Tuesday 26 March 2013

Monkey See, Monkey Do


by Grant Phillips

What causes trends? Basically trends are caused by people mimicking others because
they don’t know how to be their own person.

Fashions are a good example. Certain clothes, or lack thereof, are fashionable because we want to be like other people. “This is what everyone is wearing.” The marketing industry knows this. They come out with something different from the previous line, so they can make more sales. They parade these new fashions on the “runway” by models. The “elite” purchase. The followers follow.

Whether its tattoos, pants hanging down to ones knees, long hair, no hair, spiked hair, colored hair, males with earrings, women in men’s clothing (and vice versa), new car in the driveway, three bath house as opposed to one, etc., societal people have a “monkey see, monkey do” frame of mind.

When our favorite Hollywood “star” is a moral pervert, we think that’s okay, and why not I? When our favorite band or singer performs trash and lives the same, we say, “Hey, that’s what I want.”

If we are so determined to be like someone else, why not start at the top instead of the bottom? We can’t expect the world to follow Jesus, but He should be the one every Christian would want to model their life after.

Jesus said,

“… Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

“… Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.” (Matthew 8:22)

“… If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” (John 10:27)

“If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.” (John 12:26)

It is very clear that Jesus wants us to be like Him. He says repeatedly, “Follow Me.” Maybe it would be smart to adjust our lifestyle to fit what Jesus would expect from us, not what the world expects from us.

Let us not concentrate on what we wear or how we look, but on what occupies our mind. If our outer appearance needs correcting, it will come from within. By following Jesus, we will be more like Him than the world.

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;” (Ephesians 6:11-18)

When we put on the whole armor of God, we follow Jesus as He instructed us, and something else automatically happens. We are not as accepted by the world. We may not be accepted at all. We may be even hated.

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18)

When following Jesus, be prepared to be excluded from the “in” crowd. Very few people, even among those who “profess” Christ, can’t take the pressure of being excluded from what the world perceives we should be.

Even among professing Christians, peer pressure can often get in the way of that which is contrary to God’s will in our lives. Yes, that’s right. Believe it or not, not all Christian’s are models of following Jesus. That isn’t to say some of us are perfect either. None of us are perfect. I repeat, none of us will ever measure up to His standards, but He is the measuring tool we must use.

If we are serious about following Jesus Christ, then we need to follow a different standard, and that standard is exemplified in the Son of God.

How should I dress? What should I listen to? What should I read? How should I act? We could make an endless list of things we should change, but if our heart isn’t changed, it won’t matter. Then we just become a person who is judgmental of others because they aren’t as perfect as we think we are. I’ve seen many Christians who are just as demanding as the world. The world wants us to be like it. Some stodgy Christians want us to be like them. Both are wrong. We should be like Jesus.

By following Jesus, we are transformed from the inside where it counts. He will then take care of the outer dressing, if it’s necessary. If we are going to have a “monkey see, monkey do” attitude, let us at least direct it in the right direction, not toward the world, but toward the Holy Son of God, Jesus Christ.

“Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 20:7)

“But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15-16)

Grant Phillips
Email grantphillips@windstream.net
Pre-Rapture Commentary http://grant-phillips.blogspot.com 
Rapture Ready http://www.raptureready.com/featured/phillips/phillips.html

Monday 18 March 2013

The Resurrection Gospel

First Corinthians chapter 15 is our chapter and I’m very, very thankful for the direction of the Spirit of God to look at this chapter. It is the great resurrection chapter. As you can see by simple glance, it’s long, it runs for 58 verses and by the time we’re done, we’ll have a great understanding of the wonder of resurrection.
Now this chapter is not particularly about the resurrection of Christ, although that is foundational to the resurrection. It’s about your resurrection and my resurrection. So this is your future we’re talking about here. This is your story. This will happen to you. This is very personal. This looks ahead to what the Lord has prepared for them that love Him.
All of those who love Christ will rise from the dead. Those in the church will rise at the Rapture of Christ. Those from the Old Testament and through the Tribulation will rise at the resurrection of saints at the end of the Tribulation, but we will all rise. We will be given glorified bodies. We will be persons, as we saw this morning, in the case of Moses and Elijah. This is the promise of the Word of God. Christians don’t believe in reincarnation, some kind of endless cycle where you can come back as a human being or a bug. We don’t believe in annihilation, such as some religions teach. We don’t believe in soul sleep.
We believe that after death we will live. We will live as spirits but we will be joined to our bodies and forever we will be like Christ, an eternal spirit, living in a resurrected and eternal body. This is our hope.
This was very important to the people living in the ancient world and that is why the Apostle Paul addresses the subject because in the ancient world there were all kinds of mockers when it came to this matter of resurrection because the ancient world, at least the Greek world, had become somewhat dualistic and believed that spirit was good and matter was bad and the ultimate end of all people should be the complete deliverance from all things material so that you would end up as a floating spirit, living in a spirit world. We won’t take the time to go into all the details of that. If you’d like more information, read the 1 Corinthian 15 commentary and you’ll find all of those kinds of things indicated there.
But the Apostle Paul wants believers to know that contrary to what popular philosophy taught, there was going to be a resurrection. Ancient philosophers even talked about the horrors of having to live in another body because the only way they could define a body was the kind of experience they were familiar with and they longed to transcend the capacities of the body, the limitations of the body, the restraints of the body, and all the rest of the guilt that went with living as a corrupt person in a corrupt world. Liberation seemed to be the best possibility, the best hope for the future and they would hope that that would happen and free them from the constraints which were so much a part of life in this world.
But Christianity teaches something very different than that and the message of the New Testament and that message needed to be made clear to the Corinthians is that you will live forever but you will not live as a disembodied spirit, you will live as a resurrected man, a resurrected woman. And so, in the fifteenth chapter you have this very, very thorough detailed presentation of resurrection.
Now it all begins in the opening verses with a look at the gospel because our resurrection is based on Christ’s resurrection. It was Jesus, you remember, who said in a verse that for me is absolutely critical, “Because I live, you will live also.” His resurrection is the guarantee of our resurrection. He is the firstfruits of those who slept. Philippians tells us we will have a body like unto His glorious body. And His was a body that could be touched, as we know in the case of Thomas. His was a body that could speak and socialize as we saw with our Lord post-resurrection appearances to so many on so many occasions. And so it is that the resurrection of Christ is the beginning point of a discussion of resurrection, but it’s the foundation, the rest to follow, majors on our resurrection. This is...this is a glimpse at your glorious future. You ought to care about this because this is what you will receive from God.
Now jumping right in the fifteenth chapter, Paul talks about the resurrection gospel. That’s the starting point. Let me read you the opening verses, down to verse 11. “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you which also you received, in which also you stand, in which also you are saved if you hold fast the Word which I preach to you, unless you believed in vain.” And here it comes. “For I delivered to you as a of first importance what I also received that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures and that he appeared to Cephas, or Peter, then to the Twelve, after that He appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the Apostles, and last of all as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also for I’m the least of the Apostles and not fit to be called an Apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am and His grace toward me did not prove vain, but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God with me whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
Here is collected testimony to the resurrection of Christ. This is absolutely critical, as I said, it is foundational. Paul begins by saying, “Now I make known to you, brethren,” this is an emphatic introduction and emphatic declaration. And what is he making known? The gospel, the gospel. “I literally, he says here, gospelized you which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved.” This is the starting point of any discussion about the future of our lives, it all starts with the gospel.
They had received it from Paul. He had given it to them. You remember he was the one that God used to go to Corinth and to preach the gospel. Back in chapter 4 verse 15 he says “You may have countless paidagogos,paidagogical teachers, tutors, people who give you instruction. But you do not have many fathers, spiritual fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”
What he’s saying there is, “I was the one that the Lord used to bring the gospel to give you life. You’re my spiritual children, in that sense.” “So we begin, brethren, our discussion of resurrection by starting at the point of the gospel which you received from me and in which also you stand,” perfect tense, you took your stand there, you still stand there. The implication is that you have received the gospel and the gospel involves the death of Christ and the resurrection of Christ, therefore you already understand the importance, the foundational reality of the resurrection. You took your stand on the gospel. You received it. You still hold to it. You still permanently stand on the gospel. You are saved. You are being saved by your continuing faith in the gospel. That is a present tense. It is the gospel that continues to hold you, to give you salvation and it is a gospel of resurrection.
Now this is true of you, and he throws this in, because there were certainly some people in the Corinthian church who were not genuine believers. They were there but they weren’t genuine.
How do we know that? Because in 2 Corinthians 13:5 writing to the same church he says “Examine yourselves whether you be in the faith.” Paul knows what any pastor knows that in the church there are people who are not believers. “Test yourself,” in that same verse, “see if you’re in the faith, or do you not recognize this about yourself that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail the test.”
He understands that there have come into that church non-believers. They were the ones who probably initially gave a foothold to the false teachers who tore that church to shreds. The gospel, he says, has done all of this. It has saved you. You stand in it, unless you believed for nothing. Unless your faith was vain. And if you had a vain faith, an empty faith, you will not cling to the gospel. Endurance is always a sign. This is what we call the perseverance of the saints. You believe the gospel. You receive the gospel. You stand in the gospel. And you hold fast to the Word of the gospel.
So if you are among those who hold fast the Word, that being the gospel which I preached to you, and have not believed for nothing, then you already understand...this is the implication...the importance of the resurrection...the resurrection.
I think the initial event in Corinth in Acts 18 was a monumental event, one of the greatest revivals, one of the greatest evangelistic responses in the record of the book of Acts. Certainly there were people caught up in that who fall into the category of hard soil, rocky soil, or weedy soil, thorny soil, to borrow the picture of our Lord. Caught up in emotionalism, made a profession without really being saved, they believed literally without effect. Their faith is worthless. It is devil faith, to use James’ term. It is faith without commitment. There were those who weren’t clinging. But there were those who were and they would endure, John 8, if you continue in My Word then you’re My mathetes alethos, my real disciple. There were many, you know, had followed Jesus. There were many who appeared interested in Jesus. Back in John 2 He said He didn’t commit Himself to them because He knew what was in their hearts. In chapter 6 of John’s gospel there were many of His disciples who walked no more with Him, they turned their back and walked away.
But for those who hold fast, it is proof that their salvation is real. They are the doers of the Word and not the hearers. They are the ones who are genuine. And for them there is an already committed faith in the resurrection. You believed, you received, you stand, you hold fast to the gospel as a true Christian. And that gospel as he then says in verses 3 and 4, is a gospel that includes the resurrection. So you, by virtue of being a Christian, believe already in an actual, physical, bodily, literal resurrection, this will distance you from the common crowd in a dualistic culture, in a culture of philosophers who disdained the idea of a physical resurrection, you stand apart. You then should have no problem believing in your own resurrection.
We have here then the first area of evidence for bodily resurrection and it is really saving faith. The first area of evidence is saving faith, or if you will, the testimony of the redeemed. If you’re a believer, a true believer, not a false one, not one who believes for nothing because it is a sub-saving faith, if you’re a true believer, you have by virtue of that true faith embraced a physical resurrection already.
Paul is trying to help them pass this issue which was up for such discussion in their culture. A crucified Messiah would be no Messiah at all, a Messiah left in the grave would be no Messiah at all, a Savior in the grave would be no Savior at all. It was the resurrection, Romans 1:4, which proclaimed Him to be the Son of God with power. There’s no power demonstrated on the cross, the power is demonstrated in the resurrection.
Kenneth Latourette, one of the great Christian history professor says, “It was the conviction of the resurrection of Jesus which lifted his followers out of the despair into which His death had cast them and which led to the perpetuation of the movement begun by Him. But for their profound belief that the crucified had risen from the dead, and that they had seen Him and talked with Him, the death of Jesus and even Jesus Himself would probably have been all but forgotten.” No resurrection, says Latourette, and you have a case for the disappearance of Jesus from historical records.
But He did rise and we believe in His resurrection, and salvation requires that, Romans 10:9 and 10, “If you confess Jesus as Lord and believe that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved.” The church then, the redeemed church is the first witness to bodily resurrection. We’re not having a discussion about whether there’s going to be a bodily resurrection, we know there is. To say that believers don’t have a bodily resurrection is to defy the very fact that is necessary to be saved and that is to believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ who lives that we may live. Resurrection faith, by the way, is absolutely unique to Christianity.
The original accounts of Buddha which identify what Buddhism is, never ascribe to him any such thing as a resurrection. In fact, the earliest accounts of the death of Buddha in the documents indicated that he died with that, quote, “Utter passing away in which nothing whatever remains.” So long, Buddha.
Mohammed died on June 8, 632 A.D. at the age of 61 at Medina. And his tomb is annually visited by hundreds of thousands of Muslims. There has never been any indication by any of them of a resurrected Mohammed.
What sets the church apart is we are saved because we believe in a resurrected Christ. You watched those testimonies tonight in Baptism, what did that Baptism symbolize? They were going down into the water because Romans 6 says they were buried with Him in Baptism, spiritually speaking, they came out of the water because they have risen with Him in newness of life. Symbolizes our union with Christ in His death in which He bore our sin and His resurrection in which He raised us to life.
So the first great testimony to bodily resurrection is the testimony of the true redeemed church saved by faith in a risen Christ. The Corinthians already then believed in bodily resurrection. They shouldn’t have been influenced by those who denied it.
But there’s more. There is the testimony of the scriptures...the testimony of the scriptures. Look at verses 3 and 4. “I delivered to you,” and you remember he had just said that, I preached to you in verse 1, I preached to you in verse 2, it’s the same thing, goes back to that gospel, “I delivered to you as of first importance priority , what I received.” He had received it by divine revelation. Look at Galatians 1, “I would have you know,” verse 11, “brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.” It didn’t come to me from a human source, I didn’t invent it, somebody else didn’t pass it on to me, “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it.”
This is Paul looking back post-conversion, post-Damascus Road. “I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ for you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries, among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. But when God who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I didn’t immediately consult with flesh and blood, I didn’t go to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me. I went away to Arabia, Nabatean Arabia and returned once more to Damascus.”
I didn’t see, verse 19, any of the other apostles, except James the Lord’s brother. Nobody taught me this gospel, no man gave it to me. Just as God had reached down and snatched me on the Damascus Road and redeemed me, as you read about this morning, the Lord Himself taught me. This is what I have received from the Lord directly by revelation from Him.
He says the same thing in chapter 11 verse 23, “For I received from the Lord that which also I delivered to you,” and then he goes on to talk about the Last Supper. He wasn’t there. And I think when he was in those prolonged times down in Nabatean Arabia, he was getting his theology directly from heaven. The Lord was giving it to him, including giving him information about what happened on that last Passover night.
So he says, “I delivered to you as of first priority, first of all, the principle things, what I received. Here they were that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” Historical facts. The true greatest facts of the gospel, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ.
The resurrection, of course, depicted in the Baptism. The death of Christ depicted in the communion. That Christ died for our sins, substitutionary atonement, died for our sins. That He was buried, proof that He was dead. And that He was raised according to the scriptures.
According to the scriptures, what do you mean according to the scriptures? New Testament scriptures? No, Old Testament scriptures. Twice he refers to the Old Testament, the holy writings.
Did the holy writings of the Old Testament talk about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Well, I guess they did. Look at Luke 24...Luke 24:25, our Lord on the road to Emmaus with some of His woe-begone followers who are in severe sadness because their Lord has been crucified... And He said to them, verse 25, Luke 24, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken, was it not necessary for the Christ, the Messiah, to suffer these things and to enter in to His glory? Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the scriptures.”
Some of it was direct prophecy, some of it was type. He could have started in Genesis 22 with the sacrifice of Isaac, the picture of a substitutionary atonement. He could have gone to Psalm 22 to describe the details of the crucifixion and the very words that Jesus said on the cross. Surely He could have gone to Isaiah 53 where you have the Lamb sacrificed for sinners, wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquity, the chastisement of our peace falls on Him and by His stripes we are healed. And it doesn’t end there because God shows him the path of life through the death, out the other side to life. He could have gone to Psalm 16...Psalm 16 was the passage which Peter exposited. Peter, by the way, was an expository preacher. His first sermon on the Day of Pentecost was an exposition of Psalm 16, you know I favor expository preaching. Somebody said, “Every preacher should preach only expository preaching, except once a year he should preach one topical sermon and then repent of it.”
Psalm16 tells us, verse 10, “You will not abandon,” this is the prayer of the Messiah, the confident praise of the Messiah, “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol nor will you allow your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life.”
So, you have the testimony of the church to the reality of a bodily resurrection. You have the testimony of the scriptures to the reality of a bodily resurrection. The Apostle Paul is giving the Corinthian believers and us a good solid foundation for believing in resurrection. Added to that, thirdly, you have the testimony of eyewitnesses...the testimony of eyewitnesses. And verse 5 says, “He appeared to Cephas.” This is now beginning the very day of Christ’s resurrection. Paul records in chronological order a number of post-resurrection appearances of the risen Savior. Human courts, of course, have always based their functioning on the testimony of eyewitnesses, especially those who are intelligent, confident, trust worthy, sound of mind, possessing integrity. So Paul appears to those kind of folks, those kinds of people.
Professor Thomas Arnold was the author of a famous three-volume history of Rome, appointed to the modern history chair at Oxford. He says this, writing way back in the nineteenth century, “The evidence for our Lord’s life and death and resurrection may be and often have been shown to be satisfactory. It is good according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece as carefully as every judge summing up a most important cause. I have myself done many times over not to persuade others, but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort to the understanding of a fair inquirer than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.” That’s a man who wrote a historic three-volume history of Rome.
Another writer said, “It is the best authenticated event in ancient history.” Paul gives us reasons why. Verse 5, “And He appeared,” we could stop right there. He appeared. What’s the best evidence that you’ve risen from the dead? Show up. He appeared. He was not merely the figment of their desire. It wasn’t a mass hallucination because they wanted it to happen. He appeared. We already read about His appearance on the Road to Emmaus. We know about His appearance to Mary Magdalene and the other women at the tomb. But Paul goes directly to the apostolic witnesses, the most formidable, credible witnesses of all, Cephas, or it’s the Aramaic word for rock,petros is the Greek word. You remember in Luke 24:34 Peter says, “He’s alive, He’s alive. He appeared to Simon,” the record says. How amazing that He first appeared to Peter because it was Peter who denied Him. There is in that appearance all kinds of forgiving love and grace. Jesus needed Peter for strategic ministry. Peter had wept out his heart for his defection. He wanted to be restored. He wanted the Lord to know he loved Him. He said, “Read my mind, you know I love You,” John 21. Jesus came to him. He became an eyewitness of the resurrection.
Then He appeared to the Twelve, the official title, only by now they’re just eleven because Judas is gone by suicide. And the eleven went on to preach the resurrection. That’s their message. Read the book of Acts. They were all preachers of the resurrection.
When they were filling in the ranks, selecting someone to take the place of Judas in the book of Acts, it had to be someone who was an eyewitness of the resurrection. Verse 22 of Acts 1, beginning with the baptism of John until the day that he was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection. They added, as you know, Mathias and Mathias was another, filling up the Twelve, who would give witness to the risen Christ.
And so, you have further eyewitness testimony from these Twelve Apostles. And verse 6 says He appeared to more than 500 brethren...500, most likely in Galilee. Not just the apostles but others and a huge number of others. He appeared to them on one occasion, apparently, one time. This is not a mass hallucination. This is a real appearance. And the majority of them are still alive when this is written. And by the way, 1 Corinthians was written before any of the four gospels that give the record of His resurrection. So they were giving witness to the resurrection before there was a written witness to the resurrection, although some of them had fallen asleep, some of them had died, the majority were alive.
And then in verse 7 he adds James, probably not the apostle James. There were two in the Apostles, James the son of Zebedee, the brother of John, and James the son of Alphaeus. But this is likely James, the brother of our Lord. James the brother of our Lord who became kind of the leader of the Jerusalem church and convened the Jerusalem council. We know this is a wonderful reality because in John 7 it says, “His brothers didn’t believe in Him.” In fact, according to Mark 3:21 they thought He was crazy, wanted to go get Him out of the public because He was so crazy. But they came to believe in Him and Jesus appeared to His brother, His half-brother James. James had a personal post-resurrection meeting with his Savior and his brother.
Peter and James are unlikely witnesses because they were both deniers of Jesus. So two of His appearances were to men who had cruelly wounded Him by their unbelief and had been forgiven. Then He appeared to all the Apostles and that’s just a sweep across...across all of them again, similar to the Twelve. He appeared to the Twelve in verse 5 and again it says He appeared to all the apostles. Probably appearing to the Twelve is the immediate appearances after the resurrection. One on that Sunday night and again the next Sunday night. But He appeared to all the Apostles, probably appears to Acts 1 where it says He met with the apostles and instructed them concerning the Kingdom of God for a period of 40 days. This is...this is plenty of eyewitness evidence.
Think of the character of these witnesses. These are men who gave the world the highest teaching it has ever known. And these are men who held to that teaching and died for that teaching in the face of hatred and hostility and persecution. This is not a little band of defeated cowards, squatting somewhere in an upper room one day and a few days later running out, disappearing in the crowd. These are people who literally preached this message until their lives were snuffed out and they are credible. When the disciples, the apostles of Jesus proclaimed the resurrection, they did so as eyewitnesses and they did so with people who had contact with other eyewitnesses. There were 500, at least, floating around who had seen the risen Christ. Their testimony could be corroborated. It passes the limits of credibility to think that the early Christians manufactured the resurrection.
So the evidence mounts. If Paul could establish the bodily resurrection of Christ by the church, the faith that saves, the truly redeemed, by the testimony not only of the church but the testimony of the Scripture and the testimony of eyewitnesses, then he could establish that resurrection is a valid reality. That’s what he’s after. And this is a very complete argument.
Number four, the testimony of a special witness, verses 8 to 10. “And last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also for I am the least of the apostles and am not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God but by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me didn’t prove vain, but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God with me.”
Here’s the unique testimony of Paul who also saw the resurrected Christ. He’s the writer so this is first hand. He’s the last one to see Him. He is the last one. Please notice that, and last of all may I say to you that the last person our Lord ever appeared to was Paul and He hasn’t made subsequent appearances to TV evangelists. Good word for those who keep claiming Jesus appears to them. After His ascension, He appeared only to Paul on several occasions. And in vision form in the apocalypse, John saw him in a glorified form. You need to be very suspicious, in fact you need to discount all claims to Jesus’ appearances since He appeared to Paul. Peter says it this way. “Whom having not seen, you love,” 1 Peter 1:8.
Well, when did this happen? Last of all is one untimely born, born out of due time, ektromate, meaning a premature birth, an abnormal birth, out of the ordinary. He even used that word, by the way, to refer to an aborted fetus. To me out of the ordinary He appeared also. Calls himself a miscarriage. What’s he talking about? One who doesn’t come when he’s supposed to come...out of the normal, an untimely birth. And he is doing two things here. He’s saying I really don’t belong in the normal place of an apostle, and he may be also referring to the deformities of his own sinfulness, Paul the abortion. He’s a humble man. He is a dead, vile, worthless piece of flesh in his own eyes because he’s a persecutor of the church and the Lord appeared to him. First Corinthians 9:1he says, “Have not I seen Christ our Lord?”
And he had other appearances of Christ. Acts 18; Acts 23, verse 9 is emphatic, “I..I,” this is pointing to the amazing condescension to come to him, “I am the least of the apostles, the absolute least and not fit to be called an apostle cause I persecuted the church of God.” He is out of time, he is unworthy, he is deformed by his own sinfulness, but he saw Christ and it was all, according to verse 10, by the grace of God, strictly a sovereign act of unmerited love and forgiveness.
There’s no way this man would fabricate a resurrection, right? Come on. Paul is a problem here. If you say, “Oh well, all the 500 and the other apostles, they just made it up. How do you explain him?” He is killing Christians. He is an unbeliever, a sinner, unworthy, an apostate, a Christ hater and he’s just absolutely transformed and he becomes a preacher of the risen Christ. There’s no explanation for that apart from the mighty work of God and the resurrection that Paul preached, he had no reason to preach if it weren’t true. We read it this morning, right? On the Damascus Road, who are You, Lord? “I’m Jesus whom you’re persecuting.”
So he says the grace of God toward him did not prove vain...did not prove vain caused I labored even more than all of them, yet not I but the grace of God with me. I labored even more abundantly than all of them by Holy Spirit power.
He was hard working. Colossians one says that. That’s just a great testimony to his zeal, that verse is one of my favorites because it relates to ministry. He says, verse 29, “I labor, striving according to His power which mightily works within me.”
How does the church’s greatest persecutor become the church’s greatest preacher who labors more than others, more than all others in terms of the extent and impact of his ministry? By a vision of the risen Christ, personal encounter with Christ that repeated itself several times. He saw Him...he saw Him.
There’s a final word here, the testimony of the church, the testimony of the Scripture, the testimony of eyewitnesses, the testimony of a special witness, and then a testimony of a common message. If you’ve got this many people making something up, you’re going to have a hard time controlling the message, wouldn’t you agree? Do we understand that? Do you know anything about a court of law? Do you know how hard it is to go into a court of law and try to pull off a fabricated defense when you have all kinds of people coming from all kinds of directions having to tell the same lie? That’s what lawyers destroy. It’s inconsistency that destroys the case. But he has a great remark in verse 11, “Whether then it was I or they,” see the point? Whether it was I or they? “So we preach and so you believe.” Whether it was the Apostles or the associates of the Apostles, whether it was the Twelve, or Paul who comes later, whether it was the men and women who made up the 500, the message was the same...the same. The uniformity of preaching and testimony about the resurrection, so we preach and so you believed the cross, the resurrection, they all had the same message. They were not all deceivers. They weren’t that clever to pull it off uniformly. That is a powerful evidence of His resurrection.
Well, that’s a starting point. Do you see verse 12, “Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some of you say there is no resurrection from the dead?” See his point. You don’t have a leg to stand on. How can you say that in a church as a professed believer that there’s no resurrection when your faith is based on a resurrection that is so perfectly attested to. That’s the evidence for the resurrection. And now next time, we’re going to look at verse 12 and we’re going to deal with those who would deny the resurrection of believers. Well, it’s been a great day, right? Wonderful, rich day of fellowship and worship and study of the Word of God. Let’s bring it to an end with prayer.
Father, thank You for the richness as again we’re exposed to Your Word of the depth of the pages of holy Scripture. Thank You for the anointing that comes from heaven, even the Spirit of God who teaches us all things. Thank You for illumination. We thank You for the resurrection of Christ. We thank You for the living Christ. We thank You that because He lives, one day we will live also. We thank You that one day we’ll have a body like unto His glorious body. Lord, we look forward to that glorious day. There’s nothing in this world that can even come close. There is no experience that can give us a taste of what it will be like. There is no examination that can do that. It can’t come experientially, intuitively, or empirically, all we know about it is what You’ve revealed to us and still we can’t comprehend it. Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard the things which the Lord has prepared for them that love Him. We long for that day when we will enter in to that resurrection glory and be like our risen Christ. May we be faithful to Him and to the truth of His resurrection. May we preach the cross and the resurrection so that others such as those who gave testimony in the waters of baptism tonight can come and do the same in the future. Use us to be preachers of the gospel, preaching the same Christ, the same cross, the same resurrection, giving us uniform testimony to the world that they may know that You live and that You have prepared a resurrection for those who love You. Thank You in Christ’s name. And everyone said...Amen…

Related Link: http://www.simplicityinthegospel.com/

Friday 15 March 2013

In Memoriam: Ron Graham

In Memoriam: Ron Graham
Note: I am saddened to say that Ron Graham, one of our many featured writers for Prophecy Update and Rapture Ready has gone to be with the Lord. I am deeply saddened but at the same time rejoicing knowing that Ron is with the Lord. Following is a short tribute by Terry James of Rapture Ready that speaks highly and fondly of Ron, please read and pray for Ron's wife Nathele and his surviving family.


Todd and I are saddened to announce the death of Ron Graham, one of Rapture Ready's most widely read and highly respected writers on end-time matters involving Bible prophecy. He will be missed far beyond our ability to measure.

Ron went to be with the Lord Thursday, March 14, 2013, following a lengthy illness. He is survived by his wife, Nathele and three children, Rodrigo, Michelle, and Amanda.

I borrow in part the following from the biography on his Home Page. Ron was born in 1951 at Camp Cook, California which is now Vandenberg AFB. Before retiring he was Operations Manager and Director of Advertising for a national magazine based out of Oregon.

After accepting Jesus as his Lord and Saviour in 1995 his life was dramatically changed. Ron faithfully and prayerfully studied the Bible and the Holy Spirit led him to intensively research the works of many inspired men. He obviously--to anyone who followed his writings--was taught Holy Spirit discernment.

I knew Ron as a tremendously deep thinker on Bible matters as well as in current issues and events. Yet he was a man of humility in the most genuine sense. Of his own dealings with the Lord, he wrote on his website biography: "It is amazing what the Lord can do when a man is willing to surrender to Him."

Ron lived in rural Missouri where he testified that he was immensely blessed and thankful to be asked to fill the pulpit of various vacationing pastors in the area.

He eagerly awaited the Rapture, but worked diligently for the Lord right up until the day God called him Home. He corresponded with people who contacted him about his many articles even during the toughest moments of his severe illness.

Ron wrote me when I had the heart attack that stopped my heart three times on Good Friday, April 22, 2013. He was, as always, most caring and gracious, and, of course, was fascinated to hear my account of being in that Heavenly Realm each time my heart stopped.

I--of all people who knew, respected and admired Ron--am absolutely sure his Home Coming is Spectacular beyond all description!

Ron's lengthy illness and passing presents a financial hardship for his wife and the family, as might be expected in such circumstance. We ask that everyone wanting to donate financially to Nathele and her family send as the Lord Leads to:

Nathele Graham

96 County Road 5480

Salem, MO, 65560.

May God Bless you for your prayers and financial help. --Terry

Monday 4 March 2013


Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Director International Christian Zionist Centre

Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" (Jude 1:9)

Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. And the Lord said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So Satan answered the Lord and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking back and forth on it." Then the Lord said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause." So Satan answered the Lord and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. But stretch out Your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!" And the Lord said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life." So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes. Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!" But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (Job 2:1-10)

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' " Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: 'He shall give His angels charge over you,' and, 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.' " Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.' " Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.' " Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. (Matthew 4:1-11)

"How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. "Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: 'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?' (Isaiah 14:12-17)

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:1-5)

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints-- and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20)

Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. (John 12:31)

I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. (John 14:30)

... of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:11)

And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time." (Revelation 12:7-12)

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

It truly is amazing how many scriptures - in both the Old and New testaments - speak of the existence of Satan and of his sinister and highly dangerous activity. In our day people can laugh at the very thought of the existence of the Devil, or underestimate him, but they do so at their own, eternal, peril.

Satan is, as the scripture in Isaiah calls him, Lucifer, the destroyer of nations. Jesus says he comes to steal, kill and destroy. He is the relentless 'accuser of the brethren.' He is the great tempter and seducer to all kinds of evil. He is, as Jesus calls him, 'the ruler of this world;' a roaring lion ever seeking whom he can destroy and thereby take with him to perdition. Or, as John writes in his Revelation: "Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath" (Revelation 12:10).

In a way, then, we live and operate in the enemy's territory - if he is the prince of this world.

People being in this, his territory, risk being targeted at any time of his choosing unless they are under the cover and protection of the Lord, Who is the only one more powerful than the devil; who can defend and protect us against his wiles. Jesus Himself proclaimed that He has all power in heaven and on earth, and as He has taught us to pray: Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen (Matthew 6:13).

Only the Lord can protect and save us from his wiles, by our sticking close, very close, to Him, and obeying and doing as He instructs us.

When He was on earth even Jesus, the Son of God, was offered all the kingdoms of this world by Satan, if He would only bow the knee to him - proving that for now, he is the master of this world.

However, as the title of this article indicates, both Jesus and His heavenly Father - as we read in the above-quoted verses - treat the Devil still with a form of respect: when Satan presented himself before the Lord along with the sons of God concerning Job, and when Jesus faced him during His temptation in the wilderness by quoting quietly and firmly the Word of God, and not by railing against Satan.

So if in His defense against the temptations of the Devil Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, only quoted the Scriptures, refusing to go against the words of God - how much more should we believers do the same!

If we in this way resist the Evil One, God promises that he will flee from us!!

Jan Willem van der Hoeven, Director

International Christian Zionist Center