Blogs for February 2018

What Time Is It? The last blog for January 2018 was on the subject of losing track of time. It was based around Daniel Chapter 9 and his sudden realisation that the ending of the 70 Year Exile in Babylon was imminent. I've chosen the word "imminent" today quite deliberately because I've just been reading about something I knew all about without actually ever seeing it as a doctrine - and its the Doctrine of Imminency. I'd never heard it called that before. So thats why I'm asking you today - what time is it? Do you know what time it is - Christian man, Christian woman? We're told in Matthew 25 that the Bridegroom (Jesus) could return (in theory) at any time for His bride. His return is always, therefore, imminent. And sudden. There are no longer any prerequisities to His comin. We know he hasn't returned for more than 2000 years - yet. But he will. Even the Apostle Paul clearly thought he would return in his own lifetime - its clear when he wrote about it that there was never any suggestion in his writing that it would be something in the far future; as its turned out to be. Always imminent. In hindsight we can now see that it was always more likely to be now than at any other earlier time in history. The Early Church would have been looking for it. The "Middle Ages" Christians would have been looking for. John and Charles Wesley would have been expectent. So would Charles Haddon Spurgeon. And we could continue to list all those who might reasonably have expected to see His coming in their lifetime. I even know of deceased Christians who I personally knew who were expecting to see His return in their living years. He could have come in theory any time after Pentecost and after the arrival of the Holy Spirit. Although too soon after makes no sense because, with hindsight, we can see that the Holy Spirit and those first Christians had a big job to do in getting the Early Church "off the ground" - if I might put it like that.What do we mean by coming again. Well we need to distingish between THE RAPTURE and THE SECOND COMING. Both appear to be similar (and this confuses someChristians) as both appear to be "comings" of a sort. Yet they are very different and seperated in time by more than seven literal years. We are currently in a time of waiting and pause between Daniel's Week 69 and Daniel's Week 70. The rapture is not actually a return to planet Earth for the Lord Jesus Christ because he meets us up in the air - in the sky. We are somehow drawn up to Him.Thats when He takes us to be with Him in His Father's mansion (John 14). The proper Second Coming is when he really does come back to planet Earth to physically reign in Jerusalem with His Bride (the Church) for a thousand years (Rev 19). Unfortunately, for people who like plenty of notice, the news is not good. When we say the Bridegroom could come at any time, we should take that literally. As I write the wind and rain are lashing my double glazing and it would be really nice to stay in today, to curl up on the sofa and to watch a nice film on TV. But the rapture could just as easily happen today. There will never be an ideal time. It might not be a sunny day - it might be a "coats on" experience. It might not be convenient as we understand convenience. So are you ready ? I don't feel very ready if I'm honest. Though I'm quite organised usually I know that all my affairs aren't in order. I've not said all the things that I should have said to all the people I know and who touch my life and those whose lives I could and ought to touch. Matthew 24 and 25 are actually written to Jews not to Christians but the parable of the ten virgins should be taken as a warning to us as well. Especially the virgins - as half of them were not ready. When the rapture happens (and it will be quick) it will only include the Church. Jews and Gentiles will be left behind. You really don't want to be left behind. Sorry to end on a sour note - but you really don't want to be left behind! 10 Feb 2018 StanH

Long Gone! There is some slight (only very slight) discrepancy in each of the four gospels about when the women got to the garden tomb after the death and burial of Jesus. Everything from "at dawn" (Matthew), to "just after sunrise" (Mark) and "very early" (Luke) to "while it was still dark" (John); and in his account John records Mary Magdalene as being on her own. But there is no real dispute - all the writers agree it was very early around dawn; by which time Jesus was, as we say, "already up and about". I am given to thinking about things that most normal people never concern themselves with. Concerning the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, for example, I have pondered and marvelled at what is still there to discover in plain sight. 

Dying Good Friday and rising Easter Sunday is a Christian tradition that is not supported by a careful study of the facts that better minds than mine have undertaken. For it to be true - buried around 6pm on Friday and rising about 6am on Sunday is only 36 hours. Jesus own prophesy concerning Jonah in the belly of the whale insists that His time in the grave would be the same as Jonah - three 12 hour days and three 12 hour nights (Math 12v40 supported by John 11v9) which gives us 72 hours.

This leads us to a surprising conclusion - that Jesus was in the grave just before 6pm on Wednesday night and rose from the grave 72 hours later around 6pm on Saturday night (not Sunday morning). But this still makes absolute sense, perhaps even more so, when we re-read the gospels more carefully for ourselves. They do not tell us that Jesus rose in the morning but that the women went early in the morning. By which time Jesus was long gone.  

This is all made possible because there are two sabbaths in Passover Week [see Technical Note below]. One of those sabbaths is a Special Sabbath or High Sabbath. That one started at 6pm on Wednesday night on this particular Passover and the normal one that started at 6pm on Friday night but finished at 6pm on Saturday night after which time it was perfectly OK and perfectly legal (Mosaic Law) for Jesus to walk about after the Sabbath ended and be on his way to Galilee. Traditionally a Jew could only walk 2000 cubits or 1000 yards during the Sabbath.

Low in the grave he lay, Jesus my Savior, 
waiting the coming day, Jesus my Lord!                     [but dead people don't wait - only the living]

Up! from the grave he arose;                                   [no mention of it being in the morning!]
with a mighty triumph o'er his foes; 
he arose a victor from the dark domain, 
and he lives forever, with his saints to reign. 
He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose! 

By Robert Lowry 1826-1899 (I inserted the exclamation mark after Up to suggest that he jumped up energetically)

[Technical Note: Read Leviticus 23v3-8. This passage tells us that the Passover is on the 14th and the Feast of Unleavened Bread begins the 15th; they are back-to-back. The first day (and the last day) of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a Sabbath. This is a “special” Sabbath, also called a “high Sabbath”. Therefore, the Sabbath for which Jesus had to be removed from the cross was the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, not the weekly Sabbath. (The weekly Sabbath does play a part in Jesus' timeline.) Unlike the weekly Sabbath that is every Friday night to Saturday night, this special Sabbath can fall on any day of the week.]

15 February 2018 StanH

Oh My Days ! Right at the start of Genesis God defines our days when He said, "Let there be light", and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and He separated the light from the darkness. [Its interesting that God, like an American astronaut, can see the light of day and the dark of night at the same time because He is high above all. And He would have been able to see the boundary line between the two. So Genesis accurately describes the separation between light and dark: God called the light "day", and the darkness he called "night". And there was evening, and there was morning - the first day. [Gen 1v3-5]. And its been that sequence ever since for the Jews - with the day beginning in the evening at the start of "dark" (around 6pm) and continuing for a full 24 hours until the next evening (at around 6pm); unlike the British day which traditionally begins and ends at mid-night. So what ? I hopefully established yesterday that the regular sabbath began at 6pm on Friday evening and finished at 6pm on Saturday evening. The sabbath is the seventh day of the week [Lev 23v3] so the next day, the "first day of the week", begins all over again, immediately after the sabbath. When ? On Saturday night at 6pm. Not on Sunday ! So it starts at night just like in Genesis. Even the British day starts when its dark and indeed many people set off to work when its still dark. Maybe thats why they have lights on buses and trains ? Just a thought. Again - so what? Well John 20v1 now makes more sense: "Early on the first day of the week while it was still dark.....". Matthew said it was at dawn. Same difference - the reality is that the first day of the week had been running its course for several hours before it was discovered that the tomb was empty. It didn't get empty at dawn - it was already empty at dawn. I therefore I have no difficulty believing that Jesus would have been raised to life after the sabbath at some time on Saturday night. Or what we call Saturday - the Jews would have had their own word for the first day [see below].

I got this from the internet: In judaism the focus of the week is always the sabbath/ shabbat... Friday night is called ''erev shabbat'' or shabbat evening... and saturday is called ''shabbat'' / sabbath. All the days before that don't have special names in order to emphasise the sabbath... they are simply numbered.. so monday would be ''yom rishon'' the first day in hebrew... tuesday would be ''yom sheni'' / the second day, etc. 

17 Feb 2018 StanH 

The Small Print. No-one deliberately goes out of their way to be unpopular. What Isaiah called. "..despised and rejected by men". But Jesus never said it would be easy. Indeed He warned us very clealy that it would not be easy. That's the small print that most Christians manage to overlook. Even from the point at which Jesus first sent out the Twelve to minister in His name he warned: "You will be hated by everyone because of me..." [Matt.10v22] . That was just what we might call local hatred, but then in Chapter 24, and its in the context of the end times, we have this world-wide hatred of Christians that we are seeing today: "Then you will be handed overto be persecuted and put to death and you will be hated by all nations because of me". [Matt 24v9]. There are whole sections of the Church that seem oblivious to this side of Christianity. Its a pity His disciples didn't challenge these comments at the time and ask why? Why is the gospel message of forgiveness, love and hope , the most hated news report on the planet?  A recent report by the Open Doors organisation reported that there were currently 215 million Christians being persecuted world-wide, many even unto death. This is not GK Chesterton's Father Brown kind of Christianity in some peaceful rural idyll with country gardens and cream teas. This is the real world of now. Yet He did not advise us to get out of Christianity while we still can and into a safer, more comfortable, lifestyle but to continue to telling that old, old story to those very nations that would seek to do away with us: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." [Matt 28v19]. 25 February 2018 StanH

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