(part 1 of 5 )
3look ye out among you seven
men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom,
"But Mr Smith, we have the best and the most effective product on the market. If we do as you suggest, and make our product more consumer friendly we will have to downgrade its effectiveness. Would you want that?"
"I only know I want what I want, and you're not giving it to me. I don't know anything about effectiveness. Your competitors are providing a service that's appealing and easy to use. You make the instructions so hard to understand and the product so difficult to use that I end up not bothering at all."
"But Mr Smith, those other providers you're referring to are offering a nice package, but their product doesn't work. Would you want us to compromise our integrity and our product just to please the eye?"
"You hang on to your integrity Mr Jones, all the way to the poor house. I only know that I don't want to do business with you if you're not going to please me. Good bye Mr Jones."
"Good bye Mr Smith, and have a nice day. Well dear, it looks like we're going to have to compromise our integrity and bend to the wishes of the people. If we don't I'm afraid we'll have to close our doors from lack of customers. Let's take a look at the web and see if there's any information that might give us ideas on how to improve business."
1I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 6For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: 8Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2Tim 4:)
This, I think we will all agree, is the day of the Apostate Church. This day we're living in is the day mankind will be out to please himself under the guise of serving God:
1This know also, that in the last days perilous ["Reducing the strength, difficult, dangerous"] times shall come. 2For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, 4Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; 5Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. 6For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, 7Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2Tim 3:)
21Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. 27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:)
There are many people, and houses of worship, that have a vain ("Empty, useless") religion. They may talk a good talk, but their walk proves they don't believe what they're preaching. Jesus tells us we can identify a good tree by its fruit. But all fruit that's appealing is not of God. In fact I would venture to say that if the fruit is appealing it is most likely not of God. Consider the two trees in the Garden of Eden. Which fruit do you think was the most appealing: The fruit they were to stay away from? Or the fruit they were allowed to eat all they wanted? If the good fruit was appealing, then why didn't they eat plenty of it before their downfall?
Those things that are good for us we shun, and those things we're told to avoid, and that are bad for us, we crave. The Bible tells us:
1Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:)
53Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:)
6If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? (Luke 14:)
22And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved. 23But when they persecute you (Mat 10:)
33Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? (Mat 23:)
7Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
10And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. 12Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? (Mat 15:)
Jesus could not be considered a good role model for the book How To Win Friends and Influence People. He did not bend His words to fit what the people wanted to hear. And in fact, the higher up the person, the more influential they were, the sharper the tongue they had to endure.
Jesus, in this sense, was not a good business man. But His interest was not in selling a product, or in bringing numbers of people into His circle; His interests was in saving souls and spreading God's truth.
Today we see the Church as a competition for numbers of members. The church today is a place to be entertained, and in the midst of being entertained one must endure the rigors of such things as prayer for the sick and hurting, a sermon, and possibly hard and uncomfortable seats.
Jesus, according to Isaiah, was not the attractive man we see in the movies. He was very possibly similar to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. He brings life, not pleasure. He does not offer what we want, but what we need. If we want life, we must endure what might be considered a life of death: a death to self and to self-pleasing.
Churches are a business. They are just as much a business as is the supermarket down the street, or the gas station on the corner, or even the McDonald's across the street from Burger King and Taco Bell.
Businesses, such as the ones mentioned, have other similarities to the churches that might be considered. For instance, you know you're in a McDonald's because of the menu on the wall, the golden arches, and the entire arrangement of the establishment. This is true of other franchises as well. regardless of what country you're in, the food is the same, the building is the same, only the names (languages) have been changed so people will know what their eating.
In a franchised business everyone must do exactly what the head office tells them they must do if they expect to remain a part of that franchise. And every franchise must order their supplies from the mother company. They are not allowed to purchase better supplies from another company at a lower price. A large part of the income the mother company takes in is from the food and other supplies they sell to their franchises.
Every franchise is under total dictatorship of the mother company. Should Burger King decide to sell Big Macs or tacos, what do you think would happen? It just isn't done. It's exactly the same in the churches. What you hear in one church of a certain name, you hear in another church under that same banner. What you see in the racks of literature in one church, you see in another. Whatever Bible is used in one church, is used in all of them. Should a Bible not be used in one church of a particular denomination, and instead a reading is performed from a slip of paper, all the churches read the same piece of paper. Some, if not many of the denominations, require that the pastor read exactly the same thing to their congregation as all the other pastors are reading that week. Notices and schedules of precisely what will occur in all the branch churches are sent out from the mother church.
When you go to McDonald's, what do you do? I suspect you do as I do: I wait in line, I eat what they offer, then leave. It's the same way when I attend a movie theater or a ball game. Wait, sometimes fight the crowds, be entertained, then leave.
Many of the churches I've attended are conducted in this same manner: In -- entertained -- leave. Actually they're all that way, but some do allow for a little more communion with one another, which is a large part of the Church as established by the Apostles. The Church is to be a "People Place," not a place to conduct business.
Some churches, especially the Megachurches, have waves of people entering and leaving the service, making way for the next wave to be sent in and be entertained. No time for anything but what they paid for: In, then get out quick. These churches say that the real church is in the home units that meet in the homes, and the church service is for the sermon. Interesting. Why then have the big church and the big service if the real church, and the real purpose of the church is accomplished in the home units? Could it be that it's in the big tent, the huge services, where the money is made and fame is gained? What would happen, do you suppose, if they were to abandon the Coliseum they meet in and just let the small groups take over? I suggest they, the church and the home groups, would die just as are so many of the smaller churches the big churches have supplanted. If it wasn't for the flashing lights reminiscent of a discotheques, the modern rock band, the thrills, and the claim of being a member of a huge church: what does the megachurches have to offer for the price they're charging?
Here's a thought for you: Tithes and offerings are collected from the congregation that enables the huge churches to put on their display, and to pay the big name preachers to entertain them. Yet, these same churches say it's in the small home groups where the actual church is congregated and functions. If we were to take away the big flashy part of the church, let the preacher preach his famous sermons on an inexpensive CD or tape, and only pay for the CD and the home group: How much money (tithes and offerings) would then be available to help fulfill human needs of the church, the purpose of the churches in the first place?
You've heard of the moving of the Holy Spirit? I for one do not see how this is possible considering the constricted and restricted way the churches are run today.
Another similarity between the franchises and the churches is how they establish their holdings, that is, their "turf." In the field of food and other commodities the franchises are given to people who sign a contract with the head office, and they are able show that the town they want to set up in has a potential for growth and for showing a profit. McDonald's does not set up a business in Hicktown USA. However, if Burger King was to take a chance on Hicktown, and begin to make a profit, McDonald's and Taco Bell will set up shop near by Burger King and grab for their piece of the pie.
It is no different with the churches. The churches send out Missionaries to what might be conceived as virgin territory spiritually. These missionaries have been given the job of, not preaching the Word as we might suppose, but of preaching the doctrine of the church that sent them into the field and who are supporting them. You don't agree? And well you shouldn't. But just in case this might be true, let's establish a test case: Let's say Mr and Mrs Brown are sent to Timbuktu and set up a Baptist church of some kind. Let's say, since Timbuktu appears to be in the forests of Africa they build a small log cabin of sorts for a church and for their habitation. Someone has sent the Browns to Africa, and someone is supporting them and their mission. I doubt very highly that it's a Mormon church or a Lutheran church that is paying the Brown's way. I would guess it's Baptists who are providing a table for the family.
Let's say the Browns decide for whatever reason to teach the doctrine of speaking in tongues and transubstantiation. How long do you suppose it will be before the Baptist church pulls it's support and calls the Browns home? I think we can safely say that it's the doctrine of the churches that being spread, not the Bible. (Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing condoning or disapproving any certain doctrine. I just use those presented here as an example to prove a point.)
Let's say Mr and Mrs Brown stick to their church doctrine and they make inroads into an isolated area of Timbuktu that has been essentially barren of the Word. People are being Christianized in fairly large numbers. Burger King... I mean, the Methodists, the Lutheran, the Pentecostal, and other denominations hear about the success Mr and Mrs Brown are having in their efforts to bring souls into the flock. Tell me now, what do you think will be the reaction of these other churches? Do you think they will praise the Lord and be thankful for the success of one of their fellow Christian churches? Or do you think it's more likely they will all rush to Timbuktu and establish a church right next door to Mr and Mrs Brown's church and try to steal converts to their way of thinking?
Did you know there are business set up and designed to instruct and aid churches in the business of bringing people to the churches in order to fill up the pews? They use advertising gimmicks, catch phrases, and all the tricks of the trade we see in commercial world around us. The ways of the world are fully at work in the church. The church is a very large and profitable business. Or at least it is with some establishments, and all the others are trying to get their hands in the pie.
The church is to remain separate from the world and to set an example of how God works through men and women of faith. Is that right? Is that happening do you suppose? Or is the world of the churches in competition with the world and using the world's tactics in order to promote itself?
Rather than the Church being a group of people interested in the service and the worship of God as it was in olden days, it has become a place to show off its ability to attract traffic and to provide plenty of entertainment. A pastor or a preacher is known, not for his understanding of the Word of God, and his ability to relay that information to the congregation, but rather on his ability to hold the interest of those in attendance. There might be a splattering of Scripture here and there during the sermon, but most of the sermons heard today are softened words from the Bible intended to ease rather than afflict the soul, followed by a barrage of cute jokes, quips and anecdotes intended to entertain.
Notice the preachers who have gained a reputation of sorts. What is their special ability? What is it that sets them apart from the crowd? Is it their ability to drive you to make of yourself a person suited to be in the presence of God, as was the purpose of Jesus and of Paul and the other Apostles? Or rather are they able to entertain, to make you feel comfortable just the way you are? Are they skillful in their knowledge of things around the Bible, such as history, or the use of words, rather than their understanding of what God is commanding of us? Do they appeal to the Spiritual growth of their listeners, or to their carnal nature?
Notice the construction of the churches in your town. Take note of the number of offices in the building. The church I attend now for instance has about 30 to 50 in attendance each Sunday, and a seating capacity of about 150 people. I haven't counted the number of rooms in this church, besides the very large dining hall and the children's play room, but I would guess there to be perhaps 15 or so rooms These rooms are used for Sunday School meetings once a week, and of course they sit essentially empty the rest of the week (and many as far as I can see are never used for any purpose). So far I've counted 5 computers in various of the offices, and there are some rooms that I'm sure has at least one computer and all the peripherals such as the Pastor's Study.
Video and audio equipment of course, which I'm sure is very expensive, is in abundance at this, and at any church of any size. In this church I suspect the equipment is sufficient to run a high quality recording business, and I've seen pictures of just such businesses that use much less equipment than the ones that enhance this relatively small church (impressive in building size, but small in attendance).
There's a room somewhere they call the library, but I guess no one uses it, and they have no room for additional books because I tried to give them some valuable books I have an oversupply of, and there's a small rack of books in the lobby for lending. As to the lobby of the church, it in itself is larger than some of the churches in their entirety I've attended.
This church is building a large addition for storage because they tell me they have so much "stuff" they have nowhere to store it. I see nothing but empty rooms, I can't imagine what everyone else is looking at.
As I examine the expense account of the church, I see, for one thing, that the pastor is paid more than a doctor I know. And on top of this there's the youth director who is on the payroll. Many churches have assistant pastors, and I've seen some that have several assistant pastors, who are, I assume, all on the payroll as well. I don't know how many others besides a janitorial service and a gardening service that is also paid (well paid it appears to me). Then there's the normal business expenses such as telephone, Internet, gas and electric that must be in the digits beyond my comprehension considering the size of the building, the abundance of lights and electronics being used, and every other expense and cost of maintenance and upkeep a large household or business must encounter.
Church has become a business pure and simple. Church is not an efficiently run business, nor does it provide much for what it expects in return (tithes, offerings and time).
Church is a highly competitive business. There are a multitude of churches of all kinds in every town, each trying to win converts to its building and to its way of thinking. Some of these churches meet in something as small as an empty office building or a store front. But even these have their expenses just as do the very large churches. And all of these are run in the same way as the large churches, only on a small scale, and are seeking to become one of the large church businesses described above.
When you think of church, what comes to mind? Is it the steeple atop a grand, high-ceiling church building you think of? Or perhaps for you it's the colosium-sized megachurches with its multi-big screen TVs and whirling, swirling visuals and loud Rock gospel music played by a popular youth band that comes to mind. Then again maybe you're more traditional in your likes and dislikes and you go in more for the grand cathedrals of Rome and the powerful drone of the pipe organ.
For me, when I think of any of these church concepts I think of waste, extravagance and compromise. The money it takes to construct and to run such an operation, for a building that is rarely used, is highly exorbitant and money must be acquired from somewhere. In the age when church was mandatary and held all power, the church officials could demand money from their people in order to build and maintain their great cathedrals. When money was short, they would sell indulgences, provide a museum of fanciful things such as a gallon of Mary's breast milk, and sell pieces of the cross. And when times got really hard, they would start a holy war in order to bring in an income.
Today this method, although it is still done through the selling of prayer items, books, CD's DVD's and many other such things, called "Merchandising" (which Jesus drove out of the Temple in His day), most of the money has to come in the form of tithes and offerings. In order to obtain this income, people must be attracted to the church and those many empty seats must be filled. How to accomplish this when so many other large churches are working to do the same thing? Consider Mr Jones' dilemma in the story at the beginning of this study. Add to this the advancing number of churches and denominations in the world, and the diminishing number of people interested in attending and taking part in church functions. Competition is stiff, to say the least.
What is the True Church? What is the Church all about anyway? Is the Church about numbers? Is it the Holy Wars we see on the mission fields where churches battle one another over new converts to their way of thinking? Is that what Christianity is all about?
Let's go back a few generations to when this country of the US of A was beginning to form. People were thirsty for the Word. They would travel a great distance and endure much hardship in order to hear the Word of God preached. It didn't matter if it was a Lutheran preacher who had come into town with his tents, or if it was a Methodist circuit rider on a donkey. People wanted to hear the Word. Bibles were rare, and very expensive in those days, and they were highly valued. Not like today when Bibles are free, abandoned and dust collectors.
In those early days there was often no church building that needed to be supported, and in the small towns where there were such a building, it was not run as a business, it was paid for and built by the people of the town with their own hands as a community project, and the building often served as a school during the week, and a meeting hall for the town. The building was not a monument to self-serving and arrogance.
Let's go back even farther to the beginning of the Church and see what we can learn about the True purpose of the Church.
Jesus founded the Church. Without Jesus there would be no Church as we know it. The Apostles demonstrated what the Church is about. From them, and their example, we can learn just what the Church is supposed to be.
Before we examine the Church Jesus built, let's take a quick look at the Church that existed in His time, and that because of the True Church having been established, was done away with and destroyed by God Himself.
The Church in Old Testament times, and up until 70 AD, consisted in two forms. The first of these forms was the Synagogue. On a hill near every town or hamlet there could be found a synagogue. This synagogue, for the most part, was rather small and not too fancy. There were exceptions of course, and of course these exceptions were near the larger cities. The synagogue is where people met, much as we do in the churches on Sunday. In fact the word synagogue means the same thing as does the word church, which is "assembly or congregation." However, one thing was highly lacking in the synagogue, and that was entertainment and comfort. The purpose of the synagogue was to hear the Word of God, and for praise of the Lord. In the synagogue the children not only learned about God and the Bible, but they learned how to read so they could read the Bible. Those of you familiar with history know that the founding of schools in this country was for the same purpose, and the Bible was the text book used. Later new things were added to the curriculum, until today the schools have followed the path of the churches, and have compromised themselves until the Bible is out of the schools, as is many of the other beneficial aspects that had been established by our forefathers.
The synagogue was formed, it is believed, in Babylon when the people no longer had access to the Temple, the House of God. They were substitutes for the real thing, but only in part. And since the Jews were scattered in many lands even after the Babylonian captivity, the concept of the synagogue continues, even to this day. But the synagogue serves a purpose outside that of the Temple, as well as serves in the stead of the Temple. Where at one time (and I'm sure still does in some remote areas) city and civil functions was performed by, and in, the churches as well. They served as more than merely an expensive place where people can be entertained a few hours a week.
The Jewish culture was vastly different than that of today. Life centered around the service and the worship of God. God was the center and the element of their life. We see this in the zeal in which the Pharisees, and Paul before his conversion (and afterwards as well), struggled to follow the law God had given to them, as best they knew how. Their blindness to who Jesus was, had not been from lack of interest, but rather because of the very zeal they were unable to back away from.
The synagogue was, as was the Temple, a place where the people could feel a closness to God. Synagogues were not a place to ritually visit once or twice a week, but where they learned about the One they most wanted to serve. One of the main differences between the Jews of Jesus' time and the Church Jesus created is in its direction. Christianity has not supplanted the Jewish concept of religion, it has supplemented it and expanded it. The law and the system that was established by the Jews was a foundation upon which God was to build His Church. Jesus is the beginning of that building project. The church before Jesus was built upon dirt, that is it was built upon man's Adamic nature. Jesus is the foundation stone that gives strength and stability to what was begun with the Jews.
Another difference between the Church and the law of Moses is that the Jews served God in a physical manner, using physical, tangible and tactile substances that can be easily understood. The Church on the other hand is established on Spiritual elements that can only be understood through the Word of God, through the Holy Spirit of God. The only way any of us can understand what we are to be and what God demands of us is to be in touch with Him by having within us the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus was the beginning of the Spiritual man. To understand what we are to be we must follow and obey the commandments of Jesus, which are the commandments of God. If we are not following Jesus and His example, we remain in our Adamic condition, and we cannot understand the Spiritual lessons God is providing for us. This lack of Spiritual understanding is what is causing the problems in our churches today. They are built on man's concept of what church should be because our leaders are not Spiritually guided. We know the Church, the Christian is supposed to be completely separate from the world. Instead the Christian is exactly like the world, employing all the worldly pleasures and accouterments the world uses. We see this not only in the Christian individuals, but in the church systems as well.
The synagogue was a place for learning. The Jews believed that righteousness was acquired through learning about God. The more a person knew about God, the better they knew the Torah, the closer they were to God. Because of this concept the Jews worked very hard to learn all they could about God and the Torah.
We read in several places this phrase: "It is the doers of the Word, and not the hearers only, who will be saved." This is the message Jesus was trying to get across to the Pharisees and others of their ilk. The Jews were so embedded in the learning of the law and the ways of God, they were missing the doing what the law was about. They were following the letter of the law, and insisted everyone else follow the letter of the law, and because of this they missed the spirit of the law. We, even today, miss the spirit of the law and what Jesus was trying to teach us because we think we already have, and are being led by the Holy Spirit because we've been baptized. Whatever our church affiliation, we have been assured that we are a part of the family of God, and in spite of any lack of evidence to this effect, we accept it, and we look no father for what we assume we are already in possession of.
In the days of the Apostles the only people the Jews, the lowly class, had to pattern themselves after were the Pharisees who set themselves up as role models. Jesus openly tore their masks off and exposed them for who they were, not only to they themselves, but to the public they stove to impress, even though they had no regard for them as a person. Jesus said they had to reverse that trend, and show even more respect for those they had contempt for then themselves, and to rid themselves of the sanctimonious mask they took so much pride in.
The Sanhedrin, the 70 leaders, both religious and civil, were made up of those who knew the law the best. The more a person knew, the higher up the chain of command they were promoted. This is separate from the priesthood, and should not be confused with the working of the Temple. Anyone could be a Pharisee, but only a Levite from the family of Aaron could be a priest. And only a decedent through the line of Zadok could be a High Priest. It wasn't knowledge that established the High Priest, but rather selection. And at the time of Roman captivity, as was so often the case with the post-Babylonian Jews, the High Priest was chosen by the Romans.
If a person wanted to be a part of the Sanhedrin, all they had to do is prove they had more knowledge of the Torah than one of those already seated in the Sanhedrin, and they were in, and the other was out. (We see this process today on quiz programs and on talent shows.) The Pharisees knew their Bible. For this reason Jesus said:
1Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, 2Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: 3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. 4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. (Mat 23:)
In the Church today we still have this elitist mentality. We think if a person appears to know a lot about the Bible, that they are extra Spiritual. We admire the number of letters after a person's name. We like the way they preach with such conviction and certainty in what they know. What we see however is not always what we get. There have been many a times that a truly devoted pastor has been with such men on their off moments and are disgusted by their "hero's" behavior and vulgar talk. I myself, as little as I know about the Bible, which is far less than it appears, have found several occasions where I had to correct lifelong ministers when they misquoted the Bible or misinterpreted it. They had all the trappings of knowing the Word inside-out. But as it turns out they only knew portions of the Bible, just those parts they needed in order to put their point across.
Here's a philosophy commonly used in the world, that unfortunately has infiltrated the churches. That philosophy is known as "Fake it till you make it." Salesmen and hopeful executives try very hard to appear to know much more than they know. Perhaps you're acquainted with a few such people yourself.
When my father was young he had a byline he used to acquire a job when jobs were very scarce. When he was asked if he knew how to do the job, he answered that he did. By the time they found out he didn't know how to do the job, he did. My father was a High Priest in the Mormon church. He was considered a sort of expert on Mormon matters and the Bible. This was quite a thing for an uneducated man who had been a lowly mechanic all his life to achieve such a status. But I saw the way he rose to such a level was by only speaking the few things he knew. Of course he would work to expand what he knew, but the reason for his expanding his knowledge was so that he could impress others with what he knew. Please keep in mind, my father had come a very long way in living up to the standards he was living by. I'm not criticizing him here, I'm only pointing out that those we see in high positions my well be there because they desire the high position, not because they are so close to God.
Synagogues, even those of elaborate structure and proportions, were of very simple design. They consisted of a place where the scrolls were kept, a stage where the speaker stood, the trumpet, and benches where the congregation sat. This sounds very much like our churches, does it not? Correction, I mean the way the churches of old, just like the one-room schools used to be. Today the churches compete to be, not like the synagogues, but rather like the Temple Herod built. More on that later.
Service in the synagogues was very much like the services in our churches today. There were the prayers, the reading of the Bible, and there was the preaching or teaching period. Like the formal churches, and less like the less traditional churches, the meeting was quite regulated in that there were a certain number of prayers read in unison at the beginning and the end of the service. If you've attended a Catholic service you have seen something similar to what the meeting was like in the synagogue.
We see the separation of the formal service and the preaching or teaching part in that Jesus and the Apostles were usually found in the synagogue teaching the Good News. The difference between the synagogue service and our church service is in that we now blend and incorporate the sermon with the words of the Bible as if the sermon was actually what the Bible is saying. We therefore preach doctrine rather than the Word of God, and we use the Bible to support our beliefs instead of the other way around. The Jews would read the Bible, then they would have a time when they could, as we call it, preach a sermon. Also we find that the Apostles could teach things that did not fit what the Jews believed. Jesus was ousted from a synagogue, not because He preached something they didn't agree with, but because it was obvious that He was saying He was the fulfilment of prophesy, and He healed on the Sabbath, right in the synagogue in front of the Pharisees (who are assumed to have been the rulers of the synagogues at that time). Even long after this episode, years in fact, He and the Apostles preached in the synagogues, often without trouble.
Today people of the congregation are not invited to preach, except in the churches called the cults who are trying to reestablish the traditions of the original Church as they see it to have been. There are other churches, not considered to be a cult that are also attempting the same thing. These churches are usually called Reconstructionist or Restorist But even with these, when a person speaks, they must say only those things that the church they are speaking in holds as their doctrine. They dare not venture out of what is accepted by the mother church. I suppose there are exceptions to this practice, but I'm not familiar with any. And I would highly suspect such an exception would be one of the numerous Universalist type churches that believe anything goes. I'm quite certain, however, that even the most universal of the Universalists have their boundaries one must remain within in order to be a participant in the proceedings.
The synagogue was the Sunday School, the house of education for the Jews. This is where they learned the basics of their religion, and about God in general. Informally a child begins learning the Words of God before they're even born. The mother reads or quotes the Word to the yet born child, and continues to do so from birth onward. When a Jewish child reaches puberty they're given a test of their knowledge, and they're then considered to be bar mitzvah "Son of the Commandment, " allowed to participate in adult activates, and even marry (a girl is bat mitzvah at the age of 12). Up until the age of 13 the parents are responsible for the actions of their child. During the time of Jesus and before this stage (as seen in Jesus in the Temple at twelve showing His knowledge and His interest in things of the Lord) the child, though seen as an adult, is still under the tutorship of his parents (again demonstrated by Jesus). Around the age of thirty a man leaves his family and takes on the responsibilities of parenthood, and of the father's business.
The Temple on the other hand served an entirely different purpose than did the synagogue. The Temple was the House of God where God resided and where He met with His "called out ones" and communicated His desires for them. When the people were taken into Babylon, and Solomon's Temple was destroyed, God was no longer in that Temple, and hadn't been for some time before Babylon. The Temple was merely a mausoleum, an empty memorial to a time long past. The rituals continued as they always had, and according to instruction, but they were empty, dead rituals who's only purpose was to appease the people and themselves. We read in Ezra and Nehemiah that the Temple was once again erected. But we do not read of God nor the Ark of the Covenant once again taking up residence in the Temple, nor of God sanctifying this Temple. This Temple was dead, even though the people who built it and worshiped therein were sincere for the most part.
There are some prophesies that have been given regarding the building of the second Temple, however, a large part of those prophesies are a misnomer and are actually referring to Jesus rather than Ezra's Temple. In these prophesies we see that God said He will again be with the people, and bless them. And He says the Temple will be built. God even states that He will cause Cyrus to institute the rebuilding of the Temple But I have yet to find where He once again inhabited the Temple, or spoke to the people from the Temple. Legends have been created in regards to the lost Ark of the Covenant. Where is it? I don't believe it will ever be found, because Jesus is the Ark of the Covenant, the fulfilment of the shadow. We know this, and yet we still look for the shadow and ignore the real thing. Does this make sense to you?
The money and provisions that came into the Temple was for the purpose of upkeep, and the reasonable support of the Levites and the priests. They were not to be living like kings at the expense of the people. Fords, but no Mercedes. And the money was to be used for the care of the poor, the orphans, and the widows, something that obviously was not being done, according to what we read in the Bible.
Over time, and by the time of Jesus, the Temple had become one of the wonders of the world. People came from everywhere just to see the Temple. But the Temple was again merely a monument to the glory of man (I read of a contemporary temple being dedicated to the glory of man. I wonder where I read that?). God had no part in this Temple. And when Jesus was on this earth, the True Temple was Jesus, and the imitation, the monumental Temple with so much appeal, but without God, rejected and tried to destroy the True Temple.
The Temple of Jesus' day was a renovation of the Temple Ezra built. It was an embellishment and a tribute, not to God, but to Herod. Herod was a builder. The Temple was not the only work of art he constructed. Herod wanted to be a Jew, to be respected by the Jewish community he ruled over, but he was a Edomite, and not a Jew. Nor did he live by customs of the Jews, though on occasion he gave an appearance of attempting to do so (see Mat 2:8 for an example of just such an attempt).
Herod was not the only non-Jew who looked on and desired to be a jew. There were other Gentiles who recognized that the Jews were a special people, and that God was with them. These Gentiles looked on and imitated much of what the Jews were doing. But as much as they may have wanted to be, they were not a Jew. When we consider this aspect of life during that time the Apostles taught, it becomes more understandable why Gentiles would so readily receive the message Paul preached, which included them. We have this recorded in Acts 13:42-52. The Gentiles were primed and ready for the Gospel, those who God had prepared. When they found the door open, they charged in. How many people do you see charging the door of the Church today? Any? Or are they having to be coaxed into the churches with promises of a rock music, coffee, and a piece of cake?
Today, and for many generations, we have other nations of people who are living the life of the Old Testament Jew, some even to the degree that they offer animal sacrifices and have established a priesthood. They consider themselves the lost tribe of Israel. Two such groups that come to mind are the Ethiopian Jew, and the Samaritans. And if we stretch our imagination a bit we have those who believe the British, and thereby the Americans, are the lost tribe of Dan, and that the Ark of the Covenant is hidden beneath the British throne.
The Temple dedicated to God had been corrupted and had lost its purpose, so God finally and completely destroyed the monument called the Temple of God, and He magnified and glorified the True Temple, which is Jesus.
Consider if you will the Temple built by David and Solomon. Realize that the material and the wherewithal for building the Temple was not supplied by man, but by God. He supplied the wealth that enabled Solomon to build this grand structure. It was not taken out of the pockets of the poor as the monuments to man are today. The Temple was built during a time of peace and prosperity. This is reminiscent of the building of the Tabernacle of Moses. God supplied the gold, silver and the other materials needed through the hands of the Egyptians. It did not come from the Hebrew children. They had been slaves, paupers, owning little to nothing. What they contributed was not a portion of what was their own, but of what God had provided them with, they're having labored for none of it per se. The skills for the building of the Tabernacle were furnished by God, they weren't the cunning abilities of the people. We see this again when Ezra's Temple was built. God put it in the heart of the Babylonian king (Cyrus) to give the Israelites everything they needed to build the Temple. This did not come from the Israelites themselves. In face, as we read of the rebuilding of the Temple, the people refused to come to their homeland, preferring to remain in Babylon. Even the Levites, the priest, had to be persuaded to come back to Israel.
Today God has nothing to do with the actual building of the churches as He did in times of old. Of course every church considers themself to be an exception to this statement and fully believes that God has miraculously provided for the expansion of their church building. They believe they are the called of God with the truth in opposition to the false doctrines taught by the rest of the church world. Who am I to argue? But I can have my doubts. Does this mean that I think God doesn't cause churches to be established? Far from it. God has His eye on the sparrow. He certainly has His eye on everything we do here in the churches. But remember, God caused His people to be enslaved in Egypt. He also caused them to be taken into Babylon. God establishes kingdoms, and He establishes churches for His own purposes. He chose Judas to be one of the Twelve. Just because something is done within the control of God does no mean that it is God's will. Does that make sense to you? If it doesn't, consider Judas, and read Luke 17:1; 22:21-22; Mark 14:21; John 9:1-2. Did you read it? Did you get it? Try again.
Jesus is the True Temple of God. What was this True Temple like? And what did Jesus tell us we should do if we are to be a part of the True Temple? I'm not about to go into all the details regarding what He instructed us to do, but I will give a sampling of what He told us the True Temple is about:
God with all your heart, soul and mind.
Nowhere in the Bible can I find where the church is to erect grand structures, spend money on business equipment and services, entertain the congregation, compete with other denominations for converts, and compromise itself and the standards Jesus established in order to fill seats. Is the Church supposed to beautify itself and spend great amounts of time and energy on itself? Surely it is, but more on that later when we look into what the Church is. But first, let's look at what the Church is supposed to be:
Consider:if this, the modern business form of church, didn't come from Jesus, the founder of Christianity; and if it didn't come from God, our creator: Then just where did it come from would you suppose?
Let's take a look at some examples of the early Church as demonstrated by the Apostles and the Christians of that time:
44And all that believed were together, and had all things common; 45And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. 46And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And THE LORD ADDED to the church daily such as should be saved. (Acts 2:)
32And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. 33And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. 34Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according AS HE HAD NEED. 36And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:)
25But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. 26For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution FOR THE POOR SAINTS which are at Jerusalem. 27It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things (Rom 15:)
3Honour widows that are widows indeed. 4But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. 5Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. 6But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. 7And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. 8But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. 9Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore years old, having been the wife of one man, 10Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. (1Tim 5:)
10Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. (Gal 2:)
5Likewise greet the church THAT IS IN THEIR HOUSE. (Rom 16:)
10Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them WHICH ARE OF THE HOUSE of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. (1Cor 1:)
15I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) (1Cor 16:)
19The churches of Asia salute you. Aquila and Priscilla salute you much in the Lord, WITH THE CHURCH THAT IS IN THEIR HOUSE. (1Cor 16:)
2And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellowsoldier, and to the church in thy house (Philem. 1:)
57Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: (Acts 7:)
19And there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, and, having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead. (Acts 17:)
22Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. (2Cor 11:)
1And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. 3As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (Acts 8:)
Is there any difference between the Church of long ago and the churches of today? Are we meeting in houses as did the Church the Apostles helped establish? We know there were thousands of Christians from the very first day after Pentecost. And we know there were many more who came to the Lord after Pentecost in other countries. Why don't we read of large church buildings being erected? Hold on a minute. Come to think about it there were large churches, magnificent structures, some still standing, as least in part, today. Have you seen pictures of them? Sure you have. But these "churches" were not dedicated to God, they were dedicated to the gods of the Romans, the Greeks, and many other cultures of the day. In these "churches" they did everything but worship God, and they did everything God told His people not to do. They were being fed from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil rather than the tree of life.
Let's take a look at a few of the characteristics of the Church as identified in the passages above:
And had all things common; In the churches today we see the rich, the poor, and we see those with much, and those with nothing at all: Nothing in common except the church building itself. Am I missing something you see?
There is one thing that must be taken into consideration when we look at the concept of everyone having everything in common. In today's society, and in today's functioning of the churches, such a program will not work. One reason such a concept will not work is that everyone is taught they are filled with the Spirit of God and led by God because they've been baptized and they've taken an oath (the Sinner's Prayer). Oaths given, especially oaths to God, mean nothing today, and are rarely kept if there is a way found by which to ignore such an oath. Because of this lack of commitment and Godly leadership, everyone is out for themselves. Anyone who is aware of the social situation in the churches knows there are many people in this world who make a living calling around to the churches asking for money, food, lodging and the such. They are not in need, they are just in want. And they are not living by faith, but by handout. Others join a church so they can be in a position to extract money from within the individual churches. It's easier, and possibly more effective to beg in the church than to stand on a street corner holding a cardboard sign. Add to this the promise of God's provision, a provision the church is to supply, and the promise of eternal life; and such a proposition has a great deal of appeal, wouldn't you say?
Churches are not the only religious institutions that receive these requests. Organizations that send out literature and provide other services also receive their share of solicitations, and that from all parts of the world. The Christian churches are looked upon as an easy touch because of the doctrine that stipulates that the Christian be generous to a fault.
In order for such a community to exist as it did in the early Church there must be a willingness to do one's part, and to count others at least as worthy as one's self. That is not a characteristic of the world or the church today.
Another reason why such an arrangement can not work today is that we have too much, and we consider the idea of "need" to be far above the daily bread God says we should be concerned with. We're told to be content with little, as demonstrated in the wilderness. We count the minimum to be a nice car which requires insurance and fuel and maintenance. We need our appliances, our coffee, our cigarettes, our snacks and junk food, our TV, our many forms of entertainment. We are not content with a tent, one set of workable clothes, and a bedroll. Being poor today means living like a king in relation to what God desires for us, and of much of the third world countries. We have destroyed the ability to perform as a Church is intended because of our lust and our greed.
And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. This has been covered above. However I would like to add that it is not in us to sell what we have, even those things we have stored in a commercial warehouse and haven't used for years. We won't sell our extra cars, our closets full of clothes and shoes we never wear. We won't part with our junk to feed our poor and our starving. It just isn't in us to let go, but rather it's in our nature to grab and to struggle to attain more of what the world has to offer. Is this Christian behavior? According to the churches it is. But is it Biblical? I can't see how.
They continuing daily with one accord in the temple, This is an interesting statement. We understand the daily part, and there are even some people today who work in the churches daily. They're dedicated to the church. How dedicated they are to the Lord is another issue, but they can't be faulted in their loyalty to the local church itself. And there are those who are dedicated to the welfare of the people, which we know is an attribute expected of all Christians if they are Christian indeed, and not in word only (see Matthew chapter 7). The churches need such people. Without these dedicated people no church would survive. Correction, such people are needed because the rest of those in attendance, also calling themselves saved Christian, are not pulling their own weight, nor are they interested in doing so, in spite of the need. Does this sound at all like your church? I highly suspect it does (see 2Thes 3:10).
Here we read that the people were in the Temple daily. How can that be? The people were, many if not most of them, far away, even in other countries. How did all these people meet daily in the Temple? Then we have the understanding that these people, these Christians, were outlaws being persecuted from city to city. Add to this the fact that many of these new converts were Gentiles who weren't allowed near the Temple, leastwise to be meeting daily in the Temple. The Jewish rulers had killed their Leader, Jesus, and were out for blood. Paul and his pursuit of the Christians is great evidence of just such a determination to wipe out the new cult called "The Way," or the "Sect of the Nazarene." How then did these people meet in the Temple? And beyond this, after the Temple was destroyed, what then?
I have a possible solution to this question, which I will present a bit farther on in this study.
From house to house. Again we have the early Christians meeting in houses. And it looks to me as if it wasn't just one house they met in, but rather they went "from house to house." I wonder if that means they met in different houses each time. Take note that they met "in houses," as stated here and not in the Temple. Did they meet daily in houses and in the Temple? I highly doubt that to be the case, especially when we consider how many of the houses where they met were in distant countries. How do we reconcile these apparently conflicting statements that are essentially just accepted at face value without examination? Again. Later I'll present what I believe to be a possible explanation to this mystery.
Many, if not most, common houses of Jesus' time were not constructed as they are today with large living rooms and dining areas and kitchens. They were humble dwellings probably no larger, and perhaps even smaller than my trailer. How did so many people meet in such a small house? If you're familiar with the tents of the Arab nations and the huts and teepees of the Native Americans, and the log cabins of the early settlers, you will know that furniture was rare, private rooms were essentially nonexistent, and beds were rolled up and put away during the day. We're accustomed to having a separate room for a kitchen, with sink, running water, and counter tops. We have our storage areas such as clothes closets in every room, linen closets, broom closets, hot water heater closets, tableware and food storage closets, and of course at least a one-car garage. We have our indoor toilets and our showers and tubes, refrigerator and deep freeze, often two or more such rooms per house. Do away with all these conveniences and the partition walls and doors between these rooms and what would we have?
We would have what they had during Jesus' time and before, which was one quite large room without chairs, tables or other such refinements. People sat or lay on the floor. With such an arrangement many more people could fit in one room than they could in a house or an apartment of today.
Of course there were exceptions to this rule. I suspect wealthy people became Christian as well as did the poor folk of the world. But keep in mind that at this time the Christian was being persecuted. Neighbors and even kinfolk were turning in those who became Christian, and those acknowledged had all they possessed confiscated and the one who turned them in received ten percent of what that person had. So those with, very likely did not have it very long.
Having favour with all the people. This is a biggie. Consider that the Christian was a despised person, both by the Gentile, and by the Jew. Wherever a Christian was, there was persecution. But in spite of this persecution, and the low opinion of the unrecognized and unaccepted Christian sect, the people themselves were respected and admired. They found favor with the people because they were doing what they were supposed to do according to the commandments of Jesus, and they were behaving in such a way that the people who hated them could not find fault with them (John 19:6; Jude 1:24; 1Cor 1:8). They were living according to the standards established by Jesus and the Apostles rather than explaining them away, and they were sharing with those without, they were loving those who were unlovable, they were devout, and they were obedient to the laws of the land. It was their beliefs that people of the world and governments could not accept, and the reason they were persecuted, not because of anything they were doing or who they were as individuals.
We have that very same situation even today. There are groups of people among us, carrying the name of Christian as we do, who's behavior and attitude are above accusation. But because of their beliefs and because they disagree with some of the traditions of the elders of the traditional churches, they are despised and persecuted, even by those who bear the same title of Christian. And as it was in the days of Christian persecution, those who were doing the unrighteous act of persecuting thought themselves to be righteous in the eyes of God, and those, the one's doing what God has told all of us to do, to be of the devil (John 16:2; 8:44; Rev 2:10; 2Cor 11:14).
The Christian should be separate, and obviously so, from the world. They should be despised and persecuted because they're doing good and loving their neighbor. The Christian should stand out from the crowd because of their goodness (2Tim 3:3) and because of the love they have for one another (John 13:34-35). Instead the Christian is despised by the world and by others of differing denominations because of the contempt they hold toward the world and one another, and because of the elitism that causes them to feel better than others not of their affiliation.
6But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: 9(As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. (2Cor 9:)
5Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? (James 2:)
31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of THE LEAST OF THESE, ye did it not to me. 46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Mat 25:)
Who is the Bible written to? Is Jesus speaking to those who could care less about Him and about doing God's will? I think you'll agree that Jesus is speaking to those who are His followers, who are sitting on a hillside or on the steps of the Temple as He preaches. Jesus is talking to us, His "disciples" (see Mat 5:19). Jesus is saying that if we, the modern day Christian, do not treat those we consider beneath us with the same dignity we would treat our best friend and ourselves, we are treating Jesus Himself with contempt. Read again what will happen to those who treat Jesus, and the poor, with contempt. Is He talking to you? In one or the other of the two scenarios, He is indeed speaking to, and about each and every one of us. Our actions, our works, is the deciding factor. James said:
8If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
14What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. 18Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. 19Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. 20But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? 22Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? 23And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. 24Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. 25Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? 26For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:)
This passage has been explained away and nullified by so many of the denominations because it counters the doctrines of their church. But read it in the light of what Jesus said in the parable above, and then see if it can be explained away.
The subject of this study is the church as a body having turned into a business with little value instead of being the body of Christ, the extension of God's efforts on this earth. I have a way of drifting. I wanted to bring us back into focus:
16And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. 17And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. 18Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign showest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? 19Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 20Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? 21But he spake of the temple of his body. 22When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. (John 2:)
We have three issues here that might benefit us if we give them a little more attention than just a quick reading:
Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. ...But he spake of the temple of his body. Jesus was in the Temple, yet we see that Jesus was the Temple. Jesus is in the process of cleansing the Temple, yet the Temple He was cleansing was not the actual Temple of God. Have you given this passage much thought? Did you just shrug your shoulders and move on to the next passage of Scripture? Let's not do that at this time and see if we can better understand what Jesus is saying and doing here.
First we have Jesus chasing out the money changers and those who were selling the sacrificial animals to be sacrificed. What are all these salesmen doing in the Temple if nobody but the priests from the family of Levi can enter the Temple? Even the Pharisees with all their religiosity and pomp were unable to enter the Temple at any time. Yet often we read that people were in the Temple listening to the Rabbi's and the Scribes. We even read that Judas entered the Temple and threw the silver coins on the floor of the Temple. Are we missing something here? I have a picture of Judas in this grand hall, the Holy place, confronting the Pharisees. Not so, not by a long shot.
I'm assuming you the reader have a fairly good picture and understanding of the Temple and the operation of the Temple. If you don't there will be large holes in any understanding of what I'm about to say. It would take a book to describe the function and background of the Temple, which I'm not about to go into here.
The Holy Place is where the priests performed their jobs on a daily basis serving the Lord and praying for the people. We might imagine a large number of priests in this room lit by very large candlesticks. But this is not so. In fact there's only person in this room who might be the High Priest himself, or one or two of the other priests who's "shift" (course) it was to perform these duties. We read of Zacharias, John the Baptist's father, performing this function in the first chapter of Luke. We find in Luke that no other priest was in this room while Zacharias served his duty, and it's clear that no one else was able to enter the Holy Place to check on him.
In front of this large building was a courtyard where the animals were being prepared and sacrificed. This courtyard was part of the Temple, and it was considered holy. No one but the priests were allowed in this area as well. People brought their sacrifices to the door of this courtyard, they did not enter it as we might imagine.
Before the courtyard was another large courtyard (of the Temple, not so of the Tabernacle) called the Court of Women and the Court of the Just. This court is where the people could enter to offer their sacrifices. And it might be that this is where Judas confronted the Pharisees. Although this area is part of the Temple construct, it is not part of the Temple as such. We might think of this area as waiting room or a viewing area such as the bleachers of a ball field.
Outside this area there were steps that led up to the raised area upon which the Temple proper stood. On these steps is where Jesus and the Rabbis could be found teaching those who followed them, or who were interested in what they had to say. It's likely that this is where Mary and Joseph found young Jesus three days after they left Jerusalem. I find this an interesting situation because it comes to my mind: Where did Jesus stay those three days his parents were gone? Do you find this an enticing mystery as do I?
Surrounding the Temple building proper was a large paved area guarded by a high, thick wall. Between this wall and the Temple was a short wall, a partition really, perhaps waist high with a sign posted that stated any Gentile caught beyond the wall risked losing their life. The wall was perhaps half way between the outer wall and the Temple itself. This area was called the Court of the Gentiles, past which a Jew could enter, but never a Gentile. In the book of Acts 21:17-31we read of an episode where a supposed uncircumcised Gentile was believed to have entered this area, and how zealously the Jews protected that area. Today we no longer protect the Sanctuary of God from those who are uncircumcised of heart. In fact we do all we can to entice these very people into the pews. God s has something to say in regard to this practice, which can be found in the 44th chapter of Ezekiel.
From the above we can be quite certain that the merchants, unlawfully allowed to sell in the Temple compound by the leaders of the Temple, were beyond this wall of separation. Jesus was making it clear that even this was a pollution of the Temple. What's more, the mere fact that people were making money from the Temple and the pattern God had set up was an abomination in itself and it destroyed the very purpose for which the sacrificial system had been established. Jesus was teaching that the Jews had lost the heart of the law and the sacrificial system. It had become a ritual rather than a show of love and dedication it was to be.
We have become a people who function under the guise, the title of God, but we do not allow God to be a part of what we have chosen to do. This is what the Jews had done. The Temple Jesus cleansed was not a House of the Lord, nor had it been for many centuries. He, Jesus was the Temple. But the Temple stood as a monument to, and in the Name of the living God, so therefore it was subject to the dictates of God. We today have forgotten this concept and as we read in Revelation, God is going to cleanse His Temple (Babylon) of those who would make merchandise of it, and of Him.
When we read the story of the establishment of the law under Moses we see that one aspect of the sacrifice is that the person making the sacrifice is to take the animal (primarily referring to the Pasha lamb) and become attached to it, thereby making it difficult to offer it as a sacrifice. Buying a lamb, goat or a dove on the way to one's sacrifice is hardly what God had in mind when He told His people to make amends for their sins through the sacrificial system.
And they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. Take note that this is now early in the ministry of Jesus that the cleansing of the Temple took place. We see in other accounts how this took place shortly before the Crucifixion. Which is correct? For myself I believe it took place every time Jesus saw merchants in the temple selling their wares. I can't picture Him walking past them and saying nothing. Can you? I also suspect the Temple officials were in anguish for three years knowing that Jesus would probably be attending their festivals, and undermining their profits and their authority.
The second point I'd like to bring to your attention concerning this passage is how the disciples didn't understand what Jesus was doing, nor did they remember the Scripture prophesying the episode until after the resurrection. Just one more item to indicate how difficult a time the disciples had in believing Jesus and all He told them. And yet we think we believe in Jesus from the very first time we walk into a church and are told we believe. I don't think so. I think we have a warped view of what believing and what faith is all about.
Make not my Father's house an house of merchandise. Today we have the same situation. We have books, CDs, DVDs and many other objects sold in the lobby of many churches, and over the radio, and through the TV, not to mention the many other sources of Christian material. Christianity has become big business, and there's a great many people standing in line trying to grab their share of the Christian loot. As an example, consider the many Rock bands who capitalize on the Christian market that in every way portray the lowest form of worldly life. And the churches eat it up. Doesn't that send up a red flag to anyone? I suspect it does to God, it certainly does to me, and I'm one of the color blind.
If Jesus was to walk into your church this Sunday (or Saturday), what do you suppose He would say about the service, the message, the honor shown to the "The Father's House," and to the poor of the community at large? Do you think He would be pleased?
More on the church and it's merchandising practices later.
16Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1Cor 3:)
We read above that Jesus was the Temple of God. Now we read that we also are the Temple of God. The Temple is to remain pure and undefiled. I for one have a very difficult time imagining myself a vessel pure enough for the Holy Spirit of God to reside in. And I do not believe He is actually within me as is so commonly supposed regarding a Christian. I know the Scripture reads as if He is, and I'm not disputing this doctrine. But I struggle to try and be sinless enough the Holy Spirit can even come close to me. I parrot the words of Peter when he realized who Jesus was (Luke 5:8).
We read in Acts the consequences for defiling the Temple. The punishment is death. If we're the Temple of God, and we defile the Temple, what is to become of us?
18Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 19What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1Cor 6:)
Again we have Paul telling us that we are the Temple of God. And here we have a definite statement as evidence that the Holy Spirit is indeed in us. This then would counter my statement above. At least so it seems.
16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 17Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, 18And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2Cor 6:)
A question: what if a baptized Christian, who is now the Temple of God with the Holy Spirit dwelling in them touches (and repeatedly) unclean things, and does not separate themself from the world? Do I get the picture from the above verses that God will not receive such a person, and will not be a father to them?
19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph 2:)
What is the Temple of God? Where is the Temple of God? God is in Heaven. God's throne is in Heaven. Jesus said He and the Father along with the Holy Spirit would be in us (John 10:30; 14:10; 15-23). If all the "Trinity" is in us, the Church, the body of Christ; and if the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is in Heaven: Where then is Heaven?
Jesus said the Father's house has many dwelling places ("Abodes" or as in the KJ version, "Mansions". John 14:2). We have the picture that we, the Christian will be dwelling with God in Heaven. Read Rev 21:1-4 and John 14:13-17. Notice the order of residence of the Holy Spirit.
16And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped. 17And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle. (Rev 14:)
The Temple which is in Heaven. And on a cloud. Do you see the implications and the imagery here? Are things becoming a little clearer once the fantasies are removed and the real picture is revealed?
None of these make sense if viewed through the blinders of tradition. They're merely accepted "on faith" because of what the theologians have told us. But if we view Jesus and His ministry and parables simply by what we read and what is apparent, we miss the import of His mission on earth, and of His stories.
18And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass. 19And the FOUNDATIONS OF THE WALL of the city were garnished with all manner of PRECIOUS STONES. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; 20The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst. 21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. 22And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. 23And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. 24And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it. 25And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. 26And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. 27And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Rev 21:)
There is far to much in this passage to comment on here. It has been covered quite thoroughly in other studies. What I want to point out here is the foundation, the precious stones; and that nothing within the city is connected in any way with sin.
This "City" is thought by many, if not most of the churches to be a literal city. You and I know that such a view distorts the message God is giving us, and is impossible to reconcile with logic. All through the Bible God has given us stories using imagery and parables and illusions (visions, just as this one John is experiencing) to make a point clear to those willing to see through the eyes of God and not through filters of doctrine and tradition.
We of the Fundamentalist churches believe that God is mistaken here and that He will allow the slothful, the liars, and the abominable, just as long as they have been baptized with the right words said over them. God said no such people will be allowed in. Where are these people? I would say they're outside the gates weeping and gnashing teeth for eternity because of what they had missed out on due to allowing themselves to be deceived. That's just one man's opinion and means nothing, and it certainly has little application to what is being presented here in this study.
The building of the wall of it was of jasper: Jasper is an opaque variety of quartz, that apparently has been highly polished in this usage of the word since the Hebrew word (from which the Greek word used here was derived) means "polish."
Jasper was one of the stones mounted on the breastplate of the High Priest, indicating one of the tribes of Israel. There seems to be no other information given to us concerning this stone other then in Rev 4:3 where the One John saw sitting on the throne was like a jasper stone. We find here that the jasper was in the first row of the foundation of the wall. In Exodus 28:20-21 we read that the jasper was one of the stones mounted on the breast plate of the High Priest. In the 21st chapter of Revelation, verse 14 we read where the city has 12 foundations made up of the twelve Apostles. Then in 1Cor 3:10 we read where Paul said he has laid the foundation of the church. What we are looking at here are people like you and me, referred to as stones and jewels.
Considering this fact, along with what we see in the description following this, it might be safe to assume John is telling us that the city is made up of the saints, not of bricks and mortar. More on this coming up:
The foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. In another part of this revelation we see that the walls themselves are also constructed of these same precious stones, "Jewels" as described elsewhere. In a bit we'll be looking into the wall and these jewels more extensively.
We know beyond doubt what and Who the corner stone of this building is. But what, or who, is the foundation?
19Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; 20And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. (Eph 2:)
Now I would like to ask you seriously, without the capstone of doctrine: If the foundation and the cornerstone of this "Building," this huge 1,500 mile wide and high city as so many believe it to be, is made up of people, of flesh and blood; does it make any sense to believe that the rest of the building, this New Jerusalem, which is the bride, which we know to be the Church, is composed of bricks, stone and gold?
God is dwelling in His Temple, which is in Heaven, which we are if we are part of the body of Christ through truth, and through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said:
12I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. 13Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: (John 16:)
23But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:)
31Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:)
It's not church doctrine, or tradition, or faith, or memorizing the Bible that will set us free. Only truth will set us free. If we're not in tune to the Spirit, if we have our ears tuned to the thousands of false doctrines floating around in the churches insisting they be accepted and believed, we won't be able to hear the Holy Spirit when He leads us to all truth. If we are indeed hearing the Holy Spirit, and abiding in the Word, then we are part of Church, the Body of Christ. I we are not abiding in Christ, and not hearing the Words of God because of having our ears filled with doctrinal earwax, then we are either not a part of the body of Christ, or we're quenching the Spirit.
19And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail. (Rev 11:)
Earlier we looked at the Ark of the Covenant and we saw that the Ark is Jesus. The Ark is in Heaven. And we found that Heaven is where? And we found that God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus are where? Then where is the Ark of the Covenant?
13And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? 14And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and HAVE WASHED THEIR ROBES, AND MADE THEM WHITE in the blood of the Lamb. 15Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. 16They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. 17For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. (Rev 7:)
First take note that these saints have washed their own robes and made them white. They're not sitting around waiting for Jesus to cleanse them (see Rev 19:7 for more on who prepares whom.)
And serve him day and night in his temple. We hear songs that state how wonderful it will be to be in heaven where we will have nothing to do but sing praises to God and worship Him day and night. Consider, if indeed we are already in Heaven (partial realm according to Paul 1Cor 13:10), then it's here and now we are to be serving God day and night. This has been made clear both in the psalms and in the lives of the Apostles, and it has been verified by the Words of Jesus in His commandments to those who choose to follow Him. If we're not serving God in the here and now, we're serving ourself. And if we don't serve God in this life, what possible reason would we think God will have us serving Him in eternity?
3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. (Rev 21:)
16Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? 17If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are. (1Cor 3:)
10For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; (1Cor 8:)
If we are the Temple of God, then what is the "Idol's temple"?
19Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20But that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. (Acts 15:)
Of course the Gentiles, having no direct communication and union, therefore no understanding of the True God, created gods of their own imaginings. They formed rituals, built temples, and created images to and of these false gods. To partake of these rituals or in any way seem to give credence to these gods is an abomination to God. Those of us who understand the freedom given to us understand that these gods are not real. Therefore anything sacrificed to these nonexistent gods is not polluted. But if a person believes that our eating meats offered to these idols is acknowledging the validity of the idol or god, then they can be harmed by our action.
A Gentile who has grown up believing in false gods is going to have an inborn respect and regard for those imaginary gods. Telling someone they are worshiping, or have been worshiping something that isn't real isn't going to cause them to change their mind about that object. They will still believe as they had, at least for a time. Therefore they must resist their impulse to do as they had been taught to do, and as their society tells them they should (and must) do.
You and I have certain habits we've grown up with and that have become a part of us. When we become a Christian we don't automatically lose those desires, cravings and habits. Yes, I know there are people who have, but that doesn't mean we all do. I see signs in the Apostles that indicate they may well have retained some of their old habits even after receiving the Holy Spirit. I know that certainly is the case with me, and I assume it to be the case with others as well.
Is it possible that a temple to idols or false gods is anything other than what belongs in the Temple of God, which we've seen we are? If we take in something that defiles this temple, if we do something that damages this temple, either by reputation or actual defilement, aren't we giving God a bad name? What about our habits, or our satisfying of the flesh, even if that be a small things such as the reading material we choose, the music we listen to, or the clothes we choose to wear? Can our lifestyle be a blasphemy to the Lord and therefore be a regarded as a temple of false gods? Just something to think about.
There's one interesting thing about the verse we're looking at that still puzzles me. Peter said the only restrictions that were to be placed on the believing Gentiles were that they should obtain from idols, from blood, and from things strangled. Not eating things offered to idols we can understand, especially for a new Gentile convert. And obtaining from blood, which is a restriction placed on the Jews by Moses we can well understand. But why didn't he mention adultery, murder, and the many other sins we read about so frequently in the letters from Paul? How about loving one's brother? And what is this about things strangled? This was not a part of the Mosaic law that I can find. Yet it has been mentioned twice more, the last time in the 21st chapter of acts, with the added proviso that a person refrain from fornication. What is my answer to this? I have none. But the answer I've been given, that Peter was new at his job and was speaking from the top of his head, makes no sense to me at all. Either this is God's book, and everything we see is true, or it's nothing, and we might as well go play a round of golf.
3Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. (2Thes 2:)
Most of us accept that what is described here will take place in the future, and the near future at that. We see from the Book of Daniel that this person or system will begin softly, and then turn on those who have trusted him. This is not a new pattern, we see it frequently throughout history. During the period surrounding the second world war this pattern was particularly prevalent in many areas of the world.
Jesus said this person, the "Beast," will be so persuasive that he will deceive even the elect of God if it were possible (Mat 24:24). How could a heathen or a non believer deceive the dedicated Christian? Aren't we told that baptized Christians have within them, and as their guide, the Holy Spirit of God? Wouldn't you think if this was the case the Holy Spirit would warn the Christian that he or she was entering dangerous territory? Consider if you will: If the Holy Spirit is guiding the Christian into truth, and I do believe He is, then why are there so many different views of what the Lord has said? And why aren't the Christians doing what they have been commanded to do? Why is the Christian behaving like everyone else in the world? Since these conditions exist, why would we assume the Holy Spirit is going to keep us from falling into deception when the entire world recognizes the Beast as the Messiah?
We're looking at the Temple of God and what it means to us. Notice that the Beast will sit in the Temple. There is no Temple, and as I see it there will be no structure called the Temple. I know the experts say there will be, and that everything is in readiness (which we've been hearing for 35 years or more), but the "Experts" have been wrong before. I look at Scripture, and at patterns presented in Scripture. I see no sign that there will be a Temple constructed at this time. In history and in the Old Testament we find the Tabernacle fairly well abandoned before David's reign. We are now living in that period of time exemplified by the Pre Davidic kingdom. At that time the Temple was being prepared by David, which would be built by his son. We today are parts and pieces, members of the body, and stones with which to build the Temple. We find this all through Paul's writings.
This pattern will continue through David's reign, which is the Millennium, David's thousand-year reign. The Temple was not built during David's reign, and it won't be built or standing during the Millennium. After the thousand year reign of David we see the Temple once again, but it is not built of stones or metal, it's constructed of people, of the Messiah as the cornerstone and the Apostles as the foundation and the Christian as the building itself. We find the gates to be, as I believe it to be, the law of the Jews (indicated by the twelve gates called by the name of the tribes) and the outer wall to be the 144,000 who are the firstfruits who protect and prepare the true Christian, the bride, in the way of truth during the Tribulation and the Millennium.
This is a very brief and incomplete picture of what I see, and I have little doubt but that everyone will disagree with me and shoot holes all through my reasoning. That's ok, I'm just presenting this possibility for your consideration and to add some possibilities outside the established doctrines.
If the Temple is not going to exist until after the Millennium, then where is it the Beast sits to declare himself god? Let's take a look at some Scripture and see if we can find the Temple the Beast will sit in:
1The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork. (Psalm 19:)
10For thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds. (Psalm 57:)
11Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. 12Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice. 13Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth. (Psalm 96:)
2Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. (Isaiah 1:)
23Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel. (Isaiah 44:)
12Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time. (Rev 12:)
1And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars:
1And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will show unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters: 2With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication. 3So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. 4And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication: 5And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. (Rev 17:)
Notice the many uses of metaphor, simile and parables God has used in the Word to present to us a vivid picture of what He wants us to know. Jesus is well known to have used trees, stalks of wheat, sheep, goats, vines, lamps, and many other animal and inanimate objects to put His point across. If we take the Words of Jesus, and those of the Old Testament and Revelation, and force them into a literal understanding we will have lost every aspect of what God is saying. Trees are not trees, water is not water, and clouds are not clouds:
23And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town; and when he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought. 24And he looked up, and said, I see men as trees, walking. (Mark 8:)
3And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. 4These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. (Rev 11:)
Trees are not trees:
5And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. (Rev 17:)
3Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life. (John 4:)
5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (John 3:)
And water is not water.
Water we know is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. And without the Holy Spirit, without being born of the Holy Spirit, therefore born of water, a person can not see life. If this is true, that the water is the Holy Spirit, then what is meant in the first verse listed above that speaks of nations and people being represented by water? And Rev 1:15 when John says he heard a voice as many waters?
1And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. 2And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, (Rev 14:)
Notice that the voice is from Heaven. If Heaven is people, which is my contention, then what is being said here? Where is the voice coming from?
Note also that the 144,000 have a name written on their forehead. Do you suppose they actually have words written on their forehead? Or do you think that the words are symbolic of something else? Now, consider this:
15And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. 16And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: (Rev 13:)
Are you getting a picture? With this picture in mind, give thought to these passages:
5And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH. (Rev 17:)
3And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 4And it was commanded them that they should not hurt the grass of the earth, neither any green thing, neither any tree; but only those men which have not the seal of God in their foreheads. (Rev 9:)
3And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: 4And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. (Rev 22:)
This last passage gives rise to another interesting possibility. Jesus said:
24God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:)
If God is Spirit, then how are we to behold His face? God is everywhere. God has no face. God does not have a body that can be sitting on a throne somewhere in the atmosphere. If any of what I just said is true, than what are we to understand from these symbolic terms? Are we just supposed to dismiss them and pretend like God isn't saying something important but rather just giving us rhetoric? Of course we know this isn't what He's doing, so we have to look into the Bible deeper than our carnal minds can calculate and let the Spirit of God instruct us.
More to consider:
6This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. 7For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 8And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. (1John 5:)
This passage has created more confusion within the churches, and more contention, than just about any other. The Trinity is a belief that not only separates denominations, but Monotheistic religions besides. Those who believe in the Trinity cling to this passage, and those who deny the existence of a Trinity excuse this passage and others possibly giving credence to the Trinity as ramblings of a wayward scribe. But just between you and me, let's consider a different view of the matter.
God is Spirit. The Holy Spirit is Spirit. And if you read the following, you will see that Jesus is also Spirit. What does this mean to you? Anything? Can you see how they can be one, if they are one and the same?
17Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2Cor 3:)
20At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. (John 14:)
Jesus is not able to be in all of us if He is flesh and blood. I don't think anyone will disagree with this statement. Then there are only two options I can see if we want to retain this passage in the Bible. Jesus is Spirit, or this passage is somehow mistaken or so esoteric that it is beyond us to comprehend. I believe it's the former of these two options. How about you?
There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. Whether you want to consider the Word as Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or the Father, there is no conflict in this verse:
And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. Jesus is the blood, I think we'll all agree on this. And if Jesus is also Spirit, which I think we can assume Him to be because of the above reasoning, then again we have just one person being spoken of here.
I think this is a good place to explain something. It's all too easy to think that I am saying that Jesus was not real, or that He was merely a mirage or a special incarnation of God and not born of Adamic flesh. This is far from true. I believe Jesus was fully man just as you and I are. Where I part company with the traditional view is in thinking that Jesus was also all Spirit. I believe Jesus was man led by the Holy Spirit, therefore by God Himself. This is nothing so incredible since we're told over and over, and by many different people, that we too are supposed to be filled with the Holy Spirit as Jesus was, and to be led by the Father. As Jesus is, so are we to be. We're told that when Jesus appears we will see Him, and we will be like Him. This means we will also be Spirit. Does this mean we won't have flesh and bones? Some think this is the case, I for one do not. I think what we saw in Jesus, is what we will be. How is such a thing possible? I'm not going to pretend that I know. I only know this is what I see in God's Word.
Have you ever had the experience of struggling to remove a lid from a jar that just would not budge, then someone much smaller than yourself comes along and removes it easily? What was happening? You were applying so much force to the lid that you were meshing the lid to the jar with your fingers. Removing the force, and applying even pressure over the entire lid allowed it to be removed. This is what I see theologians doing: Trying to force their doctrine into the Words God has given us. And when the Bible doesn't fit the doctrines, instead of releasing the doctrine, they say the Bible is in error somehow. We can't change God's Word and expect to learn from what we read. We must relax our beliefs, our preconceived ideas, and allow the Holy Spirit to interpret the Word for us.
There's another thing I would like to make clear at this point as well. We humans, and especially those of us in the Church, have a way of seeing everything in black or white. "If you don't agree with me, then you have to be wrong." That's the way we see the Scriptures, and the way we see one another. God does no work in black or white as we see contrasts. He sees things in black and white. He sees from the beginning to the end, top to bottom, up and down. We need to see in this same way. Jesus said we're not to condemn, but to love. Judging others is not loving them. If we make an effort to understand others rather than casting them off because they disagree with us, we then are able to help them, and they to help us. Truth is not found by yanking on the end of ropes, but by coming together in understanding.
When we're looking at trees, or water, or clouds; and we see they can mean something different than what we normally picture, it's all too easy to begin looking at everything in a spiritual or esoteric (special, secret or mystical meanings) way. Water often means water, trees often do mean trees and not people. We have to let the Lord tell us if the trees are people or if they are trees. We don't want to jump of the proverbial deep end searching for the truth. We might find ourself bashing our head on a log floating by we hadn't seen, just as I believe the denominations have done.
That said, let's look at some more Scripture. Remember, even though I'm taking us in circles as we examine the many aspects that present themselves, we're looking at the churches and how they have become a business. Discovering how they've gone astray is my effort here. I hope you, as well as I, can keep this in mind.
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