D.  Here we see John, in that day telling his readers that “it is the last time” because “even now there are many antichrists.”  Please understand that the “now” that John is referring to is not our “now” but his “now.”  John is stating that because “there are many antichrists” that had come that they (these 1st century A.D Christians) were living in “the last time.”  The “last time” that John is referring to is the end of Old Covenant Israel. These were the “perilous times” referred to in 2nd Timothy chapter 3.

The End of an Age

The authors of the New Testament also said they were living at the end of the age.

1 Corinthians 7:31 (KJV)  – And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.

1 Corinthians 10:11 (KJV)  – Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world come.

Hebrews 9:26 (KJV)  – For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once at the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

1 Peter 4:7 (KJV)  – But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.

When reading the verses above, please keep in mind audience relevance.  Who is the audience?  The “ye,” “you,” and “they” of these verses are the listeners of the first century A.D.  The “ye” are not us!   Also of note are the terms “end of the world” or “ends of the world.”  The Greek word for world is “aion” which means age.  The “age” of the Old Covenant was coming to an end.  The age of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ had arrived!


So are we living in perilous times today?  Of course, we are!  And so were those who were alive during the days of WWI and WWII!  But that’s not the question here.  The problem is this: Does 2 Timothy chapter 3 refer to our day or Timothy’s day?  Keep in mind that 2nd Timothy is believed to have been written approximately 67 A.D. before the destruction of the Temple.  The “perilous times” that Timothy was referring to came to an end in 70 A.D. with the destruction of the Temple and city of Jerusalem.

Animal sacrifices ended.  The city of Jerusalem would be encircled by the Roman Army as prophesied in Luke chapter  21.  Not one stone of the Temple was left upon another, just as Jesus predicted in Matthew chapter 24.  The Old Covenant came to an abrupt end and with it the “perilous times” that Timothy was referring to.  Most of the persecution coming from Apostate Jews also came to an end.

Christians, heeding the warning of Jesus in Matthew chapter 24 fled the city of Jerusalem before its encirclement by the Roman Army.  Early Christian historians Eusebius and Epiphanius claim that before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 the Jerusalem Christians fled to the Decapolis city of Pella (also note Mark 13:14; Matt 24:15; Lu 21:20-22; cf. 19:43-44).  Now ask yourself this question: Does it make sense to believe that Timothy was referring to a time thousands of years in the future of his audience?  How would that be relevant to his listeners?  Many have bought into this “last days” madness.  But I’m no longer one of them.

While the words in 2nd Timothy were future to a first-century audience, it’s NOT future to us.  Their future but our past!  And what about all of the other “signs” of the last days mentioned in 2nd Timothy?  Where men would be ” lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy”?  Well, men were guilty of those sins in the first century just as they are today.  All the conditions listed in 2 Timothy chapter 3 were fulfilled in the first century.  Perilous times would occur during the lifetimes of these first century Christians.  The “last days” had arrived for them.  God was getting ready to shut the door on the Old Covenant – a new day had arrived!

Related articles:

The Great Tribulation

The Last Days of What?

Earthquakes – Sign of the End Times?

Melting Elements

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee - Painting by Rembrandt 1632

Hurricanes – God’s End Time Judgement?

Hurricanes – God’s End Time Judgement?

I live in south Louisiana.  Hurricanes are a way of life for us.  Hurricane Katrina put about 5 feet of water in my home.  It would take over a year to rebuild.  I am 65 years old.  There have been many famous hurricanes blow thru my neck of the woods. In my lifetime there have been 26 named hurricanes affecting south Louisiana.  So a hurricane affects Louisiana on average of once every two years.

Recently hurricane Harvey devastated Corpus Christi and Houston, Texas.  This was followed soon after by hurricane Irma plowing through the Caribbean and Florida.  What I have observed is that every time we experience a hurricane, some people will say that it’s proof of God’s End Time judgment.  While Harvey and Irma were mega-storms, there have been many other major hurricanes, in Louisiana and across the world.  Records of storms can be found going back over 400 years.

Hurricane Alley

The “Great Galveston Storm” of 1900 was a category four hurricane with winds up to 145 miles per hour.  Over 8,000 people were killed. The city of Galveston was left in total ruins.   The disaster ended the Golden Era of Galveston, as the hurricane alarmed potential investors, who turned to Houston instead. The whole island of Galveston was subsequently raised by 17 ft and a ten mi seawall erected.

Folks living on the Gulf Coast live in hurricane areas.  We know the risks.  Are we more evil than people living in other parts of our country?  I don’t think so!  Certain parts of the world will never experience a hurricane.  Does that make them more righteous than those that happen to live in hurricane alley?  The same can be said for those who live in areas affected by tornadoes.  Many Christians today argue that hurricanes are end-time prophetic signs.  They will often base their belief on a passage contained in Luke 21:25.

Luke 21:25 (KJV)  – And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;

The problem with applying Luke 21:25 to our time is the context of the passage.  While this passage was a prophecy, it was a prophecy for the generation to whom Jesus was speaking.  Read all of Luke chapter 21.  The “ye” and “you” that Jesus was referring to was the generation that was alive at that time.  So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled”. (Luke 21:31-32).  Every time the term “this generation” is used in the Bible it always refers to the generation that was alive during Jesus’ day.  This concept can be easily seen by searching for the term “this generation” in your Bible.  It’s clear from over 15 passages that use the term “this generation” that each use refers to the generation that was alive in Jesus’ day.  This is a perfect example of “audience relevance.”  We must always ask ourselves when reading a Bible passage “Who is the audience?”  Remember the Bible was written for us but not to us.

Mega-Storms Mentioned in Scripture

So is there any evidence to suggest that there were severe storms in the 1st century A.D.?  Have you ever heard of Euroclydon?  That word is in your Bible.  It means a severe “northeaster” type storm.  I refer you to Acts 27:14 (KJV) – But not long after there arose against it a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon. Further Luke writes that they didn’t see the sun or stars for many days.  That storm was so fierce that the ship was broken with the violence of the waves” (Luke 27:41)”.  History documents similar mega storms.  The Roman historian Tacitus described a hurricane devastating the city of Campania in 65 A.D.  Tacitus wrote of houses filled with dead bodies.

All of the natural disasters described by Matthew, Mark, and Luke pointed to a central event of the Bible: the coming of Jesus in judgment against Jerusalem.  This would occur before that first-century generation had passed always.  The earthquakes, famines, and storms mentioned by Jesus were not in themselves judgments.  These type of events have always occurred and will continue to occur.  The judgment Jesus was referring to was the destruction of the temple.

The destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple was like a mega-storm.  Look at the full context of scripture:

Luke 21:24-26 (KJV)  – And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.

The perplexity referred to in the verse above is limited to the land and people related to that particular generation (Luke 21:32).  Houston, Florida and the Caribbean in this scripture!  It’s a local event of the first century A.D.  Who are the people that would be led away captive?  These were people living in Jerusalem, not the world.  It was the city of Jerusalem, not the world, that “shall be trodden down of the Gentiles.”  Some would point to the expression “coming on the earth.”  This phrase is very misleading and inaccurate in the KJV.  First, the Greek word “kosmos” is not used.  The Greek word used in Luke 21:26 is “oikoumene”.  This word specifically refers to the “Roman Empire” or the “inhabited earth.”  Or in other words the “world” in the days of Jesus.  So Luke chapter 21 refers to a localized event.

There was a “one-world government” at that time in history.  Rome was the “superpower” of that day.  Rome used its swords and war machine against Jerusalem.  The Jews were “led away captive into all nations” after the temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.  This destruction was foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24:2 when he declared that  “there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”  The point is that Luke chapter 21 does not in any way refer to our day.  The “sea and the waves roaring” was referring to the days of Jesus, NOT our day.


Taking scriptures out of their historical context and applying them to our day is a common mistake made by many Christians. Historically there have always been deadly weather events and earthquakes.  Recent hurricanes and other severe weather events are NOT signs from God or some “end-time” judgment.  Major weather events have always occurred historically, and they will continue to occur.

Peter's conflict with Simon Magus by Avanzino Nucci, 1620. Simon is on the right, dressed in black.

False Christs and False Prophets During the Lifetime of Jesus


Are there false Christs and prophets today?  Of course, there are!  What about in the first century?  This article will explore that question.  Jesus warned His first-century followers to “take heed.”  The gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke serve as warnings to the disciples of Jesus.  Jesus was addressing His disciples in the first century.

Matthew 24:3-5 (KJV)  – And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

Mark 13:21-22 (KJV)  – And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ; or, lo, he is there; believe him not: For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.

Luke 21:8 (KJV)  – And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.

False Christs in the Last Days

Jesus Christ declared that before His return in judgment there would be false Christs. When speaking of false Christs, the first thing that probably comes to mind is that since there are false Christs today that we must be living in the “last days.”  While there certainly are false Christs today should we automatically assume that we are in the “last days”?  What do the scriptures reveal about this important subject?

Scripture reveals that the first-century church believed they were living in the “last days” (Acts 2:17, Hebrews 1:2, James 5:3, 2 Peter 3:3).  So that being the case are we to believe that the “last days” have lasted nearly 2,000 years?  And what is the test of prophetic fulfillment?  If a prophecy is made in scripture and fulfilled in scripture, we need to stand on the testimony of scripture.

False Christs Active In the First Century!

The tests in Matthew, Mark, and Luke are clear.  The apostles asked Jesus for a sign of His future (to them) coming and the end of the world or age.  The main question is this: were there false Christs during the lifetime of the apostles?  Well if you study the scriptures and set aside previous biases you will find unanimous agreement among New Testament writers that false Christs and prophets had arisen during the first century.  Therefore since scripture reveals false Christs during the days of the apostles, we can conclude that they were indeed living in the “last days” as foretold by Old Testament prophets.  OK, so where is the New Testament evidence of the appearance of false Christs?  Acts chapter five gives us the first example:

Acts 5:34-36 (KJV)  – Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought.

Theudas – Claimed to be Somebody

The book of Acts provides a chronicle of some of these impostors.  Gamaliel, who was a Pharisee mentions “Theudas.”  Theudas “claimed to be somebody.”  Theudas was somebody all right, a false prophet!  He must have had a gift of oratory because he was able to persuade a small multitude to follow him.  The noted Jewish historian, Josephus also mentions Theudas (Jewish Antiquities 20.97-98).

Well, it didn’t end with Theudas.  After his death, another false messiah rose up by the name of Judas of Galilee.  This imposter is mentioned in Acts 5:37:

 Acts 5:37 (KJV)  – After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.

 Simon the Sorcerer

 Later in the book of Acts, we read of a man called Simon, who was a sorcerer.

Acts 8:9-11 (KJV)  – But there was a certain man, called Simon, which beforetime in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, giving out that himself was some great one: To whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, This man is the great power of God. And to him they had regard, because that of long time he had bewitched them with sorceries.

So here we find Simon who had seduced the Samaritans convincing them that he was “the great power of God.”  How did Simon pull that off?  Well, Simon “had bewitched them with sorceries.”  Scripture reveals that Simon had the Samaritans fooled “from the least to the greatest.”  These bewitched Samaritans fulfilled Christ’s words “and shall deceive many.”  The Samaritans fell for the false signs and wonders.

Elymas the Sorcerer

Another account of false prophets is found in Acts chapter 13.  This is yet another example of Christ’s prediction that there would arise false prophets.

 Acts 13:6-10 (KJV)  – And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?

Paul and Barnabas had identified Elymas as a false prophet and a sorcerer.  Elymas was good at turning men from the truth.  Paul even labeled Elymas as a “child of the devil.”  Not much of a compliment is it?  Clearly, Elymas fit John’s definition of an antichrist.

A Damsel with a spirit of Divination

There’s an account of a false prophetess who was possessed with a devil:

 Acts 16:16 (KJV)  – And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying:

This woman was making her masters a lot of money from the practice of “soothsaying.”  For those of you not familiar with the word “soothsaying” it is defined in Strong’s Concordance as “supposed to rave through inspiration; to divine, i.e. utter spells (under pretence of foretelling).”  This woman clearly was another “antichrist” and false prophet.

Further proof of fulfillment is found in Matthew 24:23-24:

 Matthew 24:23-24 (KJV)  – Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

Many False Prophets in the First Century

 Other references to false prophets are contained in the following scriptures:

 2 Peter 2:1 (KJV)  – But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

 1 John 4:1-3 (KJV)  – Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

Many Antichrists

Modern prophecy teachers point out the great number of false prophets and Christs in our century and day.  However, that same Antichrist spirit existed in the first-century churches and Jewish synagogues. The first century was filled with the spirit of Antichrist.  But to identify an antichrist spirit, we must first define what that spirit is.  The Apostle John does this for us in the books of 1st and 2nd John.  John warns first century Christians (and by extension us as well) to be aware of the spirit of Antichrist.  John confirmed that many false prophets had already gone into the world.

 1 John 4:1-6 (KJV)  – Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

John makes it simple to discern between the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.  Any spirit that doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh is not of God and is antichrist or opposed to Christ.  John informed these first century Christians that the spirit of Antichrist was already in the world.

John lays it out in 1 John chapter two when he stated that anyone who would claim that Christ hadn’t come in the flesh was an antichrist.

 1 John 2:22-23 (KJV)  – Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.

Here John is saying that if anyone denies that Jesus is the Christ, then he is antichrist.  John points the reader to the fact that Jesus was the Christ.  The Greek word Christ or “Christos” means anointed.  The Hebrew word Messiah (mashiyach) is translated the same.  The word anointed, in reference to Messiah, can be referring to either His anointing as King or His anointing as Priest. The first century Jewish Christians would have been familiar with the concept of anointing.  These Christians would have understood when John used the word, Christ.

The Antichrist spirit Denies the Deity of Jesus Christ

These apostate Jews denied a fundamental aspect of  Christ.  Christ was the ultimate and final High Priest who would make an atonement for His people.  Of course, they also denied the Deity of Christ.  To deny Christ’s anointing is to deny His Deity.  The anointing of Christ as High Priest is essential in understanding the significance of Antichrist or those that oppose Christ.

The spirit of Antichrist was already in the world in the first century A.D.  This is why John could write with certainty that he (John) and his readers were in the “last hour.”

 1 John 2:18-19 (KJV)  – Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Many today are claiming that we are living in the last days and that this is the last hour.  However, John was inspired by God.  While it’s true that there are false prophets today, it’s also clear that there were false prophets active at the time of Christ.  These false prophets were antichrists because they opposed Christ.

False Christs as Reported by Josephus

The Bible is not the only source that documents the false prophets of the first century.  Josephus, a Jewish historian, left a clear record of these false Christs.  History reports that first century Judea was a hot bed for false messiahs.  These charlatans not only came under the disapproval of the Roman government but they eventually set the whole of Jerusalem against itself. Consider this list of phony Christs and prophets:

  • (A.D. 35) within one year after our Lord’s ascension, rose Dositheus the Samaritan, who had the boldness to assert that he was the Messiah. . . while his disciple Simon Magus deluded multitudes into a belief that he, himself, was the “GREAT POWER”
  • (A.D. 38). . . three years afterward another Samaritan impostor appeared, and declared that he would shew the people the sacred utensils, said to have been deposited by Moses, in mount Gerizim. Induced by an idea that the Messiah, their great deliverer, was now come, an armed multitude assembled under him, but Pilate speedily defeated them, and slew their chief.
  • While Cuspius Fadus was procurator in Judea, another deceiver arose, whose name was Theudas. This man actually succeeded so far as to persuade a very great multitude to take their effects and follow him to Jordan, assuring them, that the river would divide at his command.
  • Under the government of Felix, deceivers rose up daily in Judea, and persuaded the people to follow them into the wilderness, assuring them that they should there behold conspicuous signs and wonders performed by the ALMIGHTY.
  • (A.D. 55) About this period arose Felix the celebrated Egyptian impostor, who collected thirty-thousand followers, and persuaded them to accompany him to the Mount of Olives, telling, them that from thence they should see the walls of Jerusalem fall down at his command, as, a prelude to the capture of the Roman garrison, and to their obtaining the sovereignty of the city.
  • (A.D.60) In the time of Porcius Festus, another distinguished impostor seduced the people, by promising them deliverance from the Roman yoke, if they would follow him into the wilderness.


Upon the death of Jesus, many leaders arose who captured the hearts of the Jewish people.  How could this happen?  Well, what we must consider is the culture of that day.  The Jewish people were desperately yearning for a Messiah.   But the Messiah they were looking for was one who would deliver them from Roman domination.  They knew what was written in the Torah, Law, and Prophets what we today call the Old Testament.  Their religious system was based on a coming Messiah.  Many had looked to Jesus as that long-prophesied Messiah which He was.

However, their concept of the coming Messiah was warped by their fundamental misunderstanding of the Old Testament scriptures. It was this atmosphere that gave birth to numerous false Christs and prophets who led the people astray thus fulfilling the words of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

The signs of false Christs and prophets that Jesus referred to were fulfilled within the writings of the New Testament period.  Paul, Peter, and Jude affirmed that the last days of the Old Covenant had arrived by the prevalence of false Christs.  Because of all the false Christs in their day, the apostles knew that the end of the Old Covenant age was near and that the Lord would soon return to judge apostate Israel.

Related posts: The Antichrist

The Ordination of Elders Painting by John Henry Lorimer (1856–1936)

The Elders

The Ordination of Elders – Painting by John Henry Lorimer (1856–1936)

According to the Bible, the focal point all church leadership is the elder.  But who, according to the Bible, is an elder?  Well, an elder is one of a number of biblically qualified men who jointly shepherd and oversee a local body of believers.  The word that is translated “elder” is used almost twenty times in the book of Acts and the epistles.

The Office of Elder

There are numerous passages in the New Testament that indicate that the words “elder” (presbyter), “overseer” (episkopos), and “pastor” (poimen) all refer to the same group of men or office.  Some think that overseers and pastors are distinct from elders, but this is not the case.  All of these terms are simply different ways of identifying the same group of men.  There is a parallel between the qualifications for a bishop (episkopos) in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and those for an elder (presbuteros) in Titus 1:6-9.  Paul uses both terms to refer to the same man (presbuteros in 1 Tim. 3:5 and episkopos in v. 7).

In Acts chapter 20 all three terms are used interchangeably.  In verse 17 we see Paul assembling all the elders (prebuteros) of the Church of Ephesus to deliver his farewell message.  Please note that there was more than one “elder” in the church of Ephesus.  In Acts 20:28 (KJV) Paul says:
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (episkopos), to feed (poimainō)the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

The three Greek terms presbuteros, poimanino, and episkopeo are used by Peter as well in 1 Peter 5:1-2: “The elders (presbuteros) which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed (poimanino) the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight (episkopeo) thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.”  The point here is that these three different terms do not refer to the varying levels of authority or even separate offices as some churches teach.  All of these terms are simple the various features of Christian ministry.

A Plurality of Elders

When we study the New Testament, we see a consistent pattern of church leadership.  Each local assembly of believers is shepherded by a plurality of God-ordained elders.  To put it plainly this is the only pattern for church leadership given in the New Testament.  Nowhere in Scripture do we find a local assembly ruled either by a single “pastor” or by the majority opinion.  I realize that this idea might come as a shock to some of my readers, but this is what I believe the scriptures reveal!

How about some examples of a plurality of elders?

Titus 1:5 KJV – Paul, the Apostle left Titus in Crete and instructed him to “ordain elders in every city” (Titus 1:5 KJV).

James 5:14 KJV – James instructed his readers to “call for the elders of the church” when they are sick.

Acts 14:23 KJV – Paul and Barnabas “ordained them elders in every church.”

1 Timothy 5:17 KJV – Paul refers to “the elders who rule well” at the church at Ephesus.

Acts 20:17 KJV – Paul addresses “the elders of the church” at Ephesus.

Acts 11:30; 15:2 and 21:18 KJV – There were “elders” at the church in Jerusalem.

Over and over again reference is made to a plurality of elders in each of the churches mentioned.  When the term presbuteros (elder) is used in the New Testament, it is plural not singular.  There is one exception.  The exception is when John uses it to refer to himself in 2nd and 3nd John and where Peter uses it to refer to himself in 1 Peter 5:1.  The New Testament just does not make reference to a one-Pastor congregation.  The New Testament model for church government is for decisions to be made by a collective process.

Even when the word presbuteros is not used in a passage we see reference made to a plurality of elders.  Paul, in his epistle to the Philippians, refers to the “bishops” (plural of episkopos) and deacons” at the church of Philippi (Philippians 1:2). In Acts 20:28 Paul warned the elders of the church of Ephesus. Paul said that they should “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers (plural of episkopos), to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

The writer of Hebrews called his readers to “obey”(peithō – be persuaded) “those” leaders who kept watch over their souls.  Paul in 1st Thessalonians called upon his readers to know them which labor among them, and are over them in the Lord; (1 Thess 5:12). Again this is a reference to a plurality of overseers in the Thessalonian assembly.

There’s a lot to be said for the advantages of leadership made up of a plurality of godly men. Proverbs 11:14 says it the best  Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.”  This Biblical form of church government assures that decision are not self-willed or self-serving to a single individual.  What about when there are divisions among the elders in making a decision?  Well, the elders should study, pray and seek the will of God together until a consensus or majority opinion is reached.  In this way, the harmony and unity that God desires for his church will start with those individuals that shepherd His flock.

The Qualifications of Elders

In the end, it’s all about leadership.  A church reflects the character and qualities of its leadership.  Scripture reveals the importance of qualified church leadership.   And scripture clearly, spells out specific standards for evaluating those who serve in positions of leadership.

1 Timothy 3:2-7 and Titus 1:6-8 lists the qualifications for elders.  According to these passages, an elder must be above reproach and the husband of one wife. He must be temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach and not addicted to wine.  He must not be pugnacious.  He should be gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money and not fond of sordid gain. He should be a good manager of his household, one who has his children under control with dignity.  He must not be a new convert and a man who has a good reputation outside the church. He should exercise self-control, be sensible and be able to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict sound doctrine. Lastly, he should be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, loving what is good, just, and devout.

“Job Description” for Elders

As the apostolic era came to a close, the office of elder emerged as the highest level of local church leadership.  It carried with it a great amount of responsibility.  There was no higher court of appeal and no greater resource to understand the mind and will of God.

The primary responsibility of elders is to serve as managers and caretakers of the church (1 Tim. 3:5).  As the spiritual overseers of the church, elders are to determine church policy (Acts 15:22) and oversee the church (Acts 20:28).  They should ordain others (1 Tim. 4.4,  rule (by persuasion), and teach and preach (1 Tim 5:17).  When necessary they are to exhort (Titus 1:9)  and act as shepherds (1 Pet. 5:1-3).

In regards to church leadership, there seem to be two extremes.  Either the church is led by one man called the “Pastor, ” or there’s some form of congregational church government where the congregation rules.  Therefore, many view the Biblical model of elder rule with suspicion.  However, I believe the scriptures are clear.  The biblical pattern for church leadership is a plurality of God-ordained elders.  By following this biblical pattern, the church will maximize its fruitfulness. This form of church government provides checks and balances against extremes in church rule and doctrinal error.

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