Sunday, December 20, 2015

Why Did The Lord Jesus Have to Come?


The Holy Family With Angels Rembrandt Cir 1645
The Holy Family With Angels Rembrandt Cir 1645
There are three main reasons Jesus Christ, the son of God and the second person of the Trinity, had to come onto the earth as a human being:
  1. Cleanse the sin from the Heavenly Tabernacle of God.
  2. Cleanse the sin from the earth.
  3. Fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant with the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom.

Reason One

The Cherubim have the most prominent role of all the created heavenly beings because:
  • They are the closest to God in His heavenly throne room.
  • They surround God in all His glory.
  • They play a prominent role at God’s command in the Third Heaven, which is outside time and space.
We have seen them in Ezekiel chapter 1, and in Ezekiel chapter 10 they are lifting God’s physical manifestation (the Shekinah Glory) up out of the Temple in Jerusalem. They are also seen in the heavenly Throne Room of God in several passages of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 4:6-9; 6:1,3,5-7). The highest of the Cherubim was called in Hebrew Hallal, and is translated into Latin as “Lucifer” or “Daystar, son of the morning”.
Sin began in heaven with Lucifer when he desired to usurp God’s authority. Due to his rebellion his name was changed to Satan, which is Hebrew for “adversary”. Satan was not created evil. Instead of remaining the special Cherub overshadowing the Throne of God, he now wished to become the one on the Throne, or God Himself. As a result of this behavior, his sin polluted the Heavenly Tabernacle of God. The earthly Tabernacle, and later the Temple in Jerusalem, are important because they were built according to God’s directions, and “serve as a copy and shadow” of His Heavenly Tabernacle here on earth. (Hebrews 8:5). They are also where God resided on the earth in the midst of His chosen people, the Nation Israel.
Tabernacle Cutaway from
Tabernacle Cutaway from

Christ said He saw Satan fall from Heaven (Luke 10:18), and Isaiah says:
Isaiah 14:12-14
12How are you fallen from heaven, O day-star, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, that did lay low the nations! 13And you said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north; 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High (ASV, 1901).
He said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God”, and whenever the word “stars” is used, it symbolically represents angels. With the second “I will”, he declared his desire to become the sole authority over all the angels that God had created. By so doing, he intended to depose Michael from his position and become the Archangel all by himself (Daniel 10:13). These “I wills” resulted from the pride of Satan that caused him to lead a revolt against God. He also drew one-third of the innumerable angelic host in Heaven into the rebellion with him (Hebrews 12:22; Revelation, 12:3-9). It is presumed that these “fallen angels” became the demons. From that point on there has been a war in Heaven as described in Revelation 12:7-9:
 Angels and Demons or Angel of Light     © George Grie,  March 2008
Revelation 12:7-9
“7 And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, 8 and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” (KJV)

Reason Two

After God created the heavens and the earth as described in Genesis 1:1, Satan indwelled a serpent in the Garden of Eden. In this form he caused our first parents, Adam and Eve, to violate God’s Word, and that brought sin into the world. So there now are essentially two “Falls”: the first was Satan and his angels from Heaven, and second was Adam and Eve on the earth. Now the Heavenly Tabernacle (Reason 1) and the earth (Reason 2) both required cleansing from the sin of Satan and his demonic forces.
Christ’s cleansing of the heavenly Tabernacle that is clearly affirmed in the Epistle to the Hebrews is not developed very much in the rest of the Bible. We have seen that sin, which is alienation from God, did not begin on earth but in Heaven. There was sin in heaven before there was sin on earth. The rebellious demons led by Satan instruct and encourage men to rebel against God. Heaven was still infected by vestiges of that demonic rebellion prior to Christ’s cleansing of it. A particularly difficult aspect for us to understand of that contamination was Satan’s ability to stand before the Almighty as man’s Accuser (Job 1:11; 2:15; Zechariah 3:1; Luke 33:21; 1 Peter 5:8). The Bible assures us that this situation will end. We have our protection in Christ Jesus, the Jewish Messiah from his accusations, and someday he will no longer be able to even make accusations:
Revelation 12:10-11
10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death (KJV).
Hebrews 9:23-28
23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: 25 nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; 26 for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: 28 so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
When we consider the reasons that the Lord Jesus came to earth, the most important one is for the salvation of this earth and mankind. Because of the sin that our first parents Adam and Eve brought into the world, God said that He would send a redeemer to correct this event. God made a covenant with Adam immediately after the Fall from the Garden of Eden when God declared to Adam what man's life would be like now that sin is in the world. The conditions of this covenant will exist until the Messianic Kingdom Age (Romans 8:21).
This covenant is unconditional which means there is no appeal, and there are no human conditions or responsibility involved. Mankind has no personal activity requirement, for example, if you do this, then I (God) will do that. The outcome of the arrangement is entirely based on God and His sovereign control. Elements of the covenant are the cursing of the serpent used by Satan (Genesis 3:14; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 11:3, 14; Revelation 12:9), and the promise of a Redeemer (Genesis 3:15).
Because of the two “Falls” (first in in Heaven and then on earth) both locations have received the curse of God. The most significant curse was the “spiritual death” that Adam and Eve experienced "on the day they ate of the fruit." This death was a break in the relationship they had enjoyed with God Himself while in the Garden and which caused them to be removed from the Garden. Cherubim, with a flame and swords that turned in every direction, was placed at the entrance to the Garden of Eden as a testimonial to covenantal restriction of Adam and Eve ever being allowed there again, and to guard the Tree of Life that was within the Garden (Genesis 3:24). Also according to the covenant, God made specific promises to bring the Lord Jesus, who would cleanse the Heavenly Tabernacle and make an end to sin on the earth (Genesis 3:15). Without Jesus’s sacrifice mankind has no access to Heaven upon death.
The fact that the Messiah had to come is well attested to in Scripture which starts with the foundational verse of Genesis 3:15:
Genesis 3:15
15And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel (KJV).
One unique aspect of the Scriptures is the prophecies and their validated fulfillment at later times throughout the long chronology of the Bible’s story. These alone attest to the Scripture’s validity. Christ, after He was risen, explained many of the prophecies in the Bible and the fact that He had to die in order to accomplish the task He was to sent to do (Luke 24: 25-27). He is called the “Lamb of God” that takes away the sins of the world for a reason (John 1:29). Christ’s first advent is well prophesied in Scripture. Some of those are:
God Would Provide Himself A Sacrifice.
Introduced in Genesis 22:8 and fulfilled in John 19: 17-18.
He would be born in Bethlehem in the region of Ephrathah.
Introduced in Micah 5: 2 and fulfilled in Matthew 2: 1-5.
He would be the Son of God
Introduced in Psalm 2: 7 and fulfilled in John 3: 16-17.
He would be born into the Hebrew tribe of Judah
Genesis 49: 10 and fulfilled in Hebrews 7: 14.
He would be born of a virgin
Introduced in Isaiah 7: 14 and fulfilled in Matthew 1: 18-22.
He would be a prophet like Moses
Introduced in Deuteronomy 18: 15 and fulfilled in John 7: 15-17.
He would be the king of Israel
Introduced in Zechariah 9: 9 and fulfilled in John 12: 12-15.
He would be rejected
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 3 and fulfilled in John 1: 11.
He would be beaten
Introduced In Micah 5: 1 and fulfilled in Mark 15: 19.
He would be silent during his interrogation
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 7 and fulfilled in Matthew 27: 12-14.
He would be betrayed
Introduced in Psalm 41: 9 and fulfilled in Mark 14: 17-20.
He would be tried and condemned
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 8 and fulfilled Matthew 27: 1-2.
He would be crucified
Introduced in Psalm 22: 16 and fulfilled in John 19: 17-18.
His garments would be divided
Introduced in Psalm 22: 18 and fulfilled in John 19: 23-24.
He would be given gall and vinegar
Introduced in Psalm 69: 21 and fulfilled in John 19: 28-29.
His bones would not be broken
Introduced in Exodus 12: 46 and fulfilled in John 19: 31-36.
He is our sacrifice
Introduced in Isaiah 53: 5-6 and fulfilled in I Peter 2: 24-25.
He was raised from the dead
Introduced in Psalm 16: 10 and fulfilled in Luke 24: 1-7 and 47.
The resurrection of Christ is the most significant event in all of world history. It provides a remedy for the “Falls” that we have seen which came into Heaven and the earth as a result of the sin caused and originated by Satan. If one truly believes in the historical facts of the Gospel, and is regenerated, one is granted eternal life through the finished work of Jesus of Nazareth (Romans 6:23; Titus 3: 5). The gospel is clearly presented in several places in Scripture. None are clearer than I Corinthians 15:
1 Corinthians 15: 1-4
1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; 2By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (KJV). 

Reason Three

This is not the end of Christ’s work. God made a covenant with a man named Abraham, who the Bible calls the first Hebrew (Genesis 14:13). The Messianic Kingdom will be the final fulfillment of God's covenant with Abraham, and is the third reason Christ had to come to earth as a man. The Messianic Kingdom will happen after the seven year Great Tribulation is conducted by Jesus (Revelation 5).  The purposes of the Great Tribulation are to make and end of sin, to conduct the greatest evangelistic effort the world has ever seen, and to bring the Jewish people (as a nation) to national regeneration through belief in their Messiah.

The chief characteristics of the Mosaic system were law and obedience.  The chief characteristics of the present system, also called the Church age, are belief and grace.  The chief characteristics of the Messianic Kingdom will be peace and righteousness (Isaiah 2.1-5, 11.1-10; Jeremiah 23.5-8).  Other characteristics of the Messianic Kingdom are long life, perfect environment, and wealth.

There are many verses in the Old Testament prophesying the Messianic Kingdom.  The orthodox Jews have long awaited it, and the Jews, who have not accepted Jesus as their Messiah, believe that He (their Messiah) will appear to set up the Messianic Kingdom. Some Old Testament references to the Kingdom are listed below:

  • Isaiah 52:1 Jerusalem will be pure and no longer trodden down by the Gentiles (uncircumcised and unclean ones).
  • Isaiah 60:3 Gentiles with their leaders will serve the Jews.
  • Psalm 15:1-5 People in the Kingdom will possess a kind of righteousness.
  • Isaiah 11:6-9 Universal peace will be prevalent and the world’s animals will be at peace with each other and be vegetarians.
  • Isaiah 65:17-25 Here Isaiah describes the Messianic Kingdom’s new heaven and new earth, which is actually a renovation of the earth as we know it now. (This is not a description of the eternal order, which will be a complete new order to the heavens an earth described in Revelation 21-22.)
  • Micah 4:1-5 Jehovah’s house in the Messianic Kingdom becomes a center of attention with Messianic teaching and the absence of war and universal peace.

Peace By William Sttrutt Cir 1896 depicting Isaiah 11:6-7
Peace By William Sttrutt Cir 1896 depicting Isaiah 11:6-7
It was this Messianic Kingdom that John the Baptizer proclaimed when he said, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 3:2).  Jesus proclaimed the same message that John had begun, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).  While the nation of Israel rejected their Messiah and His coming kingdom after Jesus’ crucifixion, the disciples continued to expect it to come. Right before His ascension the disciples said, “And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ " (Acts 1:6).  Jesus replied that He could not reveal this knowledge.  Jesus did not reject the idea of the Messianic Kingdom or spiritualize it. He simply discussed it and His answer affirmed the prophetic Scriptures, but He just could not reveal the timetable.  All the prophecies in the Old Testament related to the Messiah’s first advent have literally been fulfilled, therefore we can expect that the prophecies related to the Messiah and His Kingdom will also be literally fulfilled.  Some New Testament references to the Kingdom are:

  • Mark 1:15 - "the kingdom of God is at hand."
  • Luke 17:20, 21 - "the kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed... behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst."
  • John 3:3 - unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
  •  Romans 14:17 - "the kingdom of God is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."
  • Matthew 3:2; 4:17 - "the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
  • Matthew 5:3,10 - "theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
  • Matthew 5:19,20 - "enter the kingdom of heaven."
  • Ephesians 5:5 - "inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God."
  • Colossians 1:13 - "the kingdom of His beloved Son."
  • II Peter 1:11 - "eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ"
  • Matthew 6:33 - "seek first His kingdom and His righteousness..."
  • John 18:36 - "My kingdom is not of this world/realm."
  • Acts 20:25 - "went about preaching the kingdom."

Jesus taught His apostles to pray: “Thy Kingdom come Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The Messianic Kingdom is coming, and He let them know that the when the Messianic Kingdom comes upon earth, it would mirror God’s heavenly Kingdom. This was to be sometime yet future to the time of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), and to the time of Acts 1:6-7. With the world in increasingly worse turmoil we can say that the Messianic Kingdom has not yet arrived, and it is still yet future to us.
These are the reasons that Jesus had to come. He had to die to fulfill God’s requirement of justice for payment for sin.

As we celebrate His arrival this Christmas for the 2015th time we are assured that He came to save us from our sins. God loves us so much that He gave us Himself as a gift to a fallen and sinful world. He has also promised to return. We look for His return……..

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV)

The Birth of Christ by Sandro Fillpepi Botticelli Cir. 1500
The Birth of Christ by Sandro Fillpepi Botticelli Cir. 1500

Daniel E. Woodhead

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Just Who Were The Magi?

The Magi

Adoration of the Magi by Pieter Aertsen 1507-08
Adoration of the Magi by Pieter Aertsen 1507-08

As part of the birth of Jesus we read an account in Matthew’s Gospel of Herod the king of Judea receiving some people from an eastern land who were alerted that the true “King of the Jews” had been born. As a result of their visit Herod and the general population of Jerusalem were threatened. Just who were these people and why was Herod threatened? God was bringing His long awaited Messiah to the earth and the ungodly were going to try but would not be able to stop His plan.

Matthew 2:1–12 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, Wise-men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw his star in the east, and are come to worship him. And when Herod the king heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written through the prophet,
 (From Micah 5:2)“And thou Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Art in no wise least among the princes of Judah:
For out of thee shall come forth a governor,
Who shall be shepherd of my people Israel. “
 Then Herod privily called the Wise-men, and learned of them exactly what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search out exactly concerning the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word, that I also may come and worship him. And they, having heard the king, went their way; and lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. And when they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary his mother; and they fell down and worshipped him; and opening their treasures they offered unto him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.

The vast majority of Jewish people, who should have been looking for their Messiah, were unaware of the birth of Christ, whereas these Gentiles, who were not God's people at that time, did seek to acknowledge this King. The same situation exists today as we anxiously anticipate His second arrival. Most could care less; but those of us who know Him look for Him to appear at any time (Matt 24: 42-44; Mark 13: 33-37; I Thes 4: 4-6; II Tim 4:8; II Peter 3:12 etc.).
Not only was Christ a physical earthly King by virtue of His lineage from David, but also by virtue of the fact that those in the world who were official kingmakers recognized Him as such. The Magi were from Media-Persia and were Persian kingmakers. After the Babylonian Empire fell in 539 B.C. the Media-Persian Empire took control of that region of Mesopotamia. Following that empire Alexander’s armies conquered it for the Greeks in 328 B.C. When Alexander died in 323 B.C. one of his generals, Seleucus Nicator, took control of the area and finally lost control of it to the Parthians in 139 B.C.
Magi is the Old Persian word magav, which refers to a certain very wise hereditary priestly tribe of people who came from the Medes. This term is also translated as “megistanes” from which we get our term magistrates. The Magi were so powerful that historians (Herodotus) tell us that no Persian was ever able to become king except under two conditions: he had to master the scientific and religious discipline of the Magi, and he had to be approved of and crowned by the Magi. In effect, they controlled who could be king within the Mesopotamian region. Having through the years risen to a place of great prominence in the kingdoms of Babylon, Media, and Persia, they served as advisors to the rulers, and so the term became synonymous in many ways with being a wise man.  This is how our English translations render the word magav. Now, some time after the birth of Jesus, some God-fearing Magi arrived in Jerusalem asking for the King of the Jews.
Herod The Great
Herod was half Jew and half Idumaean, being a partial descendant of the Edomites who lived southeast of Israel. He gained favor with the Romans, who controlled the land of Judea. As the son of Antipater, the procurator (governor) of Jerusalem and Judea, Herod had played up so much to the Romans that they appointed him as the tetrarch of Galilee in 47 B.C. It was a lesser position in significance, but nonetheless it was a position of honor among the Romans. Seven years later in 4O B.C. when the eastern Parthian Empire attacked the Romans at Israel, civil war broke out and Herod quickly fled to Rome. Convincing the Senate that he was pro-Roman, and from that part of the world, he knew how to handle regional political situations. The Romans made him the king of the Jews, gave him an army and charged him with the job of bringing Israel under control. After three years, Herod being successful, was finally able to gain the full authority that had been promised and truly became the king of the Jews, a title that he maintained until he died.
Politically speaking, Rome was strategically concerned with the eastern empire of Parthia, as the old Medo-Persian Empire became known. Rome had stretched its tentacles out to rule the world, but they never really felt secure about the Parthian Empire because they did not conquer them. Israel (situated between these two powers) became the battle ground between these violent enemies in 63, 55 and 40 B.C.
Rome's anxiety over this eastern empire was accurately reflected in Herod's response to the arrival of the Magi in Matthew 2:3: "When Herod, the king, had heard these things, he was troubled...." When he heard that Magi, the oriental, Parthian kingmakers had arrived in Jerusalem, he became justifiably politically insecure. By the time of Christ, the Magi still had tremendous power in the east. Whereas some of them used their power, position, and skills with a great amount of human wisdom, others prostituted their craft. Both kinds of Magi were very common in the Mediterranean area when Christ was born (Acts 8 & 13 speak of corrupt ones).At the time of Christ in the eastern empire there was a ruling body called the Megistanes who would be similar in function to the United States Senate. It was totally composed of Magi who had the right of absolute choice for the selection of a king. They were kingmakers.
When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem asking for the whereabouts of the new king that had been born, Herod panicked, knowing that those Persian kingmakers had come to find their king. They were no doubt traveling in full force with all their oriental pomp, riding Persian steeds (rather than camels). And accompanying them, historians estimate (from John MacArthur) there were a thousand mounted Persian cavalrymen.
When they came into the city of Jerusalem and Herod saw them he became very nervous. That's why the Bible says that Herod was "troubled." The Greek word conveys the idea that he was agitating like a washing machine--literally shaking. As the King of the Jews, the great dream of his life was to get that little buffer state in the middle of two huge contending empires, under his control. All of a sudden this massive group of Persians arrived in the city and he panicked because the new king they were coming to find would be a threat to the realization of his dream.
At that time both Herod and Caesar Augustus were aged and close to death. Also because the retirement of Tiberius, Augustus’ future successor, the Roman army was left without a commander-in-chief. The Parthians’ were aware that this would be the ideal time to bring about an eastern war against the west. Herod knew this too. The Bible says that they worshiped Christ. They saw more than just a king. They saw the Messiah they had heard about from the days of Daniel. The Magi who came to Jerusalem were God-fearing Gentiles who probably envisioned this Savior, the Anointed One (Messiah), as the king who would gather all the people of the East together against the oppression of Rome.
Knowing that the people of Israel were on their side rather than Rome's, the Magi came into town and started asking the people where this new King was. Most of the ruling Jews were blinded by their unbelief. Interestingly some of the first people in the world to recognize the arrival of the King were Gentiles. History reflects that irony of rejection in John 1:11 where it says, "He came unto His own, and His own received Him not." But in spite of the general rejection of the King by the Jews, the Magi knew this Child could be the great Messiah that Daniel had prophesied. They could have hoped this would be the one who could unify the east and go against Rome with invincibility. Most Jews were looking for a Messiah that would resemble a strong military man capable of throwing off the suzerainty of the Romans and freeing them. And so, into Jerusalem rides the group of Magi, kingmakers of the east on their fine Persian steeds, and escorted by a thousand mounted cavalrymen.
They came into town asking, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews?", and Herod became afraid. A little of the shock of this whole scene is indicated in Matthew 2: 1. It was completely unexpected and shocking for Magi to come from the east, asking where the King of the Jews had been born.
Historians record for us that at that general time there was a strange expectation in the world for a coming king. The people in the east had it, which partly explains why the Magi came. People in many places were anticipating the arrival of a king, something even the Roman historians acknowledged:
1)    Suetonius wrote in the The Twelve Ceasars, "There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judea to rule the world." Writing during the second century A.D. about such things as Vespasian's conquering of Israel in A.D. 70, Suetonius looked back and said that the first century was a day when there was an expectation for men coming from Judea to rule the world. Consequently, people's eyes were focused upon that place.
2)    Tacitus, the famous Roman historian, tells of the same belief in The Annals that "there was a firm persuasion...that at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judaea were to acquire a universal empire."
3)    Josephus, in Wars of the Jews, said that the Jews had a belief that "about that time one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth."
The Magi came to Jerusalem based upon information they had received from Daniel and other Jews (who were now living in their land since the captivity), upon their own sense of faith in the true God who would fulfill His Word, and upon what they saw in the sky. They repeatedly asked the Jews "Saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him." (Mt 2:2)
Herod must have known that Child was more than a human king. He apparently knew that this was the Messiah, the Anointed One, which the Magi were seeking. Herod knew that the true King of the Jews, and the Messiah of Israel, were one and the same. Like the Wise Men, he was aware that there was more than a humanly king coming to the earth. He knew that someday a God sent Messiah would arrive.
Herod's interrogation of the chief priests, about where the Christ was to be born, shows how subtly deceptive he really was. It is amazing how many people look to the Bible for information. But they will not accept Christ as their Savior and Lord. The chief priests and the scribes quoted Micah 5:2 to Herod, informing him that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem. They knew that, and still paid absolutely no attention to the events in Bethlehem. It's amazing that these orthodox literalists had perfect head knowledge, but were never touched in their souls. No wonder the Bible says, "...for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life" (2 Cor. 3:6b.) It didn't take long before the indifference of the chief priests and scribes issued in the hateful plotting of Christ's murder. From the indifference of Matthew chapter two to the plots and the murders at the end of the Messiah’s life, they had full knowledge of all the prophecies being fulfilled by Jesus Christ, and yet they rejected them with full information. Jesus Himself even reminded them that all they had to do was to check the Scriptures which they were supposed to be so expert in: "Search the scriptures; for...they are they which testify of Me" (Jn. 5:39).
Bethlehem has an interesting history. In the book of Genesis, Jacob buried Rachel there, setting a marker by her grave (Gen. 35:19-20). Ruth married Boaz and she lived in the town of Bethlehem (Ruth 4:11), from where she could see her homeland, Moab, across the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. Bethlehem was the home and city of the great king of Israel David. It is called the city of David, as 1 Samuel indicates (16:1; 17:12; 20:6). It was there in that little village that the people of God had long expected their Messiah to be born, in accordance with the prophecy of Micah 5:2. They waited for David's greater Son, the Messiah, to come out of David's city. But when the time of His birth did arrive, few were even aware of it.
Herod was afraid that this little baby would interfere with his status in life. Jealous and fearful, he sought to eliminate Him. People felt the same way thirty-three years later, successfully completing Herod's original plot of killing Jesus.  Some people feel that way today. Jesus is interference in their life. He bothers them, upsetting their plans, and if they had their choice, they too, would eliminate Him. Like the book of Hebrews says, those people know all about Christ and still reject Him, in effect, "crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame" (Hebrews 6: 6b). Jesus cautioned His disciples about the hatred and the hostility of the world toward Him and His servants: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated Me before it hated you" (Jn. 15:18). "...the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service" (Jn. 16:2b). And, of course, we see the hatred and the hostility exemplified by Herod.
The chief priests and the scribes, who were engrossed in their political intrigues and their acquisition of power as well as making money in the Temple at the expense of the people, didn’t care that their Messiah had been born. There are many who are indifferent like that today. They conduct church services for the sole purpose of making a living as if the work of Christ was a business. They will be the people the Bible speaks of as having no awareness of His coming for His Church (Matthew 24: 36-51).
The Magi came to worship Him knowing full well who he was and what He represented. This was all due to what they learned from Daniel the prophet. Daniel was chosen to become chief of the Magi when he demonstrated his superior ability in interpreting dreams (Dan. 5:11). By the "divine coincidence" of having a great Hebrew prophet to rule the Magi six hundred years before Jesus was born, God was, in effect, setting up the situation so that one day, when a baby was born in Bethlehem, some of those Magi would find their way to the house where the young child was so that He could be acknowledged as King by known Gentile kingmakers.
God controls human history; and we are seeing God at work. Long ago He picked out a man named Daniel and put him in a place to influence some men so that they could arrive in perfect timing. Interestingly, the people who should have known the great significance of the event missed it, and the people from way off who should have never guessed it could happen, showed up and worshipped the One who came to the Jew first and also to the Gentiles  (Rom. 1:16). Jesus came and said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Mt. 15:24). Israel turned her back on Christ, and so He called a people from those who were not formerly His (Rom. 9:25). He reached out to the Gentiles, Romans says, and grafted us in (11:17). Even the unbelief of His own people could not prevent the Messiah from being honored as Jesus made clear in Luke 19:40 that if the people wouldn't praise Him, "the stones would immediately cry out." Therefore, when the King arrived, and His own people wouldn't praise Him, then God made sure that there was somebody there to do it.
And you know in our world today, people celebrate Christmas by passing around Christmas cards and giving gifts. They look at the Wise Men, but few really understand the significance of their presence before that Child. There are some of us, however, who have followed the example of the Wise Men and bowed down to the "KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS" (Rev. 19:16b).
Daniel E. Woodhead Ph.D.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Temple Rulers in Jerusalem Were Wickedly Steeped in The Occult

The Lord Visits Ezekiel

Ezekiel 8:1-2

1And it came to pass in the sixth year, in the sixth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I sat in my house, and the elders of Judah sat before me, that the hand of the Lord Jehovah fell there upon me.  2Then I beheld, and, lo, a likeness as the appearance of fire; from the appearance of his loins and downward, fire; and from his loins and upward, as the appearance of brightness, as it were glowing metal (ASV, 1901).

As Ezekiel relates the events speaking in the first person he says that on the 17th of September 592 B.C., which was more than a year after he had received his call into the prophetic ministry, God visited him again with a new series of visions. Ezekiel was at home in Tel-abib and elders of Judah, who were the leaders of the community in exile, were with him. They frequently met with Ezekiel regarding the affairs of the nation Israel and events transgressing back in Jerusalem. With this new set of visions we see a new section of the book. The visions in chapters three – seven spoke directly against Judah and Israel. In this section from chapter eight to eleven God directs His attention toward Jerusalem and the remnant under King Zedekiah. Those with Ezekiel might have been looking forward to an early release from captivity and a return to Jerusalem. Now they are told that the people in Jerusalem both king and Temple magistrates have grievously persisted in their sins. In fact the religious leaders were committing worse sins than Ezekiel had ever imagined before. God will supernaturally transport Ezekiel’s spirit with Him to Jerusalem to witness the actual abominations being carried out by those responsible for connecting the people to their God. They had become wicked and were leading the people astray away from God. Israel’s major spiritual decline began with the construction of temples to pagan gods on the sacred temple mount area during Solomon’s reign. Solomon married many pagan wives and allowed each who wished to do so to build a temple and altar to her god (I Kings 11:1–8). This spiritual deterioration led to a resurrection of Baal worship (I Kings 16:31–34; 17:1–17) and resulted in the division of the nation into northern and southern kingdoms at the death of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41–12:33). When the leader of a country endorses paganism it flourishes.

Ezekiel is suddenly spiritized or led into a supernatural spiritual state by the Lord God of the universe. This is a reappearance of the same vision relative to the Shekinah Glory he saw in chapter one verses 26-28. Only he saw these vivid visions. The elders did not see them but Ezekiel would later relate the experience to them (11:24b).

He had the appearance of a man. The Hebrew text designates the color of the fire and the metal like object as chashmal (great purity and clarity). The chashmal seems to be divided at the waist of God on His Throne. Fire seems to begin at the waist and extend upward and downward in both directions simultaneously. The brightness he saw extended all around Him. Daniel and John had a similar visions and experiences (Daniel 10:5-6; Revelation 1:13-15).

Ezekiel is Taken

Ezekiel 8:3-4
 3And he put forth the form of a hand, and took me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven, and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the door of the gate of the inner court that looketh toward the north; where was the seat of the image of jealousy, which provoketh to jealousy. 4And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, according to the appearance that I saw in the plain (ASV, 1901).

Jehovah then took Ezekiel as it were by the hair indicating a strong urgent desire by God. He wanted to get Ezekiel’s attention and to impart the seriousness of the events He wanted Ezekiel to witness. God spiritually lifted him to a sense of spiritualization (between earth and heaven) wherein he was fully conscious and aware but seeing Jerusalem. This same transportation will be recorded in the fortieth chapter when God carries him again to Jerusalem to see the details of the Messianic Temple. It will be a much more positive experience.


Ezekiel is taken to the door of the North Gate of the inner court where the leaders of Israel had set up an image, to provoke God to jealousy. The north gate was one of three gates that opened from the outer court to the inner court. The other two were located on the east and south sides. Since Ezekiel was at the “entrance” to the north gate, he was probably positioned in the outer court looking south toward the inner court. This is where he was in the presence of the Lord God of Israel who would give him a tour of the abominations of the Temple leaders of Israel. The leaders of Israel provoked God to jealousy intentionally, which caused pain to the Lord because they wanted to test Him.  Knowing He is a jealous God from their scriptures they also knew the outcome of such provocations. They were led by the evil one Satan and could not fully comprehend the finality or certainty of the outcome of such abdominal behavior. Since there was temporal ecstasy associated with idol worship such as sexual experiences they were deceived into thinking that God would not see them. This is the level of deception that Satan is able to bring on one who is not steeped in continual connection with God. Satan creeps in and leads one away from the truth with doubt.

Exodus 20:4-5

4Thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image, nor any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I Jehovah thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation of them that hate me (ASV, 1901).

This is an idol of Babylonian origin, which Isaiah describes as the “Customs from the east

Isaiah 2:5-8 

5O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of Jehovah. 6For thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they are filled with customs from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they strike hands with the children of foreigners. 7And their land is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land also is full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots. 8Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made (ASV, 1901).

Ezekiel Sees The Image

Ezekiel 8:5-6

5Then said he unto me, Son of man, lift up thine eyes now the way toward the north. So I lifted up mine eyes the way toward the north, and behold, northward of the gate of the altar this image of jealousy in the entry. 6And he said unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel do commit here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? But thou shalt again see yet other great abominations (ASV, 1901).
God now directs Ezekiel’s attention to the gate, which opens to the north where he sees the image of jealousy in the entry. God tells Ezekiel to look at what they do, not just the image that they had set up. God sees everything but the elders did not think God in their satanic deception would see what they were doing (v. 12). While his body remained in Babylon Ezekiel’s very lucid spirit saw the first of four forms of apostate worship. This image of jealousy was not given a physical description but was positioned at the north gate to the inner court. Hezekiah’s evil son Manasseh set up an idol as described in II Kings 21:7 & II Chronicles 33:7, 15 (cir. 650 B.C.). Prior to him idol worship was carried out in secret as the Jews married into the Canaanite families. But with Manasseh it was carried out in the open flagrantly. Approximately twelve years later good king Josiah purged Judah and Jerusalem of these things upon notification of the righteous scribe Shaphan who read the Law of Moses to Josiah (II Chronicles 34). After Josiah died in battle the evil idolaters reversed his reforms (II Chronicles 36:5, 9; Jeremiah 3:10). This is probably the idol restored after Josiah’s death. There was a history of setting up unlawful images and altars in the temple precincts under various circumstances (II Kings. 16:10–16; 21:4–7, etc.). This was probably some type votive altar and image of Asherah, “the queen of heaven.” This was a cult, which was widespread in Jerusalem at that time and associated with Babylonian occultic worship (Jeremiah 7:17–18).

They had turned so far away from God and were so flagrant with it that we can see that their hearts had gotten away from God because they erected the image of jealousy in open sight at the very gate through which men approached God. What caused God the most anger and pain was the beast worship they carried out as He said, “seest thou what they do?”  There was certainly a sexually immoral component to this beast worship because they had to derive some ecstatic pleasure from this to continue doing it. It is sick and forbidden in the Bible (Leviticus 18:6-29). God is saying that what they do here is designed to cause Him to go far off from my sanctuary. They wanted God and His moral order of the Universe to leave them alone so they could conduct their abdominal behavior without any reminder that what they were doing was wrong. God ends this section of scripture by saying to Ezekiel, “But thou shalt again see yet other great abominations.”

 God Takes Ezekiel to The Inner Court North Door

Ezekiel 8:7-13

7And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold, a hole in the wall. 8Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall: and when I had digged in the wall, behold, a door. 9And he said unto me, Go in, and see the wicked abominations that they do here. 10So I went in and saw; and behold, every form of creeping things, and abominable beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel, portrayed upon the wall round about. 11And there stood before them seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel; and in the midst of them stood Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan, every man with his censer in his hand; and the odor of the cloud of incense went up. 12Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in his chambers of imagery? for they say, Jehovah seeth us not; Jehovah hath forsaken the land. 13He said also unto me, Thou shalt again see yet other great abominations, which they do (ASV, 1901).

Now Ezekiel sees the door to the court and is told to dig in the wall to see a concealed door. He then is commanded to go in to the inner court where he sees the despicable practices that the Jewish religious leaders are performing even more so than outside the door. This was a pantheon of idolatry. He saw beasts being worshipped. There were pictures on the walls of all sorts of reptiles and other abdominal beasts as well as the idols of the people of Israel. He also saw the seventy elders worshipping these images with incense censers in their hands. This was probably the worshipping of the animal cults of Egypt (Romans 1:23). Jaazaniah, the son of Shaphan, is singled out for mention. Shaphan was the scribe, who received from the high priest, Hilkiah, the book of the law, and who read it before King Josiah (II Kings 22:8–11; Jeremiah 39:14). The son of this God-fearing man was the leader of the animal-worshippers. It was an evidence of the great apostasy, which had engulfed the nation. And these depraved men said: “Jehovah seeth us not; Jehovah hath forsaken the land.” They denied His omniscience and omnipresence. The apostasy in Christianity is going the same way. God again concluded this section of scripture saying, “Thou shalt again see yet other great abominations which they do.” There is much more to come.

Worshipping Tammuz

Ezekiel 8:14-15

14Then he brought me to the door of the gate of Jehovah’s house, which was toward the north; and behold, there sat the women weeping for Tammuz. 15Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? thou shalt again see yet greater abominations than these (ASV, 1901).

Ezekiel saw women weeping for Tammuz originally a Babylonian cultic figure.

In Genesis chapter ten is an introduction to a man named Nimrod. He was the sixth son born of Cush. His name in Hebrew means to rebel. He was the founder of Babylon and Assyria. He is mentioned in I Chronicles 1: 10, Micah 5: 6 and in Genesis 10: 8b-9. The Hebrew text states that he was a mighty hunter before (Hebrew against) the Lord. This is indicative of his antagonism and opposition to God. He was wicked and made the whole world rebel through the building of the Tower of Babel. He was the first to establish kingdoms. This happened in two stages. The first is in Shinar, which included Babel, Erech, Accad and Calneh. The second kingdom is Assyria called the land of Nimrod in Micah 5: 6. After the language was separated in confused by God it drove him to Assyria from Babylon. The two have been intertwined since then.

The Cultic Background

Tradition suggests that Nimrod died a violent death. One tradition says that a wild animal killed him. Another says that Shem killed him because he had led the people into the worship of Baal.

According to ancient Egyptian and Babylonian traditions, his mother was Semiramis; sometimes Semiramis is referred to as the mother of Nimrod, and sometimes as his wife, leading to the belief that Nimrod married his mother. Also according to these traditions, Semiramis, who rose to greatness as the "Queen of Heaven" because of her son, was presented with a difficulty when her son died, so instead she pronounced him to be a god, so that she herself would become a goddess.

Even though Semiramis claimed to be a virgin she had another son, named Tammuz, whom she said was the reincarnation of Nimrod. She became known as the "Virgin Mother", "Holy Mother" and the "Queen of Heaven" and was symbolized by the Moon (Symbol of Islam). So began the worship of Semiramis and the child-god, and the whole paraphernalia of the Babylonian religious system.

From various ancient sources, it seems that Nimrod’s wife/mother; Semiramis was high priestess of the Babel religion and the founder of all mystery religions as well as goddess. After the tower was destroyed, the languages confused and the people scattered she was worshiped as a goddess under many different names. She became Ishtar of Syria, Astarte of Phoenicia, Isis of Egypt, Aphrodite of Greece, and Venus of Rome—in each case the deity of sexual love and fertility. Her son Tammuz also came to be deified under various names and was the consort of Ishtar and god of the underworld.

According to the cult of Ishtar, Tammuz was conceived by a sunbeam, a counterfeit version of Jesus’ virgin birth. Tammuz corresponded to Baal in Phoenicia, Osiris in Egypt, Eros in Greece, and Cupid in Rome. In every case, the worship of those gods and goddesses was associated with sexual immorality. The celebration of Lent, which has no basis in Scripture, began from the pagan celebration of Semiramis’, mourning for forty days over the death of Tammuz (Ezekiel 8:14) before his alleged resurrection. This is another of Satan’s mythical counterfeits.

After the decline of Babylon, their priests fled to Egypt and transported their religion with them. There the people worshipped Isis and her son Osiris (otherwise known as Horus). The same mother and child deities appeared in Greece as Ceres, the Great Mother, with the babe at her breast, or as Irene, the goddess of Peace, with the boy Plutus in her arms and in Pagan Rome as Fortuna and Jupiter. Other cultures embraced this concept such as Cyprian and Indian. This is the classic mother child worship we see in the contemporary Roman church too. God again ends this section of scripture by saying to Ezekiel, “But thou shalt again see yet other great abominations.”  He is saying to Ezekiel, “there is more evil to come.” In all of these mother child cults the child never grows to adulthood. This is true of the Madonna and Child, which became Mariolatry in the Middle Ages.