The holidays of this world counterfeit God's holy days, but it is obvious that they are very different. God warns us not to be involved in them.
New Year's celebrations often involve drunkenness, debauchery, and adultery. God commands us to separate ourselves from these customs and traditions of the world.
New Years, Christmas, Easter, Halloween and birthdays all originate in paganism. Satan entices many into accepting these pagan practices through emotional appeals.
Valentine's Day is supposed to foster and advance true love between men and women. Its origins—and its tenuous association with the so-called Saint Valentine—clearly point to something other than true love, the love of God!
As another Christmas season approaches, many in God's church dread having to endure it. Have you ever wondered how our children feel about it?
Because of the pagan origins of Christmas, increasing numbers of Christians realize that one cannot 'put Christ' back into something in which He never was.
The pagan origins of Christmas are well known. How can Christians practice something that has always been anti-God? Is this worshiping 'in spirit and in truth'?
Mike Ford takes a few stabs at Christmas trees, lights and Barbie dolls—all, believe it or not, traceable to pagan customs!
The Catholic Church chose December 25 as the date of Jesus' birth, centuries after the fact. However, internal biblical evidence gives a very different story.
The true story of Jesus' birth has been syncretized into a non-Christian festival, and even that has been obscured by a wrong date and a phony crèche scene.
If there is indeed a 'war on Christmas,' then let Rome defend it, for it was pagan Rome that co-opted the winter solstice and inserted the presumed birth of Jesus.
Christmas is a very blatant form of syncretism, the blending of diverse religious practices. The origins of Christmas testify of why we should reject it.
No one wants to have his traditions or treasured fantasies burst. But when a real Christian is presented with truth, he embraces it out of reverence for God.
Christmas, Easter, and Halloween all derive from sex, fertility, and sun worship. Christmas traces to the incestuous relationship of Semiramis and Nimrod.
Did Christmas come from the Bible or paganism? Here are the origins of the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, mistletoe, the holly wreath, and exchanging gifts.
Orthodoxy in virtually every aspect of life has been discarded, indicating how perverse human nature is in its determination to rebel against God.
Galatians 4:9-10 is a favorite crutch of those who claim Christians no longer need to observe God's holy days. However, Paul's meaning is quite different.
If Christmas is Christ's birthday, it is strange that everybody else except Christ receives a gift. All of its symbols derive from pagan sources.
Halloween is the second-most popular holiday. This night not only lacks biblical foundation, but the Bible warns us against participating in such activities.
Many think keeping Christmas is fine, yet God never tells us to celebrate His Son's birth. Celebrating such an obvious mix of paganism s presumptuous.
Christ has never been in man's holidays, which are built on lies, and which teach children they cannot trust the veracity of their own parents.
St. Valentine's Day started as a lewd, sensual, pagan festival in Rome. Lupercalia is a rite connected with fertility, honoring Venus, the goddess of sex.
Jesus said He would be 3 days and 3 nights in the tomb, but that is impossible in a Friday crucifixion, Sunday resurrection scenario. Here's the biblical truth.
When did Jesus rise from the rich man's tomb? The world—because of tradition—says Sunday, but the Bible reveals the only possible timing of His resurrection.
Most Americans do not believe in demonic spirits enough to think of Halloween as a celebration of them. Rather, Halloween is a massive escape from reality.
If we are going to search for truth, we should not be seeking it in the philosophies of men, but rather in the fullness of truth found in God's revelation.
Easter is not a Christian name, but belongs to the idolatrous 'queen of heaven.' Here are the origins of Easter eggs and sunrise services, which pre-date Christ.
February 14, Valentine's Day, may seem harmless enough—until the truth of its origins comes to light. Mike Ford exposes this pagan day.
A scriptural explanation of the time of Christ's death, burial and resurrection, showing that He died on a Wednesday and rose from the dead on the Sabbath.
Martin Collins argues that both Israel and Judah of Hosea's time adopted pagan culture as they aligned themselves with Gentile peoples. Physical Israel is doing the same thing that Ancient Israel did, and will consequently receive the same kind of curse and punishment. Modern Israel has the same kind of unfaithfulness to God as Gomer had to Hosea. Modern Israel has forgotten or neglected its Maker. During times of affluence, Israel has tended to forget the Source of the affluence. Modern Israel (although perhaps not forgetting the existence of God) has forgotten to obey Him and has violated the Covenant relationship with Him. Idolatry has taken a subtle hold in Modern Israel as syncretistic religion blends paganism and Christianity, debasing Christianity's value. Israel has placed its hope for safety in alliances with Gentile nations instead of with Almighty God. President Obama has sold the contents of this nation for sixteen trillion dollars. America has become economic slaves to China. America encourages the teaching of Islam while discouraging the teaching of even nominal Christianity. America tries to replace its relationship with God by constructing things of immense proportions (towers and obelisks, for example). Consequently, God will bring about a death of joy, exile the people from the land, cause a loss of spiritual discernment, cause a declining birth rate (America has aborted 50 million unborn babies over the last 40 years), and cast Israel out.
If we do not keep God's holy days, we will deprive ourselves of the knowledge of God's purpose. Jesus and the first century church observed and upheld these days.
Jeroboam, pragmatic and fearful, established a more convenient idolatrous festival to prevent his people from keeping the real Feast of Tabernacles in Judah.
Responding to a caustic charge that the Church of the Great God does not make adequate use of the scholarship of this world, Richard Ritenbaugh offers the following rebuttal: While we find much biblical scholarship useful and productive, without the added insight supplied by God's Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13; I Corinthians 2:11-16) most biblical scholarship'like all other worldly scholarship'is at best a mixture of good and evil (Genesis 3:5) and at its worst positively corrupt and deliberately suppressive of the truth. Elect members of God's church are between two extremes: Genesis 1:26, the earthy man, having no understanding of the things of God, and I John 3:2, the perfected member of God's spiritual family. In the meantime, God's Spirit (i.e., the mind of Christ) enables us to rightly divide truth from error. Biblical scholarship must pass under this bar of spiritual discernment, separating truth from falsehood.
Good and evil do not mix; we cannot associate with what is wrong. The proper fear of God plays a significant role in ridding evil from our lives.
Martin Collins describes the multi-cultural assimilation, compromise and adoption of Gentile Christmas customs into Jewish family celebration - compromises also made by members of our prior fellowship. We need to be on guard about the incremental nature of gray areas (oxen we push in the ditches), matters left to individual consciences. Godly reasoning recognizes no gray areas, recognizing that just because something is lawful does not mean it should be practiced. We need to guard against gray areas which are (1) derived from bad habits that have mastered us, (2) place stumbling blocks before our brothers, (3) do not edify or are beneficial, (4) do not provide a proper witness for Christ, (5) suggest it is acceptable to be unfaithful in what is considered least, (6) are done in doubt (without conviction of its lawfulness), (7) in which Jesus would not participate, and (8) do not glorify God. Using God's spirit, we should encounter no gray areas.
In Colossians 2:16 and Galatians 4:9-10, Paul was warning against mixing Gnostic asceticism and pagan customs with the keeping of God's Sabbath and Holy Days.
John Ritenbaugh, rehearsing one of the major factors which divided the Worldwide Church of God, the denigrating of all aspects of God's law, averring that belief in Christ trumps everything, claims that some major elements of righteous judgment were cavalierly tossed out the window. Such a careless approach led to the rejection of the Sabbath, wholesale embracing of Pagan holidays, discarding tithing, eating unclean meats, circumcision and other, what they considered to be purely ceremonial aspects of the law. Like the days of the Judges, the last days of the WCG demonstrated a dearth of righteous judgment. As with the first century church, God expects us to think wisely within the parameters of His Law, coming into alignment with His Word. Without applying righteous judgment, a person without God's Spirit might be inclined to discard the Sabbath, along with the dietary and sacrificial laws. The New Covenant also requires that we live by every word of God; the Law was not done away. Without God's Law, we cannot judge righteously. One should never carelessly assume that any law of God is done away, but we should also consider that not every law has the same level of seriousness and does not warrant the same level of judgment, as illustrated by the difference between willful sin and sin committed out of weakness. The weightier matters of the law (love and mercy) are more important than other aspects of the law, including faith and sacrifice. We need to develop righteous judgment to keep proportion as we make decisions about applying God's Law.
True Christians do not celebrate Halloween. It is pagan in origin and practice and will destroy one's relationship with God. Light and darkness cannot mix.
Most people consider the second commandment to deal with making or falling down before a pagan idol, but it covers all aspects of the way we worship.
Christ provides a model of how to live a godly life in the flesh, living life the way God lives it. Using His light, we can navigate our way in this world.
Martin Collins, reflecting on the grim results of the recent elections, suggests that the parallels in Hosea, indicting Israel and Judah, are more relevant today than ever before. Ancient Israel as well as modern Israel demonstrate divided loyalties (emanating from a divided heart), vacillating between God and the world, veering more and more toward the world, resembling a panting dog or a pleasure-seeking prostitute. As a metaphorical vine, Israel has produced bitter and unwholesome fruit. Hosea's unfaithful wife resembles the culture of modern Israel, steeped in idolatry, adultery, and immorality. The proliferation of laws reflects an exponential increase in immorality and corruption. Like ancient Israel, modern Israel has embraced blatant idolatry. America (like ancient Israel) professes righteousness (smugly embracing environmentalism and social justice), but actually practices unrighteous and injustice and a thousand other hideous abominations (homosexuality and sodomy). Like the time of the judges, we have no righteous leader in America today. As remnants or God's called out ones, we cannot become conformed to the evil which is forming like a malignant cancer in our midst. For its sins, modern Israel may have to be punished and perhaps even taken captive, but God will ultimately save Israel upon repentance, re-gathering them and restoring (after chastening) them as He has before.
Old Testament activities picture New Testament realities, elevated to their spiritual intent. The church has been chosen as a royal and holy priesthood.
John Ritenbaugh insists that because what we believe automatically determines what we do; it is impossible to separate faith and works. If our source of belief is not grounded in Jesus Christ, we will be held captive to our traditions and our works will be contaminated. If our belief is grounded in Christ (our Spiritual Bread and our High Priest), we will have a relationship with God and access to eternal abundant life, leading to works (fruits of the Holy Spirit) that glorify God. The word "draw" in John 6:44 implies that there is some degree of carnal resistance or reluctance to accept God's calling. If we do not metaphorically eat the flesh of Christ and drink His blood, ingesting the Word of God daily, we will die spiritually. The moral and ethical demands of these Words often make them "hard sayings," but yielding to these demands (having an intimate relationship of God- living the way God lives in every aspect of our lives) will incrementally develop the character and the spiritual mind, bringing about eternal abundant life.
Israel had every opportunity that the Gentiles did not have. God gave the Israelites gifts to live a better way, but they completely failed to reflect Him.
The spirit of Babylon is one of self-determination and independence, antagonistic toward every institution of God, even something as basic as God-given gender.
As we age, the pressures of life, work, and experience all contribute to wearing us down. Only a few seem to have learned to remain happy despite hardship.
Persecution involves a wide spectrum, ranging from torture, physical beating, social excommunication, imprisonment and death. Our boldness should match Paul's.
Charles Whitaker, reflecting on the events taking place as Christ bid His disciples farewell upon His ascension into Heaven, suggested that the approximately 75 days between the resurrection of Lazarus and Pentecost- brought about tumultuous activity and earth-shaking events. The disciples wanted eagerly to know what would happen next, just as we do do today. In that relatively short period of time, many miraculous and dramatic events occurred, including: (1) the resurrection of Lazarus, (2) the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, (3) the Passover , (4) the ripping of the Temple veil, an event which reverberated throughout the entire Jewish world , (5) the opening of tombs, populating the region with many people who had earlier died,, (6) the resurrection of Christ, (7) the ascension of Christ, and (8) Pentecost (the miraculous beginning of the New Testament Church). But then God seemed to turn off the fulfilled prophecy machine; God did nothing further dramatic during 31 AD. Years and months rolled by, speculations emerged and fizzled, with hope that Christ would re-appear on one of the impending holy days. Paul, who thought Christ would return in his lifetime, urged people to be eternally vigilant never letting down, reminding us to earnestly love His appearing. Those who love His appearing will receive a crown of righteousness. The apparent discrepancy in the number of days in Daniel's prophecies equal 75 days, perhaps duplicating the 75 dramatic days occurring between the resurrection of Lazarus and the resurrection of Christ. We may not see those 75 days, but will receive the blessing on day 1,335 if we continue to look forward to Christ's appearing.
John Ritenbaugh suggests that the people everywhere seem frazzled, distressed, and terrified as a dark, evil, sinister force seems to be engulfing the world. The continued angst from dealing with this continual pathogenic zeitgeist threatens to render all of us, including God's called-out ones, into a state of hopelessness, apathy, depression, with absolutely no reason to ever expect a positive outcome. The church must forcefully deal with this overwhelming feeling of hopelessness or it too will succumb to this terrifying vortex of despair. We live in the same kind of cultural milieu as Noah before the world perished in the Great Flood. Over the past few centuries, and especially the last 70 or 80 years, the 'liberal', 'progressive' humanist philosophers and educators have successfully hi-jacked the minds of our populace, steering them totally clear from any reliance upon God by poisoning their minds with the patently illogical theory of evolution, forced upon unwary, naïve minds as fact and truth. The Day of Trumpets militates against this foolishness by restoring hope for the establishment of God's Kingdom which will permanently terminate decay, sin, and death. As God's called-out ones, we are fish swimming against a violent current, compelled to turn to God and keep His Commandments when the rest of the world rejects Him. As God gave the original Promised Land to Jacob's children, He also gave the North American continent (largely virgin territory) to the descendants of Jacob. In 240 years, we have indulged in affluence, but forgetting its Provider.
Paul urges Euodia and Syntyche to follow the example of Christ rather than placing their desire to be right over unity. Godly leadership follows submission.
Martin Collins, focusing on the danger of pride of intellect and knowledge, affirms that knowledge of the truth is essential, but it must be God's knowledge, and not a syncretistic mixture of worldly philosophy or mystical Gnostic admixtures. Political correctness, a modern application of Gnosticism, can usher in some unacceptable consequences, such as occurred with the prideful 'tolerance' of incest as practiced in the Corinthian congregation. Like leavening, toleration of one offense would lead to toleration of other offenses. Progressives in American politics shamelessly call evil good and good evil, murdering fetuses in the name of 'women's rights and practicing sodomy in the name of marriage 'equality.' All of these progressive insights emanate from Satan, who has 'transformed' himself as an angel of light. Similarly, ditchism in religion (veering from one extreme or the other, such as overly strict or overly lenient) leads to unpleasant imbalances. Relying "solely" on human intellect is one such ditch when it is isolated from the heart and from practice. Proper knowledge must always be joined to the will of God. A person who is puffed up parades his knowledge either by exhibiting impatience, intolerance, or an obsequious false modesty, marginalizing what they consider to be the weak or uneducated. Some prideful people, caught up in their wealth of knowledge, are rendered totally useless in serving others. Conversely, the love of Christ surpasses all knowledge, putting us into proper humble and lowly perspective; to know and love God is to understand Him. Knowledge of God creates love for God as well as perfecting our relationships with others. The happiest people in the church are those who know His teachings and practice them 24 hours a day, growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord, actively practicing love as motivated by God's Holy Spirit, instill
The keeping of the law is a practical response to God, providing us with principles for our lives, establishing our character and implanting God's values.
John Ritenbaugh, focusing on the blessings and cursings chapter in Deuteronomy 28 and Jeremiah's dire warnings, observes that God will destroy what He has planted if what He has planted bears evil fruit. There are no hollow threats with God Almighty. God will destroy disobedient people with the diseases of Egypt, cutting down our life- expectancy. The prophets of God brought primarily bad news, warning of pending doom as consequences of sin. The American government has shamelessly defied God's commands, and are bringing wrath down on this country. We must learn to avoid their shameful example, seeking to govern ourselves responsibly.
Martin Collins teaches that called-out saints, we are no longer strangers, but are granted the privilege to be citizens of the kingdom of God. As current ambassadors of God's Kingdom, we have the responsibility to adhere to God's standard. As citizens of God's Kingdom, we must make sure that we have a birth certificate, and not merely a passport (a kind of spiritual green card). As citizens of the Kingdom of God, we are strangers, foreigners, aliens, or pilgrims to the world, but full-fledged citizens of God's Kingdom. Christians are not citizens of the world; they cannot be. The Christian has gone through the narrow gate and has built his foundation on a rock. The difference between the wheat and tare is difficult to see on the surface, but can be distinguished by the fruit he bears. To stress the vital difference between the stranger and family, we must use the cliché, "blood is thicker than water." How can we know whether we are citizen or a stranger in God's Kingdom? Do we feel at ease among God's people? Do we feel more at ease among God's people as well as other social groups? Do we understand the context of the conversations within God's family or do we feel like outsiders? Are we in on the family inner secrets? Are you conforming to the laws and customs of God's Kingdom? We cannot enter God's Kingdom unless we have a birth certificate rather than a passport or temporary visa.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting that the book of Hebrews was written for a group of people living at a time of the end of an age (the end of Jewish life in Judea), suggests that this nation is also languishing in an end-time decline. People are in a general malaise from culture shock, moving from surprise, anger, and demoralization, leading to lethargy. We, as a culture, are being pummeled by continuous assaults to our core values, witnessing murderous abortion advocates, homosexual activists, and the hard core leftist collectivists getting their way, while the silent majority has been bullied into submission to disgusting, evil mandates. The increase in the acceptance of evil is leading to a state of hopelessness and lethargy. We must reorient our focus onto God's Word and His message of hope, never giving up our quest for righteousness and integrity in the midst of the cesspool of immorality and progressive secularism.
Paul fought against discord by reminding the brethren that the church is united in Christ, and that He requires His followers to show love to each other.
Kim Myers, reminding us that the Egyptian army perished on the Last Day of Unleavened Bread, suggests that the army typifies the aggressiveness of sin determined to utterly destroy us. He suggests we are admonished to diligently deleaven our homes demonstrating to God that we are serious about getting rid of sin. Getting rid of sin is difficult, demanding economic and social sacrifices. We should be willing to give up anything for the Kingdom of God, controlling our speech, thoughts, behaviors, and even our lives. Jesus Christ gave up everything to spare us from the death penalty. Once we have come out of sin, we cannot go back to our previous behaviors. There are works required in addition to faith to overcome and get rid of sin. The parable of the wise and foolish virgins indicates that work is required to grow in grace. The rich young man could not give up his lifestyle (evidently his last bit of leaven) for the Kingdom of God. We cannot grow in grace without works.
Unlike tumultuous waves, the sea of glass before God's throne is tranquil and serene. Before we can stand on this sea of glass, we must be set apart and cleansed.
John Ritenbaugh tackles the eternal security doctrine, a teaching that militates against good works, something that God had ordained for all of us. Works demonstrate our faith, our response to God's calling and His freely given grace. Reciprocity is always a part of our relationship with God. Trust is a response to God's tests. Abraham's response to God reciprocated his love back to God. The indictment against the Ephesian church stemmed from their lack of reciprocity (or first love). When our expectations have not been met, it becomes hard for us to maintain our zeal. We need to maintain the intensity to actively hear God's message. If we do not actively exercise our minds, work to maintain our relationship to Christ, and become dead to the world, we will drift away. We cannot allow what Christ is to slip from our minds. Where there is no love for Christ, there is no salvation and no membership in God's family. As in human love or infatuation, if we love another person, we like to think about him/her; likewise, we need to have Christ dwelling in our hearts at all times.
Leprosy is a horrible disease, one that the ancients said could only be cured by God Himself. Jesus' healing of a leper manifested His divine power and mercy.
Richard Ritenbaugh asks if we have known people who seemingly had everything going for them but never reached their potential. Samson had what it took but made horrible mistakes and lapses in judgment. Nevertheless, Hebrews 11 says that he will be part of the first resurrection. Even with his dalliance with women and problems with prevarication, he is counted among the saints. God can use people despite their flawed character. During the time of Samson, the Philistines wanted to dilute Israel's identity and assimilate them into their own culture (Hamitic by race, but Greek in culture). Samson's faithful parents were from the tribe of Dan, one that produces good leaders, yet who sometimes do things underhandedly and not by the rules. By taking on these characteristics, Samson did not live up to his potential, and nearly lost it altogether.
The Bible shows a clear pattern of how people leave the faith: looking back, drawing back, looking elsewhere, and then going backward and refusing to hear.
The Sermon on the Mount contains a explanation of what it takes to be a Christian. Matthew 5:38-42 provides the principles behind the 'above and beyond' attitude.
Richard Ritenbaugh suggests that one must be a member of a language community to know the contexts defining the meaning of a word. The Greek word logos has been negatively loaded with unbiblical meanings from Gnosticism, theology, and philosophy. Its basic meaning is "word" or "saying," yet it is really more complex. Its various usages in the New Testament provide contextual meanings that broaden our understanding. The entire Old Testament and its relationship to Jesus Christ constitute another application. The Jews were not unacquainted with the concept of logos, as the Old Testaent reveals a preexistent God, the Creator of everything, composed of invisible, immaterial, powerful spirit, reasonably and logically calculating the Creation, who, when He speaks, reality takes place. Abraham understood this concept explicitly, calling the Word "Lord God.„
Richard Ritenbaugh, beginning a series on "Principled Living," focuses on the aspect of drafting (a racing term describing a lead vehicle "punching a hole in the air," enabling trailing vehicles to increase speed, pulling ahead of the pack), paralleling the spiritual metaphor of Jesus Christ blazing a trail, enabling us to follow or imitate Him. Following Jesus requires absolute commitment or devotion, often involving arduous sacrifice and intense discomfort. We must be willing to give up family and societal ties to the world, assimilating (with the help of God's Spirit) into our new spiritual family. As a spiritual soldier, we belong to Christ heart, soul, and mind, and we serve Him because we wish to please Him. We must be willing to take up our cross (an instrument of torture and death), voluntarily following Christ's and Peter's examples. Fortunately, our ultimate reward is worth any sacrifice we could make.
Joy and gladness are gifts from God, resulting from Christ living His life in us and helping us to love the brethren. This love is perfected through suffering.
Martin Collins, focusing upon the topic of unity, maintains that the church has been charged with the responsibility to bring unity to a hopelessly disunited, fragmented, and chaotic world. In order to maintain this unity, like the Ephesians, we must maintain a solid balance between doctrine and practice, walking worthy of our calling. All activities of life, including art, fashion, work, as well as doctrine and conduct, should be characterized by congruity and balance. With the proper doctrine, our lives and conduct, punctuated by humility, gentleness, longsuffering, and loving forbearance, can match our high calling of emulating (with the power of God's Holy Spirit in our inner beings) our Elder Brother Jesus Christ.
John the Baptist fulfilled the prophecy of the 'Elijah to come.' We must apply duality of prophecy carefully and cautiously rather than indiscriminately.
A lack of self-control, as well as the cultivation of self-indulgent perversions, will characterize large segments of our society living at the end times.
Our lives must be totally wrapped up in Christ, exemplifying His character. As we overcome, taking the same steps as Christ did, we will receive His reward.
Using II Corinthians 5:14-17 as a foundation, John Ritenbaugh affirms that after the initiation of the conversion process, the hostility that formerly existed between God and us has been removed, leading to a state of peace and rest. Although we often speak of "building character," implying that we are primarily responsible for its completion, God actually provides the unseen force, bringing the raw product into perfection, reshaping and reforming us though good works into the image of Christ and God the Father. The Sabbath rest depicts the miracle of conversion, in which God's crowning achievement (the transformation of fallible human beings from a state of chaos and disorder—tohu and bohu—into spiritual entities conformed to His image) brings about a rest of satisfaction, a rest in which God takes pleasure in His workmanship.
How and why a person keeps the Sabbath determines whether this test commandment is really a sign between God and His people or an act of futility.
We must lay aside every weight, accept God's chastening, receive encouragement from those who have gone before, and get back into the spiritual race.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that things written in the Old Testament were written entirely for Christians. The operations of both the Old and New Covenants overlap. The differences focus on justification, access to God, and eternal life, but not doing away with the law (especially the Sabbath) which Protestant theologians would have us believe. Modern Christianity, like the mongrelized Samaritan religion, is a syncretized mixture of some biblical truth with unadulterated paganism. To worship God in spirit means to put heart and mind into applying God's law, with a circumcised heart (Philippians 3:3) realizing that the motivating principle behind every one of God's laws is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts through the power of God's Spirit. (Romans 5:1-5)
No part of God's Law has been 'done away'. Jesus came to magnify the law, giving it a far more penetrating, spiritual application. Man flounders without law.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the prophecies concerning the Man of Sin refer to a personage having immense political power with global significance rather than to an errant leader of a small church. The mystery of lawlessness which Paul warns about 19 years after Christ's resurrection (II Thessalonians 2:7) was the insidious religious deception of the Babylonian mystery religion infiltrating the church, appropriating the name of Christ, but despising and rejecting His Law, turning the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 3-4). The mystery of iniquity is progressive in nature, building to a fearful climax just before the return of Christ, when the Man of Sin, along with the Beast, will have aligned a major portion of the world in a fierce battle against Christ. If we don't love the truth, we will be absorbed into this hideous system.
John Ritenbaugh reveals that the valley-of-shadow imagery symbolizes the fears, frustrations, trials, and tests needed to produce character, quality fruit, and an intimate trust in the shepherd. His rod, an extension of his will and strength, serves not only against predators, but also prevents members of the flock from butting heads. It also helps him to identify and to judge. The staff, symbolic of God's Spirit, represents gentle guidance. The prepared table depicts a plateau or a mesa that the shepherd has made safe and secure for grazing. Christ, our Shepherd, has prepared the way for us, safeguarding us from predators and removing our fear of starvation and death. The oil, also symbolic of the Holy Spirit, refers to protective salve that prevents maddening or deadly insect infestation. Goodness and mercy refer to the agape love that we desperately need to acquire and use so we can leave behind a blessing. The house depicts contentment in the Family of God.
A community can only be established upon a foundation of stability and truth. Our relationships must be based upon God's truth, producing faithfulness.
John Ritenbaugh explains that Jesus' caution to Mary in John 20:17, "Don't touch me," is more accurately translated "Don't cling to me." Either translation does not contradict the First Fruits symbolism. (After all, the Levitical Priests had to "touch" the grain in order to offer it.) Also the charge Jesus gave to the disciples in John 20:23 was not to "forgive sin" but only to discern the fruits of repentance, consistent with the binding and loosing authority of Levitical Priests, applying God's law. Having the "Mind of Christ" gives the New Testament ministry the ability to discern the fruits of repentance. The problem with Thomas was more his tendency to be a loner, having cutting himself from the fellowship of his brothers, than his doubting. Thomas's insistence upon touching refutes the Gnostic's claim that Jesus did not have corporeal substance. Not only does the book of John (written in 96AD) provides a plethora of signs corroborating Jesus Christ's authenticity, but also shows a pattern to actively live as God would live if He were a man, with the effect of building and sustaining faith. The epilogue (chapter 21) seemed to be added to counteract the assumption that John would live until Christ's second coming, as well as confuting the Gnostics' claim that Jesus did not have physical substance. The conclusion describes the disciples' bewildered reaction to their resurrected teacher. In this incident, Jesus formally, by using expressions identifying different levels of love, affirms the intense responsibility and difficulty of the commission given to Peter.
John Ritenbaugh observes that the over-riding motivation for the individuals bringing to Jesus the woman caught in adultery was to trap Him, impaling Him on the horns of a dilemma. (Condemning the woman to death would have brought Him into conflict with Roman law; not condemning Her would have brought Him into conflict with the law of Moses.) Jesus, when He wrote in the dirt, perhaps listed instances in which the spirit of the law was violated in the thoughts or behaviors of the accusers, exposing the cruel, condemnatory attitude of the Pharisees. God's approach to authority is that it should be used to serve, and that the chief function of judging (from the stance of humility, mercy, and understanding) is to evaluate and to gently correct and reclaim rather than to condemn. Jesus, claiming to be the light of the world (drawing on a familiar temple ceremony involving candelabras), emphasizes His function as the Messiah, the embodiment of truth, giving form, shape, and substance to our lives, guiding us around or through life's difficulties. Believing that Jesus is God will motivate us to submit to Him in every aspect of our lives, providing an antidote to enslaving fears common to all of mankind, freeing us from the bondage of sin.