Wednesday, February 1, 2017

THE POWER OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES

2 Timothy 3:15-17 > You must know the reality of the Word of God > That the Holy Scriptures are truly God-breathed - Inspired by God the Holy Spirit > That the Scriptures are Faithful and True (Revelation 22:6)

2 Peter 1:1-21 > You must know that the Scriptures were Spoken by holy men who were moved by the Holy Spirit > That the Scriptures were not given a private interpretation, (the prophets - Apostles - Evangelists recorded the Voice of the Spirit in Scripture), but were truly written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit > You must know that the Scriptures are a "more sure word of prophecy", meaning more sure than actually hearing a voice from heaven like Peter did on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-5) > The Scriptures can be trusted, believed , obeyed, and acted upon > And note the context of verses 16-21 by looking back to verses 1 - 15 > God is calling us to "partake of the divine nature"(verse 4)  > And how do we do that? By the exceeding great and precious promises (verse 4) and by the things that pertain to "life and godliness" that His divine power has given to us (verse 2) . It's by this knowledge that  the Grace and peace of God are "multiplied" to us - It is how what is written in verses 5-15 become a reality.

1 Peter 2:2 > We must "desire the sincere milk of the Word of God > We must realize the Word of God is our "necessary' spiritual food (Job 23:12)  > That the Scriptures are to be eaten and to become "the joy and rejoicing of my heart (Jeremiah 15:16) > The Word of God is sweeter than honey and the honey comb (Psalm19)

John 14:15-23 > Keeping the words of Jesus brings you into communion with the Holy Trinity.

Acts 20:32 > The Word of His Grace is able to build you up > Deuteronomy 6:3-9 - You are to love God, put God's Word in your hearts, and teach them diligently to your children by speaking them at all times; when you rise up, when you walk in the way, when you sit in your house, and when you lie down > Joshua 1:8 - You are to meditate on the Word of God day and night.

John 8:12-59 > "Love for truth is the cornerstone of spiritual life" > Truth is a person - JESUS CHRIST!!! (John 14:6) > The "Truth" Jesus is speaking of in John 8:31,32 is the "Truth" that He is the great "I AM" (verse 58) > It is through the words of the prophets (the Hebrew Scriptures/Old Testament) that the Jews could know that He, Jesus, is the "One", the "Messiah". > The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth (John 16:13-16) > The Truth is embodied in the Church, which is the "pillar and ground of the Truth" (1 Timothy 3:15) (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 11:2,23) > The Household of Faith ie., the Church is built upon the Apostles and Prophets (their teachings both written and oral) and primarily upon the Teachings and Life of Jesus (Ephesians 2:19-22; Ephesians 4:1-16) > You are sanctified ie., glorified, divinized, transformed, transfigured, saved from sin, set apart from this worlds power, by the Words of Jesus, the Truth of Jesus - John 17:17-20 > The Mystery of Christ, which was revealed to the holy apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit, can be understood "when you read" what is written in Scripture (Ephesians 3:4-6)

Acts 17:10,11 > We should be like the "noble Bereans" and "receive the Word with readiness of mind, and search the Scriptures DAILY" > "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good" -
1 Thessalonians 5:21 > All of us, but especially the bishops(Elders/pastors), should "study" the scriptures (2 Timothy 2:14-18) and even more so the young preachers (1 Timothy 4:12-16) > "May the sun, on rising, find you with a Bible in your hands" (Evagrius - 4th c.)

Matthew 7:24-27 > Build your house on the rock by being a doer of the words of Jesus - which means we do what Jesus taught in the very sermon(on the mount - Matthew 5:1-7:22) which he finished up with the challenge and warning about building your house/life on sand of disobedience or the rock of odedience!!! Jesus in-depth teaching on "the spiritual life" should be memorized and practiced in the community of saints, the Church. That's us. We do these things together!!! > "Be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only - James 1:18-27 > Psalm 1:1-3; Psalm 119!!! > "The Scriptures were not given to have merely in books, but that we may engrave them on our hearts" (St John Chrysostom 4th c.)

John 15:1-8 > We are the branches, Christ is the Vine. God's will is for us to be "clean through the Word"(verse 3), Washed by the washing of the Word(Ephesians 5:26) > we keep His life flowing through us by obeying this command, "if you abide in me and my words abide in you" > We are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds(Romans 12:1,2)

Ephesians 6:10-18 > We are to do spiritual warfare with "all kinds of prayer" taking "the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God" > We are to follow Jesus example - Matthew 4:1-11 - resisting the lies of the devil with "It is written..." > We are to "Let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly" by teaching and admonishing one another in "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs"(Colossians 3:16) - This is done primarily when we gather together to pray the "Psalms" or "sing songs of true worship".


Sunday, January 29, 2017

FALSE TEACHERS AND ITCHING EARS

"Love for Truth is the Cornerstone of the Spiritual Life"

The Teachings of Jesus are the Truth!!!

You Must Know and Obey the Truth of Jesus's Teachings to have a Genuine Spiritual Life!!!

Jesus's teaching, that we know as the "Sermon on the Mount", is the basic commands of living the Spiritual Life of the Kingdom of Heaven!!!

Matthew 7:15-23
Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves."(Matthew 7:15) These particular false prophets are portrayed in verses 21-23 as having misconstrued the true Gospel with pseudo-charismatic ministry, "...have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?" Jesus responds, "I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity". Certainly there are genuine charismatics in the Body of Christ, but I submit they do not make a sideshow out the gifts of the Holy Spirit. True charismatics(those holy people called and gifted) operate in humility and lowliness. They are not flying jets and driving limos paid for by the widows mite sent into the address on the TV screen. WHERE IS DISCERNMENT? WHERE IS SPIRITUAL COMMON SENSE? WHERE IS OUR OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST'S WORDS "Beware of false prophets..."? Jesus warns us to beware of these phonies who misuse the gifts of the Holy Spirit or manufacture some imitation of the spiritual gifts.

2 Timothy 4:1-4
"I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine: but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables". > This passage of scripture seems to be made for today!!! People who have itchy ears that can only be scratched by teachers telling them what they want to hear. People want teachers who will cater to their lusts/desires. Instead of living a life of repentance, where we welcome reproof, rebuke, and exhortations. Those with itching ears welcome fables, fairy tales that are without one sound doctrine. We read about what sound doctrine is in 1 Timothy 6:2-21 > "These things teach and exhort. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to the wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ(FOUND IN THE 4 GOSPELS), and to the doctrine which is according to godliness: he is proud(a fool), knowing nothing..." So firstly we must compare what any and every minister says with the very "words of our Lord Jesus Christ", and secondly, we must judge every teaching with whether or not it leads us into godliness. Paul goes on describing these false teachers to Timothy saying, "knowing nothing, but doting(being fond of) about questions and strifes of words, whereof comes envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, (NOTICE THE NEXT CHARACTERISTIC OF THESE FALSE TEACHERS) supposing that gain is godliness: from such turn away. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. and having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will(boolomahee/Greek - purpose, resolve to be) be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred(been seduced) from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (verses 4-10) > St Paul is warning Timothy and warning all of us that we must scrutinize teachers in light of the teachings of Jesus and the doctrine that is according to godliness. Whether a person has no money or lots of money they must live according to these truths and turn away from any teachers who teach falsely and plant in their hearts the desire to be rich. It is possible to possess wealth and not be covetous, and it is possible to not have two nickels to rub together and be filled with covetousness. The Apostle is teaching us, whether we have wealth or not, that it always goes back to what Jesus himself taught about money, possessions, and things(Luke 12:13-21; Mark 4:14-20; Luke 16:19-31), as well as what Jesus taught about the way(Matthew 5-7), the truth(John 14-17, the life(John 3-8). St Paul adds an exhortation for those who are rich in verses 17-19 later in this pasage in 1 Timothy 6. "Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life". Paul instructs Timothy to "Charge", ie. "pass on this teaching", that if you do possess the riches of this world that you are to be rich in good works. At the same same time let's be reminded that Jesus was most impressed by the giving of a destitute widow(Mark 12:41-44) who gave her last two coins(maybe 4 cents) to God's treasury which helped to feed the poor!!! Jesus wants all of us, no matter our financial state, to do alms.
    NOTE: In the final verses of this passage of 1 Timothy 6 St Paul addresses another kind of false teaching to be avoided. There will be teachers who will oppose the Gospel(from within and without the Church) with "profane and vain babblings" opposing Christ with "science falsely so called". Today we see this everywhere, teachers calling something scientific, or factual, when it actually is just a theory at best, or just not true. Today science has been turned into scientism, the natural sciences have become a religion all its own. Paul says they are falsely calling their teachings a science, when what is being taught is actually not based in experimental data, but in a religious philosophy. Today we must be aware of secular humanism, or atheistic humanism, and we must be aware of darwinian evolution. Paul warns in verse 21 that even some have erred from the faith. The warning here is not to get sucked into their "profane and vain babblings" or their arguments of pseudo-science.
   
2 Corinthians 2:17 > "For we are not as many, which corrupt(hucksterize - Greek/kapeleuo) the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in/of Christ". The word "corrupt" in the Greek is speaking of a pedlar who is a huckster, one who is out for personal advantage, one trying to acquire dishonest gain(Vines p. 242). These false teachers make merchandise of souls through covetousness(Titus 1:11-16;             2 Peter2:1-22; Jude 1-16;). So, when a minister, whether on TV, the radio, or in the pulpit promises you something in return for a generous offering turn them into the "Better Business Bureau" :) . Well, actually throw eggs!!! Well, just turn and run, or ignore, or avoid, shun, or do all the above!!!

2 Corinthians 4:1,2 > "Therefore seeing that we have this ministry(LOOK ABOVE INTO CHAPTER 3 - THE MINISTRY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TRANSFORMING PEOPLE FROM GLORY TO GLORY), as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully..." > St Paul here instructs us by way of comparison between ministers who have "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty", and those ministers who walk "in craftiness" and "handle the word of God deceitfully". The honest ministers are careful not to mishandle the word of God, they are striving to see people transformed from glory to glory by the Holy Spirit. The false ministers adulterate the word of Truth, they take passages out of context to prove their false doctrine. Some will use whichever modern translation backs their unscriptural ideas. In a word, they are "crafty". St Paul says, "That we henceforth be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ"(Ephesians 4:14,15). The "winds of doctrine" that cause us to be tossed "to and fro" are perpetrated upon us by "the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness". The word "sleight" in Greek is "kubia" or "kubeia" and denotes dice-playing(from kubos, a cube, a die as used in gaming); hence, metaphorically, trickery, sleight. The English word is connected with sly(Vines p. 40). False teachers are like card-sharks or those who roll the dice. There hands are quicker than your eyes and they take your money!!! These false teachers use subtilty, like the serpent in the garden of Eden with Eve. St Paul says, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might well bear with (me) (2 Corinthians 11:3,4). Four points here; 1)Satan tempted Eve with a promise that she could become a god without God, that she could be a god through secret knowledge/wisdom(gnosticism)(Genesis 3:1-6). Eve's mind was corrupted by the subtilty of Satan's lies. False teachers often speak lies in such a way that those not grounded in the Faith can have their minds corrupted from the simplicity of Christ, and sell you a complex system of principles and steps on how to manipulate God to do things for you or to generate magical powers to cause things to come your way. In a word, witchcraft. You are taught by these false teachers how to manipulate God to do your will. (Read James 4:1-10). 2) Another Jesus? It is possible to be sold another Jesus besides the Jesus whom Paul preached. We must know the Apostolic Faith concerning the person of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, one of the Holy Trinity!!! 3) Another Spirit? Again, we must know the Apostolic Faith concerning the person and work of the Holy Spirit so that we are not deceived into falsehoods concerning the Holy Spirit. 4) Another Gospel? And yet again, we must know the Gospel according to the Apostles and Prophets. In Galatians 1:6-12 St Paul tells us of the possibility of preachers coming along who pervert the Gospel, creating their own version of the Gospel. So, we see that false teachers attack the heart of the Apostolic Faith; they present a different Jesus, maybe one who is not God, or a Jesus who is not fully human, or a Jesus who was raised from the dead as a spirit and not bodily(1 John 4:1-6; 2 John 7-11); they present another Holy Spirit, one who is not one of the Holy Trinity, or a Spirit who is just an impersonal force; they present a different Gospel; some false teachers present a Gospel of salvation by works alone, or they present a Gospel of cheap grace, or a Gospel of prosperity and perfect health with no mention of suffering.

2 Peter 3:16-18 > St Peter warns us that St Paul's epistles contain some things that are difficult to understand. Let us approach the Word of God with humility. False teachers pretend to know everything. They tend to speak for God even where God didn't speak. Many things are a mystery. By mystery we do not mean God has not revealed truth or left us in the dark, but that He has not always revealed why or how something could be true. Examples: the incarnation, the virgin birth, the two natures of Christ, the Holy Trinity, the bodily resurrection of Christ, the Holy Communion being His body and blood. These truths have been given to us to apprehend, even if we cannot comprehend why or how.

2 Timothy 2:14-17 > St Paul writes to St Timothy, his son in the faith, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth"(verse 15). God's ministers must study. They must approach the Holy Scriptures as a workman, as one who labors at knowing and understanding the scriptures. They must "rightly divide" the word of truth, that is, interpret the scriptures according to Jesus and by the Holy Spirit. Read Luke 24:13-35. Take note how the scriptures were opened to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. In verses 16-18 of 2 Timothy take note that St Paul will name names to expose false teachers who have erred concerning the truth and overthrow the faith of some Christians. The false teaching of Philetus and Hymenaeus had the effect of gangrene on the body.

Acts 20:28-35 > With tears St Paul warned the Elders of the Church for three years day and night. In his farewell address to these Elders he warns "that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them"(verse 29,30). St Paul commends the Elders "to God, and to the word of his grace"(verse 32). Earlier he tells the Elders to "feed the church of God"(verse 28). St Paul also reminds the Elders of his own example as it relates to sacrificial living(verses 33-35). The Elders were to be the Truth-tellers, and the guardians of the flock of God.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is time to take a stand against all the false teachers, in all their varied forms. You will judge angels in the future, now it is time to judge wolves!!!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

THE RULE OF DOING ALMS

***The "Sermon On The Mount"(Mountain) is the New Law of God given by Jesus and is a parallel to the Law of God given by Moses in the Old Testament. You see in Matthew 5:17-48 Jesus giving us illumination of the laws of God that Moses had articulated. The laws of God were not done away with, but given a new and deeper, spiritual meaning. This portion of the "Sermon On The Mountain" will be addressed in a future post. I would like to share with you a series of 3 posts on Matthew 6:1-18; 1)The Rule Of Doing Alms, 2) The Rule Of Prayer, and 3) The Rule of Fasting.***

Matthew 6:1-4 > "Take heed that you do not do your alms*** before men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore WHEN you do your alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily (truly) I say to you, they have their reward. But WHEN you do your alms, let not your left hand know what your right hand is doing: that your alms may be in secret: and your Father which sees in secret himself will reward you openly."

***Alms > Greek is eleemosune = merciful; from eleos = compassionate, tender mercy > Doing alms is doing "acts of mercy" > The NKJV translates alms as "charitable deeds" > Strongs Concordance defines alms as compassionateness, beneficence > When we say "Lord have mercy" we are saying "Lord have steadfast love" (see post on LORD HAVE MERCY) > The NIV translates alms as 1)"acts of righteousness" and 2)"when you give to the needy" > I think doing alms includes giving to the needy, but also includes many other acts of mercy; visiting the sick and the suffering; visiting those in prison, clothing and feeding the poor, providing water to the thirsty: taking in the stranger and the homeless(Hebrews 13:1,2; Matthew 25:31-46), helping the orphans, the fatherless and the true widows(James 1:27; 1 Timothy 5:3-6) > All these "acts of mercy" are "acts of righteousness" and ties in perfectly with Matthew 6:33, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..." Living "the Life of the Kingdom" is to live "as Jesus lived", laying down your life continuously for all of mankind. >

1 John 3:16-18 > This is how we know the love of God and how we know "if" the love of God lives in us > Are we laying down our lives for the brethren? we who have this world's goods(KJV, NKJV), material possessions(NIV), do we shut up our bowels of compassion(KJV), do we shut up our hearts(NKJV), do we not have pity(NIV)?

James 2:14-26 > Read the entire book of James realizing that James is writing to the Church about the dynamics between the rich and the poor. James is laying out the tensions and temptations that we face in our relationships as brothers and sisters in Christ > How should we relate to one another? > And, how do our actions reflect on our relationship with God? Are we phonies? Are we true disciples? Is our faith dead or alive? > James 2:17 says, "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being alone." So verse 15 and 16 is the "litmus test". Do you turn red with the acid of parsimony, or turn blue with the alkalinity of love?

NOTE: Jesus does not say "If you do alms" but "WHEN you do alms". The three "rules" or "practices" that Jesus prescribes  as basic to the spiritual life, ie. the life of "the Kingdom of God" are
1)Doing Alms, 2)Prayer, and 3)Fasting. > On all three accounts Jesus says, "WHEN", not "if", you "do alms...pray...fast". Whether you practice these three "disciplines", ie "disciple-deeds", is not optional, but a command, they are not a devotional choice, but an "obedience". > But how are these to be understood?

2 Corinthians 8:9 > Living the "Kingdom Life" is to live the "life of Christ" (Galatians 2:20,21) > To literally "renounce the world, then detach from the world, then become exiled from the world" (Matthew 16:24-27) > Knowing that you are no longer of the world(John 15:19; John 17:5-26); you are "strangers and pilgrims abstaining from fleshly desires..."(1 Peter 2:11); arm yourself with the "mind of Christ", to spend the remainder of your life doing the will of God(1 Peter 4:1-7) > You are in this world, but you are not of this world > Jesus gave us the ultimate example in 2 Corinthians 8:9 - "though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich" > If we are truly to be like Christ then we will become poor so others can be enriched. > NOTE: This verse is often twisted(by TV preachers)to teach the exact opposite of what it is actually communicating!!! We are told that this verse is saying we are to be rich, when it is really saying we are to be like Christ who sacrifices his riches and becomes poor so that others can be enriched!!! Of course God has chosen to bless everyone with a different amount of this world's goods requiring that we all work out our own salvation with fear and trembling(Philippians 2:12) > Jesus taught, "No man can serve two masters...you cannot serve God and Mammon."(Matthew 6:24) > God can be your master or Money(Mammon) can be your master, but not both at the same time!!! > Where is your heart/treasure?(6:19-21) > Is the light in you darkness, or is the light in you true light?(6:22,23) > Do you hang on to everything you can , or do you trust your heavenly Father to provide for you as you provide for those in need?(6:25-34)

1 Timothy 6:5-11 > This passage is self-evident, almost too clear to believe > You brought nothing into this world, you certainly will take nothing out > Contentment is the issue, and what can help us is focusing on the topic of this post > by making "almsgiving" a spiritual practice, that defines who we are in the Kingdom of Life, we are cured of these temptations > If you carefully read the above passage - 1 Timothy 6:1-5 - you will see that we are warned to withdraw from those who teach "that gain is godliness"(verse 5) > We are to ignore those teachers who "teach otherwise, and do not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine according to godliness"(verse3) - We are told here by St Paul that these false "teachers of gain" "are proud, knowing nothing...men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth(verse 4,5) - Prosperity teachers are to be ignored, for no matter how slick their schtick, they do error, they twist the beautiful truth into an ugly lie. And the result, if you buy into their lies? They will plant in your heart the seeds of "desire to be rich" and "you will fall into a temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful desires, which drown men in destruction and perdition(verse9) - AND WHY IS THIS SO? "Because the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some coveted after, THEY HAVE ERRED FROM THE FAITH, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows"(verse 10) > The answer, the antidote to their poisonous doctrine - "FLEE", "O man of God, FLEE these things; and FOLLOW AFTER righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness, FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH, lay hold on eternal life.(verse 11,12). Phew!!!

Saint of Interest > St John the Merciful,  aka, St John the Almsgiver, was a 7th century bishop in Alexandria Egypt who is known for his, you guessed it, his almsgiving. Read more about him at:

www.orthodoxwiki.org/John_the_Merciful

www.oca.org/saints/lives/2013/11/12/103286/-st-john-the-merciful-patriarch-of-alexandria





Monday, January 16, 2017

THE RAPTURE VERSUS HOLY SCRIPTURE

Could it be that the great apostasy that will come upon the world shortly before the second coming of Jesus Christ will be fueled by the popular myth of a "pre-tribulational rapture". Christians who have believed the lie of a "secret evacuation" from the earth before the terrible days of the "Great Tribulation" will doubt their faith in the face of persecution and martyrdom. Christians who live in the West in ease and prosperity have been sold a fable that there lives will be lived out free of the horrors of the "Great tribulation". Television evangelists and Pastor-authors propagate the lie of a "secret rapture". John Hagee, Charles Stanley, David Jeremiah, John MacArthur, Perry Stone, and on and on it goes.

Jesus praying to His Father said, "I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one". (John 17:15)

The historic teaching of the Church has always been that the second coming of Christ is a singular event at the time of the end, the day of the Lord, when the dead will be raised, and the judgment will take place (John 5:24-29; Matthew 25:31-46). The Church Fathers never mention a "secret rapture" that would take place prior to the second coming of Jesus Christ. It wasn't until 1830 that such a doctrine was contrived and later made popular via the Scofield Study Bible. Today this innovative false doctrine is mainstream among tens of millions of Evangelicals and Charismatics. And even culture at-large is steeped in this lie through the "Left Behind" books and movies.

The passage of scripture used so often as the basis of the "pre-trib rapture" is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17. This passage is clearly teaching about the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection of believers. Both those who have died (fallen asleep), and those "who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord" will be "caught up" to meet the Lord in the air!!! This catching up is clearly the resurrection of the believers at the second coming of Jesus Christ. "The word translated as "caught up" is a form of the Greek verb harpazo. The Vulgate, the official Latin version of the Bible used by the  Roman Catholic Church, translates the Greek verb in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 as rapiemur (from the Latin verb rapio, to sieze and carry off), hence the English word rapture." (T.L. Frazier, p.146, A Second Look at the Second Coming, Conciliar Press). It is true that we will be "caught up" at the second coming of Jesus Christ. This is the resurrection promised by Jesus Himself. The trump of God will sound, and the archangel will shout (Daniel 12:1-3), and the saints will meet the Lord in the air.

St John Chrysostom in his commentary on 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 asks, "If He (Christ) is about to descend, on what account shall we be caught up? For the sake of honor. For when a king drives into a city, those who are in honor go out to meet him; but the condemned await the judge within. And upon the coming of an affectionate father, his children indeed, and those who are worthy to be his children, are taken out in a chariot, that they may see and kiss him: but those of the domestics who have offended remain within". (John Chrysostom, Homilies on Thessalonians, Holily 8). After we meet Christ in the air, we escort Him "into the city" (to the earth) as He continues His descent. Jesus then judges humanity, and the saints remain forever with Christ in His eternal kingdom. The shout of the archangel alerts the saints that the King is coming, and the saints go out to meet their King in honor, then escort their King to the earth in clouds of great glory.

This same idea is communicated by Jesus himself in his teaching the parable of the "Ten Virgins" in Matthew 25:1-12. The Church is the bride of Christ, a chaste virgin (2 Corinthians 11:2), who, upon hearing the cry, "Behold, The Bridegroom Cometh", goes out to meet Him, and all of those "that were ready" went in with Him to the Marriage (Revelation 19).

In Matthew 24:40-42 Jesus teaches that at His coming "one will be taken, and the other left". The leap is made by Pre-trib Prophecy teachers (with some twisting of scripture mixed with false presuppositions) that this passage depicts a "catching up" before the second coming. But just a few verses before this in Matthew 24:29-31 Jesus proclaims that His coming will be "AFTER THE TRIBULATION of those days".

Other passages that are "used" to teach a pre-trib rapture are John 14:1-3; Revelation 4:1; 1 Corinthians 15:50-53; 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8; Revelation 3:10. The only way a Christian pastor can come to the conclusion that these passages teach a pre-tribulational rapture is if they are first steeped in dispensationalism and thus come to the text of Scripture with tainted glasses that cause them to see things that are not there.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

THE ONE AND ONLY SECOND COMING

"...And I believe in One Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God....and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end..." (From The Nicene Creed)


The Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus will come a second time to the earth. The first time He came in humility, taking on the form of a servant (Phil 2:5-9). The second time He will come in glory to judge the living and the dead (2 Timothy 4:1,2; Hebrews 9:26-28). It has been said that in the 260 chapters that make up the New Testament that there are 300 references to the second coming of Jesus Christ. Someone please count them for me!!!

The Second Coming of Jesus Christ is a singular event. No where in Scripture do we see mentioned a two-part return of Jesus; first a secret rapture, then a few years later a glorious second coming of Jesus seen by all on the earth. We read in Acts 1:9-11, that when Christ ascended into glory, "..this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven". There is no mention of "two" second comings! He ascended in glory. He shall return in glory.

There is no "Pre-Trib Rapture"! Matthew 24:29-31 tells us that, "Immediately AFTER THE TRIBULATION of those days" that Jesus will come in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. Just as the angels described His return in Acts 1:9-11. There is One, and only one "Second Coming of Jesus Christ".

The coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him is a singular event (2 Thessalonians 1:7 - 2:8). Note: 2 Thess 2:1. And before that day can come, there will come "a falling away (an apostasy), and that man of sin (the antichrist) will be revealed. Before Jesus comes the second time there will be a great deception that will befall the people of the earth. Satan will manifest himself in the "Wicked One" (the antichrist) with power and signs and lying wonders. And, "if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect" (Matthew 24:24). But Jesus promises that "for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened (Matthew 24:22). The "falling away" that is going to happen, and is even happening now, is the work of Satan described as "all deceivableness of unrighteousness". A great delusion is blanketing the earth. But note that the cause of the deception is because people "received not THE LOVE OF THE TRUTH, that they might be saved". God will allow a "strong delusion" to overtake those "who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness".



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

HELL #1 - THE REALITY OF HELL

In this "Bible Note" on "HELL" I am trekking into what has become a "controversial" topic in these "post-modern and post-Chistian times". It is also a very emotional subject for many. For others it is a topic that creates many theological difficulties in their minds. The Ancient Church's teaching on the topic of hell is clearly established in the "doctrine of the Church". It is to this "Orthodox Faith" I will appeal for understanding of the "Truth" concerning "hell" and the questions that arise when "hell" is discussed: such as, "Is hell literal?"; "Is hell a place or a condition?"; and "Is hell eternal?".  There was a time when the general Christian consciousness was that there was "a hell to be shunned and a heaven to gain". Now, even Evangelicals question whether a Good and Loving God could send people to hell??? And punish them??? Forever??? Of course the Roman Catholics have a way around the eternal realities of hell through their doctrine of purgatory. They can suffer in the afterlife for their sins and eventually make heaven their home. It should be noted that they also believe in gehenna/hell fire for those who are lost.

This blog is dedicated to "Bible Notes", so I will appeal to the Holy Scriptures as the primary source for this post on the subject of "hell", particularly to the words of Jesus on the subject since He spoke of hell more than anyone else. Though it is perfectly fine to include other aspects of Holy Tradition to establish a doctrine, ie. liturgical texts, writings of the Church Fathers and Teachers, Lives of the Saints, I think on this subject it is especially important to appeal to Holy Scripture, especially the 12 times Jesus teaches about hell.  But I will say that my research has discovered that even among some modern Orthodox scholars there seems to be a lack of reliance on the Holy Scriptures as the primary source of "Truth" and "doctrine". Remember that the Orthodox have an understanding within "the world of doing theology" where theologians and Christians are allowed "theological opinions". But these opinions are permissable as long as they do not stray outside the boundaries of the Orthodox Faith. There is room for opinions but if the Church is clear on a matter of doctrine than beware, lest you stray beyond the gray areas of opinion and into the black of heresy.

This long introduction is necessary because of the controversy heaped upon this subject by atheistic scoffers, and those within the Christian Church-world who have developed an aversion to the idea of hell, eternal punishment, and eternal fire. Post-modern people and post-Christian western civilization is uncomfortable with absolutes, moral absolutes, religious absolutes. "No one knows anything for sure", they say. I will have to be the contrarian here and proclaim that there is "Truth"(John 8:32). Jesus is the Truth and the true Way to God(John 14:6). His Holy Spirit inspired Words are Truth(John 14:17). His Holy Orthodox Church is the pillar and ground of the Truth(1 Tim. 3:15). And what Jesus Himself teaches about "hell" and eternal punishment is the Truth on the subject, forever settled in heaven. An infamous teacher of the the 3rd century, Origen, dared to proceed beyond the limits of Holy Scripture, fell into heretical ideas, teaching that hell was not eternal and that ultimately everyone and everything would be reconciled to God. His followers spread this heresy which created a problem in the church large enough that it had to be dealt with at the Fifth Ecumenical Council in Constantinople(553 A.D.) where Origen's teachings on various topics were condemned as heresy and Origen himself was deemed a heretic. 1000 years later, at the Council of Florence(1439 A.D.), the Roman Catholic teachings on purgatory were refuted by the Orthodox Church in the person of St Mark of Ephesus who demonstrated that the notion of purgatory and all the falsehoods that accompany it are to be rejected by the True Church.

HELL - A PLACE PREPARED BY GOD
The existence of "hell" was made clear by the Master Himself. Jesus, creator of all things, visible and invisble(Col. 1:14-18), proclaims to the goats on His left hand at the judgment which happens at the coming of the Son of Man, "...Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels"(Mt. 25:41). Hell/Gehenna was/is a place/space prepared by God to incarcerate the devil and the angels that fell with him.

WHAT IS HELL?
Hell is a place as well as a condition, a state of being. Upon being judged unworthy of being welcome into heaven, the sinner will be consigned to a place of torment known by Jesus as Hell/Gehenna, the "Lake of Fire", "Everlasting Torment",

UNDERSTANDING THE GREEK WORDS FOR HELL IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
There are three Greek words translated as "hell" in the KJV of the New Testament.The first Greek word is "tartarus" and is translated "hell" in 2 Peter 2:4 and  is understood to be a compartment in the nether world where fallen angels are bound awaiting the final judgment. The second Greek word is "hades" and is translated as "hell" in Mt. 11:23; Mt. 16:18; Lk. 10:15; Lk. 16:23; Acts 2:27, 31; Revelation 1:18; 6:8; 20:13, 14. Hades is understood to be the "place of the departed/the dead" in the heart of the earth where Old Testament saints and sinners(Lk. 16:19-31) awaited the coming of the Messiah and Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, either in Paradise/Abraham's Bosom or far across a great chasm in flaming Torment. Upon the Passion of Christ, His Crucifixion and death opon the Cross, Christ descended into "hades" where He destroyed him who had the power of death that is the devil(Heb. 2:14). Then Christ preached to the spirits in prison there(1 Pet. 3:18-20; 2:6-8). Jesus, being God, could not remain in "hades", nor could His body see corruption in the grave. He was raised from the dead, leading all the captive saints who were being held in "captivity" and they were lead by him from there. Some of the saints who arose with Him appeared to many in Jerusalen after His resurrection(Mt. 27:55; Eph. 4:9,10; Acts 2:27,31; Acts 13:31) The third Greek word translated "hell" in the New Testament is "gehenna" (Mt. 5:22,29,30; Mt. 10:28; Mt. 18:9; Mt.23:15,33; Mk. 9:43,45,47; Lk. 12:5; Jms. 3:6) which is the eternal "lake of fire" which Jesus warned of, and into which "death and hades" will be cast into on the great day of judgment(Rev. 20:14). "Gehenna is the Hebrew ge - hinnom - the valley of the son of Hennom. It was located southeast of Jerusalem. During the time of idolatry there was an idol of the god Maloch in the form of a bull, and when fires were burning beneath it, children or even adults were thrown into the fire as human sacrifices. This is why the valley was called the valley of mourning. King Josiah (7th century B.C.) declared that place unclean and ordered all the unclean things to be thrown there - the refuse of the city, the carcasses of animals, the corpses of people who had been condemned to death and unburied dead. The destruction of all these was done by fire, whose purpose was also to disinfect the area. During the day clouds of smoke, rising from there, covered the surrounding area, while at night the huge flames could be seen from a considerable distance. Because of this the place was called - gehenna of fire - and it became a symbol of hell, since people would say: "The hell of sinners must be something like this!". This is why the Lord used this image, which was familiar to his contemporaries in order to describe the weight of the punishment and the severity of eternal hell."(The Mystery of Death by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis, p. 518)


It is important to note that "hell" should not be confused with "hades". Hell/Gehenna is described as eternal, where "hades" is described as being "temporal". Jesus says of Himself, "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hades and of death"(Rev. 1:18). Then in Revelation 20:14 we see written, "And death and hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death". At the general resurrection those in hades will be resurrected to stand before the Great Judgment Seat. Hades will be cast into the "lake of fire" which is Gehenna or hell. "and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire"(Rev. 20:15). Only a few verses earlier do we read of the destiny of the devil and his cohorts, "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever(Rev. 20:10). So we see that "hades" and it's occupants upon the resurrection of the dead, after being judged and found not to be in the book of life, are cast into the "lake of fire" which is "hell", and which is the second death, the eternal death. This is the "resurrection of damnation"(John 5:29,30).



Monday, December 12, 2016

HELL #2 - THE HORRORS OF HELL

The first horror is that the sinner, banished to hell fire, will not partake in the glory of heaven, nor experience the light of the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:1-22:5 reveals to us the vast contrast of those who "overcome" and "those not found in the book of life". For ages and infinite ages will those counted worthy, be a part of God's light and beauty, love and wisdom, mystery and infinity, drinking from the waters of life freely, living eternally in the very presence of God who has made His home among mankind. But those who resisted the love of God and the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ will have knowledge, torturous knowledge of what they can not have. One may ask, "Do you think hell is seperation from God?" The answer is "Yes and No". "Yes", because the sinner in hell is seperated from the benefits, the blessings of heaven. But, "No", because God is in hell as He is everywhere, always. Listen to the Psalmist, "Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I go from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there"(Ps. 139:7,8). It has been speculated that the sinner in hell will find the presence of God in hell an unwelcome torment. For God is love and Our God is a consuming fire. To the saint God's love is purifying and healing fire, to the sinner God's love is torment. Jesus speaks of the unprofitable servant being cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Outer darkness is Old Testament imagery for the curse that comes upon the disobedient, you are outside the camp. And here, seperated from the blessedness of heaven, and hating God, the sinner is found weeping, not in mourning, or because of pain, but he weeps in anger gnashing his teeth against God(Matthew 25:14-30).

Shame, unrelenting shame, will be the eternal lot of sinners. In the resurrection of the dead, those who are lost in their sins will "awake...to shame and everlasting contempt"(Dan. 12:2). St Paul warned Christians to be careful who they followed, saying, "Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)(Phil. 3:17-19).

Hell will be "the moonless place", a place of utter darkness, the deepest darkness, in the outer darkness. A darkness without escape, a darkness that presses in on you, suffocates you. You will be in a fire that has no brightness. You will for all eternity be found in a deep abyss, falling forever, never to land, never free of fright. Oh the horror of falling in utter darkness, with fire that has no light burning you, a darkness that shatters the soul. Poisonous flesh-eating worms that feast gluttonously on your flesh, never satisfied. Forever you will be in the company of your enemies, the demons. How horrific to be chained together with unseen murderers in a joyless place, filled with inconsolable grief. This deathless death that the sinner will endure is much more unbearable and bitter than the seperation of body and soul. This is the second death, which is eternal death.

To some this sounds like exaggeration, but it is absolutely consistent with the teachings of Jesus. Jesus teaches in his "Sermon on the Mount" that "broad is the way that leads to destruction...every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire...then will I profess unto them, I never knew you, depart from me, you workers of iniquity"(Mt. 7:13,19,23). Jesus warned that "it is better for you to enter into life maimed, then having two hands to go into hell/gehenna, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where there worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched". Jesus repeats this warning three times in a row(Mk. 9:42-47; Mt. 18:7-9). Jesus reveals what happens at the end of the world, at His second coming: He will send His angels to gather together all those who do iniquity, "And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth"(Mt. 13:37-43). Jesus warns of the "danger of hell fire" in Mt. 5:22 and again in Mt. 5:29 and 30. In Matthew 10 Jesus is teaching about the requirements for discipleship and says, "...fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell/gehenna"(Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:1-9). And once more, pronouncing the seven "Woes" upon the Scribes and Pharisees Jesus says, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell/gehenna"(Mt. 23:15,33). And yet once more, Jesus ends his parable of the talents saying, "And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth."(Mt. 25:30).  

St Paul describes what will come upon the unrepentant sinner at the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. "When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power; When He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe..."(2 Th. 1:7-9). St Paul explains how the sinner who resists the goodness of God that leads to repentance hardens his impenitent heart storing up for himself wrath which will be revealed against him on "the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God"(Rom. 2:4,5). The life of the sinner beyond the grave is called "destruction" by the God-inspired Apostles. "The enemies of the Cross of Christ: whose end is destruction"(Phil. 3:18,19). There end is "the lake that burns with fire and sulphur"(Rev. 21:8). They have only to look forward to a certain fearful judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour them(Heb. 10:27). And "the mist of darkness" and "the blackness of darkness" is forever reserved for the unrepentant sinner(2 Pet. 2:17; Jude 13).

UNDERSTANDING THE FUNCTION OF A SYMBOL
All the various images, given by Jesus and the Apostles for the indescribable experience that hell will forever be, are symbols. There are those who object to a literal interpretation of these scriptural passages describing hell. And the Church Fathers and the doctrine of the Church concurs. We know that these images of hell are not to be understood in a literal, material way. As John of Damascus says, "Fires of hell are a mystical fire far more real than the material fires of earth...". The fire of hell is different than familiar fire. Actually the earthly fires symbolize a far more horrific mystical fires. Symbols are used as metaphors and as figurative speech. The function of a symbol is to be a likeness of a reality. A symbol points beyond itself to something even more real and intense than that pictured by a symbol. Take no comfort that these are symbols used by Jesus and the Apostles. For they point us to a far greater reality of horror. St Gregory of Nyssa observes, "When you hear about the fire of hell, you must understand something different from familiar fire, because that fire has other characteristics than those held by this fire on earth. That fire(hell fire) cannot go out; while many methods have been found to put out this one(earthly material fire). There is, therefore, a great difference between the fire that goes out and that which is never quenched. Consequently, the fire of hell is something different and unlike our familiar fire. Again when you hear about "the worm" of the future hell, let not your mind race, on account of the synonym, to the familiar "worm" of the earth. For the characterization of that worm as something that "does not die"(Mk. 9:48) leads us to believe basically that this is something different from the familiar worm we know".(The Great Catechetical Homily 40 p. 45 Gregory of Nyssa)

The above being true, we may also add that the torment of hell may include a physical component seeing that the sinners receive a resurrection body suited to the punishment of soul and body(John 5:28,29). The torment of soul is definite, but we will forever be body and soul creatures for eternity, so the body may be a part of the torment.










Sunday, December 11, 2016

HELL #3 - HELL IS ETERNAL

Jesus must be our ultimate authority on this subject of "Hell". Does Jesus teach clearly on the reality of hell? Yes. In His compassion and mercy for mankind, on numerous occasions, He made known the perils of living wickedly. He forewarned of the horrors of eternal damnation, eternal punishment, eternal separation, eternal torments, of eternal hell fire. His revelation of this sober reality was not an idle threat by which to scare sinners into following Him, but a revelation of what was created for the devil and his angels, and to where those who are Satan-ized will also be consigned on the great day of judgment.

In Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus gives us His most complete picture of Hell and its eternal reality. We see that at the Glorious Second Coming of the Son of Man that there will be a universal judgment; That this judgment will be open and solemn; That this judgment will be strict and terrible; That this judgment will be a "Day of wrath and a revelation of the righteous judgment(Romans 2:5); That this judgment will be final and definitive, for all eternity the fate of each one judged is determined.
In verse 41 we are told that the King will say to those on his left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels". Prior to this, in verse 34, we are told that the King will say to those on his right hand, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world". Notice that Jesus reveals that both, "the kingdom" and "the everlasting fire" were "prepared" for this moment in time. The kingdom of God and all its glory is opened to all those on his right hand. Those on his left hand witness this great inheritance being opened to those who have done the will of God. Then those who have refused to do the will of God are sent to the place not made for humans, but to the place made for the eternally doomed devil and his angels. In Verse 46, Jesus says, "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal". Let us settle the question of the eternality of hell! For if hell be temporal, why not the kingdom of God. Theologians fight within themselves about the very things their finite minds cannot fathom. Yet they boldly espouse ideas and doctrines that contradict the very revelations of Jesus Christ Himself on the matters of eternal destiny. Let us not be deceived, let us not be swayed by vain questions and speculations about the afterlife. But let the words of Jesus speak the simple and profound realities that should cause us with fear and trembling to work out our salvation(Phil. 2:12).

St Cyril of Jerusalem instructs us that the sinners, at the general resurrection of the dead, will receive an eternal body suffering the punishment of sins, so that while burning eternally in fire they will never be consumed. WOE!!! St Basil the Great also teaches the same things, when he criticizes that "most people" have been misled by the machinations of the devil and forget the very clear words of the Lord. Some of these people dare to insist that hell will end, that they may sin all the more with audacity...If eternal torment ever ends, then eternal life must also end. If we refuse to imagine this about eternal life, under what logic can we terminate eternal torment? For it is clear that the designation "eternal" is applied equally to the righteous and to the sinners".(Cyril of Jerusalem, Catecheses, 18,19; Basil the Great, Short Rules, Question 267, pg 31,1265A)

In Mark 9:38-48 Jesus uses a question from John the Apostle to teach on the reality and the horrors and the eternality of gehenna/hell fire. Three times in a very short message Jesus repeats the warning that there will be those "who are cast into hell fire/gehenna: where there worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched".

Reading Matthew 3:5-12 John the Baptist reveals that Jesus will gather the wheat and burn the chaff. St Gregory Palamas comments on the words of the Forerunner, "And He will clean thoroughly His threshing floor, that is, the whole world, and the wheat, those who are fertile for righteousness, He will gather in his granary(the heavenly chambers), but the chaff, as something worthless in the efforts for virtue, He will burn with unquenchable fire. If that fire is unquenchable, then it must also have an inconsumable fuel; this then represents the eternity of hell"(Gregory Palamas Homilies XXII, Homily 59). 2 Thessalonians 1:8,9: St Paul makes it clear, "In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with EVERLASTING destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power". St John further clarifies the answer to the question, "Is hell forever?" in his Revelation(20:10,14,15) when he reveals that the devil, the beast, the false prophet, and all those not found in the book of life will be tormented in the lake of fire day and night for ever and ever.

In Mark 3:22-30 Jesus warns that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit puts a person in danger of "eternal damnation".

It appears that there will be degrees of torment for those consigned to hell just as there are degrees of glory for those who enter the kingdom of heaven. Read Luke 12:41-48 and Matthew 10:15 and Matthew 11:21-24. Hell will be a personal experience for the wicked just as heaven will be a personal experience for the saved. Each of us will receive according to what we have done.
(2 Cor. 5:8-10; Mt. 16:27; Romans 2:5-7; John 5:28,29; Mt. 25:31-46)

Suggested Reading:
"The Mystery Of Death" by Nikolaos P. Vassiliadis; 1993 by The Orthodox Brotherhood www.bostonmonks.com
"Orthodox Dogmatic Theology" by Michael Pomazansky; 1983,2009 by the St Herman Of Alaska Brotherhood www.sainthermanpress.com
"A Ray Of Light" by Archimandrite Panteleimon; 1946,1991 Holy Trinity Monastery www.jordanville.org





Saturday, December 10, 2016

HELL #4 - THE CHURCH FATHERS ON HELL

To the question "where is the place of torments?" St John Chrysostom responds: "Why are you concerned  about the place? What is important is the fact that it is and not where it is." "I think that it is somewhere outside of this world...hell is outside of this created universe." "Do not, therefore, ask where it is, but how to avoid it". (John Chrysostom, On Romans, Homily 31,4-5 pg. 60,673-674)

"Let us not disbelieve that there is a hell, that we may not fall in it. For he who disbelieves in hell becomes more slothful and indolent toward virtue: he who is slothful and indolent toward virtue will develop a spirit of unrepentance and will surely end up in hell. As for us, let us believe in the existence of hell without reservation, and let us hold frequent conversation about it and thus we will not fall into sin readily and quickly. For the memory of hell acts as a bitter medicine and restrains and cures every evil."(John Chrysostom, On The Future Judgment, PG 63,744

"It is just(the judgment of God) because while accepting the call of God, I was not obedient; while being taught, I was not paying attention; while they were reassuring me, I was jeering them; while I studied the divine word and knew it without disbelief, nevertheless, I spent the years of my life in negligence, laziness, and carelessness, in distractions and sinful confusion and guilty thrills. My months and days were filled by the labors, efforts and struggles for the temporal, the corruptible and the earthly."(Cyril Of Alexandria, On The Exodos Of The Soul,PG 77,1073A)

"If you have faith in the Lord you will fear punishment, and this fear will lead you to control the passions."(Maximos The Confessor, Four Hundred Texts On Love, Philokalia Vol 2, pg.53)

"Put evil to death so that you will not rise up dead (at the future judgment) and thus pass from a minor to a major death."(Thalassios The Libyan, On Love, Self Control and Life, Philokalia Vol. 2, pg 328)

"If someone asks, "how can the soul endure such a great multitude of punishments and be punished for an endless duration of ages?". Let him keep this in mind: When the soul received a body that is incorruptible and inconsumable, there is nothing that will obstruct the extension of hell into the infinite. The body will remain together with the soul eternally to be tormented, and there will be no other end at all".(John Chrysostom, To The Fallen Theodore I 9,10 PG 47,289,290)

St Cyril of Alexandria in his shocking homily, "The Exodus of the Soul and the Second Parousia" confesses as follows, "I am afraid of the gehenna because it endures forever...I am afraid of the hell that has no end...I am afraid of the unbreakable bonds...For the temporal pleasure of sin I am forever tormented. There in hell there is eternal pain, endless grief, ceaseless weeping and gnashing of teeth and sleepless sighing: there in hell there is always woe! woe! woe! There in hell they shout for help and there is no one to help."(Cyril Of Alexandria, On The Exodus Of The Soul PG 77,1072BC; 1073A; 1076D)

"Eternal means that which is forever, that which never has an end, never...The miserable sinners are condemned to remain eternaly in the fire being tormented...And above all remember, my sinner brother, the violence and ferociousness that the fire of gehenna will exercise over you, and which St Paul, wishing to describe it, said: A fearful prospect of judgment, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries(Heb. 10:27). Interpreting this verse, the saintly Theophylactos says: As a wild beast, when disturbed by someone, becomes angry and violent, so also that fire, becoming in a sense jealous and wrathful, is destined to be consuming eternally the enemies of God, that is, the sinners."(Nikodimos Of The Holy Mountain, New Ladder, Constantinople 1844, pp. 188;191)

"Christ the Lord of all calls out and says, As long as you have the light, run to the light that the darkness may not overtake you. Run by way of repentance, run in the way of the commandments of Christ. But, if we do not choose to obey Christ our Lord and do not attempt, as long as we are found in this present life, to receive from Him the kingdom of God within us, when we go there we will hear Christ justly saying these things to us: Why are you asking now for what you did not want when I was giving it to you? Was I not often pleading with you to struggle for a while that I may give you the kingdom of heaven, and you did not want it, but rejected it preferring rather the earthly, the corruptible; now what is it you want? With what deeds or what words do you expect to be able to find the Kingdom from now on? For now is not the time for work, but for retribution."(Symeon The New Theologian, Complete Extant Works, Part I, Homily 25,2 p. 136)

"Do you see how the devil succeeded in making us enemies of ourselves? Let us come to our senses, let us look carefully. Let us keep vigil, let us reach for the eternal life, and let us hold on to it tightly. Let us put away from us the abundant sleep of sin. There is a judgment; there is hell. The Lord is coming in the clouds. A river of fire is flowing before Him, the ceaseless worm, the unquenchable fire, the outer darkness, the gnashing of teeth. Even if you are troubled a myriad of times over these things, I will not cease speaking them. There is eternal hell and it is inconsolable; there is no one to help us."(John Chrysostom, On 1 Thessalonians, Homily 9,5 PG 62,454)


Friday, November 25, 2016

TRUTH

What is Truth? Truth is that which is true absolutely. Truth is reality in the ultimate sense. For Christians, truth is a person through whom we may know the truth of all things revealed(John 14:17,26); through whom we may come to a saving knowledge of truth(1 Tim. 2:4); through whom we may become "partakers of the divine nature"(2 Peter 1:4). This person is the true and living God, creator of heaven and earth, risen Lord and Savior of the world, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.

Jesus said. "I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the Father but by me".(John14:6). The author of the Gospel according to St John revealed that Jesus is the Word, and that the Word(Jesus) was with God(the Father) in the beginning; that the Word(Jesus) is God; that all things were created by the Word(Jesus); In Him, the Word(Jesus) was life and the life is the light of men; that the Word became flesh, a fully human being while remaining fully God; that the Word(Jesus) is full of grace and truth; and that all who would receive the Word(Jesus) would be given the power to become the children of God.(John 1:1-18).

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world...my judgment is true: for I am not alone, but the Father that sent me...the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bears witness of myself, and the Father that sent me bears witness of me...I am from above...When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall you know that I am...Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am"(John 8:12-59). In the midst of this ongoing conversation that Jesus was having with the Pharisees, many believed on him(v. 30) and Jesus said to those Jews which believed on him, "If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free"(v. 31,32). Jesus was speaking of becoming free from sin and its power(v.36). This freedom from sin was found in the Son of the Father(God). The Son is revealed in the words of Jesus which corresponded with the scriptures of the Jews(Old Testament), This is "the truth" that they would know as they "continued in (Jesus) word". The "Truth" is a person, the Son of the Father. Because the scriptures of the Old Testament had no place in these Jews they could not understand Jesus's teachings. The Jews had developed a parallel religion to the religion that had been handed down to them in Moses and the Prophets. Jesus called these false teachings "your tradition...the commandments of men"(Mt 15:1-9). And Jesus reveals the source of these false teachings, and the deceptions(lies) that they produce, and that source is their father, the devil, who is a liar and a murderer from the beginning(v. 43-47). Jesus is revealing that these Jews were followers of "the liar", that is, followers of Satan himself, and that they were abiding in "the lies" of the devil.

Jesus is revealed as the true God, equal to the Father, who is also the "true God"(John 17:1-5). We, who believe, have been given an understanding(an enlightened nous/intellect/mind/an unction/an anointing) that we may "know Him who is true", "and we are in Him that is true, even in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life"(1 John 5:20). Titus reveals that we are "looking for that blessed hope, and glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ"(Titus 2:11-14). Jesus is the "ultimate reality", He is that which is "true absolutely"(Eph. 4:21).

I would like to introduce ideas of St. Nektarios of Aegina here that Jesus is the fulfilment of what is known as "THE EXPECTATION OF THE NATIONS". The idea that from the beginning, from the time of the "fall of Adam and Eve", all nations were awaiting the arrival of a "Redeemer God" coming in human form Who would teach the whole truth in order to obliterate evil, bring peace, make brothers of all nations, and bring the kingdom of heaven to the earth. This promise was an anchor of hope throughout the centuries. Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Jews, Chinese, Indians, Persians, Arabs, even the inhabitants of the New World; all had stories, myths, prophecies foreshadowing a God-Man appearing to deliver the world from evil, from the great serpent. Confucius, Plutarch, Zoroaster, Socrates, Maurikios, Pascal, and many wise people spoke of this tradition of the nations.

The Holy Scriptures declare, "When the fulness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, "Abba, Father!" Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ"(Gal. 4:4-7). God's Son, the Light of Light, broke into the darkness of this fallen world at the very perfect moment in human history. Jesus is this very "Truth" that all the nations were expecting.

Therefore, "THE CHRISTIAN FAITH is not a "religion" (except in the conventional everyday use of the word). It is the fulfillment of all religions in their search for divine truth and human meaning as inspired by God's law written on human hearts. In this understanding, God's Gospel in Jesus is the end of all religions as human constructions, however good and inevitable they are in their desire to deal with life's mysteries and to comprehend the ways of God (or the gods) and creatures in a demon-riddled, death-bound world."(Fr Thomas Hopko).

The Truth is found in "the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God"(Mark 1:1). The "four Gospels" (aka  the"four Evangelists"), Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and the gospel according to St Paul(Romans 16:25,26) reveal the truth of God, of all things that pertain to our salvation(Gal. 2:5; Col. 1:5,6; Eph. 1:13; 1 Tim. 2:4-7). Note the continued connection of "truth" and "gospel" made in these scriptures. Jesus said, "Search the scriptures(Old Testament)(John 5:39), for in them you will discover who Jesus is, and therefore acquire "life"(v. 40). And at the Second Coming of Jesus you will experience "the resurrection of life"(John 5:29).

The "Truth" taught by Jesus, and the preaching of the Apostles, was handed down to the churches of God and is known as "Holy Tradition". "Holy Tradition" is defined as "the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church". (Eph. 2:20-22; 1 Thes. 2:13,14; 2 Thes. 2: 15; 3:6; 1 Cor.11:2). From these verses we know that the "truth" was passed down both orally and in written form(Epistles). The Church became the repository of the "truth of Christ", aka "the Faith". 1 Timothy 3:15 reveals that "the Church" is "the pillar and ground of the truth". The foundation of Christian Faith is the Church, the Scriptures tell us this. (Interesting note here is that the very next verse(v. 16), St Paul quotes an ancient Christian creed or hymn. This shows us that the "Truth of the Church" was embodied in liturgical hymns as well as the oral teachings of the Apostles and the written Epistles of the Apostles. In 1 Thessalonians 2:13,14 we can see that the believers in Thessalonica "became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus". The believers at the beginning did not have copies of the New Testament as we do now. The churches were teaching from both, the Old Testament, and from what the Apostles were teaching about Jesus, both orally and in epistles. The church communities were Spirit-filled worshiping communities, praying the Psalms, singing hymns about Jesus, and spiritual songs that conveyed credal truth, and celebrating the Lord's Supper, sharing and having all things in common(Acts 2:42-47; 4:32; Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:17,18).



Three things we know about Truth; 1) Truth is a person - Jesus the Messiah; 2) The Church is the "pillar and ground of the Truth" where the "life of the Holy Spirit" animates the believing community; and 3) The Holy Scriptures(OT and NT) are truly inspired by the Holy Spirit and speak the Truth about Jesus the Messiah.


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Monday, June 27, 2016

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES QUIZ

1 On whom did the lot fall when the 11 Apostles were choosing a replacement? On whom did it not fall?

2 Name the couple that conspired to sell their land, and then hold back some of the money from the Church?

3 In what city was Paul stoned (to death or near death), then dragged outside the city, then, surrounded by the disciples did he rose up and entered once again into that city?

4 How many days did Jesus show Himself alive after His passion and resurrection with many infallible proofs?

5 Who was the centurion of the band called the Italian Band who was devout, feared God with all his house, which gave alms to the people and prayed?

6 When the new disciples who had practiced curious arts brought their books together to be burned before all men, what was the value of those books?

7 Who joined himself to the Ethiopian eunuch’s chariot and expounded the Gospel to him from Isaiah the Prophet?

 8 At what hour did Peter and John go up into the temple to pray when they crossed paths with a lame man at the gate called Beautiful?

9 As Peter traveled to Cornelius’s house in Caesarea from Joppa he went upon an housetop to pray about which hour?

10 Paul argued daily for the space of two years in what school, so that all that were in Asia, both Jews and Greeks, heard the Word of the Lord?

11 Name the seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom, who were appointed by the Apostles to serve the widows?

12 Name the Jewish false prophet/sorcerer of Paphos who withstood Paul and Barnabas as they taught the Word of God to Sergius Paulus, a deputy of Paphos Territory?

13 Name the disciple with whom Paul lodged in Damascus, and who baptized Paul and prayed for Paul to receive his eyesight again?

14 Paul shaved his head in what city because he had a vow?

15 Name the chief ruler of the Corinthian synagogue who believed on the Lord with his entire house?

16 As Paul preached long into the night one vespers, a young man sat in a window of the third loft, sinking into a deep sleep he fell to his death, but Paul went to him and prayed and the young man was made alive. Name the young man?

17 At what spot in Athens Greece did Paul declare the “Unknown God”?

18 Name the Ephesian Silversmith who made much money making silver shrines to the goddess Diana, and who conspired with others of his craft to cause an uprising against Paul?

19 Which of the seven deacons became the first martyr of the early church?

20 Stephen in his final sermon declared to the Jews that they had taken up the tabernacle of whom, and the star of their god whom, figures they made to worship?

21 When the people of Lystra saw that Paul had healed a man, impotent in his feet, a cripple from his birth, they lifted their voices saying “the gods have come down to us in the likeness of men”. They called Barnabas by the name of what god? And they called Paul by the name of what god?

22 About how many disciples were in the Upper Room on the Day of Pentecost?

23 Philip the Evangelist had how many virgin daughters that prophesied?

24 What woman of Thyatira was known as a seller of purple whose household was saved through Paul’s preaching?

25 Name the sorcerer who bewitched the people of Samaria until Philip arrived with the Gospel?

26 At the close of the Council of Jerusalem, two men chief among the brethren, were selected to travel with Paul and Barnabas to Antioch with letters explaining the decisions of the Council. Name these two men?

27 What eloquent Jew, born in Alexandria Egypt, was “mighty in the scriptures”, and “mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus is the Christ”?

28 Paul was born in what city?

29 When Herod the king killed James, the brother of John with the sword, he saw that it pleased the Jews so he had Peter imprisoned. At whose home was a prayer meeting held for Peter? And name the woman who answered the door when Peter arrived?

30 What two items were taken from the body of Paul that possessed miracle working power that when they were laid upon sick people they were healed and delivered?

31 Name the couple that taught Apollos the way of God more perfectly, seeing that he only knew the baptism of John?

32 Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises at what time when they were in prison in Philippi?

33 Who was queen of the Ethiopians?

34 When the unbelieving Jews of Thessalonica rejected Paul’s teaching about Jesus, they incited rage throughout the city and assaulted the house of whom, looking for Paul and Silas?

35 Paul was brought up in what city? And at whose feet was he taught according to the perfect manner of the law?

36 Who was the wife of Felix, the governor of Judea?

37 Name the lady disciple (with two names) at Joppa who was full of good works and almsdeeds, who became sick and died, but then Peter came and prayed for her, and she was raised from the dead?

38 Who was let down in a basket over the walls of Damascus by the disciples so that he could escape the plots of the Jews to kill him?

39 The Jews of which five synagogues set up false witnesses against Stephen, and stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, who captured him and brought him before the council?

40 From what Old Testament Prophet did Peter preach on the Day of Pentecost saying, “This is that…”?

41 The disciples were first called Christians in what city?

42 Name the Prophet who bound himself with Paul’s girdle and prophesied that Paul would be bound by the Jews at Jerusalem?

43 There were more than how many Jews that made a conspiracy to kill Paul, binding themselves to a curse, and saying that they would eat or drink nothing until they killed Paul?

44 What was the name of the wind storm that caused the shipwreck as Paul sailed to Rome?

45 What was the name of the street in Damascus that Jesus said Ananias would find “one called Saul of Tarsus” praying in the house of Judas?

46 Two converts were named as having believed Paul’s preaching of the Gospel on Mars’ Hill in Athens. Name them?

47 When Paul shipwrecked onto the Island of Melita he prayed for the chief man of the islands father and he was healed of a bloody flux. Name the chief man of Melita?

48 Who said to Paul, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian”?

49 What relative of Paul had overheard the Jews plot to kill him and reported it to the chief captain who then helped Paul escape under protection of a small army?
50 Name the old disciple of Cyprus?


ANSWERS
1 a. Matthias b. Joseph aka Barsabas Justus – ACTS 1:15-26
2 Ananias and Sapphira – ACTS 5:1-11
3 Lystra – ACTS 14:8-21
4 Forty – ACTS 1:3
5 Cornelius – ACTS 10:1, 2
6 50,000 Pieces of Silver – ACTS 19:18-20
7 Philip – ACTS 8:26-40
8 Ninth Hour – ACTS 3:1-16
9 Sixth Hour – ACTS 10:9
10 School of Tyrannus – ACTS 19:8-10
11 Simon, Stephen, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, Nicolas – ACTS 6:5
12 Bar-jesus/Elymas – ACTS 13:4-12
13 Ananias – ACTS 9:10-18
14 Cenchrea – ACTS 18:18
15 Crispus – ACTS 18:8
16 Eutychus – ACTS 20:7-12
17 Mars Hill/Aeropagus – ACTS 17:16-28
18 Demetrius – ACTS 19:23-41
19 Stephen – ACTS 7:51-60
20 a. Moloch b. Remphan  - ACTS 7:43
21 a. Jupiter b. Mercury – ACTS 14:12
22 120 – ACTS 1:15
23 Four – ACTS 21:8
24 Lydia – ACTS 16:14, 15
25 Simon – ACTS 8:9-25
26 Judas aka Barsabas Silas – ACTS 15:22-31
27 Apollos – ACTS 18:24-28
28 Tarsus – ACTS 22:3
29 a. Mary the mother of John Mark b. Rhoda
30 Handkerchiefs and Aprons – ACTS 19:11, 12
31 Aquila and Priscilla – ACTS 18:26
32 Midnight – ACTS 16:25
33 Candace – ACTS 8:27
34 Jason – ACTS 17:5-9
35 a, Jerusalem b. Gamaliel – ACTS 22:3
36 Drusilla – ACTS 24:24
37 Tabitha aka Dorcas – ACTS 9:36-43
38 Paul – ACTS 9:23-25
39 Libertines, Cyrenians, Alexandrians, Cilicia, Asia – ACTS 6:9-15
40 Joel – ACTS 2:16
41 Antioch – ACTS 11:26
42 Agabus – ACTS 21:10-14
43 More Than Forty – ACTS 23:12-15
44 Euroclydon – ACTS 27:14
45 Straight – ACTS 9:10-12
46 Dionysius the Areopagite and Damaris – ACTS 17:34
47 Publius – ACTS 28:1-10
48 King Agrippa – ACTS 26:28
49 Paul’s Sister’s Son – ACTS 23:16-30
50 Mnason – ACTS 21:16