Sabbath & Feasts ‘Nailed To The Cross’?

Tim, I have been reading your site for a while now and now have a question i hope you could help me with. I was raised in a church that taught we are to keep all of gods holy days and Sabbath (WCG). I still believe in Sabbath keeping, but not sure about holy days. Are we still to keep them? or were they nailed to the cross?

I don’t belong to this church anymore, they have split into many different churches now. I am really confused about holy days if you have any way to explain this subject to me it would be very welcome. Thank You for your time.

Feasts Nailed To The Cross?

The “nailed to the cross” phrase is from Colossians 2:14. Paul used a metaphor of a debt note from the Roman culture. ESV Study Bible Notes explains:

In the Greco-Roman world, the “record of debt” (Gk. cheirographon) was a written note of indebtedness. Paul uses this as a word picture to characterize each person’s indebtedness to God because of sin. God himself has mercifully resolved this problem for all who put their faith in Jesus by taking this note and nailing it to the cross, where Jesus paid the debt. The image comes from the notice fastened to a cross by the Roman authorities, declaring the crime for which the criminal was being executed (see John 19:19-22).

Thus this “certificate of debt” illustration does not refer to the Torah. It refers to the guilt from sinning against God. Jesus came to cancel that debt, not to do away with Torah. Taking away the Torah would not remove the guilt it had already brought. To be sure, Jesus said he came to fulfill the Torah, not to destroy it (Mt 5:17). He could not destroy it as the Torah would not fade away until heaven and earth passed away (Mt 5:18). Before that time, when the Kingdom comes, the Torah would be required again and be taught by the rulers in the kingdom (Mt 5:19).

In other words, the Torah is prophetic. It must all be fulfilled. My site’s main article talks about this whole topic.

Sabbath And Not Feasts Required Today?

For the second question, it is important to remember that the Torah is an all or nothing proposition. It is not an “a la carte” cafeteria offering. When Israel and Judah were neglecting land Sabbaths and worshipping idols, God did not say good job on the 99% you do right, I’ll overlook the rest. He kicked them out of the land. James and Paul express this principle:

James 2:10-11 (HCSB) 10 For whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of ⌊breaking it⌋ all. 11 For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder., So if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you are a lawbreaker.

Galatians 3:10 (HCSB) 10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written: Everyone who does not continue doing everything written in the book of the law is cursed.

The Sabbath is commanded first in Exodus 16. It’s later repeated in Exodus 20 in the Ten Commandments. The Feasts are in Leviticus 23. They are all part of the same Torah, even if Sabbath  is listed in the Ten Commandments and Feasts are not. Also, Leviticus 23 groups both the Sabbath and feasts together as “my appointed times”.

All or Nothing

This is where the problem comes in when people say you have to keep any part of the laws given to Ancient Israel under the Old Covenant such as tithing, Sabbath, feasts, unclean meats, etc. They are “all for one and one for all.” You cannot say one is required without acknowledging the rest as required.

I used to always wonder how the WCG could teach requirements of unclean meats, feasts, tithing and Sabbath but ignore the sacrifices, stoning of idolaters, witches and disobedient children, laws of niddah, wearing tassles, build sukkahs/tabernacles, and so many other laws. How did they know which ones were for today and which ones were not? Well, I see now they obviously did not know. They were picking and choosing and modifying where needed (hotels = temporary dwellings = sukkahs/tabernacles).

All this to answer your question: if you are convicted you need to keep Sabbath, then according to the Bible you should be convicted as well that you need to keep the annual feasts days.

This, I admit, may be not the kind of “help” you wanted as it opens up a can of worms! How are you going to do commanded sacrifices or tithe crops with no temple or Levites and priests around? Or how many men have the funds to travel to Jerusalem three times per year to keep the feasts in the one place where God “placed his name” (Dt 14:23; 16:2; 26:2)? The answers are: You can’t and indeed very few have the funds to keep Torah.

Anyway, this is what the Bible literally teaches on this question and it is up to each of us to determine for ourselves what to do with it. There are no prophets, judges, Levites or priests today with authority over us in these matters to guide us, unlike what Ancient Israel had as part of the Old Covenant to make Torah “not too difficult” (Dt 30:11-14).

New Jerusalem – No Gentile Gate? + Rom 11 Olive Tree – Israel?

If you eavesdrop on Messianics long enough, eventually you may hear a little ditty like this one (found at a Messianic site ) on the true significance of the 12 gates of the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:2):

In Revelation 21, there are 12 gates to the New Jerusalem for the 12 Tribes of Israel. There are no gates for “Gentiles.” Hence, Messiah cannot marry any Gentile woman until she joins his tribe! Ruth is a prophetic “type” of the remnant in the “Gentile” Christian Church who join the House of Judah and then she was able… to marry Boaz who is a “type” of Messiah.

Those outside of the gate are “dogs” and Yahushua (sic) called the Cannanite woman a “dog” which is a nick name for a “Gentile.” So those outside of the gate are Gentiles/Dogs. You cannot inherit the Kingdom as a Gentile, you must be converted by the Jewish Messiah to become like him—-a Jew!

Yes, you heard that right. It is believed by some Hebraic believers that you cannot be saved as a Gentile but must join/become Israel to be saved. (Note: sometimes, like above, people refer to Israel as Jews or Jewish, but technically only Judah, Benjamin and Levi fit the term Jewish). They prop up this heresy (as it is labeled by Acts 15 and Galatians about gentiles being saved as is) with many side arguments. The 12 gates of the New Jerusalem is one of them. It’s based on this passage about New Jerusalem:

Revelation 21:10-12 (NIV) — 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel.

It’s an interesting theory about the purpose of the twelve tribal gates. It makes sense at first until you realized there is an assumption behind it that is neither provable nor sensible.

Wrong Assumption About Why the 12 Gates Are Named

The assumption is this: that each of the twelve gates is assigned to one of the twelve tribes for the exclusive passage of only that tribe and no one else. That’s quite silly if you imagine the scene that would play out:

“What tribe are you?

“Dan…”

Oh, well you can’t pass here, it’s Naphtali. Go through the gate to the right, please. Next!”

Instead, it’s more reasonable that the twelve gates are named for twelve tribes to *honor* them since Israel was called first. As a matter of fact, we find if we keep reading in Revelation 21 we find another similar endowment for the twelve apostles:

Revelation 21:14 (NIV) The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.

In other words, each gate for each tribe is sitting a top a different foundation with the name of the assigned apostle. Obviously these are named to honor the twelve apostles, each of whom will rule one of the twelve tribes (Mt 19:28). Perhaps their name will be under the gate for the tribe they rule.

But using the logic above, only the twelve apostles can pass beyond the gate their name is written under. For that is what the naming of the of foundation must mean…exclusive access, right? Wrong.

The real problem with accepting that we all must be assigned to one of the tribes to be in the Kingdom and New Jerusalem is the many places where it is emphasized that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile in the Kingdom” (Gal 3:27-29). If we all must “become Israel,” then why did Paul look forward to when we are “in Christ” instead of once we are “in Israel” as Messianics teach?

Is the Olive Tree We Are Grafted Into “Israel?”

After I saw all the verses contradicting this “Become Israel for Salvation” theology, I took another look at the Romans 11 Olive Branches grafting. This is another passage often cited as proof that we must become Israel. It is believed that there is one olive tree described that we are grafted into as Gentiles and it is Israel and therefore we become Israel by being grafted there. But does it say that?

If you look closely, you find out that there is more than one olive tree. Olive branches are among them based on keeping the “holy root” tree pure and righteous; not for the purpose of making wild branches natural or Israel branches. It never says or implies that. In fact, the first olive tree we are grafted into is called the “elect” (Ro 11:7) or “righteous remnant according to grace” (Ro 11:5) by Paul, not “Israel.” If the hardened unrighteous original branches of this remnant tree are removed and the righteous wild branches from the other olive trees are added, this means we can’t have that olive tree be the “Israel tree.” It’s the righteous remnant tree, a tree of mixed olive branches; some natural to that tree, and some wild or cultivated. However, all are remnant righteous branches only “by grace” and not by nationality or being or becoming Israel. The root of the olive tree that sustains the righteous branches is Christ, not Israel (Jn 15:5).

Conclusion

Gentiles are not called dogs in Revelation, the unrighteous are. Gentiles do not need to live in Israel or become Israel/House of Israel/House of Judah/Jewish/etc.  to be saved or blessed. They need to believe in the Word of God and do it just as Israelites need to (Lk 8:21; Gen 15:6). When they do, they are in Christ receiving his grace, and their Jewishness or Gentile-ness is not counted, as Paul said. In the New Jerusalem, all who have become righteous and have white clothing will be able to go through all the gates (not just “one gate” or “their own gate”).

Revelation 22:14 (NIV) “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.

 

Did the Chilean Earthquake fulfill “Unless Those Days Were Shortened” (Mt 24:22)?

The powerful 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile killed more than 700 people and triggered tsunamis. NASA scientists say that is not all it did. It also affected the earth’s axis, speeding up the rotation a little. In other words, the quake shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds. (That’s not one thousandths of a second, but millionths of seconds.)

Many readers have forwarded this news to me probably with the same thought in mind. Could this be what Jesus referred to when he said the following in the Olivet Discourse?

Matthew 24:22 (KJV) — And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.

One reader phrased it this way:

If we interpret Scripture literally, can we say that the event in Chile has to do when Jesus said days are going to be shortened? What do think? Is it possible ? I know that PX will cause something similar too…but this earthquake literally shortened days according to a scientist … this is getting better ! we are heading to end times…

This question highlights the ambiguity with what Jesus said as it is rendered in the antiquated KJV English version. It can either be understood figuratively or literally. The more common figurative meaning of “those days being shortened” signifies that the length of the tribulation is going to limited by God. The strictly literal reading of it would mean that the literal length of our 24 hour day will be shorter. So which was intended by Jesus?

The reader is leaning towards literal. But is he on the right track? The question also highlights confusion on what “literal interpretation” means. Let’s get to the bottom of it using to approaches.

Approach 1: Think It Through Logically

First a clarification. Some of my students might choose literal because I’m known to teach taking the Bible literally. But this is constantly misunderstood. It does not mean to read everything in the Bible literally even when there are figures of speech, idioms, parables, allegories and metaphors being used. The literal method follows the cues in the text that tell us how to read it. This is instead of deciding to allegorize it without such cues and despite the fact that our reading breaks Scripture (John 10:35) just to suit our preconceived doctrinal positions.

Literal interpretation is really just same way we attempt to understand people everyday. If someone tells us that “I’m dying of thirst!”, do we take it literally and rush them to the hospital for an I.V. drip because we “always wanted to do this” (i.e. be a hero)? No, if we want to stay out of trouble we stop and look at them, see they look fine, think a moment and recognize the person used as a common hyperbolic expression. We process it as such and offer them a drink.

In other words, some common sense thinking is required to go along with proper interpretation. You can solve many questions yourself this way if you just ask yourself questions on what the ramifications are of the interpretation to the surrounding thoughts. Question does it fit or not?

In this case, how does a literal shortening of a 24 hour day prevent the implied extinction of the human race? It makes no sense. On the other hand, the figurative shortening of those days read as the curtailing of the Great Tribulation makes perfect sense as a reason that genocide would be prevented. Satan wants to enslave or destroy the human race and God must step in to prevent this.

Approach 2: Compare Multiple Bible Versions

I realize that we sometimes cannot always see the forest for the trees. We cannot think of the questions ourselves that would lead us to the right answer. (This is why I love the questions I receive by email. They powerfully provoke me to thought on the Bible everyday.)

But sometimes the answer can come through another method. One of the best practices I share constantly is that of checking multiple versions on any passage you are having trouble with. We are very blessed to have the myriad English translations of the Bible we have. If you saw how few Bible versions there are for Spanish speakers, you would feel pity for them.

In this case, checking other versions indeed comes to the rescue. A simple check of a more modern and accurate version like the HCSB produces:

Matthew 24:22 (HCSB) — Unless those days were limited, no one would survive. But those days will be limited because of the elect.

That is clearly a vote for the figurative rendering that the days of the Great Tribulation will be limited. The Greek for this passage means “cut short” which can be rendered as “shortened” like the KJV or “limited” like the HCSB depending on the context. Here, as demonstrated above, the context is talking about limiting the Great Tribulation, so “limited” is best for giving a reader the right idea without them having to go through the mental gymnastics of Approach 1 above.

Does this work all the time? No, sometimes it is no help. But it is always worth a try, especially for people who primarily use the KJV. I cannot tell you how many times people have asked me about a verse in the KJV reading that I answered just by showing them it in the NIV. It’s time for people to update their Bibles and read them through again in the new version. You’ll be amazed at what you can finally understand in the Bible.

But is the Chilean earthquake in any way a sign of the End Times being nearer? Stay tuned for when I address Matthew 24:7 “There will be famines, and earthquakes in various places.”…

Would God Allow His Bride to Go Through the Great Tribulation (And Why)?

“God would not allow his bride to go through the Great Tribulation!”

I couldn’t tell you how many times I have been told the above, or asked it (rhetorically). Most of the time it comes from a staunch pretribber who is not really wanting to find a solution to the dilemma he thinks this question portrays. He is assuming a pretrib rapture is needed for the sake of the “dainty” Bride of Christ.

The question itself comes from a common misunderstanding of what the Great Tribulation is and what it is not. There is another misunderstanding on what we as believers should expect in our life of service to God. Let us address both of these misunderstandings to answer the question at hand properly and in concordance with the Bible.

“Not Appointed to Wrath?” The Great Tribulation is not God’s Wrath

The above question is typically backed up with the verse that “we’re not appointed to wrath” as proof that the bride will not go through the Great Tribulation.

1 Thessalonians 5:9 (HCSB) — For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ

What those who quote this verse assume is that the Great Tribulation is God’s wrath. It is not. It is Satan’s wrath. The Bible tells us that Satan’s wrath begins when he is finally barred from entry to heaven.

Revelation 12:12 (ESV) — Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”

Today, as in the days of Job, Satan can still go and accuse the brethren. When he is barred from entering, it will be his signal to begin his short time (3½ years) of wrath. This lasts from the 5th trumpet until the 7th trumpet. (For brevity’s sake I will not expound that out here. But my book proves that the 6th seal through 4th trumpet are all a series of related events caused by doomsday star Wormwood, and that the 5th trumpet is the start of the Great Tribulation).

Thus, Satan’s reign, and his wrath with it, end with the 7th trumpet. Then God’s wrath picks up where Satan’s wrath left off:

Revelation 11:15, 18 (NIV) — 15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet…18 The nations were angry; and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great– and for destroying those who destroy the earth.”

God’s wrath comes exclusively through the seven bowls. It begins after the 7th trumpet and is “filled up” or “made complete” by the 7th bowl:

Revelation 15:1,7 (NIV) — 1 I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues–last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. 7 Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever.

Thus, if we are not appointed to the wrath of God, then that only means we must be out of here by the 7th trumpet before that starts. And that is exactly when the rapture comes, at the “last trump” (KJV):

1 Corinthians 15:52 (HCSB) — in a moment, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed.

“Appointed To Afflictions or Tribulation”

While we are not appointed to wrath and will be rewarded with being born again (John 3:3-8) into a glorified spirit body by then, we do have “endure until the end” (Mt 24:13) through much trouble.

As a lifelong reader and student of the Bible, it really is odd for me to hear Christians claim that “God would never put his precious bride through the terrible tribulation.” Whenever I hear this, I wonder if they are not among the 95% of Christians who have not read their Bible. Because when I read the stories of the saints throughout the OT and NT, I consistently see lives full of trouble, affliction and persecution. Even the ultra-righteous Job has his share.

Or when I look out at the world today I see many lands where there is not freedom of religion. In them, Christians today are living in great tribulation. There is a common saying based on this that only rich Western Christians could possibly imagine a pretrib rapture saving us from the Great Tribulation. God has not saved any of those being murdered today for the truth and the pretrib rapture theory to them clashes with reality. They are dying already for their faith in the present tribulations.

If you look around at conditions on the ground now and previously in Bible times you see God does not seem to be a doting father who “shelters” his children. He lets us face troubles head on and does not save us typically until the last moment after we have cried out passionately for help (much like the Red Sea crossing).

A few verses will suffice in demonstrating this truth plainly:

Acts 14:22 (KJV) — Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.

1 Thessalonians 3:3-4 (KJV) 3 That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. 4 For verily, when we were with you, we told you before that we should suffer tribulation; even as it came to pass, and ye know.

Why Must We Suffer, Anyway?

Now you may wonder why does God work this way with us? This is actually the same as the classic question of “why does God allow suffering?” For the Great Tribulation is just a global and more intense class of suffering at the hands of a Satanic government than we already have had throughout history unto this day.

Most Western Christians do not read their Bible (less than 5% according to Back to the Bible). Their expectations for what their life with God will be like are thus based mainly on their experience of playing church in a rich society with freedom of speech and freedom of religion. The concept of real suffering for your faith (which is not simply being put down or having your beliefs ridiculed now and then by skeptics and atheists) is unknown to them in general. Because of this paradigm, when they finally read the Bible, they have a hard time understanding or accepting what they read about suffering experienced by saints or the promises of the same for us, too.

God has a good reason. The Bible is not silent on the reason. This prophetic verse is one that covers it:

Daniel 11:33,35 (HCSB) — 33 Those who are wise among the people will give understanding to many, yet they will die by sword and flame, and be captured and plundered for a time. 35 Some of the wise will fall so that they may be refined, purified, and cleansed until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.

This “fall” spoken of clearly refers to suffering persecution and martyrdom. It is to refine us and make us better. This is how God builds his character, makes his Bride ready (Rev 19:7). It even was necessary for Jesus, the firstborn Son of God:

Hebrews 5:8 (HCSB) — Though He was ⌊God’s⌋ Son, He learned obedience through what He suffered.

If you are rich, distracted and therefore spiritually poor and blind, trials are the specific prescription that Jesus gives for us as well.

Revelation 3:17-18 (HCSB) — 17 Because you say, ‘I’m rich; I have become wealthy and need nothing,’ and you don’t know that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked, 18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire so that you may be rich, white clothes so that you may be dressed and your shameful nakedness not be exposed, and ointment to spread on your eyes so that you may see.

It’s no mystery what “going through the fire” refers to. It means suffering. The Book of James is well known as a source of meaning and comfort on this topic:

James 1:2-4, 12 (HCSB) — 2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. 12 A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him.

God’s Terrestrial Escape Plan For the Great Tribulation

The “Bride of Christ” can bring to mind an image of a dainty maiden, one who cannot withstand hardship. However, that is not the point of the metaphor. The point is that we must be “virginally pure” (Rev 14:4) or ready (Rev 19:7). Being pure of what makes us ready? We’re pure or righteous in God’s sight as long as we trust in his word intending to follow it (Lk 8:21; Gen 15:6).  Our own ideas, man’s religion, man’s ideas, our own thoughts that conflict with or distract us from serving God are the problem. Only those who have shown a steadfastness in following God throughout all kinds of tests and temptations are suitable for the Kingdom of God. Thus, ironically, the method by which we become the Bride every day is exactly what pretrib rapture proponents believe God must not put us through (globally) if we are the bride!

The Bible says and demonstrates repeatedly that we must go through much trouble to make us ready. This builds our character, purges our sin nature and increase our faith and wisdom (James 1:1-12). This is the same process that Christ himself went through. The Great Tribulation is just more of the same, except on a global and intensified scale. Therefore it is improper to deny we will go through the Great Tribulation because God would not subject his bride to such a terrible time. He does every day!

Besides all that, the End Time escape plan of God revealed in the Bible is to protect his bride on the earth through the Great Tribulation in the same way that God protected the Israelites where they were on the earth while the Ten Plagues of his wrath rained down around them. He will guide us to a protected place that Satan cannot reach and feed us during the three and a half year Great Tribulation:

Revelation 12:14 (HCSB) — The woman was given two wings of a great eagle, so that she could fly from the serpent’s presence to her place in the wilderness, where she was fed for a time, times, and half a time.

It will be a time of great wonders and community that has not been seen since the First Century, as described in Acts 2. For this reason, I am looking forward to the Great Tribulation without any fear at all. And so should you once you know the truth from the Bible on the matter.

So, “comfort each other with these words” just as Paul said to the Thessalonians (1Th 4:18). By the way, those are the same Thessalonians who Paul instructed on our rapture after the Antichrist and the Great Tribulation appear (2The 2:1-4).

Conclusion

Pretrib Christians who say God won’t let us go through the Great Tribulation are not completely wrong. They believe God must protect us from the Great Tribulation which I completely agree with. The mistake is in thinking that a pretrib rapture to heaven is the only way this protection can or will happen. God must protect us, but there are other ways he can do it

So in the end it’s not wrong that God won’t make his righteous saints go through the Tribulation. I don’t count being taken to a special area where you are protected and fed by God for 3½ years as going through tribulation (Rev 12:14). If we are protected in heaven or protected on earth, how is either situation able to be called “going through the Tribulation”? =)

Sabbath Day/Year Commandments – Six Days/Years of Work/Sowing Required?

People are surprised that I take the time to answer their emails. Yes, I am busy with a young family and living in Costa Rica makes everything take longer to accomplish. For example, yesterday I had to hit a few places to find a replacement NVidia video card with the HDMI connector I needed. Not complaining…I enjoyed walking in the warm sunny weather in between the stores. It just takes longer.

But what readers do not know is that I love answering questions. I love the blessings that come from questions. One big one is the provision of new insights through the Socratic method. Questions force you to think, something we all tend to avoid whenever we can =). But in thinking you can mine some great discoveries from even old elementary topics you thought you mastered long ago.

49 Year Jubilee Cycle Objection:
Six Years of Planting Required?

Case in point is a discussion I had over the Jubilee year cycle with someone who doubts my conclusion that it is 49 years long.  He saw the good points I had but he still saw it as unclear. His final objection that leaned him towards a 50 year Jubilee cycle was this:

I still lean towards the 50 year cycle because if Israel goes back to work right after the jubillee Sabbath year, they will be breaking the command to work 6 years and rest the 7th, since they will then be only working 5 years and resting the 6th year after the jubilee year.

I had never heard such an objection to a 49 year Jubilee cycle. I had to stop and think about it. He was right that a 49 year Jubilee cycle “broke” the six years of planting mentioned in the Sabbath year command. You ended up with only five following a Jubilee year before the next Sabbath year.

I had to admit that I had not thought of the Sabbath year command as requiring Israel to plant for six years on their fields. Was he right? I decided to give it a chance and to think it through.

Six Days of Work Required, Too?

If this was true about the Sabbath year command then it must be true about the Sabbath day command as well. By this line of interpretation, the Sabbath day commandment would require Israel to work six days just as much as they were commanded to not work on Saturday by it.

But immediately I saw a problem with this. What about when you are sick? By this interpretation you still must work. What happens when you want to take a vacation for a week? You cannot or you are breaking the 4th Commandment, “Six days you must work.” Or is that what the 4th Commandment says?

Exodus 20:9 (HCSB) 9 You are to labor six days and do all your work,10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to Yahweh your God. You must not do any work—

The interesting part here is “do all your work”. Not God’s work. God has not commanded average Israelites to do any work in particular during the week days. That would be God’s or “my work”. Instead he tells Israel to do “all your work.” If Israel had no work to do then they did not have to do anything for six days. If an Israelite had enough money to provide for his own, then the Sabbath commandment is not telling him to make busy work for show. If he wanted to take a vacation, then there was no prohibition on that.

The intent of the Sabbath day command is obvious when you think it through. The intent was for Israel to not overwork themselves seven days per week. They would keep Saturday set apart to reconnect with their family and God.

Six Years of Planting Not Required, Either

Once I realized the above, I knew the same applied to the Sabbath year commandment. What if an Israelite bought a field and did not have the money to plant it. Was he breaking the Torah in doing nothing with his field for six years? No. As long as he did not decide at last to plant in the 7th year when all Israel was keeping field fallow, then he was in compliance with the intent of this command. Failure to leave fields fallow causes agricultural yields to diminish eventually. Then farmers resort to unnatural means to coax the field into producing what it used to. Chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The people eating the food pay the price for that in their health through the modern diseases we have today (not that toxins and poorer nutrition from food is the only cause of disease).

The passage supports that the planting is optional during the six years. It says “may”, not “must”.

Leviticus 25:3 (HCSB) 3 You may sow your field for six years, and you may prune your vineyard and gather its produce for six years.

What About Six “Planting Optional Years” Before a Sabbath Year?

You still might wonder if a 49 year Jubilee year cycle does not at least break Scripture. Does not the Sabbath year have to follow six “planting-optional years?” Is that not the intent?

Once again, I believe we must think it through to get the true intent. The true intent is to establish a seven year cycle. The commandment names six years and one year. Six plus one equal seven. That’s a seven year cycle.

Now we must understand that commandments of the Torah can override each other. We see this with the Sabbath Day commandment. Jesus pointed out that the priestly duties were done on Sabbath, “profaning it” (Mt 12:5). This was their main work, yet they did it on Sabbath. They had a special case that overruled the general blanket command of ceasing from labor on Sabbath.

That is what is happening here with the the Jubilee command. It is overriding the detail that there are six years available for planting before a Sabbath year. It is saying that the first year of the 8th (15th, 22nd, 29th, etc.) Sabbath year cycle is not going to be for planting, but will be a special Jubilee of no planting (among other things) following the preceding Sabbath year of no planting making two years of no planting in a row.

Conclusion

The 49 year Jubilee cycle maintains the strict seven year cycle for Sabbath years just like the Torah gives for Sabbath days every seven days. The objection that having the Jubilee year be one of the six planting years of a Sabbath year cycle breaks Scripture does not hold. When you properly understand the intent and focus of the Sabbath year on preventing overwork of fields, you can see that it does not require planting in any year or for any number of years. The Sabbath year command simply forbids Israel to plant in the special seventh year, just as the Sabbath day command simply forbids Israel from working on Saturday.

“Pray that your flight not be…on the Sabbath day”?

A reader of my book asked me this very good question that many Christians wonder about when reading Matthew’s version of the Olivet Discourse:

IF the Sabbath is no long in effect (Acts 15) how do we file away this:
Matthew 24:20 – But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day:

Is this a Hint for Christians To Keep Sabbath?

Some Christians find Jesus’ mention of the Sabbath in this passage disturbing. It almost seems to be advising us to be careful to avoid trampling the Sabbath.  For Christians, the Sabbath is a command they associate with the lost legalistic Pharisees of Jesus’ day and the non-believing Orthodox Jews today. Therefore the statement is problematic for them.

On the other hand, Sabbath-keeping Christians often cite this verse as proof of their position that God expects all believers to rest on Sabbath today. “Why would Jesus tell us to pray to not have to leave on the Sabbath unless it was still a day of rest for all believers?” they ask.

Well, that’s an excellent question. They probably are not going to like hearing what the most likely answer is. Yet most Christians will be glad to see how this verse’s plain meaning is in harmony with the rest of the Bible. The exercise will illustrate how many of these verses are best resolved through attention to grammatical, historical and whole Bible context.

Here’s the problem with the common interpretation of this verse. Under the Old Covenant Torah, there was no prohibition against fleeing or even fighting for your life on Sabbath. The only requirement given in the Torah after Israel had entered the land was to rest from your occupational work. (When they were still in tents wandering for 40 years, they had the additional requirement of not even leaving their place; probably only to not be tempted to gather manna – Ex 16:29. See Dt 23:12-13). Therefore, the mention of the Sabbath day causing hardship has nothing to do with believers keeping Sabbath or Sabbath forbidding travel.

A More Probable and Congruent Meaning

To understand the statement, we have to understand what it meant to Jesus’ audience who he spoke it to. In Jesus’ day, their culture was to keep Sabbath. They did this not because it was required by the Old Covenant. They had broken that already. Plus, when it was in effect, prophets continually warned Israel and Judah to stop trampling on it. Yet, those prophets and their warnings ceased with the exile of Israel and Judah (similar to how the shekinah glory left the temple then in Ezekiel 10:18). Instead, they were keeping it as part of their cultural tradition and religion of Judaism that developed out of the Babylon exile. You are probably familiar with some of the many things Orthodox Judaism prohibits on Sabbath, such as ripping toilet paper, carrying money, or turning on a light switch.

They had such embellishments back in Jesus’ day, too, which in several Gospel incidents Jesus is seen in conflict with them on. Examples include the washing of hands, healing or gleaning of grain in fields left for the poor on Sabbath.

They even had a “Sabbath’s day journey” limit on travel (referenced in Acts 1:12 as a distance measurement). Therefore, when Jesus mentioned avoiding Sabbath in the context of the prescribed speedy flight, Jesus’ audience knew immediately what he was talking about. Travel on Sabbath was already problematic back then with the cultural restrictions.

Today in the land of Israel, buses don’t run on Sabbath due to these same traditions. Mostly only Arab-run taxis are available. Therefore, it’s just plain harder to travel in Israel from Friday sunset until Saturday sunset today just as it was back in Jesus’ day. At least in the religious area of Jerusalem, or Judea this was true when I visited. Interestingly, this is the specific area Jesus said we would be gathered to and needing to flee from in the end times (Lk 21:21).

Notice the context as well. Sabbath day is mentioned along with winter and pregnant and nursing women. What do they all have in common? Winter means cold and potentially bad weather that requires more clothing and preparation. It makes travel harder. Being pregnant or having small children means you must go slower or carry a child and stop to nurse him. This obviously makes emergency last minute travel much harder and slower. All these things, like the Sabbath day, present obstacles to fast, unencumbered  travel on short notice as will be required. This was the whole point of the context of the Abomination of Desolation warnings. If someone does not listen to the warning ahead of time about what it coming and instead waits until he sees the event happen before his eyes (“I’ll believe it when I see  it”), then he will need to move so fast that he cannot even stop for supplies (Mt 24:15-20). If time is of the essence, then Sabbath day travel friction is a concern.

Other reputable commentaries agree this is likely the meaning:

What Christian Commentaries Say

New American Commentary on Matthew:

This reference to the Sabbath is found only in Matthew’s account. It would be natural for Matthew to include it for his more Jewish audience, but he does not thereby imply, as is often alleged, that he envisions Christians still keeping the Jewish laws. G. N. Stanton (“ ‘Pray That Your Flight May Not Be in Winter or on a Sabbath’ [Matthew 24.20],” JSNT 37 [1989]: 17–30) surveys the various options for interpreting this verse and concludes that the best approach understands that fleeing on the Sabbath would have antagonized the Jews further and increased persecution of believers.

MacArthur New Testament Commentary on Matthew:

Although Palestinian winters are mild compared to those in many parts of the world, even slightly inclement weather could be a hindrance when the Antichrist begins his final aggression against God’s people. Therefore Jesus said, Pray that your fight may not be in the winter.

Those seeking to escape should also pray that they will not have to flee on the Sabbath, when legalistic Jews who are not fleeing might try to stone or otherwise impede those whom they believe to be profaning the Sabbath—just as their forefathers had sought to stone Jesus for breaking their Sabbath traditions.

Jesus’ point was that no possession would be worth the risk of retrieving and no hindrance could be considered small. Because of the imminent unmatched terror, single-minded, undeterred flight will be the only order of the day.

Abomination Happens on A Sabbath in the Winter

What Jesus is implying by his suggestion to pray about the timing of your flight is that those who make the mistake of waiting until the last minute will literally see the Abomination happen on a Sabbath day in the Winter.

That may sound like an outrageous leap, but we can already confirm the Winter season for the abomination using Daniel. Daniel tells us that the Abomination of Desolation happens 1290 days from the end of the Tribulation. We know the rapture happens on the Feast of Trumpets right after the Tribulation (Mt 24:39-31). The Feast of Trumpets is on Tishrei 1, or first day of the 7th month. If you go back 1290 days or 43 months from that you end up in the 12th month of Adar. That’s the Winter!

Was Jesus also telling us ahead of time that the Abomination of Desolation would happen on a future Sabbath day? I think so.

Those who pray and have the faith to flee before they see the Abomination will probably flee before Winter gets bad. They can pick a time that is not on a Sabbath day as well and have an easier time. But to do this will take faith since it means leaving when everything seems fine to the eye.

Conclusion

Whenever we read a cryptic passage like this, we have to resist the temptation to jump to the conclusion that fits in with our doctrinal view. We have to put our bias aside and put on our detective’s hat. The Bible requires clear thinking and careful research. If we start with what the passage would have meant to the person saying it and also to his audience, we have a much better chance of arriving at the correct answer.

Note: If you think that by writing this article it means I do not keep Sabbath or am against keeping Sabbath, then that conclusion would be just as shaky as the one this article argued against. =) This article is not making a statement for or against keeping Sabbath. The point is only to correct a common case of taking a verses out of its context, masking its true intended meaning.

For the record, according to Isaiah 58 the Sabbath is a delight and blessing to keep whether it is required or not. Committing to resting one day a week recharges your batteries, relieves stress, gives space to reflect on the important things in life, and reconnect with your family. Those who can use more blessings from God in their life might optionally try resting on Sabbath. =)

Mandatory H1N1 Vaccine Rumors Dispelled

A reader asked:

I have heard about a mandatory H1N1 vaccine that the US is going to force us to take the vaccine or go to a concentration camp. Have you heard about this? It is supposedly going to start as soon as October 15, 2009. If you have heard anything or have any advise I would greatly appreciate your response.

There are always rumors like this about draconian laws coming or concentration camps for resistors. I’ve heard and watched these fables come and go for years.

You know what I’ve found? They never come to pass.

Why Unsubstantiated Rumors Should Be Ignored

I can think of three reasons why:

  1. Most often they were just unfounded or false rumors. There is a good reason mainstream news sites do not carry such stories. They cannot be verified. This of itself does not make them false, but most unverifiable stories do turn out this way.
  2. Perhaps a few rumors are based on actual plans of the enemy which failed as most plans men make up do.
  3. Finally some may have been real plans and had a real chance but they contradicted God’s master plan. Of course, God is sovereign and his plans never fail.

Discernment 101

In hindsight, most of the above may seem like common sense, even academic. But common sense is not always very common.

I confess it took me a few years to experience this pattern before I recognized it myself. We all have to learn most of our discernment the hard way, by experience. We must fall for a few con-men, erroneous ideas, false prophets, and false prophecies before we start to see that generally if it sounds too good to be true (or too bad to be true) it usually is. Or if too few people are saying something, it generally is false. (With the Bible this turns out to be the opposite:  most of what is popularly taught from the Bible is in error, due to how the Bible was written)

The next time you hear an extreme rumor like this, I hope you treat it as it deserves. As an unsubstantiated rumor.

Is Obama the Antichrist
(or Even A Natural-Born American Citizen)?

Believing the Impossible

Last month I attended and spoke at my first Bible conference keynote. (Previously I had spoken at Borland Conferences during my previous career as a programmer). While researching for my keynote, I happened upon a profound quote:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few”—Shunryu Suzuki.

As an expert on Bible prophecy, I can attest to the applicability of that principle in my field. I constantly hear beginners pose Bible prophecy theories that are frankly impossible. Usually there is a clear and plain verse that nullifies the beginner’s theory. One clear verse is all that it takes because of the principle Jesus taught that “the Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35). We are not to believe a doctrine that would contradict the Bible. The Bible is a big difficult book that takes years to become expertly familiar with so false doctrines are commonly passed around and accepted.

Barrack Obama Antichrist Rumors

Case in point: is Obama the Antichrist? Lately, this is the question I receive most frequently since he became President of the United States.

Besides questions, I receive plenty of emails from people trying to convince me that Obama is the Antichrist. I think people send them because of the article on my website that uses Revelation 13 to identify someone else as the Antichrist. Obama Antichrist theorists naturally view the article as wrong and just have to correct me. One person even told me to take the article down so people are not “mislead” by it.

The article is still up even though I admit it is possible that the suggested candidate is wrong. We just will not know he is wrong until that person dies or the real Antichrist appears, whichever comes first. In the meantime discussion on the topic is good and one of the best ways to get people to actually study the Bible for themselves.

As for Barrack Obama, we can disqualify him as an Antichrist candidate today. This theory is about as valid as the common Christian belief that “Jesus can come back at any moment” (the secret pretrib rapture). To the beginner both theories seem possible. An expert can tell you that both theories are contradicted by plain clear Scripture. Barrack Obama does not fulfill a single major identification requirement for the Antichrist, especially not from Revelation 13.

Moreover, he cannot possibly be the Antichrist because he is a national of the wrong country. As I have covered in my free newsletter (simply email eatt-news@aweber.com to sign up), Daniel 9:26 tells us the nationality of the Antichrist is the same as those who destroyed the Temple in 70 AD: the people of the Roman Empire. The New American Commentary – Volume 18: Daniel 9:26 on page 267 confirms this is the meaning:

The “people” who would destroy Jerusalem and the temple were the Romans, but v. 27 makes clear that this “ruler” will be the future persecutor of Israel during the seventieth seven. “The people of the ruler” does not mean that the people “belong to” the ruler but rather that the ruler will come from these people. If the text is to be taken literally at this point, this future ruler will come out of the peoples and nations that made up the ancient Roman Empire. Daniel already had divulged in chap. 7 that the Antichrist’s origin will be from the fourth empire, Rome.

The country that Obama is from and rules did not even exist as country until 1700 years later. Therefore, a US Citizen cannot be the Antichrist because they are from a country that was not part of the Roman Empire who destroyed the Temple.

Proving Rumors With Conspiracy Theories

When I tell this to Obama Antichrist proponents, they usually ignore the evidence and invoke the “birther” conspiracy theory you may have heard in the news. It states “Obama was not born in the USA”. I suppose one wild theory deserves another to back it up. Anyone who would believe the first could easily entertain the second.
But even if this argument were true, it would make no difference because Daniel’s prophecy was not referring to the nation the Antichrist comes from. He was referring to what nation he is from. Making Obama a Kenyan does not help since Kenya was not part of the Roman Empire either.

Let’s be reasonable. If it were true that Obama was not qualified to be president, then the McCain campaign would have pounced on this Anyone who was willing to make the risky move of choosing Sarah Palin for vice president certainly would have used this angle if it had any solid evidence behind it. In fact, it recently came out that the McCain campaign did investigate this angle before the election. They found it to be unsubstantiated and the proof of Obama’s birth in Hawaii to be well-documented.

If only believers would consistently do likewise: investigate theories in the Bible themselves and only believe what is well-supported there. We would have a very different set of doctrines taught and widely believed if so. And we would have a lot more Bereans (Acts 17:11) than we do now.

Hope This Helps

Am I down on people who fail to do this and entertain or spread these weak Bible theories? Not at all. I remember some of the crazy doctrines I used to entertain when I was a beginner and had not learned clear thinking skills yet. I write what I do here to help those who want the truth and need a little help finding it just like I did when I was still a beginner. Although I am now an expert, I keep learning to grow in grace and knowledge and correct my own errors.

Here are more articles debunking Obama Birther and Antichrist conspiracy theories from Snopes.com. (BTW, Snopes is a great site to check before forwarding “Obama is the Antichrist”-type emails to avoid the embarassment when it turns out to be false as they usually do.)