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AMERICA’S DESCENT INTO CHAOS: IDENTIFYING THE RESPONSIBLE PARTY

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Darkness enters the void vacated by the light.

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Those of you who follow my work know I am an advocate of the Early Church. Regardless of what that term may conjure up in the minds of Christians (and it is likely to invoke quite dissimilar notions), allow me to define it from a New Covenant perspective, the only one that matters.

THE FINAL GENERATION

We must look at the period of roughly forty years between the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and the cessation of the former nation of Israel (the little that was left of it) in AD 70. On Av 9 of that year, which occurs on our calendar in approximately late July to early August, Israel’s third and final temple was destroyed. The great city of Jerusalem was also largely destroyed. Judgment had fallen on a rebellious people, a people with a long track record of violating God’s covenants. Everything that could possibly have been done by the Lord to avert such a disastrous outcome had been done, but to no avail.

Sixty-five years later, in AD 135, after yet another uprising by rebellious Zealots, what may be termed the final termination of what was once Jerusalem occurred, when whatever was left was razed to the ground. There was nothing remaining of the former city except the imposing Roman army camp known as Fort Antonia. Jerusalem had become history. A completely new Roman city was built on the former site of Jerusalem which the Emperor Hadrian named Aelia Capitolina. Hadrian improved and expanded Fort Antonia and it served as a powerful Roman military base of operations and bulwark against her enemies in that treacherous geographical location for many decades into the future. The new Roman city of Aelia Capitolina maintained its name for over 200 years until time of Constantine.

DIVISION AND DESTRUCTION FORETOLD

When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” [Luke 19:41-44]

Just as the Lord Jesus had predicted during His ministry in AD 32, the temple was gone forever and so was the original city of Jerusalem. The ancient Jebusite city captured by King David in 1003 BC and all its later additions is long gone. There are no intact ruins. What exists of the old city at present after the time of Hadrian was built by later peoples through the centuries, including the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman, known notably for the walls he built in the sixteenth century.

So there you have the two bookends which define the time of the Early Church, from AD 32-70. This roughly 40 year period was the time that the vestiges of ancient Israel existed side by side with the new Kingdom of the Lord Jesus. He took His rightful place as the only possible next king and the final King of Israel, the King of kings and Lord of lords. There had not been an actual king in the Davidic line for over six centuries until His time. A great percentage of Israelites accepted His kingship and honored the Lord as Messiah, King, Savior, and God. A larger percentage rejected Him.

In approximately the first nine years since the Lord’s resurrection, the Early Church (Ekklesia) of the Lord—the Community of Called-Out Ones—consisted entirely of Israelites. There were no Gentiles until the time of Cornelius in roughly AD 41. This made the Early Church strictly a family affair. Spiritual war broke out among two factions of the same family, the believers and unbelievers. Those who believed possessed “eyes to see” in which everything was perfectly revealed. The OT prophecies referencing the Messiah were made clear to them and they taught all who would hear who had a desire to know the truth.

But the unbelieving faction descended into further hatred. What they did to the Lord they also did to many of their believing brothers. The believing Israelites obeyed the Golden Rule and treated their unbelieving brothers with pure spiritual love. The unbelievers in turn responded with pure hatred and murder. It appeared as if there was no way the believers would survive. The unbelievers held all the positions of power and authority. The believers were looked upon as filthy dregs and nothing but heretics and blasphemers.

This was the Early Church. These were the people, in that time frame, who produced the original writings of our New Testament. They were the ones who were most faithful in the face of great persecution. Rather than fade out or die out they grew stronger and more numerous. Despite the rejection and censoring, the hatred displayed by those in power had no effect on stopping them. From the time the Lord rose from the dead and that first great Day of Pentecost until the time of the final destruction of Jerusalem, two distinct camps had formed. The nation was absolutely polarized. However, even with all their political and religious authority, the camp of unbelievers never came close to putting down what they termed a vile rebellion. The real rebels, of course, were not those who were castigated as heretics, but their accusers who had appropriated the side of evil. They chose it. They were the agents of antichrist.

And rather than seek God and align themselves with the Lord’s Community, with rationality and proper conduct, and attempt to make any kind of compromise to gain some semblance of mutual care, they instead gravitated in the opposite direction and began aligning themselves with the Zealot Party, which had previously been only a relatively small segment with little power. Why did the Pharisees and Sadducees do this? Why did the two leading parties, one primarily religious and the other primarily governmental, align themselves with the one group whose only desire was throwing off the Romans even if it meant destroying their country in the process?

The Zealots were nuts. They were crazed revolutionaries who actually believed they could overthrow Rome. Their great passion and martial mentality is unquestioned, but inbred irrational and grandiose beliefs, based in part on a false identification with historical Hebrew leaders, proved to be their downfall since they possessed not the relationship with God of the former and continually proved their opposition to Him by their reprehensible conduct and vicious persona. And as time continued throughout those forty years, as the commingling and entangling grew more complete, the people of the other Hebrew sects began undergoing the same transformation. Did they think by embracing the Zealots they would increase their chances of success?

In the final analysis, all it did was further their demise. When the Great Revolt, otherwise known as the predicted apostasia referred to by Paul, began in the summer of AD 66, it was instigated by the Zealots. The Zealot Party eventually gained ruling control of the temple and the city. Some Pharisee and Sadducee leaders were aghast at the development. A few of them had seen it coming but were powerless to stop the juggernaut. The power of God which they could have had was rejected long before. Because they killed their Messiah, the only One who could have saved them, they killed the possibility of salvation. They had no ability to stop the coming carnage and destruction.

ABSOLUTE FAITHFULNESS IN A TIME OF GREAT TRIAL

The believers continued on through all of this. Jerusalem had remained largely Israelite. The Lord’s brother James, referred to as James the Just, the longtime leader of the local Community in Jerusalem, had done a masterful job of keeping things intact and no doubt remained hopeful of a good outcome, but his mind was primarily set on salvation for his Israelite brothers. As evil continued to grow, however, and became concentrated around and within the city of Jerusalem, events became all the more heinous. This evil reached a pinnacle when the leaders of the unbelieving faction in the city murdered James in cold blood. This rabid faction had years earlier killed Stephen and later James the apostle, but failed in killing Peter. The martyrdom of James the Lord’s brother in AD 63 was the key event that marked the beginning of the final seven years.

Notice, once again, that the Jerusalem Community of Spirit-filled believers had been greatly successful in leading untold thousands of Israelites to salvation during those final forty years. They held the spiritual fort in the face of overwhelming persecution. Though rejected by many family members and friends, nothing could stop them. This was their witness. It is a powerful witness that shouts mightily from the ancient recesses of time into our present and reveals American traditional Christianity as, in general, representing much more so the unbelievers rather than the good guys. This dichotomy has played out all over the world, of course, but is especially apparent in a Christian nation whose many denominations and offshoots have historically revealed division instead of unity, especially that between sincere followers of the Lord faithful to His Word and those with opposing agendas.

The Early Church never sold out. They never demanded authority or walked in it unless it was granted by God. They possessed the proper spiritual fruit and anointing thereof. They were always engaged in spiritual war. The conditions were often unbearable but they soldiered on and kept their powerful witness and reputation intact. In the end they won.

TWO JERUSALEMS / TWO TEMPLES

Regarding the aforementioned spiritual dichotomy between real believers and mere religious posers, the early Christians had understood long before the final conflagration that there were actually two temples and two Jerusalems. One of each represented spiritual bondage, and the other of each represented spiritual freedom. There was the existing city of Jerusalem, on its last legs, under the sentence of destruction, and aligned spiritually with evil forces—a veritable Babylon:

And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified. [Revelation 11:8]

And then there was the New Jerusalem, above, the spiritual home of real believers, as explained by Paul:

Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. [Galatians 4:21-26]

Then, back to Revelation, the Lord, through John, gives greater insight on both the new temple and the new city:

“I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown. He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” [Revelation 3:11-13]

In contrast to the temples of stone, the first of which was built by Solomon a thousand years before the Lord’s time, the second being an entirely new temple constructed from 521-516 BC, and Herod’s third temple completed not long before the Lord’s birth, there was another temple, one built without human hands, which serves as a perfect complement to the New Jerusalem, as revealed in the following passages by Peter and Paul:

And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. [1Peter 2:4-5]

For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord. “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” Says the Lord Almighty. [2Corinthians 6:16-18]

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit. [Ephesians 2:19-22][1]

The Early Church also knew the third temple of Israel that then existed prior to AD 70 was destined to fall as well, as did the previous two. But the real temple was comprised of spiritual stones, and each one of those early believers was such a stone, fitting in perfectly beside the other. Thus, our original forebears saw the two temples at the same time. They lived in the roughly forty year period when both Jerusalems and both temples existed simultaneously. It was the only time it would ever happen. This was the true Early Church, the faithful witness, and the spiritual prototype of every Christian Community to come.

SUMMER SOLDIERS AND SUNSHINE PATRIOTS

One hopes that what we are experiencing in America at present is not equivalent to what happened in the first century. Nothing lasts forever on the physical plane of existence. Nations rise and fall. Great world empires which appeared impossible of failure have long since come to absolutely nothing except the cold detritus of ruins. One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that if this is the beginning of the end of America, it was an end that did not necessarily have to be, if the Christians in this nation had stayed true to the Lord, and if all the halfway Christians had decided to get right with God.

The majority of those who call themselves Christian leaders in this nation have utterly failed us. And if you may be thinking I just thought of such a thing you may be interested to note that I have been speaking and writing of this sad dynamic for several decades. My book is filled with such rational discussions on how this happened and what we must do to stop it. I warned all who would listen and still am. But my message was initially met primarily with overwhelming rejection and indifference from guess who. And still, after all we have suffered so far this year, the majority of Christian leaders are still acting like the world-loving, weak-willed, spiritual pansies they’ve always been. They’ve always known how to talk the talk. They have also appeared to be walking the walk. The test of the latter, however, never comes in the good times. The test arrives in times like these, when Christians expect their leaders to act like spiritual men rather than crawl that much further into the cloister of careless negligence, deny their responsibilities, blame others, and surrender to petty tyrants who would never otherwise get to first base. Their behavior is a far cry from past spiritual giants and not even in the same galaxy as the Early Church.

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated” [Thomas Paine]

It becomes exasperating to see so many still refuse to gain a backbone. Times like these tell us all the more who the real believers are and who has the fruit of a proper spiritual witness. To all of you who have maintained a strong witness and kept up the spiritual fight, even in the face of really tough circumstances, not just this year, but over the last ten or twenty or thirty or forty years, I salute you as real brothers and sisters in the Lord. For all the rest, it is never too late to get right with God and fulfill one’s destiny.

For all the Christian leaders out there who have no problem stepping into the limelight, claiming funding to feather their own nests while often rejecting assistance to so many of their own, taking authority over well-meaning and sincere Christians who are at a disadvantage for not attending to their due diligence in identifying wooly wolves (because they are taught that holding ministers accountable is wrong), such leaders presently exist on the horns of a very serious dilemma.

There are two roads before them: They must either repent (totally and absolutely) for their excess, their watered-down obfuscating doctrines unaligned with the Lord’s teachings, their abject spiritual wimpiness, and most especially, their rejection of the Lord’s full leadership, a process that will likely transform their current lifestyles into something not so recognizable. Or they will simply continue head long into fully linking hands with the enemy, just as those ancient Pharisees and Sadducees did by joining the Zealots, whose present equivalent grows more brazen and influential on the world scene by the day.

Either way, their compromised Christian kingdoms must eventually crumble.

© 2020 by R.J. Dawson. All Rights Reserved.   


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 8)

They had been tarrying for ten days. The relative few who remained for the duration in faithful obedience to the Lord’s final instructions had been fasting, praying, and preparing themselves for the highly anticipated promise of the Father.

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INTRODUCTION   

LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4   LESSON 5   LESSON 6   LESSON 7

LESSON 8 

Acts 2:1

1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

It was early morning on the first day of the week, fifty days after the Resurrection of the Lord. A second Sabbath had passed. The 120 were gathered together in the large Upper Room, the home of Mary, mother of John Mark. No one knew what would happen. They did know it would be a big event, something that had never previously occurred. Throughout the long age of the Hebrew nation from the time of Abraham nineteen centuries before, God had been preparing His people. And now, millions of Israelites later, they were minutes away.

From the vantage point of the Upper Room, historically located on the city’s high southwestern hill, disciples looked down upon the old city of King David immediately eastward across the valley in the glint of sunrise. The former village of the Jebusites, first secured by Israel in 1003 BC, was ornamented gloriously with Jerusalem’s new temple glittering in the morning sun. There, amid the clatter and bustle of street life below, the temple priests attended to their quotidian duties as they had for centuries on end, ever since Solomon completed the first temple over a thousand years before. Unfortunately, due to egregious national sin and rebellion, his magnificent edifice was destroyed by invading Babylonians in 586 BC. After the Hebrew Captivity a second temple was constructed, being completed exactly seventy years later, fulfilling in part the following prophecy:

“For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place.’” [Jeremiah 29:10] [1]

By the time King Herod began his energetic building projects in Jerusalem fifty years before this historic Day of Pentecost, the substandard second temple, of no comparison to Solomon’s original wonder, was in serious architectural decay. It was five hundred years old and had not only suffered the onslaught of time but also the ravages of several foreign incursions. Herod actually had to rebuild it entirely. This made it the Third Temple. Religious law, however, and the insistence that temple service must be perceived as perpetual, refused to acknowledge this obvious distinction and rendered this third temple as a continuation of the second, a fact somewhat lost to history.

Meanwhile, back in the Upper Room, there was another form of construction in the works. What King Herod had done in the natural with ornamental dressed stones, the Lord Jesus was doing in the Spirit beyond the perception of the shallow minded and dull hearted. He was building another Temple—the Real One—which all relative Old Testament prophecy pointed toward and of which the other temples were mere three-dimensional types and shadows. The real Temple would be a spiritual house composed entirely of Living Stones.

The Chief Corner Stone, the one the builders rejected, was already set.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

EARLY CHURCH HISTORY 101 (Lesson 5)

After watching the Lord rise up before them enveloped by a cloud, the disciples removed from Mount Olivet and returned to Jerusalem per the Lord’s command. It was time to await the promise.

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INTRODUCTION   LESSON 1   LESSON 2   LESSON 3   LESSON 4

LESSON 5

ACTS 1:13-15

13 When they had entered the city, they went up to the upper room where they were staying; that is, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas the son of James. 14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers. 15 At this time Peter stood up in the midst of the brethren (a gathering of about one hundred and twenty persons was there together), and said…  

This Upper Room was most likely in the house belonging to Mary, the mother of John Mark, as mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Acts after Peter’s miraculous release from certain execution:

…he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. [Acts 12:12] [1]

It was a very large room which, of course, implies a large house. This denotes Mary, a probable widow, as a woman of means. Mark was a cousin of Barnabas, the apostle Paul’s traveling partner, which made Mary his aunt. One can deduce that the respective fathers of Barnabas and Mark were brothers who were wealthy enough to (1) Own a large high end property in Jerusalem with servants, and (2) Send Barnabas, a man of letters with probable training under a rabbi to school. Barnabas was also the most likely writer of the Book of Hebrews.

The Last Supper was held in this same Upper Room, which made the private home a regular place of meeting for the Early Church. In fact, the entire Early Church at that time could take up residence within it. All eleven apostles were there along with possible family members. The Lord’s brothers were there, maybe all four, as was, of course, His mother Mary. Many other women were there, which must have included Mary Magdalene. With all of these together, it came to about 120 people, on the one hand a large group for a house church, but on the other relatively quite small.

After preaching to perhaps hundreds of thousands over a three and a half year period, having a large band of following disciples, and appearing to as many as five hundred after His resurrection, the Lord Jesus only gathered 120 dedicated praying disciples in the Upper Room awaiting the Day of Pentecost.

This should enlighten us to His selection process.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE END OF THE AGE—IN PROPHECY [Part 3]

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It is called The Olivet Prophecy. In response to the questions of His disciples about the End of the Age, the Lord Jesus clearly revealed the signs to watch for that some of them would live to see.

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DAYS OF VENGEANCE

“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.” [Luke 21:20-22]

A likely majority of Christians have been subjected to false interpretations of Bible prophecy. There is much confusion and misunderstanding. Most believers get lost in all the detail. But in reality, it is not the Word of God that is to blame, especially in regard to the Last Days prophecies made by the Lord Jesus. Many of His teachings have been taken out of context. Many have been misapplied. Thus, it is not His prophetic content or manner of teaching that is causing the lack of comprehension. It is dealing with the inaccurate interpretations that conflict with the truth.

Truth and error do not mix. Error does not add up. The light of truth exposes dark things and reveals inaccuracies. When one is able to identify error, as tares in a wheat field or masquerading goats at a sheep party, and thus eliminate it from the equation, the truth stands out. It comes out of hiding, so to speak. The truth suddenly becomes visible right there in front of us. And we think, it was always there but for some reason I couldn’t see it. We don’t know such truth exists. We are thus blinded by error because we do not perceive it as such. Sometimes we think error is truth.

How can this happen to Christians who otherwise dwell in the light of the Lord? Where does the obfuscation come from? Many Christians spend their lives in states of cognitive dissonance trying to make sense of the competing doctrinal factoids in their heads in an impossible effort at connecting dots and joining contrary puzzle pieces together. We take it for granted that we have the truth on any given subject but rarely or never subject it to the proper testing as the Lord said we must. Much of this arises from whatever Christian cultural arrangement we belong to. The following is an example:

When I wrote my series on Mary Highly Favored this past December, I included her genealogy from the Gospel of Luke. I noted that her father’s name was Eli or Heli, depending on the translation (See Luke 3:23). In talking to someone about this I was taken somewhat to task over it because the person insisted that Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anna. 

I said that was only tradition. And the New Testament does not actually mention Mary’s mother.

It did not matter what I said from that point forward because this person would not consider the truth. The scary thing about it was that the truth in the Word of God was rejected and a mere apocryphal traditional error which is strongly ensconced in that Christian denomination was accepted. If this attitude is applied to the entire Word of God such people could be hopelessly indoctrinated against various truths in favor of the erroneous teachings of their denominational beliefs regarding anything the Scriptures teach.

It is the same with Bible prophecy. Once a person has chosen to believe a particular interpretation and puts stock in it the odds of seeing it differently greatly diminish. But becoming convinced of something we believe to be true does not make it so. It is in part why the Lord has blessed us with His Word. There must be a final appeal to authority and that authority is the Lord Jesus and the written record we have of His teachings. His Word must be the final arbiter.

And His Word always dovetails together. The same way it works with Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah, all the prophetic content in the New Testament about the Last Days comes together into a single comprehensible whole. Of course, since we are dealing with several different books of the Bible which were originally not written by their respective authors as chapters in a single publication (though the Lord meant it exactly that way through His inspiration), it is up to us to do the research and also receive His revelation.

THE OLIVET PROPHECY

In this light, therefore, for those who want the truth of the matter, the Lord’s Olivet Prophecy exists in all three synoptic gospels. These accounts are easily accessible, relatively short, and quite clear. What the Lord prophesies is not all that difficult to understand especially in light of later history, which records exactly what happened up to the final conflagration in 70 AD. You can find the Lord’s prophecies of The End of the Age in the following passages:

         The Gospel of Matthew: Chapters 24 and Chapter 25

         The Gospel of Mark: Chapter 13

         The Gospel of Luke: Chapter 21

Keep in mind that there are no New Testament accounts of what eventually happened regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. But there certainly are NT accounts written in the 60s AD immediately prior to that time. There are other accounts also, such as those in Paul’s letters written within one to two decades of the end that also clearly point to it as a fast approaching future of prophetic fulfillment.

The Lord left no one unaware. He warned His disciples of what was coming and also gave the specific time frame. He said it would come to pass in their generation and some of them would live to see it. Why would He otherwise warn them? Why did He tell them the specific signs to look for unless He knew some of them would be there and must know when to head for the hills? They were also responsible for telling their children and relations so they too would be prepared. Also, they must not only prepare at the time of the end but gear up for it over the duration of the final forty years from the Lord’s time until it happened. They would have to persevere.

It was not an easy thing to know your entire nation, capital city, and beloved temple would one day soon cease to exist through a horrendous conflagration in which millions of one’s fellow citizens would perish. This is how they did it:

“By your endurance you will gain your lives.” [Luke 21:19] [1]   

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE END OF THE AGE—IN PROPHECY [Part 2]

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The early Christians of the New Testament era believed they were living in the Last Days. They believed the prophetic events thereof were being fulfilled in their generation.

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They learned this initially from the Lord, of course. He made it clear in the following passage:

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” [Matthew 24:32-34]

He referred to this generation in many passages. He was consistent in describing it as the most evil generation in the history of national Israel. He also said it was the last one:

You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, so that upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. [Matthew 23:33-36]   

THE TIME FRAME OF THE FINAL GENERATION

It began with the birth of the Lord. It lasted approximately 70 years. According to Scripture, an average human lifespan was 70 (Psalm 90:10). An average generation in general terms was 40 years. The Lord began His ministry at 30 years of age. Jerusalem was overrun and the temple was destroyed in 70 AD. The final generation officially began with the Lord’s ministry.

This approximate 40 year period included both the first generation of the Lord’s expanding worldwide spiritual Community and the final generation of collapsing national Israel.

These two overlapped. The principle participants on both sides were descendants of Abraham. At first, Christianity was seen by the world as a Jewish sect. This was because there were no Gentiles in the Lord’s Community for at least about seven years. It was composed strictly of Israelites. One might thus refer to the spiritual battle of that time as family oriented internecine warfare.

The spiritual war broke out first. The unbelieving Jews were the chief persecutors of the early Church. They were essentially the only persecutors until ten years into the time of Nero the Roman emperor. Nero came to power in 54 AD. He replaced Claudius who was emperor from 41-54. The early believers flourished during the time of Claudius who believed all peoples in the empire should be allowed to practice their religion. Things changed somewhat with Nero in the early going, persecution grew steadily worse due to anti-Christian influence in his court, and then went into overdrive in 64 AD when he falsely blamed the Christians for the great fire of Rome that summer. Many believed he was covering up his own crimes and the Christians were easy targets and scapegoats.

Meanwhile, things in Jerusalem grew progressively worse. The Zealot uprising eventually overtook all voices of relative reason. The great revolt began in the summer of 66. Jews were fighting Jews. The instability and increasing infighting centered on Jerusalem grew so great Rome had no choice but to eventually intervene in an effort to keep the peace and stem the outbreak of greater war. It was all beginning to happen at that time just as the Lord had prophesied and as the apostles had taught in the intervening 40 year period. Great numbers of believers had faced ongoing intense persecution from their unbelieving brethren who were bound and determined to use every weapon in their arsenal to stomp out the Christian upstarts who, in their darkened view, were making a mockery of their religion and heritage. Their hate was intense and continued growing exponentially. 

DESCRIPTIONS AND JUDGMENT OF THE FINAL GENERATION

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” [Matthew 12:38-40]       

“The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” [Matthew 12:41]        

The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.” [Matthew 12:42]       

“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came;’ and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” [Matthew 12:43-45][1]

In the approximate 70 year period beginning with the Lord’s birth, a time when all was in relatively good order, the demonic presence within the religious and political controllers began manifesting steadily and eventually increased eightfold, in a violent hate-filled massive counter response to a loving God bringing abundant life to His hurting people.

The chosen chose Him.

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE END OF THE AGE—IN PROPHECY [Part 1]

Destruction of Jerusalem by Ercole de' Roberti

        

The prophet Daniel pointed to it. John the Immerser said it was approaching quickly. The Lord Jesus gave the final warning.

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In 70 AD the end came. Jerusalem was decimated. The Second Temple was destroyed. This was exactly as the Lord prophesied forty years before:

“For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” [Luke 19:43-44]

Many still do not recognize that time of visitation. The Lord warned repeatedly that destruction was nigh, that the people must repent and turn back to Him or lose everything. But not only did they not recognize the times, they refused to honor their Messiah who came to save them. Everything would have been different if they did, but it was not to be. They had reached the point of no return. Though their national sin had not yet reached its complete fullness during the Lord’s time, it was almost there. The nation itself was essentially lost but many who were part of the nation heard the Word. They got the big idea. These were ones who comprised the last days Remnant of the Hebrew people who remained true to God. They recognized God when He arrived. They honored their Messiah. They understood the times. They knew it was the final generation.

“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” [Mark 13:28-30]

THE ANCIENT PRECEDENT

During the time of Abraham, roughly nineteen centuries before the time of the Lord’s ministry, there was a Canaanite tribe known as the Amorites. These were an iniquitous people. They were direct descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, the son of Noah. God told Abraham (Abram), right after his legendary meeting with Melchizedek, in the immediate vicinity of the city of Salem which would later become Jerusalem, that his descendents would be “strangers in a strange land” but would eventually return after four centuries to this land of promise. In the meantime the Canaanite tribes would become increasingly more evil. The Amorites were especially identified as such:

“Then in the fourth generation they will return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” [Genesis 15:16]

God was invoking a spiritual principle. Sin is progressive. The Amorites were wicked and would continue growing more depraved over time. There was no check on this process. Degeneration had already begun and nothing would stop it. It was the will of the people. There may be some who escape but the nation itself was doomed. It was only a matter of time until the iniquity of the Amorite was complete.

Centuries later, after the Exodus from Egypt, we discover their fate. As noted in the Book of Numbers, the nation of Israel was traveling back to their date with destiny but the journey came to a standstill, having been blocked by the land of the Amorites. Israel sent messengers and asked Sihon, the Amorite king, for permission to pass through his land. He refused. He later decided to gather his forces, seek out Israel, and go on the attack.

Then Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon; for the border of the sons of Ammon was Jazer. [Numbers 21:24]

This was the end of the Amorite kingdom. Yet, the influence of the Amorites remained. Regarding their destruction and the later final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, there is the undying voice of the prophet speaking forth a connection and a clue:

“Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations and say, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem, “Your origin and your birth are from the land of the Canaanite, your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.”’ [Ezekiel 16:2-3]    

 THE END OF THE ISRAELITE KINGDOM

Of course, the Israelites had no official kingdom since the destruction of Judah, the Southern Kingdom, in 586 BC when the Judaic line of kings ceased. They were ruled over by others after their return from Babylon—Persians, Greeks, and Romans—with a brief time of independence under the Maccabees. The Northern Kingdom of Israel, comprised of ten of the twelve tribes, had ceased to exist 750 years before the time of the Lord. What was left of the nation was the Roman province of Judaea which had already been absorbed into the larger province of Syria. It was a far cry from what had once been. Looking at it from an overall historical perspective, Israel had been degenerating ever since the death of King David in 970 BC. If you want to know why, read the Old Testament. It’s all there: An ongoing succession of rebelliousness and disobedience toward God, the very One who saved them from certain destruction through miraculous means and then ongoing saving and assisting after countless screw-ups and betrayals.

But again, during all this there remained a holy Remnant dedicated to the Lord that remained true to Him and faithful. God was never left without a witness. The genealogical line of the Lord Jesus always remained intact. The ongoing experiment of having a people for His own namesake in a world of evil, treacherous nations that hated Him must prevail. There were times when the percentage of good was almost tapped out. The prophet Elijah pretty much thought it was all over in his time until hearing from the Lord that it wasn’t quite as bad as he thought (though still exceptionally sordid), in that a relatively decent-sized Remant remained:

And behold, a voice came to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Then he said, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” The LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way… I will leave 7,000 in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal and every mouth that has not kissed him.” [1Kings 19:13-15, 18][1]

© 2020 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

Blog Pic 12.22.19

 

       Prior to her visitation by the angel Gabriel, Mary was burdened by an undisclosed life circumstance. We gain further clues of this by her reaction to Elizabeth’s powerful prophetic message.

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         To set the scene for the next historical interlude which bears upon the foundational Gospel account after her journey to Judea to visit Elizabeth, we must acknowledge the fact that, according to Luke’s account, Mary had yet to speak to anyone about the great news.

         She had left Nazareth in a hurry, almost immediately after she had consented to God’s plan. The Holy Spirit had indeed descended upon her and she was overshadowed with the power of the Most High. A miraculous conception had taken place in her womb! She had told no one, not even Joseph. Her elder relative Elizabeth would be her confidant. As the many repercussions played out in her thinking, Mary had remained amazed but laden with knowledge that no one else possessed.

GOD’S PERFECT TIMING

         In Part 1, we covered Luke 1:26-38. In Part 2, we covered Luke 1:39-45. There are several components of the narrative within these verses to be addressed. The first thing we must do, however, is address the timing of the events. The angel Gabriel had told Mary that Elizabeth was already with child and in her sixth month. The human gestation period is 280 days, which is almost exactly 9.5 lunar cycles. An exact 9.5 moons would be a half day longer. Here is the math: A lunar cycle is 29.53059 days. Multiplied by 9.5 the gestation period would be 280.54 days. Since we know the Bible grants much importance to the number 40, it is not a coincidence that 280 is 40 times 7 (another significant number). Regarding the number of days into her pregnancy for Elizabeth at the time, it was somewhere between five and six months because Luke’s account says she was in her sixth month. She had yet to complete her second trimester.

         I submit that it was exactly five and a half months and during a new moon.

       It should have taken Mary less than a week, probably about five days, to get to Elizabeth’s house in Judea from Nazareth since the journey was at least 70 miles as the crow flies but maybe 80 or more considering the roads and terrain. Luke does not tell us the town or Mary’s specific destination in Judea. This was also during the winter rains though most of the precipitation was in the north. We have no knowledge regarding who may have accompanied Mary on the trip. There is no mention of Joseph. Would she have gone alone? From the narrative it certainly appears that she was alone when greeting Elizabeth.

         Regarding the time of year, my research has long indicated that the Lord was born in the autumn. I believe it was likely on the 15th of the month of Tishrei on the Hebrew calendar, which was the first day of the weeklong Feast of Succoth (Tabernacles / Booths) and during a full moon. In 2019 this day fell on October 14th. We have a hint of this as the Lord’s birthday in John’s gospel. The word “dwelt” in the following verse is from a Greek word meaning “to fix one’s tabernacle or tent:”

         And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:14]

         Tishrei was the seventh month of the ancient sacred calendar adopted originally by the Lord during the time of Moses. The spring is the natural beginning of the year and was also the time of the Exodus and the Resurrection of the Lord. It is thus quite clear that the spring feasts are first and then followed by the autumn feasts. Tishrei later became the first month of the civil calendar and begins with Rosh Hashanah, the “head” of the year which is considered the Jewish New Year. This can get confusing, of course, but for the purposes of this study I will number the months as beginning in the spring from the vernal equinox.

         Since the Lord was likely born on Tishrei 15 in the autumn, it would mean the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary nine and a half months before, during a new moon on the 1st of Tevet, the tenth month (if it was a twelve month year, which was most probable). Tevet occurs in Dec/Jan. From this we get a clear timeline of these two miraculous pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary:

YEAR 1: John was conceived in the summer on the 15th of the fourth month during a full moon.

YEAR 1: The Lord Jesus was conceived in the winter on the 1st of the tenth month during a new moon.

YEAR 2: John was born in the spring on the 1st of the second month during a new moon.

YEAR 2: The Lord Jesus was born in the autumn on the 15th of the seventh month during a full moon.

         After Elizabeth’s greeting and anointed word, Mary responded once again, as she did to Gabriel, with amazement and great humility. It was no insignificant response but revealed a woman of strong intellect, spiritual grace, and much insightful knowledge of Scripture for one so young. Her words reverberate through the centuries illustrating the profound nature of the Lord’s great plan and her own unique circumstances. We don’t hear much from Mary ever again but the following passage is filled with spiritual portent and the faithfulness of God. He has come to His people:

        And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. AND HIS MERCY IS UPON GENERATION AFTER GENERATION TOWARD THOSE WHO FEAR HIM. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. HE HAS FILLED THE HUNGRY WITH GOOD THINGS; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.” [Luke 1:46-55][1]

         Luke tells us that Mary stayed in Judea with Elizabeth for about three months after her arrival. The two would have had many long talks. As I stated earlier, Elizabeth was Mary’s only confidant. She was the only one who would have understood her circumstances because she had the same circumstances. These two ladies would have discussed all the implications of what they were presented with and how best to deal with the outcome and responses of others, especially as how it affected Mary. She still had to tell Joseph. She had to tell her parents. How would they react? She knew how everybody else would react and it was a hard pill to swallow. The time with Elizabeth was cherished because she gained the support she would need, to build herself up, and prepare for the coming storm of controversy.

        And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home. [Luke 1:56]

         One would think Mary would have stayed for John’s birth. We are tempted to add to the narrative and think she must have stayed, but Luke did not present it that way. With regard to why she left early, the calendar gives us a direct clue: It was now the early spring. The first month of Nisan had arrived. The spring feasts, to which Mary had remained faithful her entire life, were upon the nation. Passover week would be happening very soon, within about a week or so. Did Mary leave a few weeks before John’s birth to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem?

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

 

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (1)

NAZARETH

 

       She was given the opportunity to be the mother of Messiah—the Son of the Most High. She accepted without question, filled with wonder, in humble awe of being chosen.

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         In reading between the lines in the initial Gospel references to the mother of our Lord, we happen upon facts otherwise escaping our notice, primarily, her humble origin. We already know her hometown was not the greatest of places, as none other than one of the twelve, Nathanael Bar Tholmai (Bartholomew) articulated,

         “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” [1]

         The rustic community is never mentioned in any of the Old Testament writings, meaning it had yet to exist then, suffered utmost insignificance, or was known by a different name, one of which might have been “white town” or a variation, named after the ready supply of limestone rocks in the area. Nestled among the lower hills of the Nazareth Range in the ancient tribal land of Zebulun, the city lay about halfway between the seas—the great Mediterranean on the west where sailing ships launched for far-off lands, and to the east, the indigenous, often mysterious Sea of Galilee, loved freshwater fishery of the locals.

         From the little we know, Mary was likely born is this little village by the cliffs in circa 18 BC. This was during the early years of Augustus, who became the first Roman emperor in 27 BC, and the local reign of the ruthless client-king Herod the Great who had gained power a decade earlier. How she or her family arrived in the area is lost to history. Though Nazareth was within the small area originally allotted to the Tribe of Zebulun (the tenth son of Jacob and sixth born to Leah), Mary was actually a distant descendent of King David of the ruling line of Judah. Her connection to the latter tribe is somewhat problematic for a Galilean from the north due to her clear connection to relatives in the territory of Judea south of Jerusalem. The unknown story of her family’s transplantation is an intriguing one.

         We know from the later annual pilgrimages made by the holy family to Jerusalem for the feasts that young Mary likely also made such trips as a child growing up, probably as part of small caravans. She was thus familiar with the territory and probably looked forward to such opportunities to see the great city and visit family. Journeying from the north in Galilee, one would traverse the disparaged Samaria, sandwiched between Galilee and Judea, and venture through the ancient tribal areas of Issachar, Manasseh, and Ephraim in the process, and lastly through the allotment of Benjamin on the approach to Yerushalayim which was located on the southern edge of his tribal land.

         The eastern border between the two famous territories of Benjamin and Judah actually runs north and south along the Kidron Valley. The Kidron divides the city of Jerusalem in Benjamin’s territory to the west from the Mount of Olives in Judah’s territory to the east. The southern border between the tribes is divided by the valley of Hinnom which was immediately due south of the ancient city. Beyond these two natural demarcation lines was the fatherland of Judah and the ancestral land of King David to which Mary and her family sojourned frequently. It was also the ancestral homeland of her new husband Joseph, the strong but tender carpenter, chosen also as she was, and suited well for the calling.

AN ANGELIC VISITATION

         Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. [Luke 1:26-27]

       Luke makes it clear in his definitive account that Mary was a virgin when the angel Gabriel revealed to her the plan of God which would soon go into effect upon her consent. She was betrothed to the carpenter, meaning the marriage was not yet fully contracted, and both were honorable and chaste. It is often not acknowledged that young Mary had a choice regarding the Lord’s plan for her life. We all have a choice, and for everyone there is a plan. Notwithstanding the discipline required to live and work for the Lord according to His will and not our own, any other plan created and chosen by a person is always inferior to His. Mary understood this. It is why she replied to Gabriel with no hesitation in her heart:

         And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

         Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.”

         And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. [Luke 1:28-38] [2] 

         Mary’s use of the word “bondslave” is not without import. It is from the Greek doulos and is defined accordingly as a female slave without any ownership rights of her own. This word, also translated as bond-servant, is used throughout the New Testament denoting the pure servanthood and dedication to the Master by real believers. The Hebrew equivalent for a female servant is shiphchah and has an ancient etymology dating to the book of Genesis. Though we often fail to perceive, in these brief Scriptural renderings, the full connotation and significance of the choice she made, Mary knew exactly what she was doing by deciding in the affirmative. She understood the gravity of the situation, the ramifications thereof, and that is was a lifelong commitment.

         But there is more. Mary alluded to her current state of life before the angelic visitation as thoroughly humble and insignificant. We see this first in her initial reaction to Gabriel’s greeting when he referred to her as “favored one” and said the Lord was with her: But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. She was also afraid, probably for the same reasons you or I would be startled at the appearance of an angel. It was more than this, however. She was concerned about what it meant for her life and, in those first few seconds, that she was in no way worthy of such an astounding visitation and calling.

         Why did she feel this way? There is something else here that Luke’s narrative hints at which he does not delve into, possibly because he knew his audience was aware of whatever particulars were involved with Mary and the circumstances of her humble life.

         In Part 2, I will continue delving into such lesser-known particulars. We will look closer at Mary’s upbringing, family, and momentous visit to her elderly but expecting relative Elizabeth, also a chosen woman of the Lord who found much grace in His sight.

         © 2019 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]


[1] John 1:46  

[2] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (Intro)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (2)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (3)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (4)

MARY HIGHLY FAVORED: “BLESSED ARE YOU AMONG WOMEN!” (5)

 

2017 GREAT AWAKENING TRENDS: (1) Growing Opposition from Money-Serving Status Quo

        When John the Immerser blasted onto the scene he warned his hearers of losing eternal life and loosing national destruction. The means of avoiding both was encapsulated in one word: REPENT.

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REPENTANCE DRIVES GREAT AWAKENINGS

         But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.

         The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” [Matthew 3:7-10]

         John did something then that next to no American Christian does today: He blasted the religious leaders. These were men who had total control of the religious establishment in first-century Judea. They controlled the entire Temple complex. They controlled every single synagogue. Their control was such that John was preaching way out in the wilderness.

     In today’s terms these would be the religious leaders who control denominations, churches, seminaries, and major Christian media, including publishing and television. The Pharisees and Sadducees had a lock on all things religious back then just as Christian controllers have a lock on most things Christian at present. Both have a single denominator: MONEY

ONLY TWO GODS FROM WHICH TO CHOOSE

         Getting to the root of Christian intention begins with the simple question: Is it serving the Lord Jesus or is it serving the money-god?

         “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. [Luke 16:13-14]

         One will either submit to the Lord Jesus and make money a servant, or one will submit to the money-god and make oneself its servant.

         If one serves the Lord, one’s life will look increasingly as being under the primary influence of the Lord and His teachings. If one serves the money-god, one’s life will look increasingly as being under the primary influence of the money-god and its teachings.

         Here’s is a quick contrast and illustration: John the Immerser served the Lord. His life looked like the Lord. The Pharisees and Sadducees served the money-god. Their lives looked like the money-god. Compare both to the present.

         John warned everybody, but especially the brood of vipers otherwise known as the Pharisees and Sadducees, that the entire nation was about to suffer complete destruction for one principle reason: IT CHOSE THE MONEY GOD.

         Money can make you and it can break you. If there was a way to exist without it we would never have to deal with its powerful influence and temptation. We would never have to submit to its effects. But the international money system has been with us a while and unless we somehow manage to go completely off the grid we have little choice but to enter the game and play according to the rules.

         It is for this reason that most people believe there is no escape and the only solution is to try to gain as much money as possible in order to gain the upper hand. In other words, the way people think they can beat the powerful effect of money on their lives is to defeat it by gaining enough of it that it no longer rules them but becomes their servant.

        This works for some people. For a while. It never works for the vast majority. The system has limited resources. Some are able to gain the upper hand and remain relatively personally free or at least maintain the appearance of freedom, and do not seem on the surface to be anxious regarding money matters. If one does win the money battle by doing whatever they feel they must to gain authority over it by having much of it, it rarely lasts. One must keep doing whatever it takes to gain access to the money well. Most do it legally. Some do not. But even if one does find a way to beat the system, so to speak, and gain great piles of gold, one cannot leave this world with it. It must all stay right here where one found it.

MONEY IS NO GOOD OVER YONDER

         It has been said that rich people don’t have armored trucks full of money following their hearse to the graveyard. Money does not translate into eternity. To the degree that one depends on money is to the same degree that one does not depend on the Lord. This equation portends one’s final location in the afterworld and often whether one even believes in an afterworld.

         One of the best things that can ever happen to a person is to discover early on in life that the pursuit of money for the purposes of mastering life is a heartbreaker. The money-god is a deceiving, bewitching taskmaster. It is a hard lesson to learn. It can be quite cruel. On the other hand, if money always comes relatively easy then the odds of having a spiritual life with the Lord are next to zero. Most people will always choose much money over a disciplined spiritual life. Here’s why:

         Making the decision to give oneself totally to the Lord involves:

(1) Faith in the Lord Jesus instead of faith in the money-god and all it portends.

(2) The need to repent, which means one must accept the fact that one is a sinner and a violator of God’s laws and commandments. Who wants to do that? Especially in these days? To admit that one is messed up like this, that one is not the great person he or she thinks he or she is can have a devastating effect on one’s psyche. And yet the Lord is persistent. He says that prior to our born again experience we are sinners. He says we violate His laws. He says we have uncircumcised flesh that must be dealt with. This fleshly nature is not always on display but certainly reveals itself on occasion, with some people much more than others, especially when under stress.

TEST AND SEE THAT THE LORD IS RIGHT

         A simple test to prove God is right and humans are compromised in this way is to simply see how often we violate the Golden Rule. Do we always treat others the way we want to be treated? Do we do this especially when we are stressed out or under a lot of pressure? Do we always contain the pressure that builds up, find a way to keep it from building up, manage to channel it off in some safe way in which nobody is hurt, or even stop it completely in the very beginning? Do we always master our impulses? Do we have impulse control or do we simply vent all the time everyday at everybody?

         If so, it is the opposite of real discipleship and thoroughly proves the need for heart circumcision surgery and real repentance. It proves the Lord knows exactly what He is talking about though many people may successfully hide their true nature. Occasional mess-ups are understandable. A lifestyle of trashing others and violating the Lord’s teachings is not.  

         The Lord looks on the heart, not the outward appearance. He is not fooled by outward appearances. He knows what a dirty, fleshy, sinful, uncircumcised heart looks like. It doesn’t matter how much one may try to cover it up and deceive people about one’s true nature. God knows. And He demands that we fix it! The Pharisees and Sadducees fooled almost everyone because they dressed to look the part. They were mere religious actors. That’s what hypocrites are—stage players. Is it any wonder then that the majority of Christian leadership at present does all its work on a stage? What would they be without the stage? It was money that made the Pharisees and Sadducees successful. They served the money-god while pretending to serve God. IT IS EXACTLY THE SAME TODAY. God is not fooled.

A FOOL’S PARADISE

         If there appears to be a way around the repentance and discipleship the Lord demands, most people, including most Christians, will do the end run. They will run from God. They will find substitutes in which they can keep themselves in charge. They will choose counterfeit belief systems, of whatever variety, in which they do not have to submit to the Lord. They will try to convince themselves and everyone else that they are good people.

         Of course, they are playing a fool’s game. There is no other way than the way the Lord Jesus prescribed. Better to find this out early in life than to build one’s house on sand, but most people always end up building their house on sand and it works great as long as everything remains constant. But we all should know this is ridiculous. Next to nothing in this life remains constant. Change is ever-burgeoning, is always messing up the best laid plans, and the tide always comes in and wipes out sand castles no matter how well or elaborately they are constructed. Wise people know this. Yet, there are apparently not many wise people when it comes to applying known knowledge if it clashes with one’s authority.

         “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” [Luke 9:24]

         Real repentance is the end of one’s personal authority. What unrepentant religious leaders do not know, however, is that they do not have any personal authority anyway because they are bound by sin. And they are deceived about it. Sin is in charge but they are not aware. They reject the notion. They are not accountable. Most are spiritual adulterers. It is why they refuse to preach the real Gospel. It is why the Lord stated what He did in the preceding verse. The word “lose” in that verse is translated from the Greek word apollumi. This word means “to destroy.” It is only by losing one’s life (or destroying it) through real repentance and submitting fully to the Lord Jesus that one breaks the power of sin and the powerful grip of the money-god. The Lord gave His very life to set us free from this monster.

OPPOSING THE GREAT AWAKENING

         Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states: “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

        As did John the Immerser, the Lord warned the people of His nation that total destruction was soon coming and that it was coming because they rejected His love and leadership for the love of money. The more He attempted to bring forth a Great Awakening the more the religious leaders who were sold out to the money-god opposed Him. Their continued rejection of the Lord and His real teachings, their intransigent rebellion against truth, their refusal to repent, and their worship of mamônâi brought forth a witch’s brew of arrogance, ignorance, and religious pride. It increasingly enflamed their wicked uncircumcised hearts and removed all semblance of impulse control. They sowed the seed of murder and reaped over a million deaths. Literally.

THROWN INTO THE FIRE

         As time marched on toward 70AD, they became ever more strident in their opposition to the Lord. They were incorrectly fulfilling Newton’s Third Law of Motion. They were resisting that which they should have surrendered to and surrendering to that which they should have resisted. They had a completely different agenda. Their persecution of the Lord’s people—those who chose the Lord as Messiah—increased dramatically. They were doing to them, on an ever-advancing scale, exactly what they did to the Lord.

         The same dynamic is at work today. Christian Pharisees and Sadducees look great on the outside and preach what sounds like the real Gospel. They don’t look compromised. They look successful. They’ve been in control seemingly forever. Their status quo rendition of official Christianity appears as the only accepted rendition, but it has little or no resemblance to the Lord’s original and has almost zero impact within the spiritual world. They can’t handle anything they can’t control. They can’t handle anything that exposes them as pretenders. They can’t handle anything from which they cannot extract a living. It would be good if they could learn from the past.

        Judea had been in the midst of a Great Awakening during that final generation in the first century and the religious leaders continually put much effort toward their opposition to it. The more they tried to stop it the more it grew and yet they could never stop opposing it. Their unrighteous stand for the old dead religious order—the only one they could control, the one that gave them power and wealth—was thoroughly compromised by a love of money and service to the money-god. Their unrighteous rebellion must eventually end. Their opposing reaction to God’s action must finally stop. Justice was demanded. Only God could administer it. He did. Judea was no more. Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, by fire, exactly as John prophesied.

         “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” [Matthew 10:10][1]  

         © 2017 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

         Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE REAL CHOSEN PEOPLE: The Fig Tree (Part 5)

THE FIG TREE

         On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening. [Mark 11:12-14]

         Why did the Lord curse the fig tree? The narrative said it was not the season for figs.

         Actually, a fig tree produced fruit three times a year. In about April, which was the time the Lord saw the tree in question, every healthy fig tree would bear what are known as “early figs,” also known as “unripe” or “untimely” figs. These immature figs were very small, were edible, though certainly not comparable to the full fruit which would come later, and most fell to the ground with the wind. They appeared as the first leaves appeared on the tree.

         In about June, the first mature figs appeared, the first actual crop, and were said to grow out of the “old wood,” or the shoots from the prior year.

         In August or so, the final crop of figs came forth, from the “new wood,” or new shoots of the present year.

         From this we know that if a tree will be fruitful and not barren, it will send forth fruit roughly at the same time, or very shortly thereafter, as it sends forth its first leaves, though the first fruit is a far cry from what will come later. The Lord Jesus knew, therefore, that because the tree He came upon already had leaves but no “early figs,” it would never produce any figs.

         Keep in mind also that He was hungry, that He saw the tree “at a distance,” that He had to put time and effort into reaching it, and that He expected to find food. This is obviously indicative of His long journey to visit and rescue His beloved people.

ISRAEL

         As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.”

         And Jesus answered saying to them, “Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him.” [Mark 11:20-23] [1]

         Mountains are associated with spiritual high places, places of great power. The little that was left of the Jewish nation in the first century had long since been subverted by a political association between the religious leaders and Rome. This was especially true of the Sadducees who had no belief in spiritual things whatsoever, not even the resurrection. It was also true of Annas and Caiphas, the High Priest. They were living only for this world, had achieved great wealth and power, and had joined “the mountain,” represented by the great earthly power of the Roman Empire.

         The fig tree was representative of the Israel of that time, which made an outward show of national legitimacy and religiosity, but was actually fruitless and spiritually barren. It is the same today.

         When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” [Luke 19:41-44]

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

          Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

FURTHER PROOF:

THE REAL CHOSEN PEOPLE (Part 1)

THE REAL CHOSEN PEOPLE (Part 2)

THE REAL CHOSEN PEOPLE (Part 3)

Acts of the Apostles [2:40-43]

         And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!”

         So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

         They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

         Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. [1]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Acts of the Apostles [2:36-39]

         “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

         Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?”

         Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

         “For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” [1]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Tish’a B’Av: The Destruction of the Temple

         Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” [Matthew 24:1-2]

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         As He was going out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” [Mark 13:1-2]

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         And while some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts, He said, As for these things which you are looking at, the days will come in which there will not be left one stone upon another which will not be torn down.” [Luke 21:5-6]

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         When He approached Jerusalem, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known in this day, even you, the things which make for peace! But now they have been hidden from your eyes.

         “For the days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a barricade against you, and surround you and hem you in on every side, and they will level you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” [Luke 19:41-44] [1]

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         At sunset tonight begins the 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av. It was on this exact date that both ancient temples of the Jews met their complete destruction.

         Because this infamous date falls on the Jewish Sabbath this year, it will be commemorated on Sunday.

         The original Temple of Solomon, which began construction circa 966 BC, was completely destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC on the 9th of Av.

         It has now been exactly 2600 years since that date, and is a clear multiple of 13, the Biblical number of rebellion.

         A second temple was built 70 years later, completed in 516 BC, though it in no way resembled the magnificent glory of the original. This temple had degraded significantly for five full centuries until the time of Herod the Great.

         In approximately 19 BC, Herod began a massive overhaul of the entire temple mount area that was not fully completed until 64 AD.

         Regarding the second temple built in 516 BC, it was essentially completely deconstructed and rebuilt by Herod on a far grander scale, taking less than two years to complete. Though it was not referred to as a third temple, this is a mere semantic overreach insisted upon by Herod and the religious leaders of that time and has always been known as the Second Temple.

         It lasted less than 90 years.

         On this date in 70 AD, on Tish’a B’Av, it was completely destroyed by the Romans, exactly as the Lord Jesus had prophesied.

         © 2015 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Acts of the Apostles [2:1-4]

         When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.

         And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.

         And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them.

         And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. [1]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Here Comes the Ark—2015 (Part 4)

EXCERPT FROM PART 4:

         Proper sacrifice was the answer. Repentance is the first part of the equation. The circumcision of the heart is at the heart of the New Testament. The preaching of the cross is core, foundational, at the nucleus thereof, and points directly to what salvation entails. Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness… [Hebrews 9:22]”

Link to Part 4:

Here Comes the Ark (Part 4)

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Here Comes the Ark—2015 (Part 3)

EXCERPT FROM PART 3:

         “In Part 2 we learned that Jerusalem was not prepared for the manifest presence of God, any more than many Christian congregations and groups in America are ready. David’s original plan was well-intentioned but not even close to the Lord’s protocol. It seems that in our many and varied attempts to do something for God, we fail to inquire of God, either whether we should do a particular thing, or regarding the method we employ in doing it…”

Link to Part 3:

Here Comes the Ark (Part 3)

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Here Comes the Ark—2015 (Part 1)

         In May of 2011, about two weeks after I started this site, I wrote a 4-part series entitled “Here Comes the Ark.” It was written in part to both prepare for the coming Great Awakening in America and become knowledgeable of it.

         Before the Lord can bring someone to full salvation there must be repentance. And before that He must prepare a person’s heart.

         It is no different when He desires to bring an awakening. All great movements of God include a preparation time before the outer movement is seen. Sometimes the time of preparation takes decades or more. It is no different at present.

         Though several great movements of God have taken place in America, the first was the Great Awakening of the 1730s-40s. It helped prepare the nation for the American Revolution, which led to the creation of a country with the greatest spiritual freedom in history.

         As you read the following article, which remains just as topical and relevant, consider what must be achieved, how long the Lord has been working on it, and your own personal role.

         Please feel free to add to the discussion.

         Here’s the link to Part 1:

         Here Comes the Ark (Part 1) 

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Sivan 7: The Day Of Pentecost

The View of Jerusalem from Mount Zion 1849

        

The following is an excerpt from Real Christianity, The Nature of the Church:

THE UPPER ROOM

         Why did Jesus create His community of called-out ones in the humble upper room? For starters, He had to have a place off the beaten path, so to speak. It would have to be owned by a disciple or a disciple’s family who was sympathetic to the cause. It could not be a public place, such as the temple complex, but private, to allow for complete unity of spirit and purpose. It had to be a place big enough for 120 people to pray and seek God for about ten days without interruption. In short, it had to be a house. In reality, it was a house.

         Though we cannot yet be positively certain, particular statements in Scripture lead one to the strong conclusion that it was located on Mount Zion, Jerusalem’s highest southwestern hill, and that it was probably the house of Mary, the mother of John Mark.[1] If placed on Mount Zion, this house would be located roughly a half mile due southwest of the Temple Mount, approximately five hundred feet south of the present Zion gate. At the time of the Qahal’s creation, however, this house was within Jerusalem proper since the southern wall of the city was located further to the south. Therefore, though Jesus was betrayed, died, was entombed, and rose again outside the city walls, He created the Church inside the city. Not only that, He created the Church in a house.

         Why did He create the Church in the city that condemned Him to death? If it had to be within Jerusalem, why didn’t He create the Qahal in a place of high honor, such as the temple? Was it because He was rejected by the ruling hierarchy? Was it because there was no place of high honor for the Lord of all Creation? Or was it because Jesus simply created His community in the most appropriate of all dwelling places, a place which had been foretold in Scripture?

         You will bring them and plant them

                 in the mountain of Your inheritance,

         The place, O LORD,

                 which You have made for Your dwelling,

         The sanctuary, O LORD,

                 which Your hands have established.

         The LORD shall reign

                 forever and ever. [2]

THE HOUSE OF GOD

         From the untold millions which had descended from Abraham by the first century A.D., only the upper-roomers were present when this scripture was fulfilled. Each and every one of these original 120 were Jews. On the birthday of the Lord’s Qahal, Jesus established a sanctuary, a dwelling place on His own mountain—Mount Zion. On this mountain, the 120 were planted, both in the Lord and by the Lord, and functioned as the ovum fertilized by the Holy Spirit which would eventually develop into a body—the body of Christ. Before the sun went down that first day, the original 120 grew by twenty-five times to three thousand—all Jews, all descendants of Abraham, all devout and God-fearing, from every country under heaven to which they had been dispersed. Even though Luke, the author of the book of Acts, doesn’t say so specifically, can there be any doubt that each tribe of Israel was represented in the initial outpouring?

         This was the mysterious destiny of the house of Israel—to one day become the actual dwelling place of YHWH!

         When Abraham was first called forth and told he would be the progenitor of many people, God had His own future residence in mind. Later, He revealed this truth to Moses, who led God’s people to the land of promise. The house of God would only be a home for the obedient, however, since they would be sharing quarters with God Himself. The structure of the tabernacle of Moses reveals to us The Nature of the Church. The tabernacle was a tent, mobile, following after the Lord as He moved onward into the future. It was filled with His presence. It was where the ark of the covenant was kept. The priests would minister in its midst. Sacrifice was called for. Repentance, baptism, and the infilling of His Spirit were all typed into its construction. It was pliable and moveable, built for eternal purposes.

         The tabernacle and all the rites associated with it continued to the time of David. It was then that God revealed to yet another generation the purpose of the tent, and the great revelation of its underlying meaning. After building his own house, David desired to build a house for God. But the Lord would not. God’s plans had not changed, nor would they ever. His eternal purpose was wrapped up in the illustration of the mobile tent. In the future, His dwelling place would be similar—it would be within humanity. [3]


[1] Acts 12:12

[2] Exodus 15:17–18

[3] Pages 281-284 Real Christianity, The Nature of the Church © 2001 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

Door of Life

         Real Life is the one thing lacking in the Christian experience of most, and it is the reason so many Christians are stacked up against the outside of the entry door to the Kingdom. Milling around without, not wanting to venture inside, they have set up transitory venues like so many crude wooden market booths constructed hastily against the outer walls. The door remains in their midst and every so often someone has the temerity to not only ask about it but want to proceed through it.

        “We can’t have that!” the vendors all cry. Denominational Christianity always winces when someone wants to go deeper into a closer walk with God. They are all well aware of the real Spirit-filled experiences of others but have been so conditioned by their own reluctance and weakness, and also their cultural underpinnings to shun all things “Pentecostal,” that they successfully remain outside. The Lord continues to beckon all to the door however, as He always has. Large numbers of “I don’t think so’s” will not sway Him from His mission. The door of death has become persona non grata and down-to-earth Christians recoil at what would happen to their social standing if they followed the Lord through it.

         The people on that original Day of Pentecost had the same concerns at some early point in their walks with God but had quickly cast off the doubts. They instead manned-up and courageously took a stand for God and the truth. They realized that something optimum must happen, that something very powerful and new awaited them on the other side, and that they must obey the Lord.

         Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now. So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” [Acts 1:4-8][1]

         We all know what happened next. If only the Lord had arranged some other way that did not involve such boisterous expression and (crud!) speaking in tongues. What a terrible way to start the Church! Well, at least we can all be glad that it was over long ago, right? That it doesn’t happen anymore. That God has thankfully done away with it. That…

         Well, the above is true, of course, for those who reject it and build church communities without it, and remove any and all people from their midst who actually do it. And there are other things behind that door of death, you know. The people outside hear stories of miraculous healings and strong manifestations of the very Spirit of God that never take place outside in the normal world. Some are always curious but are very concerned about breaking any social conventions and losing their standing among their fellows. I mean, what would people think, right? “Can’t do it, no sir. I’m stayin’ out here. Those people inside that door are freaks…”

         For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. [Titus 3:3-7]

         There’s a Holy Ghost experience waiting inside the Kingdom. The Door of Death is always open. Real repentance removes our sin and all things that hinder, and prepares us for real Life. The 120 knew something incredible was going to happen, but no one could have imagined just how incredible.

         Of the tens of thousands who followed the Lord during His ministry, only 120 followed Him all the way to the Upper Room. It was a command, of course, but not everyone obeyed. The majority never obeyed. You can be sure that at least a few hundred had severe second thoughts when the Day of Pentecost arrived. They had been the reluctant ones. The Lord had appeared to over five hundred at one time in His glorified state, but most of these experienced Pentecost outside the initial Upper Room experience. They refused to enter the Door of Death and thus did not understand that it was also The Door of Life. They stayed back and some even watched what was happening. They missed it! But many of them found their way to the streets below the Upper Room as Peter preached that initial message of the entire Church Age. They ran through the door and were a part of that original class of three thousand that turned Jerusalem upside down.

         The moral of the story is that only a few are willing to be pioneers, leave all, and do all that the Lord requires, including entering the Door. They must experience real Life. They must show succeeding generations the Way.  

         © 2012 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [Part 2 of 2]


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Here Comes the Ark (Part 4)

         Proper sacrifice was the answer. Repentance is the first part of the equation. The circumcision of the heart is at the heart of the New Testament. The preaching of the cross is core, foundational, at the nucleus thereof, and points directly to what salvation entails. Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. [Hebrews 9:22]

         One does not often hear about the cleansing blood of the Lord Jesus so much anymore. It is not so seeker-friendly. People are put off by it, pretty much the same way most people would rather never be reminded of over fifty million unborn American babies ripped from the womb and literally thrown in the trash.

         The crucifixion of the Lord is not pretty, but His perfect sacrifice remains the most beautiful thing anyone has ever done or will ever do. It was the greatest and best offering ever made. His death brings our life, if we so choose. In Part 3, David discovered the secret of repentance. He discovered the proper protocol. He understood that sacrifice must precede the presence of God. No one is saved without real repentance. It is impossible.

         There is no new birth without a surrendering of the life that resulted from the first birth.

         You must be born again [John 3:7]. All great movements of God over the last twenty centuries have been preceded by heart-changing individual repentance, including the Great Awakenings in America.

         In the initial event of the Church Age, the 120 real believers who gathered together at Pentecost were exactly on time and properly prepared. It had been ten days since the Lord Jesus had ascended to heaven. Ten is the Biblical number of ordinal perfection or testing. It is readily apparent that not everyone gathered at the beginning remained until the big day. For those who did, they had fully repented and prepared themselves. Such individuals had bowed the knee to the Lord and confessed His glorious Name, and this resulted in the beginning of an incredible worldwide movement that continues to the present.

         According to the Hebrew calendar, today is Erev Shavuot. Wednesday morning, June 8, is the morning of Pentecost, the official anniversary of that bright dawn when the community of the Lord Jesus burst forth on the scene in unity and power 2000 years ago. The apostle Peter then preached a message containing the very truth the 120 had obeyed and what would be required for the movement to continue. He spoke of the death and resurrection of the Messiah. Under great conviction, voices from the crowd asked, “Brethren, what shall we do?” The first thing Peter said was, “Repent.”

         There has always been much theological discussion about when the blood of the Lord Jesus is applied, but there should not be. The cleansing blood of the Lord is applied at real repentance. When David sacrificed the ox and fatling at the rebirth of the procession, he understood this. A Christianity without repentance is a faux Christianity. A Christianity without the preaching and teaching of the shed blood of our Savior is worthless and dead, regardless of any other factor. It is impossible to properly recognize, worship, and glorify God without mentioning His cleansing blood on our behalf. Those Christian bodies and groups who understand this and act accordingly are blessed with His presence, just as the city of Jerusalem was 3000 years ago. Those who don’t, aren’t.

         Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart. [2 Samuel 6:16]

         Uh oh.

         As always, the previous generation resists a new move of God. Saul had grown to hate and despise David, and had acquired bad spirits as a result of his hatred and resistance. Every time the Lord does something “new” it is resisted by the previous generation of His own people. Why would Michal suddenly turn against David? She was one of his wives, and had previously promoted him. There are several possible reasons:

(1) She did not think it proper for a king to behave in such an undignified manner.

(2) She thought he was unduly grabbing the spotlight.

(3) She still resented him for his rise to power at the expense of her father.

(4) She thought dancing was only for dancehalls and weird churches.

         The predominant reason, of course, is that she despised God because she had an irreverent unrepentant heart. She opposed a life-giving move of God and was greatly offended at the actions of her husband, who seemed to violate all the laws of man’s protocol, both civil and religious. She preferred a controlled religion of decorum, dogma, and duty. The tares fight against the wheat. The goats fight against the sheep. The unreal fight against the real. Religious people killed the Lord. They killed Stephen. Millions of real believers have been killed since. Why?

         It is simple: Those who refuse to die to themselves and bring a proper sacrifice end up killing their brother instead.

         So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” [Genesis 4:3-9] [1]

         When the Ark was coming into Jerusalem, however, the circumstances were such that Michal was greatly outvoted. In fact, she knew this and therefore despised David somewhat secretly in her heart, at least for the moment, though she may have been staring darts. The city as a whole was celebrating. Jerusalem had properly prepared itself. David corrected his mistakes. He discovered God’s proper protocol. He no longer resisted the move of God or tried to control it. Instead, he jumped into it joyfully with both feet—literally! So must it be for us also, if we really want the actual loving and powerful presence of God in our lives, both individually and in collective unity on this eve of Pentecost. [Part 4 of 4]

         © 2011 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Here Comes the Ark (Part 3)

David Dances as the Ark Enters Jerusalem

         In Part 2 we learned that Jerusalem was not prepared for the manifest presence of God, any more than many Christian congregations and groups in America are ready. David’s original plan was well-intentioned but not even close to the Lord’s protocol. It seems that in our many and varied attempts to do something for God, we fail to inquire of God, either whether we should do a particular thing, or regarding the method we employ in doing it.

         It was fortunate for David and the nation of Israel that Uzzah was the only one killed. It was also fortunate that a Philistine convert named Obed-edom had a proper heart for the Lord. As a result, the Ark of the Covenant stayed at his house for a full three months while the heart of Jerusalem was prepared. The day came at last to continue the glorious procession.

         David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. [2 Samuel 6:12-13]     

         They had only gone a mere six paces before a fitting sacrifice was made. It was obvious someone had done their homework. Uzzah lost his life on account of his irreverence toward God. The episode reflected on David, though he had orchestrated a parade of worship and praise from the beginning. What he had not done at the beginning was make any kind of sacrifice to God.

         Our churches are often filled with wonderful praise music and worshipful hearts every Sunday morning. But what about sacrifice? Sacrifice is representative of repentance. Though all looks fairly good on the surface, our congregations are often filled with uncircumcised hearts and unrepentant attitudes. The presence of sin, disobedience, and a lack of reverence for the Lord Jesus often causes a muted meeting comprised of going through religious motions and largely leaving the way we came.

         David got the big idea. Six paces is not a very long stretch. Six is the Biblical number of man. It was at that point that an ox and a fatling were sacrificed. One wonders if it was one of the oxen originally pulling the cart upon which the Ark rested. The point, however, that the Biblical account portends, is that there will be no actual presence of God without repentance. We may receive an emotional lift or some other such thing in our meetings that may feel right, but without proper repentance it is a mere counterfeit traded for the real presence of God.

         Once the sacrifice was made, the procession resumed.

         And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. [2 Samuel 6:14-15] [1]

         The Ark of the Covenant had never been to Jerusalem. It was a triumphant entry. David had prepared not only a proper dwelling place for the Ark according to the Mosaic law, a tent, but also prepared his own heart and the heart of the people. Though David was the king, he was not parading through the streets of the city as some ego-driven potentate, along the lines of most political and Christian leaders, but as a man demonstrating his correct heart condition and position. He knew his place. He was no better than anyone else.

         It was the Lord God who was King! And the Lord would be honored and reverenced properly and completely. David’s act of dancing with all his might with no pompous clothing or attitude was in perfect keeping with what we must give the Lord. God is worthy of our praise, but our praise is worthless without our entire heart and without full repentance. Imagine the incredible and far-reaching moves of God we can have in the present only by learning and practicing these simple truths. The good news is we are on the way, but there still remains opposition. For we have met the enemy, and it is us. [Part 3 of 4]

         © 2011 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Here Comes the Ark (Part 1)

The Ark of the Covenant

         It was quite an occasion. One of the greatest of occasions. The Ark was coming home! David had recently captured the city of Jerusalem and made it his headquarters and capital city after becoming king of all Israel.

         The Ark of the Covenant was located at the city of Kiriath-jearim, a town also known as Baale-judah. This location was none other than the center of Baal worship in the tribal land of Judah. During all the battle and confusion of the Saul-David transition period the Ark had resided on a hill here in the home of Abinadab for twenty years. David had decided he must unify Israel and bring the Ark to Jerusalem. He had never used the Ark in his battles with Saul, but now it was time to bring everything and everyone together. Though David was king, he knew the real King was the Lord God and that He must reign from Jerusalem.

         Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the LORD with all kinds of instruments made of fir wood, and with lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets and cymbals. [2 Samuel 6:5]   

         It was quite a scene! A great celebration of national unity, a new beginning, and worship of the Lord who made it all happen. But there was a later mishap along the way. Aminadab’s second and third sons, Uzzah and Ahio, were chosen to assist in the passage, and were driving the new cart holding the Ark on the journey. When the procession arrived at the uneven rock surface of a threshing floor, the oxen had nearly tipped the cart over, and Uzzah reflexively reached out to the Ark to steady it, apparently thinking it was part of his responsibility to protect the Ark. As soon as he made contact he died. The record states:

         But when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen nearly upset it. And the anger of the LORD burned against Uzzah, and God struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God. [2 Samuel 6:6-7]

         Uzzah miscued big time. He was killed for his lack of proper reverence, though most Bible versions called it his error. Well, YEAH. He obviously wasn’t properly prepped, or was and messed up anyway. No one had taken up the Ark in many years, and it is understandable that mistakes were made regarding proper procedures and protocol. Had Uzzah grown too familiar with the Ark since it had resided at his father’s house all those years? Uzzah’s name means “strength,” and he obviously was leaning on his own understanding and human ability during the incident. One can hear the words of the apostle Peter echoing in from the distant future, when the Lord had just told him the Son of Man must go to Jerusalem and die:

         Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” [Matthew 16:22]

         Tipping oxen or not, it was not the place of Uzzah to take hold of the Ark to protect it, or whatever he thought he was doing. Only the Kohathite branch of the Levites could carry the Ark, upon their shoulders by way of poles through rings on either side, and not on an ox cart. They were the only ones vested by God with the sacredness and reverence for the privilege, and were never to touch it.

         But David didn’t see it that way. He immediately grew very angry for what had happened then grew disillusioned, and as he realized he was the actual party at fault he got scared. He had just been worshipping God with the entire Israel woodwind, stringed instrument, and percussion section, happy as a clam and on a spiritual high, and looking forward to the great entry into Jerusalem. The “Breach of Uzzah,” as the place became known, was such that the procession had to stop. The celebration was cut short. The Lord would not be going to the City of the King any time soon.

         So David was afraid of the LORD that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the LORD come to me?” [2 Samuel 6:9] [1]

            When the presence of the Lord is on the way to our country, our city, our house, or our very heart, we must pay attention. It would be good to get on our face, show the proper reverence and respect, be thankful and appreciative for the great privilege, and follow the Lord’s protocol. Whatever we do, we must make sure we do nothing to stop or impede the process. He may never pass our way again. [Part 1 of 4]

         © 2011 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.