Laboring Together on Paul’s Foundation – 1 Corinthians 3:9-11

 

Summary:

Paul begins by comparing himself and Apollos (3:1-8) to “laborers” like farmers and builders (v. 9).  “Husbandry” is the Bible word for farming (cf. James 5:7), and Paul has already compared the ministry farming earlier in this chapter.  He told the Corinthians that he planted the seed of the gospel in them and Apollos watered it (3:6).

He had to assure them he and Apollos were “labourers together” because some of them liked one over the other, so they thought Paul and Apollos were working against one another, vying for their love and money.  He gave them more assurance they were working together when he explained how he invited Apollos to go to Corinth (I Cor. 16:12), and he showed he wasn’t competing with Paul when he refused!

After identifying who the farmers were, Paul identified the farm when he told them, “ye are God’s husbandry” (3:9).  But the ministry is more than seeing people get saved and become babes in Christ.  God wants them to grow up in Christ, and to expand on that thought Paul switches from the metaphor of farmers and farming to builders and building, telling them that they are God’s building.

God uses both analogies for “the church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38).  He called Israel a farm (Ps. 80:8,9) and a building (Amos 9:11).  They were the temple God lived in (II Cor. 6:1).  Of course, they sometimes got so sinful God had to relocate to heaven!  But in the New Testament, the Lord said He planned to build a church that would never get so sinful God would be force to leave it (Mt. 16:16-18).  We call it the kingdom church (v. 19).  But once Israel rejected her kingdom, God stopped building that church and began building the church which is the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22,23).

The first thing you need to build a building is an architect, and the Greek word for “masterbuilder” (v. 10) is archi-tekton.  “Arch” means chief, as in archangel (Jude 1:9).  “Tekton” is translated carpenter (Mt. 13:55).  So put them together and you get chief carpenter, or masterbuilder.  Paul is the architect of the church, the Body (Eph. 3:2-6).  But he didn’t just draw up the plans in his epistles and hand Apollos the blueprint.  He was a “hands-on” architect, helping in the ministry, and so “masterbuilder” describes him perfectly!

We know Moses was the architect of the kingdom church because the Lord kept quoting him (Mt. 8:4; Mark 10:3; 12:26).  The Pharisees were supposed to be the masterbuilders  (Mt. 23:1-3), but the Lord knew they’d kill Him instead of building the church on Him as the church’s foundation like they should have. So He told a parable in which he combined farming and building to say He’d take the church from them (Mt. 21:33-43) and give it to His “little flock” of followers (Luke 12:32), making them the new builders.

Of course, the Lord knew the 12 would have to be wise masterbuilders, so He gave them a supernatural gift of wisdom (Acts 2:4; 6:3).  We see that pictured when God gave Solomon a supernatural gift of wisdom to build the temple and the kingdom (II Chro. 2:12).  That’s why the 12 asked the Lord to “restore” the kingdom like they had under Solomon (Acts 1:6).  When Israel rejected the kingdom, God began to build the Body of Christ, making Paul the wise masterbuilder of it by giving him a supernatural gift of wisdom as an apostle (cf. Rom.12:6; 15:15,16; Eph. 3:7,8).

This helps us understand how Paul could say he laid the foundation of Christ (3:11) even though he wasn’t saved when the Lord came to be the foundation of Israel’s church.  He meant He laid Christ as the foundation of a new church!

When building on this foundation, Paul has the “house” of your own personal spiritual life in mind (cf. Luke 6:46-48), and the house of the local church as well, as we’ll see next week!

Spiritual Babies – 1 Corinthians 3:1-8

 

Summary:

The Corinthians were still “babes in Christ” (3:1) five years after Paul started the church.  So why had they failed to grow?  Well, a baby won’t grow if you don’t feed it nourishing food, and spiritual babies won’t grow if they’re not fed the spiritual nourishment of God’s Word.  But Paul fed them the “milk” of the Word (3:2) for a year and a half (Acts 18:1,11), because that’s what babes in Christ need to grow (I Pet. 2:2), then followed up with them by writing them epistles (I Cor. 5:9; II Cor. 1:1).

So their problem wasn’t a lack of nourishment.  Their problem was similar to the one in Hebrews 5:11-14.  They hadn’t used what they learned from the Bible to help them discern good and evil, so the writer calls them babes too.  And we know the Corinthians had the same problem because Paul says they were “carnal” (3:1).  We know that word means sinful for Paul says they were carnal because there was “envying” and “stife” among them (3:3), and those are sins.

And they are very babyish sins.  Did you ever watch babies play?  When one picks up a toy, suddenly that’s the one the other one wants!  We call that envy.  And what does he do about it?  He strives with the other about it.  The Corinthians were showing their spiritual immaturity when they were envying—and so do we when we envy!

What were they envying?  Words (cf. I Tim. 6:4), the words of Paul and Apollos (3:4).  Christians are always striving about the words of preachers!  If you’re wondering where the “envying” comes in, compare what happened when some men began prophesying in Israel and Joshua objected.  Moses asked why he envied for his sake (Num. 11:27).

Now Moses didn’t envy those other prophets, and Paul didn’t envy Apollos.  He called him a fellow minister (3:5).  But when Moses said he didn’t envy those other men, that didn’t mean he felt they had the same authority he had.  He knew he was God’s man of the hour (Deut. 4:1,2), the one God chose to write the first 5 books of the Bible and give Israel the rules for the dispensation of the law.

And Paul knew he was God’s man of the hour for the dispensation of grace.  God gave him what to give us (I Cor. 11:23; 15:3), just as He gave Moses what to give Israel (Deut. 4:5).  That means if you wanted to follow God in time past you had to follow Moses as he followed Him, and if you want to follow God today you have to follow Him as Paul followed Him (I Cor. 11:1).

So in calling himself and Apollos both ministers, he didn’t mean they were equal ministers.  Paul was “the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles” (Rom. 15:16).

Here I need to point out that God didn’t give those other prophets anything He didn’t give Moses.  The difference was that God spoke to them in visions, but He spoke to Moses “face to face” (Num. 12:6-8).  And the Lord spoke to Paul face to face, by revelation, by revealing Himself to Paul directly (Gal. 1:11,12), but He spoke to the New Testament prophets in the Body of Christ “by the Spirit” (Eph. 3:2-5).

Paul “planted” the seeds of the gospel in Corinth (3:6) and Apollos watered those seeds by reinforcing what Paul taught.  But God has to give “the increase” because only God can give life, just as the only thing you bury in the ground that can give life are seeds.

But only the seeds of God’s Word rightly divided can give life.  God told Abraham if he got circumcised he could have eternal life.  Moses told the Jews if they obeyed the law they could have life (Lev. 18:5).  The Lord told the Jews if they got baptized they could have life (Mark 16:16).  Only Paul says you can have life by faith alone without works.  If you sow any of those other Bible seeds in the hearts of men today in the dispensation of grace, they won’t yield eternal life!

Finally, don’t forget that the Corinthians spoke in tongues (I Cor. 12-14), and yet Paul called them “carnal” and not “spiritual.”  Don’t ever let anyone who thinks he can speak in tongues tell you that it is a sign of spirituality, for God says otherwise!  And don’t feel unspiritual just because you can’t imitate the gift of tongues as some do.  The gift of tongues is a gift God is no longer giving to His people!

What’s In A Name? – Acts 9:36-43

 

Summary:

“Tabitha” (9:36) was a Hebrew name, the Greek Gentile translation of which was “Dorcas.”  All names have meanings, and Tabitha means “beauty,” while Dorcas means “gazelle.”  So both names mean kind of the same thing, for gazelles are beautiful animals.

But the meanings of names in the Bible often have spiritual significance.  This woman was a type of the nation of Israel.  You see, when the people of Israel did good works like they did under King Solomon, He made sure they were beautiful in the eyes of the other nations.  But when they did bad works instead, He allowed the Babylonians to destroy their beautiful city and take them captive (Lam. 2:13-15).

But they were beautiful as long as they were doing good works, as we see symbolized by Dorcas, whose name means “beauty,” and who is said to have been “full of good works” (9:36).  She lived in Joppa, another name for beauty, making it a symbol of Jerusalem.  She was beautiful and lived in a beautiful city—just like the people of Israel when they were doing good works!

But the beauty of Israel died when they got so sinful God allowed Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and take them captive, and it died again when they crucified Christ and stoned Stephen in Acts 7, something we see symbolized when Dorcas died here in Acts 9:37. God wanted to restore a beautiful kingdom to them, like they had when they were doing good works under Solomon (Acts 1:6), but all hopes of that died when they stoned Stephen, as depicted with Dorcas’ death.

The “upper chamber” they laid her in was a type of heaven.  That’s where all Israel’s hopes and dreams of the beautiful kingdom God wanted to give her went after they rejected it.  And that’s where they are to this day (I Peter 1:3,4), as we see pictured when they laid Dorcas in an upper chamber.  Their kingdom is vested there in Christ, as we see it vested in Christ on Palm Sunday (Lu. 19:38 cf. Mark 11:10).  We see this again when the Lord told some unbelievers the kingdom was within them (Luke 17:21).  He meant the kingdom they asked about (v. 20) was right in their midst vested in Him (cf. the words “within you” to Deut. 28:43,44).

When Dorcas died, her loved ones didn’t bury her, they sent for Peter to raise her from the dead (9:38-40).  That’s a pic-ture of how Israel’s hopes of a kingdom were dead, but they weren’t dead and buried!  All the nation needs is a resurrection—the kind we see pictured when Peter raised Dorcas!

When it says they brought Peter into that upper chamber (v. 39,40), that’s a picture of how the Lord went to heaven to get the kingdom and return (Lu. 19:12-15).  That’s where He went after He died and rose again, but someday He’ll return with the kingdom to raise saved Jews to enter it.  “Lydda” (v. 38) was the Greek form of the Hebrew city of “Lod,” which means nativity or generation.  That’s a picture of the re-generation of resurrection that the Lord will give the Jews when He returns (Mt. 19:28)—but only Jews who did good works like Dorcas!

Remember, we’re saved by faith without works (Tit. 3:5), but Jews under the law were saved by faith plus works of righteousness (Ps. 15:1,2) like animal sacrifices (Deut. 33:19 cf. Ps. 4:5; 51:19).  They also worked righteousness by obeying the sabbath, the feasts, and other parts of the law (Lu. 1:6).  Then the Lord added another work they had to do to be saved, sell all they had and give to the poor (Lu. 18:18,22).

That’s called an “alms” (Lu. 12:33 cf. Acts 3:2,3), and Dorcas is said to have done “almsdeeds” (9:36).  So she didn’t make coats and garments (v. 39) for herself, but for the poor to be saved, making her a type of Jews in the Tribulation (James 2:14-17).  Job was a type of this (Job 31:19-22).  He had to go through some tribulation, but was rewarded in the end, just as Jews will have to go through the Tribulation but will be rewarded in the end—if they did the good works of clothing the needy like Job and Dorcas did!

When it says Peter “presented” her to her family, that’s a picture of Jude 1:22-24, where Jews who had “compassion” on the needy and clothed them will be “presented” to the Lord and His host to enter the kingdom

Apostles Without Quarters – Acts 9:32-35

 

Summary:

The “quarters” in Verse 32 were the quarters of the Roman empire that Luke, the author of Acts, also referenced in Luke 3:1.  There the word “tetrarch” is a compound Greek word.  “Tetr” means fourth and “arch” means ruler, as when arch-angels rule over other angels.  Put them together and it means tetrarchs ruled over a fourth part of the Roman Empire.

The Bible isn’t a book of science, but when it touches on scientific things like this it is always scientifically accurate.  It took science 3500 years to learn that uncovered food get contaminated with germs, something God talked about in Numbers 19:15.  It also took science about that long to learn that “bloodletting,” such as the doctors performed on George Washington to help with his throat infection, was only letting his life slip away (Lev. 17:11).

The “saints” in those quarters were living, breathing believers, not dead people canonized by Rome.  The word “saint” is the noun form of the word sanctify.  If you are sanctified, you’re a saint—even the carnal Corinthians (I Cor. 1:2)!

The early part of Acts 9 is all about the conversion of Saul, who became the Apostle Paul.  In our last lesson we learned that with his conversion the focus in Acts begins to shift away from the 12 to Paul.  That’s because they were Israel’s apostles for Israel’s 12 tribes.  But when the Jews crucified the Lord and stoned Stephen they showed they rejected the kingdom that Peter offered them (Acts 3:19).  After that, Paul was given the new program of grace, so the focus in Acts shifts to him.

So here in Acts 9, we have to ask why Luke has gone back to talking about Peter (9:36).  The answer is: because God didn’t drop Israel like a hot potato!  Even though the nation had rejected the Lord, He kept reaching out to individuals within the nation (Rom. 10:21).

“Palsy” is the Bible word for paralysis (Mark 2:3).  Peter is going to heal this paralyzed Jew named Aeneas.  Aeneas means praise, and praise is what the nation of Israel was supposed to be.  They were supposed to be the source of praise to God on earth.  That’s why God created that nation (Isa. 43:21).  And someday in the kingdom, they will show forth God’s praise to the nations (Isa. 61:9-11).

But after the Jews rejected the kingdom by stoning Stephen in Acts 7, here in Acts 9 we see a symbol of what they had become instead.  We see a man whose name means praise suffering from palsy, or paralysis.  That’s a type of how God’s program to have the nation of Israel lead the nations in praise of God had bogged down and become paralyzed.

He was paralyzed “eight years.”  This happened 38 A.D., eight years after the Lord began his ministry (Luke 3:23).  So this paralyzed victim of palsy was a symbol of how Israel had been paralyzed since the beginning of the Lord’s ministry by their own unbelief.  The Lord did His best to raise them up from that paralysis, as we see symbolized in Matthew 9:6, but they crucified Him instead.

When Peter likewise healed a paralyzed Jew, it wasn’t to portray the spiritual healing that the Lord was offering Israel, as the Lord’s miracle of healing did.  It was to depict what God will do for Israel in the future.  That’s why this miracle was repeated.  God will someday make Israel a source of His praise in the earth after 2,000 years of spiritual paralysis!  When this man obeyed the Lord and made his bed after getting healed, that’s a picture of how Israel will begin to obey God after the Lord raises them up from their paralysis.

When they do, it will have an effect on the nations, as we see pictured when this healing had an effect on people (9:35).  “Lydda” is the Greek spelling of “Lod,” part of the people who returned to Israel after the tribulation of the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 2:1,33).  They picture what will happen after the Jews go through the Tribulation and return to the promised land after seeing God lift the paralysis of their nation.

We see more proof of this when “Saron” also turned to the Lord after seeing Aeneas healed (9:35).  “Saron” is Sharon, and Sharon will also turn to the Lord after seeing the lame man leap as an hart (Isa. 35:1,2,6)—just like Aeneas did!

What Do Good Guys Wear? – Acts 9:20-31

 

Summary:

Why did Saul preach the kingdom gospel of “Jesus is the Christ” (v. 20 cf. John 20:31) instead of the gospel he later preached of “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:1-4)?  It’s important to know the answer, for those who say he preached the kingdom gospel early in his ministry say he preached the kingdom program in his early epistles.  That would mean Romans, Corinthians, Galatians and Thessalonians were written to Jews under the kingdom program and not to us.

But what would you preach if you were facing unsaved Jews in a synagogue who didn’t know Jesus was their Christ? Jesus is the Christ!  That’s where we must begin with unsaved Jews.  But that’s not all he preached, that’s all Luke wrote down.  Nineteen years later Luke said that’s still all he preached in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1), but we know he preached his gospel there too (Rom. 16:25 cf. I Thes. 1:5).  He preached that Christ died for us there (I Thes. 4:14; 5:10), so he probably preached that in Acts 9:20 as well.

So why didn’t Luke say he preached more?  He was writing as a historian, not a theologian.  The new program of grace was given to Paul, not him.  Paul’s theology is in his epistles.

Saul nearly died when he didn’t drink for three days (9:9).  He was strengthened a little in v.19 and more here (v. 22).  He proved Jesus was Christ to those unsaved Jews the same way he did in Acts 17:2,3, by proving their own Scriptures predicted Christ would die and rise again—like Jesus did!

They didn’t like his message so decided to kill the messenger (v. 23).  The phrase lie in wait (v. 24) refers to a secret ambush (Pr. 1:11).  Paul knew about this secret because he was a prophet (I Cor. 13:2) and prophets could know stuff like that (II Ki. 6:11).  The disciples helped him escape in a basket over the city wall (v. 25).  II Corinthians 11:32 tells us that they got the government to do their dirty work of trying to kill him, just as they convinced Pilate to execute the Lord.

The word “assayed” means to try (Heb. 11:29).  You’d think the disciples would know that anyone who had to escape those unsaved Jews in a basket was a legitimate believer, but they figured it was all a clever ruse to gain their confidence and trap them and kill them.

When Acts 9:26,27 says Saul went to Jerusalem and saw the 12, we know three years have passed (Gal. 1:13-18).  Now you’d think Saul would have wanted to see the 12 apostles right away, and maybe he did.  But the Lord would have steered him away from them lest people think he got his message from them and preached the same thing they did.

He didn’t!  God gave him a whole new message and pro-gram, the message and program of grace!  When Saul finally did meet with the 12, they didn’t tell him what they preached.  He already knew what they preached.  He wouldn’t have been killing them without doing his homework.  He killed them in all good conscience (Acts 23:1).  No, he told them what he preached (Gal. 2:1-7). We assume Saul spent those three years in Arabia learning the mystery, since it took the Lord three years to train the 12.

From Acts 9 forward in Acts, the focus shifts away from the 12 to Paul, and that begins here. That explains why Peter had the gift of prophecy in Acts 5:1-9 when he just knew Ananias and Sapphira were lying, but didn’t know Saul wasn’t lying here when he said he was a disciple.  He was beginning to lose his spiritual gifts!  Not all at once, for he’s about to heal a man and raise a woman from the dead.  But God had already taken away his gift of prophecy and given it to Paul.

How did Barnabas know Saul wasn’t lying?   We’re not told.  Perhaps he saw Saul use his gift of prophecy, or heard him preaching.  All we know for sure is that Saul hung out with the 12 in Jerusalem (v. 28) for fifteen days (Gal. 1:18).  Long enough to get the Grecians angry enough to kill him (v. 29).

When the churches had rest after Saul got saved (v. 30,31), that proves he was the main persecutor of the church.  And if God can save His worst enemy, that proves that He can save you, no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done.  “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Video of this sermon is available on YouTube: What Do Good Guys Wear? – Acts 9:20-31

Days of Future Past – Matthew 24:37-51

 

Summary:

Right before the Lord comes to defeat the Antichrist and all the unsaved men who ally themselves with him, they’ll be eating and drinking like they always do (v.38) so won’t know when He’s coming (v. 36).

That phrase “eating and drinking” is associated with banqueting in the Bible, especially in conjunction with “giving in marriage” (v. 37).  Any father who’s paid for a wedding reception knows that!  But believers who don’t take the mark of the beast won’t be able to buy enough food and wine to eat and drink like that (Rev. 13:17).  And believers will think twice before marrying due to the Lord’s warning in Matthew 24:19.  Only unbelievers will feel safe enough to marry in the Tribulation, thinking Antichrist will give them “peace and safety” (I Thes. 5:2,3).

Believers will also be unable to plant and build (Lu. 17:26), for they can’t build or plant on land they’ve sold, and that’s what they’ll have to do to be saved (Lu. 18:18, 22 cf. Acts 4:34,35).

Now I know that “one taken and one left” scenario described in Matthew 24:40,41 sounds like the Rapture, but believers are taken to heaven at the Rapture (I Thes. 4:14).  Unbelievers are taken to judgment here, like Noah was (Mt. 24:39)—the  judgment of Armageddon (Lu. 17:36,37 cf. Rev. 19:17-20).

Some unsaved people will gather themselves to that battle (Joel 3:9-12), while Satan will hoodwink others into going (Rev. 16:13-16).  God will gather still other unbelievers to Armageddon in the “reverse Rapture” depicted here in Matthew 24.  We know God knows how to teleport people (Acts 8:39).  Acts 17:30-34 shows it will be “day” in some parts of the world when the Lord comes and “night” in other parts.

In Matthew 24:42 we see more proof the Lord isn’t talking about the Rapture here.  That verse sounds more like a warn-ing of a disaster than advice to prepare for a happy event!

The Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief in the night (Mt. 24:43,44), and if men are not ready they’ll suffer the same kind of serious damage as they do from a thief.  But if you’re not ready for the Rapture you just get Raptured!  Those who teach the “partial Rapture” theory say you’ll be left behind if you’re not worthy, but they base that on Luke 21:36.  But that’s talking about being able to “stand” before the Lord after the battle.  After the Lord defeats Antichrist’s armies, the worthy ones left standing will enter the kingdom (Mal. 3:1-3).  But all who believe will be raptured, not all who behave (I Thes. 4:14-17).

How will they get ready?  Well the Lord will expect them to be feeding His servants (Mt. 24:45).  If they don’t, they can’t be saved (James 2:15-17).  If they do, they’ll be “blessed” (Mt. 24:46) with the kingdom (Mt. 25:34-40).  The Lord’s “goods” (Mt. 24:47) are “all that He hath” in the kingdom (Lu. 12:44), the Gentile nations (Ps. 2:8).  He’ll rule over them (Rev. 19:15) with help from worthy Jews (Rev.2:26, 27).But you’ll be ruling over the angels in heaven (I Cor. 6:3).

Some Jews won’t be ready because they’ll believe the Lord’s coming is far off (Mt. 24:48 cf. Ezek. 12:27).  So while worthy people will be feeding God’s people, unsaved men will be persecuting them (Mt. 24:49).  They’ll be getting drunk and living it up—but not for long (v. 50,51)!

But eating and drinking and marrying is the opposite of what men will be doing before the Rapture (I Tim. 4:1-3).  That’s another way you know that Matthew 24 is not about the Rapture.   Only Paul talks about the Rapture.  It was a “mystery” (I Cor. 15:51-53) until the Lord revealed it to him.

But an old saying says not to let your roots in this world grow too deep, or you might not want to leave it when He comes.  The Greek word for “caught up” in I Thessalonians 4:13-17 is translated “take Him by force” in John 6:15.  Don’t make the Lord have to tug on you twice when He tries to take you away from this life and all the things you love by loving them too deeply.  Instead, be one of the ones who are honoring Him with your life, and serving Him with your words, your time, your talent, your money, and with every breath you breathe.

Video of this sermon is available on YouTube: Days of Future Past – Matthew 24:37-51

The Shortest Days in the History of the World – Matthew 24:22-35

 

Summary:

How will the Lord shorten the days of the “great tribulation” (Mt. 24:21, 22) for the sake of the elect (those who will believe on Him during the Tribulation)?  It has to last exactly 1260 days (Rev. 12:6-12), three and a half years (Dan. 12:6, 7), 42 months (Rev. 13:2-5).  Some say He was going to make it last longer but shortened it to 1260 days.  But after Daniel said it would last three and a half years the Lord said the days “shall be” shortened, future tense.  No, He won’t shorten the number of days, He’ll shorten the days by doing the opposite of what He did in Joshua 10:12,13.

When those days come, false christs will claim to be Christ in hiding (Mt. 24:23-26).  The Lord told His disciples not to believe it because His coming will be like lightning (v. 27).  Lightning always gets our attention!  So He was saying when He comes everyone will know about it—specially if it starts in the east and goes all the way to the west!  But lightning that starts in the north and goes to the south would only reach the south pole, for after that it would be going north again.  If the Lord came like that, only half the world would see Him.  But lightning that comes out of the east and goes to the west has to circle the globe, meaning “every eye shall see Him” (Rev. 1:7).

Since lightning travels 3700 miles per second, some think the Lord was talking about the Rapture (cf. I Cor. 15:52).  But He compares this coming to what happens when eagles gather around a dead body (Mt. 24:28). That’s Armageddon (Rev. 19:11-21).  The Lord will use the birds of the earth as a sort of heavenly cleanup crew to cleanse the planet of the rot and stench of the dead before establishing His beautiful kingdom

But if this coming of the Lord is associated with Armageddon, that means it is a coming that will take place after the Tribulation—and that’s what the Lord went on to say (Mt. 24:29,30).  But Paul promises we’ll be raptured before the Tribulation (I Thes. 4:15—5:5) and escape that wrath (I Thes. 1:10; 5:9) by the “salvation” of the Rapture (Rom. 13:11).

Part of the “wrath” that the ones left behind will have to endure will fall when the stars fall (Mt. 24:30) to the earth (Rev. 6:12,13).  These can’t be literal stars. Stars are suns, and even one falling would incinerate us.  Stars in the Bible can be an-gels (Job 38:4-7). The ones that will fall are the fallen angels, the “powers” that rule “high places” (Eph. 6:12). That’s why “the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (Mt. 24:30). There’s going to be a shakeup in the government of heaven.

Then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven (v. 31). Normally we can’t see into heaven because the “curtain” of the stars keeps us from seeing into the “tabernacle” of God in heaven (Isa. 40:22 cf. Heb.8:1, 2).  But God is going to peel back the curtain of the heavens “as a scroll” (Rev. 6:13-16) and they’ll see the Son looking slain (5:6), i.e., still bearing the wounds of Calvary.  Knowing that men like themselves gave Him those wounds, they’ll fear His wrath. That explains how they’ll see Him “sitting” and then “coming” (Mt. 26:64) instead of coming and then sitting in the kingdom.

People also think Matthew 24 is about the Rapture because people will be gathered with a trump (24:31 cf. I Thes. 4:16, 17). But God only uses angels with Israel (cf. Gal. 3:19). And right before angels gather saved Jews into the kingdom He’ll use them to weed out the tares of the unsaved (Mt. 13:38).

Knowing that the fig tree (Mt. 24:32, 33) is a symbol of Israel (Hos. 9:10), prophecy preachers got excited when the nations of the world created what is now known as the nation of Israel in 1948.  Some added the “generation” (Mt. 24:34) of 33 years to 1948 and predicted the Rapture would come in 1981.  But national Israel is represented by the olive tree (Ps. 80:8).  The fig tree represents religious Israel.  Adam used fig leaves to cover his sin, and covering your sin is the very definition of religion.  Antichrist will rebuild Israel’s temple and give them back their sacrifice system, something the Lord cursed (Mt. 21:18).  That’s the sign of the fig tree that will signal the Lord’s coming and the end of the world.

Don’t you love it when prophecy preachers try to determine the day of the Rapture from a passage that says you can’t know it (Mt. 24:35, 36)! Those that claim they know when He will return claim to know more than the Lord (Mark. 13:32)!

Video of this sermon is also available on YouTube: The Shortest Days in the History of the World – Matthew 24:22-35

One of the Greatest Prophecies in the Bible – Matthew 24:1-21

 

Summary:

The 12 were overly impressed with the temple (24:1) even though Christ called it a den of thieves earlier and had just stormed out of it (23:37-39).  So the Lord told them it’d have to come down stone by stone (24:2).  The only buildings torn down like that had leprosy (Lev. 14:44), a type of sin.  When the Lord left the temple and went to the Mount of Olives (24:3), that should have reminded Jews of how the glory of the Lord did the same thing in Ezekiel 10:18.

The end of the world the 12 asked about (Mt. 24:3) began 2,000 years ago (Heb. 9:26), but was interrupted by the dispensation of the mystery (Eph. 3:1-3).

Daniel said the “everlasting righteousness” of the kingdom would come after 70 weeks (Dn. 9:24) of years (cf. Gen. 29:29) when the Lord returns to establish it.  You see, He meant the end of the world as we know it, the end of man being in charge of the world and Christ being in charge of it in the kingdom.  It was supposed to start after Christ came 69 weeks later (Dn. 9:25), but didn’t.  Daniel said that 70th week would be horrendous (9:25-27).  We know Matthew 24 is all about that week for the 12 asked about the end of the world.

It will start with “many” a false christ persuading unsaved Jews who rejected Jesus that they are the messiah Israel’s been looking for (24:5).  There’s always been wars and rumors of wars (24:6) so the Lord added there’d be “pestilences” (24:7).  That word means sicknesses (I Ki. 8:37), specifically epidemic sicknesses.  This has many thinking Covid-19 is a sign of the end.  Many are also quoting Leviticus 26:14,25 to say God is judging us for our sins, but we’re not under the law of Leviticus 26 (Rom. 6:15)!  When God starts sending pestilences a third of Israel will die (Eze. 5:12).

Others are quoting Psalm 91:3-8 to say God will spare Christians of pestilence even though He’s not!  Nothing but disillusionment and shattered faith can come from claiming promises that God made to Israel if they obeyed Him.

When a third of a nation dies the world will think the end is near, but the Lord said that’s just “the beginning of sorrows” (24:8).  The believers whom He said would be killed (24:9) are the 12 apostles, not us.  He expected them to live to see all this (24:34; Mt. 16:28), but the mystery interrupted things.

That didn’t make Him a false prophet, for Hezekiah said something that didn’t come true (Isa. 38:1-5).  But God told David if his sons were good that one would always sit on the throne (I Ki. 2:4). Hezekiah reminded God if he died childless that wouldn’t come true!  So God knew all along Hezekiah would live despite what His prophet said, and He knew all along that generation would die and not see these things in Matthew 24, even though the Lord said they wouldn’t.

In the Tribulation, believing Jews will be “betrayed” by unsaved Jews (24:10) of their own families (Mark 1:13-15).  It’s a cold day when even your wife might sell you out to the Antichrist (Micah 7:5,6), so the Lord said “the love of many shall wax cold” (Mt. 24:11,12).  But they’ll have to endure till the end of the Tribulation without selling out to the beast if they want to be saved (24:13).

After the gospel of the kingdom is preached in all the world the end of the world will come (24:14).  That gospel isn’t “Christ died for our sins” (I Cor. 15:3,4).  The 12 preached the kingdom gospel and didn’t know He’d die (Lu. 9:1,2; 18:31-34).  The kingdom gospel was the good news He was their king and ready to give them their kingdom (Mark 1:14,15).

We know Matthew 24:15,16 is halfway through Daniel’s 70th week because it sounds like Daniel 9:27.  The over-spreading of desolations has to do with the cherubim that overspread the mercy seat (Ex. 37:9).  Antichrist will cause the sacrifices he reinstated to “cease” by dying and rising (Rev. 13:1-3) and claiming to be their fulfillment.  The mercy seat will become “desolate” when Antichrist sits on it (II Ths. 2:7,8) because “desolate” means empty of inhabitants (Jer. 33:10) and God is supposed to inhabit the mercy seat (Ps. 99:1).

Tribulation Jews will have to move fast to escape the beast (24:17-29) and break the sabbath (v. 20). Worrying about that is more proof this isn’t about us who are not under the law!

Video of this sermon is also available on YouTube: One of the Greatest Prophecies in the Bible – Matthew 24:1-21

Ananias Passes the Test! – Acts 9:10-19

 

Summary:

The Lord asked Ananias to go see Saul, who was persecuting Christ’s followers unto the death (Acts 9:10-17).  That was perhaps the hardest test of faith in the Bible, but Ananias was able to pass it because he was “a devout man” (22:12).

“Devout” is the adjective form of the word devoted, which means to take something that is yours and say it is the Lord’s (Lev. 27:16, 21).  That’s what Ananias did with himself before his hardest test of faith came.  That’s how he passed it.  Your hardest test may be yet to come, but you too can pass it if you devote yourself to the Lord in advance like he did!

Saul was “praying” (11) like you probably were right after you got saved.  I hope you never stopped!  Paul had to write “pray without ceasing” (I Thes. 5:17) because when grace believers learn God isn’t answering prayer in the miraculous manner in which He used to answer prayer, some of them cease praying.  Paul didn’t, and neither should we!  God still answers prayer through His Word working in His people.

A “vessel” (v. 15) is something you put things in to carry them from one place to another.  Your blood vessels carry life-giving blood and oxygen to the furthest extremities of your body so you can have life.  The Lord chose Saul to carry His name to the Gentiles so that they might have eternal life.

That means the Lord was calling Saul to a different kind of ministry than that to which He called the twelve, who were not sent to the Gentiles (Mt. 10:1-6). The Lord didn’t say that because He didn’t like Gentiles.  He planned to use the Jews to reach the Gentiles!  That means in time past Israel was God’s chosen vessel to bear His name before the Gentiles.

But when the Jews refused to be the ambassadors that God sent them to be among the Gentiles, He allowed them to be “swallowed up” of the Gentiles (Hos. 8:8), and instead they go “among the Gentiles” as His prisoners in Babylon instead of as His ambassadors.  God would have been pleased with them if they’d have obeyed Him, but when they didn’t, they became “a vessel wherein is no pleasure.”

God eventually let them out of Babylonian captivity.  But when He tried to use Israel to reach the Gentiles in the New Testament and they responded by rocking Stephen to sleep, that was the last straw.  God chose Saul to be His new chosen vessel to bear His name to the Gentiles.

But when Acts 9:15 mentions the Jews last, that means God is now reaching us Gentiles first and using us to carry His name to the Jews.  But His plan to use Paul and us to carry His name to the Gentiles was different from His plan to use the Jews to do it in many ways.  We see one very important way in Verse 16 when the Lord told Ananias that He’d show Saul how great things he’d have to suffer for Him.

When God used the Jews to reach the Gentiles, any suffering they had to suffer was of their own making!  God told them that if they obeyed Him that He’d protect them from sickness and their enemies.  But the Lord promised Saul—and us!—that we will suffer for Him (Acts 14:22).  But after all that the Lord suffered for us on the cross, it’s a privilege to suffer for Him to get the truth of the mystery out to the rest of the Body of Christ as Paul did (Col. 1:23,24).

The filling of the Spirit back then (Acts 9:17) empowered men to be able to speak in tongues (2:4) and heal the sick (5:15, 16).  But today it empowers us to thank God in “all things,” and empowers wives to submit to husbands and children to submit to parents and servants to obey their masters (Eph. 5:18-6:5).  That’s way more powerful!

Saul was baptized (Acts 9:18)—but not for the remission of sins (cf. 2:38).  We know he was saved before he was baptized, after he called Jesus “Lord” (Acts 9:6 cf. I Cor. 12:3).  Ananias asked him to be baptized because that was the only message he knew.  The new program of salvation without baptism wasn’t revealed to him, it was revealed later to Paul!

To make it so Saul could kick back with the disciples he’d come to kill (Acts 9:19) God had to change the nature of that “wolf” to get him to lay back with those lambs (cf. Isa. 11:6).  God can still do that today in the most violent of men.  He’s the answer to all the violence we’re seeing lately!

This sermon is also available on YouTube: Ananias Passes the Test! – Acts 9:10-19

Saul’s Threatenings and His Conversion – Acts 9:1-9

 

Summary:

Saul wasn’t just slaughtering God’s people and “threatening” to kill more of them.  He was “breathing out” threatenings and slaughter (9:1).  What’s the difference?   Breath is God’s gift (Acts 17:25), a gift that gives life (Gen. 2:7).  But what you breathe out is what you do with the life God gives you.  That means Saul lived to threaten and slaughter the Lord’s disciples.  But after he got saved, he lived for the Lord (Phil. 1:21).  You should use your breath to also! (Ps. 150:6).

Of course, Saul thought he was living for the Lord when murdering the saints (Acts 23:1).  He thought they were heretics who deserved to die (John 16:2).  This is another thing that made him a type of the antichrist (Dan. 8:24; Re. 13:4,7).

He probably would have become the beast if God hadn’t interrupted prophecy with the mystery.  Psalm 27:12 talks about breathing out cruelty, which sounds like Saul, but we know that’s a passage about antichrist and his followers because Psalm 27:10,11 matches the Lord’s description of the Tribulation (Mark 13:12-14).  This is kind of like how John the Baptist would have been Elijah if Israel had accepted the kingdom (Mal. 4:5; Mt. 11:12,14).  They didn’t, so another Elijah will rise in the Tribulation.

And Saul would have been the antichrist, but now another will arise.  I say all that to assure you that Antichrist won’t be doomed to be the Antichrist.  It’s like how the prophets predicted someone would betray the Lord, but it didn’t have to be Judas.  And the prophets also said there’d be an antichrist, but the man will likewise choose to be the antichrist.

Saul persecuted believers in Jerusalem so thoroughly they all left (Acts 8:1-3) so he got authorization to slay them in Damascus (9:1, 2).  That’s another type of the antichrist.  Saul got his authority from the high priest, antichrist will get his from Satan (Rev. 13:2).  Saul persecuted those of “that way” (9:2), i.e., followers of the Lord Jesus (John 14:6 cf. Acts 19:9, 23).

The “light” Saul saw (9:3) was brighter than the sun (26:13).  Saul knew that could only be God (cf. Ps. 104:1,2).  That explains why he fell to the earth (9:4) like Ezekiel did (Ezek. 1:28).  As we’ll see, the “voice” Saul heard belonged to the Lord Jesus, who didn’t ask why Saul was persecuting Him, He asked why he was killing His disciples (9:4).  That’s because God takes it personally when you kill His people (Isa. 63:9; Zech. 2:8) and the Lord did too (Mt. 25:40).

So Saul knows the light is God, and he knows he’s been persecuting the followers of Christ, so he’s figuring out that the “God” he’s talking to is Christ.  But he asks just to be sure (9:5).  God told Moses His name was “I am” (Ex. 3:14), and now 1500 years later He gave His full name: “I am Jesus.”

“Pricks” (9:5) were the sharp goads (Jud. 3:31) Jews used to prick oxen to get them to go where they wanted.  Saul knew the prophets well enough to know that their description of Israel’s Christ matched Jesus, and God used that to prick his conscience.  But Saul didn’t want to believe the lowly carpenter was his Christ so he kicked against the pricks.

Men always “trembled” (9:6) before God (Hab. 3:2, 4, 16).  But why was Saul also “astonished” (9:6) to learn Jesus was Christ if he’d suspected it all along?  He was astonished that the Lord had spoken to him tenderly instead of in wrath as Psalm 2:5 said he would!  The Lord revealed He was sending him to the Gentiles with a new message (Acts 22:15-18).

He told him to go to Damascus where Ananias would tell him what to do (9:6), but not why.  Ananias told him to be baptized for salvation (22:16), but Saul was already saved on Damascus Road (Acts 9:6 cf. I Cor. 12:3).  The Lord wanted him baptized so the disciples would believe he was saved (Acts 9:26,27). Saul wasn’t saved under the kingdom gospel.

Saul’s henchmen heard the voice (9:7) but not the words (22:9 cf. John 12:28, 29) for the mystery was only given to Paul.

Saul was blinded by the light of the Lord’s glory (9:8, 9 cf. 22:11).  But to save a blasphemer like Saul (I Tim. 2:12, 13) God had to introduce a whole new world (Mt. 12:31, 32), a world the prophets knew nothing about—the world of the dispensation of the grace of God.  The mystery (Eph. 3:1-3).

This sermon is also available on YouTube: Saul’s Threatenings and His Conversion – Acts 9:1-9