Tuesday, February 26, 2008

WONDER OF WONDERS


Behold here a sacred riddle or paradox -- "God was manifest in the flesh." That man should be made in God's image, was a wonder--but that God should be made in man's image, is a greater wonder!

That the Ancient of Days--should be born; that He who thunders in the heavens--should cry in the cradle; that He who rules the stars--should suck the breast; that Christ should be made of a woman--and of that woman which He Himself made; that the mother should be younger than the child she bore; this is the most astonishing miracle!

"God was manifest in the flesh" is a mystery we shall never fully understand until we come to heaven; when our light shall be clear, as well as our love perfect.

"He humbled Himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:8

THE JUST FOR THE UNJUST

God caused the (sinless) Christ to become sin. He caused Him to become what He was not, NOT by imparting sin to Him, or infusing sin in Him, BUT by imputation. Christ bore the imputed sins of His elect as the sacrificial lamb bore the sins of Israel under the Old Covenant. He died "the JUST for the unjust". (1 Peter 3:18).

He "through the eternal spirit offered himself WITHOUT SPOT to God". (Hebrews 9: 14).

By Mark Pannell

SAMSON


If Samson’s name were not recorded in the list of the Old Testament saints as one of the Lord’s (Hebrews 11:32), would we consider him so?

He loved a harlot, and was so committed to her that he brought on himself the most dreadful evils, even death.

What can we learn from this?

1. Grace reigns! Is this an example of sinning that grace may abound?


God forbid, Romans 6:1. Yet, the fact is that ‘grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord,’ Romans 6:21. Although Samson lived before the Lord Jesus Christ came to this earth, and lived and died on his behalf, yet God was forbearing with his sin, Romans 3:25, having purposed all his sins to Christ who would come and bear them in His death on the tree, Hebrews 9:15. On that basis, God was just in declaring him righteous and granting him eternal life, by Jesus Christ, just as with any who are the Lord’s. It is only by Christ’s obedience unto death that any of us were made righteous, and God has forgiven sins, Romans 5:19.

2. God did not punish Samson for his sin, but certainly chastened him with his sin. His example should cause any who are the Lord’s to fear even the slightest influences of sin in the heart and conscience. Perhaps the greatest chastening is recorded in Judges 16:20, “He wist not that the Lord was departed from him.” The Lord had not completely given him over as with reprobates, but for a season, left him to his own devices to humble him and cause him to cry out to Him for mercy once again. As one writer stated, “No sweet communion with his dear Lord as heretofore. No precious assistance from the Spirit. No inward testimonies of His love, and gentle whispers of peace to his soul…He goes from ordinance to ordinance, but he finds not his Lord in them. All is dry formality, dreary and uncomfortable.”

3. The Lord caused Samson’s heart to return unto Him once again. Just as with any of the Lord’s beloved, chosen, and redeemed ones, the Lord does bring them again and again to cry out to Him for mercy. ‘Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee,’ Judges 16:28.


Was this not the thief’s prayer on the cross?

Was not mercy granted because of Christ’s work alone?

By Ken Wimer

LOOKING TO CHRIST


“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.”
(Proverbs 4:25)

Brethren, let us keep our eyes towards the glory of God in Christ in all things. Let us keep our focus upon Him whom to know is life eternal and run the race that is set before us “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).

Let us always look to the Word of God for guidance along the path we walk as we are motivated by His grace and love for us in Christ. Let us not look to the right or to the left as if to let circumstances occupy our minds. Let us not look behind us and dwell on the past (past sins, past problems) to burden us.

Let us keep our eyes on Christ (His glorious Person, His blood and righteousness) who has saved us from our sins. Let us keep our eyes right on and straight before us looking for His blessed and glorious return to glorify us. The command of the Gospel of God is, “Look unto ME, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” (Isaiah 45:22)

By Bill Parker

THE SON OF GOD MADE TO BE SIN


“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
2 Corinthians 5:21

What a glorious truth to learn that the very Son of God on behalf of His people settled the matter of sin and righteousness upon the cross. So absolute is the work of imputation, (the sinner’s sin to Him and Christ’s righteousness to the sinner), that ALL whom Christ redeemed have ALL together been already pronounced righteous by the Eternal Judge, Ephesians 2:5,6.


There is no sin laid to their charge because it was all laid to His, Isaiah 53:5-6. There is complete righteousness before God’s law because He worked it out and the Father has imputed it to their account.

Sin was not infused in Christ, but rather charged to His account. The same is true with regard to the imputation of His righteousness. It is not infused into the sinner, but charged to his account, whereby God declares such a one righteous before Him. All for whom the Son of God was made sin, will in time be made to see that their sin put Him to death, but glorious thought, His righteousness was made to be theirs also, by grace alone.


By Ken Wimer

CHRIST’S CHURCH


‘…I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,”
Matthew 16:18

christ made a bold statement to His disciples: ‘I will build my church.’ The term church means called out ones. It was used of an assembly or congregation. The church is not an organization or a denomination. The church is a baptized body of believers.

In veiled language, the Lord spoke often of His church. She was the prepared ground in the parable of the sower and the seed (Matthew 13:3-9).


She was the treasure hid in the field and the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44-46).

His declaration to Peter tells us what His mission was. He left heaven to redeem and deliver a people from their charges of sin. He promised to assemble them together and preach the gospel to them. He promised to deliver them by the gospel and to deliver them to the gospel.

By David Simpson

Friday, February 22, 2008

LISTEN TO GOD


“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15)

In the Bible, a fool is one who fails to recognize, seek, trust, worship, serve, and listen to God as He reveals Himself in the glorious Person and finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. A fool will not listen to God’s Word because he thinks he knows better than God. It has been said that “there are young fools and old fools. An old fool listens to his critics, but a young fool listens to no one.” It is just as bad to be an old fool as it is to be a young fool.


What is the solution?

Don’t be a fool at all. Hearken unto God’s counsel. Don’t listen to your critics. Listen to God who speaks in the power of His Spirit by His Word in Christ.

"RIGHTEOUSNESS EXALTETH A NATION”

Proverbs 14:34
"Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin [is] a reproach to any people."

Whenever we see verses like this, we could speak much of how nations ought to seek out and find just, fair, and honest leaders and judges. We could speak of how nations ought to adopt and enforce fair laws, take care of the poor and down-trodden, as well as many other just, equitable, and merciful actions. These are all very much needed. However, the issues of the righteousness that would exalt a nation can really be summed up in the following – CHRIST EXALTS A NATION, FOR HE IS THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS! There are no earthly nations that, as a whole, believe in and follow the true Christ and the way of salvation by God’s grace in Him. But, and thank God, there is a SPIRITUAL nation that does. It is SPIRITUAL ISRAEL, God’s elect, redeemed, justified, and regenerated people whose hope is in the Lord. They alone are the “Israel of God,” and righteousness exalts them, because they are IN CHRIST!


By Pastor Bill Parker

GREAT JOY AND COMFORT OUT OF TROUBLE


Some of the greatest experiences of God’s grace and joy, and some of the greatest words of comfort and joy to God’s children have come out the adversity, trouble, and persecution of saints. For example, Paul was arrested and sent to Rome where he was in bonds when the Holy Spirit inspired him to write the “prison epistles” of Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. This is another of the many, many examples of our great and sovereign God overruling the evil of men for His glory and our good. While Paul was in prison in Rome he was allowed to preach “the kingdom of God” and teach “those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him” (Acts 28:31).

Paul’s heart and goal was to preach Christ and Him crucified, and he did so even while in the darkest of circumstances. He did not change his message to fit the desires of men. Notice how the preaching of the kingdom of God is directly connected with the doctrine concerning Jesus Christ – His glorious Person, His mediatorial offices, His finished work of redemption, His righteousness imputed, and all the things pertaining to eternal life and glory in Him. This was Paul’s whole message – CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED – salvation by God’s grace in Christ. This is the great message of joy and comfort to sinners in need of mercy and grace. Paul preached it boldly whether in times of peace or in times of trouble. God’s grace and power enabled him to do so. Let us pray that God will enable us to do the same as we live for Christ.

By Pastor Bill Parker

OUT OF THE WILDERNESS!


Read the following carefully -- “Once you and I pined in the wilderness, and sighed after God from a barren land. All around us was the wilderness of this world, a howling wilderness of danger, and need, and disorder. We said of the world at its very best, "Vanity of Vanities, All Is Vanity."

Do you remember how you roamed, seeking rest and finding none?

Your way was the path of darkness, which leads unto death. Then you were poor and needy, and sought water and there was none, and your tongue cleaved unto the roof of your mouth for thirst.

Then came the Lord that bought you, and He sought you until He brought you into the gardens of His love, where He satisfied you with the river of the water of life, and filled you with the fruits of His Spirit, and now you dwell in a goodly land.”


Now, brethren, considering where we all were before the Lord brought us into “the gardens of His love,” let us never be found among those who treat the grace of God, the word of God, the worship of God, the fellowship of His people, and the stewardship of His grace with negligence or contempt. Let us ever be mindful, thankful, and diligent in all that glorifies God, exalts Christ, edifies our brethren, and promotes the salvation of sinners by God’s grace in Christ Jesus.

WHAT IS YOUR TESTIMONY?


In popular religion a convert is often called upon to give his or her testimony. Whenever these opportunities arise, most people begin telling the story of their own personal conversion. The stories are usually fraught with dramatic and emotional events and experiences. Many times they are accompanied with dreams, visions, and/or great changes in conduct. There are such conversions recorded in God’s holy Word.

We need only consider the experience of Paul on the Damascus road and other conversions that were accompanied with miracles such as healing. However, most of the conversions recorded in the Bible were the quiet experiences of God’s elect being brought under the Gospel truth of Christ and Him crucified and being born again by the Holy Spirit who brought them to faith in Christ and repentance of dead works.

These are the common denominators of all true conversions whether they are quiet encounters or spectacular events. True conversion is always a powerful and amazing experience, a miracle of God’s grace in giving life to the dead and bringing sinners to believe in Christ for all of salvation and repentance of dead works. The common testimony of all who have been converted to Christ is virtually the same –

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:7-9)


By Pastor Bill Parker

WHERE TO FIND REAL JOY


Men have pursued joy in every avenue imaginable. Some have successfully found it while others have not. Perhaps it would be easier to describe where joy cannot be found and as you read the list allow the Spirit to search your heart to see if there be any hurtful way in it --

-- Not in Unbelief — Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: “I wish I had never been born ... (and at his death cried out desperately) I am abandoned by God and man! I will give you half of what I am worth if you will give me six month's life. Then I shall go to hell; and you will go with me. O Christ! O Jesus Christ!”

-- Not in Pleasure — Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone.”

-- Not in Money — Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.”

-- Not in Position and Fame — Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”

-- Not in Military Glory — Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, before he said, “There are no more worlds to conquer.”

-- Not in the religion of man’s works – The religionists of Matthew 7:21-23 boasted of all their works in the name of the Lord only to here Christ say, “Depart from me; I never knew you.”

Where then is real joy found? — The answer is simple – IN CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED ALONE!

FOLLOW HIS STEPS


“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps”
(1 Peter 2:21).

We are not like many in religion today who preach Christ merely as an example to follow. The Lord Jesus Christ was and is a great teacher and example, but He was and is more. He is our Lord and our Redeemer -- our very life. He did not die a martyr to exemplify His faith and dedication. He died as our Substitute and Surety to put away our sin and establish righteousness for us. He is our sovereign and supreme Savior. We do not, however, forget that He is also our example to follow; for our goal as believers is to be conformed to His image in every way. Let us all who have been called by the Holy Spirit into the King’s domain seek to follow Him in His teachings. Let us strive to obey Him – to love as He loves, to believe as He believes, to walk as He walked. This is not “salvation by works,” but it is faith in Christ that is evidenced by works. Always remember that grace is more than truth believed. It is truth experienced -- a way of life!

By Pastor Bill Parker

THE GRACE AND BEAUTY OF SUBMISSION


“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

The natural man hates even the idea of submission. He reasons that it makes him less of a person. He demands his equal rights. But he fails to see that when he lifts himself up in pride and self-righteousness and refuses to submit to the God of all grace, he is in reality submitting to the devil (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4) whose goal is our destruction (1 Peter 5:8).


There is no shame or harm in submitting to God. It does not make us less than what we are to submit to God. It makes us more than what we are. Man’s destiny in eternal life can only be realized as he submits to God, and he can only submit to God as he submits to Christ the Lord the only way of salvation (Romans 10:1-4). In submission to God there is grace, for no man will submit to God in Christ but by sovereign grace. In submission to God there is beauty, for Christ alone is the redeemed sinner's beauty.

By Pastor Bill Parker

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Article Review: A Jewish View Of The Messiah


A Christian View of the Messiah

This article is a response to an article I found on the web entitled A Jewish View of the Messiah. It was written by a "Rabbi" named Chaim Richman and copyrighted September 1995. It puts forth a very good summary of the Jewish view of Jesus' claim to be the Messiah. It can be found at www.lttn.org.

The article begins with a letter that was sent to Richman by a professing Christian from the United States. (Richman apparently lives in Israel.) The letter challenged Richman to consider whether Jesus really was the Messiah, and the author of the letter included a booklet of Messianic prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus.

Richman begins his own reply by expressing a desire not to offend anyone with his views. That is fine, so far as it goes; I have no desire to deliberately offend anyone either, but a few things must be kept in mind. First, we must realize the supreme importance of the issue. If Jesus is not the Messiah, then I have trusted in a lie, and I am following an imposter, and I am in rebellion against God. On the other hand, if Jesus really is the Messiah, then it is the Jews who have trusted in a lie and are in rebellion against God. There can be no other alternative, and being wrong on this issue has eternal consequences. Therefore, secondly, we must realize that it is not mere religious opinion for which we are contending but the very glory of Almighty God. This alone demands that the truth be proclaimed, no matter what the consequences, no matter who is offended. Let God be true, though every man a liar. Thirdly, we must realize that, fallen human nature being what it is, people will always be offended by religious disputes and see them as making mountains out of molehills. That should not deter us from obeying God alone.

Richman continues by stating that "we must realize that the concept 'messiah' seems to mean different things to us. Jews do not believe that the Messiah is a part of G-d, or Divine in any way, more than any other person. No indication of this can be found in the Old Testament, since this is not a Jewish concept." Yet Richman does not deal with a Messianic prophecy that Jesus himself offered to his critics: "The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (Psalm 110:1).


In the Gospel of Matthew 22:41-45, Jesus asks his enemies how David can speak of the Messiah as his Lord if the Messiah is also his son. They had no answer, and Richman has no answer.

Continuing on the subject of the Incarnation, Richman says, "We believe that this idea is the very embodiment of idolatry, and we must give our very lives to make a stand against it ... as indeed we Jews have always done throughout the ages." It grieves me that some professing Christians have thought, and continue to think, that faith can be produced by force. Scripture clearly teaches that saving faith is given by God alone; man simply cannot produce it on his own.

That being said, I cannot agree that the doctrine of the Incarnation is idolatry. Idolatry is attributing to God characteristics he does not possess, or not attributing to him characteristics he does possess. For example, when Aaron made a statue for the worship of the Israelites (Exodus 32:4), he seems to have made an image of a calf or bull, possibly to remind the Israelites of the great strength and power of God.


But what would the image of a bull convey of God's love, mercy, and grace?

Nothing. Therefore, expecting any finite image to teach us about the infinite God is idolatry.

But if God himself came to earth in human form, would he not teach us the very truth of God?


Would he not attribute to God all the glorious characteristics that he does possess?

And would he not refuse to attribute characteristics to him that he does not possess?

Of course. So the idea of the Incarnation is not idolatry after all.
If it is God himself who is teaching us, then we are not in idolatry.

So the next question is, was Jesus really God in the flesh?


There can be no doubt that he claimed to be (John 8:58).

So the next step should be to examine the biblical prophecies about the Messiah to see if Jesus fulfilled them. If so, then his claim to be God incarnate should be accepted. On the other hand, if he did not fulfill them, then his claim to be Messiah can be safely rejected. But the supreme standard should be the biblical prophecies.

At first, Richman seems to agree with this. He says, "The reason why Jews like myself do not accept Jesus as the messiah is a very basic one - we do not see that he fulfilled any of the requirements for the job. If he never qualified, it is not even a question of rejection. God outlined these requirements in the Bible." But, inconsistently, he goes on to say, "The state of the world must prove that the messiah has come; not a tract. Don't you think that when the messiah arrives, it should not be necessary for his identity to be subject to debate - for the world should be so drastically changed for the better that it should be absolutely incontestable! Why should it be necessary to 'prove' him at all? If the messiah has come, why should anyone have any doubt?"

There is, in fact, a very good reason why someone might not believe that the Messiah has come. It is the simple fact that God does not see the world as man sees it.


When the Syrian army surrounded Dothan, did it not seem that Dothan was doomed (2 Kings 6:15)?

When Daniel was thrown in the lion's den, did it not seem that Daniel was doomed (Daniel 6:16-17)?

Yet Elisha in Dothan and Daniel in the lion's den enjoyed better safety than either the Syrian commander or the king of Persia. It was not the state of the world that proved they were safe; it was the will of God, which he revealed in the Scriptures.

So it is with the Messiah. His mission was not one which man would have chosen. Man would have chosen a Messiah who comes to Palestine and liberates the land from the tyranny of the Roman empire. But such a deliverance would have been worthless in God's eyes.


Suppose that the Messiah had liberated Palestine from Roman rule - then what?

Who would have saved Palestine from the Byzantines or the Crusaders or the Ottomans?

A Messiah who merely saved Israel from the Romans would look pretty insignificant today.

But the Messiah had a far more important mission than merely saving Palestine from foreign invasion. His real mission was to save the people of God from their sins (Isaiah 53:11; Matthew 1:21).


By living a perfect, sinless life, and dying the death of a criminal, Jesus established a righteousness that answers the demands of God's perfect Law and inflexible Justice. This is the very heart of the Gospel. At his death, the sins of the people of God were imputed to Jesus, and he suffered an ignominious death to atone for them (Isaiah 53:8; 2 Peter 2:24).

The righteousness which he established is then imputed to the people of God (Psalm 85:10-13; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

Thus, he accomplished not merely temporal salvation but eternal salvation - not merely salvation from the wrath of man but from the wrath of God. No matter what the state of this present world, the salvation which Jesus accomplished far outweighs any measly temporal salvation. The righteousness which Jesus established saves the people of God from the just penalty that sin deserves.

Only a sacrifice of infinite value could accomplish all that. Not all the rivers of blood that poured from the Tabernacle and two Temples could accomplish that (Psalm 51:16; Hebrews 10:4). Therefore, we see that the doctrine of the Incarnation is an absolute necessity to the Gospel and the remission of sins, because only the infinite God could be a sacrifice of infinite value. On the other hand, the justice of God requires that, in order for satisfaction to be made for sins, it must be made by one who is of the same nature as the sinner. Therefore, by becoming incarnate, and yet living a perfectly holy life, Jesus has become the "Mediator" who is able to lay his hand on both God and man (Job 9:33; Hebrews 2:17).

So it is not the state of the world that determines whether Jesus should be considered the Messiah, but the biblical prophecies.


Therefore we must next ask:

What are these prophecies?

And did Jesus fulfill them?

Richman gives a good, succinct summary of the prominent Messianic prophecies. I will examine each one in turn.

1. "... to cause all the world to return to G-d and His teachings ..." If by "world" he means all nations of the world, Jew and Gentile, then I agree (Psalm 67:2; Isaiah 49:6). However, if he means every individual from every nation, I disagree. Just as not all descendants of Abraham were Israelites (i.e., those descended from Ishmael and Esau), but only those whom God chose, so it is with the nations. Not every single individual is chosen by God, not even among those who call themselves Christians. Jesus has brought some from every tribe, nation, and language, to reconciliation with God.

2. "... to restore the royal dynasty to the descendants of David ..." I agree (2 Samuel 7:16; Psalm 132:11). And since Jesus was a descendant of David (apparently both on his father's side [Matthew 1] and on his mother's side [Luke 3]), and since he was resurrected to eternal life, David will never lack a man to sit on his throne (Isaiah 9:7).

3. "... to oversee the rebuilding of Jerusalem, including the Temple, in the event that it has not yet been rebuilt ..." I believe that Jesus fulfilled this condition spiritually. The mission of the Messiah was to establish righteousness in Israel (Isaiah 46:13; Jeremiah 33:16), while the Temple merely served to educate the people of God in the fundamentals of the Gospel: the need for righteousness, the need for the shedding of blood, and the remission of sin. Once the Messiah had established that infinite righteousness, there was no more need for the education that the Temple provided. The role of the Temple was fulfilled by the coming of the Messiah. Therefore, God caused that Temple to be desecrated and destroyed.

4. "... to gather the Jewish people from all over the world and bring them home to the Land of Israel ..." While the Scriptures speak of God gathering his people (Deuteronomy 30:4-5; Isaiah 43:5-6), I again insist that not all the descendants of Abraham are the people of God. Ishmael and Esau are two examples. Conversely, there were also those who were undoubtedly children of God who were not children of Abraham (e.g., Melchizedek, Rahab, and Ruth). The children of God, the ones whom he gathers, are only those who are children of the promise (e.g., Isaac), not merely children of the flesh (e.g., Ishmael).

5. "... and to reestablish the sanhedrin ..." I'm not sure, but I think this is a reference to Isaiah 1:26. If so, I again point out that a Messiah who merely comes to reestablish the political system of ancient Israel is not much of a Messiah.


Where will he be in 1000 years?

Or even a hundred years?

Who will deliver Israel then?

And how much meaning would the Messiah's mission have for someone living in an occupied Israel 100 years after the Messiah dies?

No, the Israel of God does not need political deliverance; they need spiritual deliverance. They do not need a temporal Messiah; they need an eternal Messiah. They do not need a charismatic political leader; they need righteousness. Again, man does not see the world as God sees it. Man wants a Messiah who brings in the political system of ancient Israel. But God wants a Messiah who brings in righteousness, trains his people in righteousness, and teaches them to judge righteous judgment, even if they do not have the slightest authority in this world (John 7:24;1 Corinthians 6:2-3).

6. "... restore the sacrificial system ..." Since this goes hand-in-hand with the rebuilding of the Temple, I again say that Jesus fulfilled this condition spiritually, as stated above.

7. "... as well as the Sabbatical year and Jubilee." The Sabbatical and Jubilee years were years of rest for the people of God, years in which they rested from their works and relied totally upon God to provide for their needs (Leviticus 25:8-12). A Christian obeys the fourth commandment and keeps a Sabbath rest to God every day of the week and every year of his life, because he totally rests from pleading his works as the ground of his acceptance with God and relies totally on God to provide for his need of righteousness (Romans 3:21-28; Hebrews 4:1-11).

Let me state clearly that I believe Jesus of Nazareth fulfilled every one of the above-mentioned prophe- cies, but in a spiritual sense, not a physical sense. Now apparently, the tract which the professing Christian sent to Richman gave the impression that since Jesus did not physically fulfill these prophecies at his first coming, he will fulfill them physically upon his return. Richman recognizes the inconsistency here and writes: "The notion that the messiah does not accomplish these things upon his appearance, and therefore must return a second time, does not exist in the Old Testament. Wherever these things are foretold in the Old Testament, we are told that the messiah comes and does these things -- once.

Where in the Old Testament is there even the faintest allusion to such a concept, that the messiah does not complete the job, and therefore returns a second time?
Every prophecy about the messiah makes it clear that he comes once and does the job." Richman actually sees what most professing Christians do not.

The shameful truth is that most people who call themselves Christians do not understand what the mission of the Messiah really was. They do not understand the need for an infinite righteousness, the shedding of blood, the remission of sins. They do not understand how God can be both a just God and a Savior (Isaiah 45:21). They might superficially understand how he could be just, or how he could be a Savior, but not both. They do not understand how the crucifixion of Jesus brings in a righteousness which alone answers the demands of God's holy Law and inflexible Justice and which alone demands and ensures the salvation of everyone whom he represented. They want a Messiah who brings in the political system of ancient Israel and reestablishes the Temple, along with all its rituals and sacrifices. In short, they have more in common with Judaism than with Christianity, since they try to interpret the Messiah's mission physically, not spiritually.

But Richman also takes issue with the spiritual interpretation of the Messiah's mission: "... it was necessary for Christianity to redefine the role of the messiah, complete with Biblical interpolation, in order to fit this man's career ... The basic structure of this explanation was to shift the function of the messiah from a visible level (the only level emphasized by the Bible) - where it could be tested - to an invisible level - where it could not."

I readily admit that Jesus' claim to be Messiah cannot be tested on a physical level. But I challenge the assumption that the Bible only emphasizes the physical level of reality. Again, I point to the examples of Elisha and Daniel.


And furthermore, when Esau and his men sought to kill Jacob, which one appeared to have the blessing of God?

When Pharaoh sought to kill Moses, which one appeared to have the blessing of God?

When Saul sought to kill David, which one appeared to have the blessing of God?

When Jezebel sought to kill Elijah, which one appeared to have the blessing of God?

In every case, the person with the wealth, power, and worldly influence was the one without the blessing of God. But this was certainly not obvious on a visible level; it could only be seen spiritually.

Richman continues by saying: "... the Bible was examined with the purpose of finding what no one had ever seen there before - evidence that the messiah would be killed without bringing peace to the world or redemption to Israel (hence the importance to Christians of Isaiah 53, which they say refers to Jesus)."


To this I offer two responses.

First, while Isaiah 53 is certainly the clearest evidence that the Messiah would be a suffering Savior, there are other verses that foreshadow and hint at this concept. See, for example, Genesis 22:1-14, Psalm 22:1-18, Zechariah 13:7.


Secondly, I would like to know from Richman to whom Isaiah 53 refers.

Does it refer to Isaiah himself?

Someone else?

But if Richman believes that Isaiah 53 does refer to the Messiah, then how does this view of a "Man of Sorrows" who was "cut off out of the land of the living" square with Richman's view of the Messiah as one who restores the Temple, the sacrifices, and the political system of ancient Israel?

Apparently to clarify the Jewish view of Jesus himself, Richman writes, "Please understand that several rabbis state that the historical Jesus - not the mangod Christianity made him into - did accomplish a great deal in turning people away from idolatry and towards a more authentic knowledge of G-d. But he did not claim the role which was given him by the early church fathers ..." However, this is totally inconsistent. If Jesus really did "accomplish a great deal in turning people away from idolatry and towards a more authentic knowledge of G-d", then why did his immediate followers turn so quickly to the supposed 'idolatry' of the Incarnation? In any event, how does Richman know that Jesus "did not claim the role which was given him by the early church fathers"?


To which of Jesus' writings does he point as proof of this assertion?

For that matter, to which of the contemporary rabbinical writings does he point?

If Jesus did claim not to be God in the flesh, doesn't it seem likely that some of his immediate followers would have written about that?

In contrast, the disciple John, who was one of the foremost disciples, wrote more about the subject than any other disciple (John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5; 1 John 4:5; Revelation 1:17-18).

Richman concludes by offering to discuss the subject with anyone who is interested. In particular, he claims to be willing to discuss any biblical text anyone wishes to discuss. I conclude by noting that I sent him a response to this same article about a year ago and have yet to receive a reply. However, if Richman is still willing to discuss the issue, then I would be willing to do so as well.

"But Jehovah pleased to crush Him, to make Him sick, [so that] if He should put His soul as a guilt offering, He shall see [His] seed; He shall prolong [His] days; and the will of Jehovah shall prosper in His hand. He shall see [the fruit] of the travail of His soul; He shall be fully satisfied. By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify for many, and He shall bear their iniquities."

(Isaiah 53:10-11)

By Christopher Adams