Anyone listening to the news lately, has realized that the potential for another world war is escalating everyday. It can be frightening to realize that nations who are bent on the destruction of other nations, have nuclear weapons already, or are close to developing them! Yet, in the midst of this world chaos, God’s prophecies are being fulfilled before our very eyes. Miracles are happening daily, but we won’t recognize them as such, unless we understand what our Heavenly Father has told us to look for. It’s all in the Bible!

How to Accurately Interpret Prophecy

There are a host of Prophecy-related YouTube videos and messages about Bible Prophecy, online. Some are helpful and some are very far-fetched. Here are a few helpful tips in determining how to interpret Bible Prophecy.

The Bible Unlocks Itself

‘Interpretations belong to God,’ said Joseph in Genesis 40:8, in other words, the Bible unlocks itself. To understand prophecies for today, we must decipher the symbols based on prophecies that have been fulfilled in the past. For instance, the book of Daniel is a good place to begin. Daniel 2 records a prophecy of 4 great empires that have come and gone – Babylon, Medes & Persians, Greece, and Rome. This prophecy is easy, as the interpretation follows in chapter 2, and then in chapter 7 & 8 the same prophecy is given about the same 4 empires using beasts to represent them. So we learn from chapters 7 & 8 that ‘beasts’ can represent nations; horns represent powers or kings; ‘Casting down stars’ represents casting down governments, and so on. Understanding the way in which these symbols are used in Daniel 7 & 8 is essential in order to accurately interpret prophetic books like Revelation.

Prophecy is Tightly Bound to the Gospel Message

Bible prophecies are very much related to the hope of the Gospel message. Understanding the true Gospel message – ‘the good news about the kingdom of God and the Name of Jesus Christ’ (Acts 8:12), helps us to understand the purpose of prophecy, the focus of prophecy, and see the ‘bigger picture’ – what God plans to do with this earth. Without the understanding that all nations will be blessed through Abraham and his most important descendant Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:8,16,27-29; Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:18-21; 17:7-8; 22:15-18; Acts 1:6; 28:20), many creative but false interpretations of prophecy can occur.

Bible Prophecy – Given to Strengthen Our Faith

Bible prophecy gives indisputable evidence that the Bible has been Divinely inspired. What other book has accurately predicted the future, thousands of years in advance? Numerous prophecies have been fulfilled in accurate detail, time and again. For example: the nation of Babylon, Egypt, Tyre, Assyria, and in our day Britain and Brexit, and the re-establishment of the nation of Israel. The Prophecy Handout covers some of these accurate fulfillments.

Bible Prophecy – Warning of God’s Intervention

God has also provided Bible prophecy to give ample warning of His interventions in world affairs. There are several examples in the Old Testament where God warned various nations of his coming judgements, giving them ample time to change their ways and seek His plan. 

The ‘last days’ – our time – is the focus of some key prophecies which involve the nations of the world – Europe, Britain and the Commonwealth, Russia and the Northern forces, and Israel.

The Nation of Israel

One very exciting prophecy for our day can be found in Ezekiel 36-39. The first two chapters speak of the incredible regathering of the Jewish people from all nations to which they had been scattered. God promises to return the Jews to their land, make them a nation again, and specifically speaks of giving them the ‘mountains of Israel’ – the disputed ‘West Bank’. In the last century we have been watching this occur!! It is miraculous that a prophecy given over 2500 years ago can accurately be fulfilled in our day against much opposition and impossible circumstances every step of the way. 

A Northern Invasion

However, in Ezekiel 38, God warns that when the newly formed nation of Israel is ‘at rest,’ and the people ‘dwell safely’, a Northern alliance of nations (Russia, Iran, Ethiopia, Libya, Turkey and Europe) will sweep down to invade Israel and Egypt, against the ineffective opposition of Britain, America, Commonwealth countries and their Arab allies. Only God’s intervention will stop this destructive onslaught.

Comparing Ezekiel’s prophecy with Daniel 11:40-45, Zechariah 14, and Joel 3, we see that God’s intervention to save Israel is tied in to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ to reign on this earth! However, not everyone will recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah, some will even view him as Antichrist, and this is detailed in the Prophecy Handout below.

Bible Presentation, Handout and Other Links

Recently, we have put together an audio presentation and Prophecy Handout on this subject, where we consider the various ‘code names’ that are used in Ezekiel 38 and what nations they relate to today. We discuss what is left to occur in the prophecy, how this impacts our world, and how it will bring about God’s plan and promise of His Son reigning as King on this earth.

The attached AUDIO presentation and an 11- page Prophecy Handout have been put together with help from Jonathan Bowen, THE BIBLE IN THE NEWS, and Peter Owen.  

We have also included a handout – “Israel – A Miracle Before our Eyes” which lists 12 events that were prophesied in the Bible concerning the Jewish people and have been fulfilled in the last 2000 years. This handout also includes 9 prophecies left to be fulfilled! Stay alert – these will be future headlines in the News!

To answer this question, Jesus said, “‘Break down this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ Therefore the Jews said: ‘This temple was built in forty-six years and will you raise it up in three days? But he was talking about the temple of his body. When, though, he was raised up from the dead, his disciples called to mind that he used to say this; and they believed the Scripture and the saying that Jesus said.’” (John 2:19-22 NWT 1984 Edition)

Despite this simple statement by Jesus himself, that the ‘temple of his body’ would be raised, the Watchtower Society insists that Jesus’ body was not raised from the dead. Instead, they say he was raised as an ‘invisible spirit creature’. 

This passage presents a serious problem for the Watchtower Society as is evidenced in the fact that it is very difficult to find an explanation for John 2:19-22 in all the volumes of their published literature. In addition to this, when asked, ‘What happened to the dead body of Jesus?’, they reply that ‘they do not know.’ It has been suggested by the Watchtower Organization that ‘possibly his body was dissolved into gases’ or ‘preserved as a grand memorial’ of Jesus’ loving sacrifice.

The Watchtower derides the idea that Jesus’ body could have been raised, as is demonstrated in the following quotes, published in the W.T. 73 6/1, pg. 350:

“Could you believe that Jesus Christ, the majestic King of the new world, made higher than all other creatures, would remain in a body of flesh? He would be inferior to a spirit, and far too limited to accomplish the marvelous things required of such a king, among them the destroying of the mighty spirit person, Satan the Devil.”

“A human body requires earthly elements for its continued existence. It is made for the earth and must subsist upon the things produced from the earth.”

However, is this a fair representation of resurrection to immortality? If a body is resurrected from the dead – do the Scriptures say that it remains mortal? We will examine this in more depth.

King David’s Prophecy

King David prophesied of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the Psalms. Psalm 16:9 says, “Therefore my heart does rejoice…Also, my flesh [‘basar’ – ‘flesh, by extension body’] will reside in security. For you will not leave my soul in Sheol. You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.” (NWT 1984 Edition)

“So my heart rejoices, my whole being is joyful. And I reside in security. For you will not leave me in the Grave. You will not allow your loyal one to see the pit.” (NWT 2013 Edition)

We know that this Psalm is an actual prophecy about Jesus Christ, as the Apostle Peter quotes this passage in Acts 2:25-27, saying, “On this account my heart became cheerful and my tongue rejoiced greatly. Moreover even my flesh will reside in hope; because you will not leave my soul in Hades neither will you allow your loyal one to see corruption.” (NWT 1984 Edition)

“On this account my heart became cheerful and my tongue rejoiced greatly. And I will reside in hope; because you will not leave me in the Grave, nor will you allow your loyal one to see corruption.” (NWT 2013 Edition)

Both David and the Apostle Peter plainly state that the reason why Jesus’ flesh could ‘reside in hope’. Peter says, “because you will not leave me in the Grave.” David says, “For you will not leave me in the Grave.”

This prophecy is so clear, even the Watchtower admits that David believed and predicted a bodily resurrection of Jesus. 

A Spiritual Body?

Believing that Jesus was resurrected bodily, does not negate that he was ‘put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit.’ 1 Peter 3:18. It does not contradict 1 Corinthians 15:44, “It is sown a physical body; it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one.” Because as it says in 1 Corinthians 15:53, “For this which is corruptible must PUT ON incorruption, and this which is mortal must PUT ON immortality.”

1 Corinthians 15 is presented by the Watchtower as absolute proof that this is describing a resurrection whereby the actual body is not raised, but remains dead. They say that the individual is raised as an ‘invisible spirit creature’ based on certain statements made by the Apostle Paul in verses 40, 44 and 50: “And there are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies; but the glory of the heavenly bodies is one sort, and that of the earthly bodies is a different sort… It is sown a physical body; it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one… But I tell you this, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, nor does corruption inherit incorruption.”

Yet, the Apostle Paul has based his arguments in 1 Corinthians 15 upon the inspired words of two Hebrew prophets, Isaiah and Hosea, both of which are cross-referenced in the NWT. After finishing his description, the Apostle Paul makes this statement in verse 54, “But when this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: ‘Death is swallowed up forever.’”

Isaiah’s Prophecy

What is this ‘saying’, that was written, which Paul refers to here? It is this direct quote from Isaiah 25:8, which the Watchtower acknowledges in their own cross-reference. Isaiah 25:8 reads, “He will swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will wipe away the tears from all faces….” 

Paul himself, in quoting Isaiah 25:8, says that the resurrection that will take place is a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. When Isaiah penned these words, was he foretelling a non-bodily resurrection from the dead? There is no doubt that when Isaiah says, “He will swallow up death forever”, he himself believed that those who were privileged to experience resurrection to immortality would no longer face death. Isaiah’s prophecy continues on to the next chapter, where he says in Isaiah 26:19, “Your dead will live. My corpses will rise up. Awake and shout joyfully, you residents in the dust! For your dew is as the dew of the morning, and the earth will let those powerless in death come to life.” Isaiah is describing bodily resurrection where ‘death is swallowed up forever’, precisely what Paul refers to in 1 Corinthians 15. 

Isaiah 26:19 demonstrates that a ‘corpse’ will rise up and be changed. The ‘corpse’ will ‘PUT on immortality’ as it says in 1 Corinthians 15:53. This is language describing an actual change to the body, not the disposal of the body. Paul says the same thing in Romans 8:11, “If, now, the spirit of him who raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in you, the one who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will ALSO make YOUR MORTAL BODIES alive through his spirit that resides in you.”

What Happens to Mortal Bodies?

What is the outcome, according to Paul, of the ‘mortal bodies’ of the believers in Rome? Are they disposed of, or changed? Romans 8:11 clearly says that your mortal bodies will be made alive.

Notice how the Watchtower translates verse 23 of Romans 8. “Not only that… while we are earnestly waiting for adoption as sons, the release from our bodies by ransom.” (NWT 2013)

Such a translation conveys the idea that the adopted sons will be separated from the body as ‘invisible spirit creatures’. This would put Romans 8:11, quoted above, in opposition to verse 23, and thus these verses would contradict one another. 

In the Watchtower’s own Kingdom Interlinear, the word-for-word Greek reads, “the release by ransom OF the body”, which doesn’t contradict Romans 8:11. Indeed, when granted immortality, the body is ‘released’ from the bondage of sin that it now experiences. The fact the Watchtower finds it necessary in Romans 8:23 to choose the word ‘from’, as opposed to ‘of’, demonstrates they sense the weakness of their argument.

Other translations appropriately translate verse 23, in support of verse 11, as follows:

“as we wait for our bodies to be set free” Jerusalem Bible

“we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies” NRSV

“we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” KJV

“the redemption of our bodies” NIV

“the redemption of our body” NKJV

As we’ve seen, Paul quotes Isaiah 25:8, “then the saying that is written will take place: Death is swallowed up forever,” as the basis of his treatise concerning resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15. Isaiah then goes on to predict a bodily resurrection in Isaiah 26:19. Paul assures us in Romans 8:11, that “the one who raised up Christ Jesus from the dead will ALSO make your mortal bodies alive through his spirit…” So why would this same Apostle say something completely different in Romans 8:23? 

The majority of other Bible translations support the prophecy of Isaiah, by saying the the ‘body’ will be ‘redeemed’, not ‘disposed of’ – as the NWT attempts to convey in its unique translation of this passage.

Why was Jesus Not Recognized in Luke 24?

Yet, the Watchtower will say that Jesus was not recognized by his disciples after he was raised. This, they will say, is proof that he was not raised bodily. Instead, the Watchtower claims that Jesus appeared, or ‘materialized’ in different bodies, simply to show that he was alive. An oft-cited example, is Luke 24:15-16, “Now as they were conversing and discussing these things, Jesus himself approached and began walking with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” (NWT 2013)

In verse 16 of this chapter we are told why they did not recognize him – “but their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” We are not told that they didn’t recognize him because he was in a different body. Yet, if Jesus had ‘materialized’ in the same body would this not have been the best proof of his resurrection? The fact that the disciples’ eyes were ‘kept’ from recognizing him, shows that God had a reason for doing this. 

So, we see that 1 Corinthians 15 is in perfect harmony with John 2:19-22, Romans 8:11, 23, Psalm 16:9-10, and Isaiah 26:19. The language of 1 Corinthians 15:50 describes a change to the body, not the disposal of the body. Both David and Isaiah were inspired prophets. The Watchtower admits that they both believed in a bodily resurrection. They knew nothing of a so-called ‘heavenly resurrection’ as described by the Watchtower society. Were these inspired prophets of the Old Testament in error? 

Further demonstrating that the resurrected Jesus is not an ‘invisible spirit creature’ that ‘sacrificed his perfect human life’ are the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning his identity. 

He is the seed of Abraham –  Genesis 13:15 and Galatians 3:16

He is the offspring of David –  2 Samuel 7:12 and Acts 2:30

He is the lion of the tribe of Judah – Genesis 49:9-10; Revelation 5:5

After his resurrection, Jesus’ identity did not change. How for example is an ‘invisible spirit creature’ – namely, Michael the Archangel, a descendant of Abraham? Or of the tribe of Judah? Or the offspring of David?

Nowhere in the New Testament, do the Christian writers change the identity of Jesus their Messiah. What has changed – is his nature. Romans 6:9: “For we know that Christ , now that he has been raised up from the dead, dies no more; death is no longer master over him.” Jesus’ body has been clothed with immortality. He now partakes of God’s nature.

We appeal to all Jehovah’s witnesses to examine the arguments presented here and especially the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5-6:  “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus. Who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all…” At the very end of Revelation the identity of Jesus is still the same as it has always has been.  In chapter 22:16, the immortal Jesus says of himself, “I, Jesus, sent my angel to bear witness to you about these things for the congregations. I am the root and the offspring of David and the bright morning star.” 

We welcome all comments and questions,

Norm Smith

reinodejesus@aol.com

Is the Unjust Steward truly commended by Jesus for his shrewd decision to reduce debts and ingratiate friends? Or is he a dishonest manager that no one would trust? Does Jesus use sarcasm in Luke 16? Is the lesson only about financial dealings in worldly matters, or is there another level to the story? We decided to investigate.

Context

As always, examining the context helps to see who Jesus was addressing, and for what reason. The parable in Luke 16 follows the parable of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal Son. We know from Luke 14 that Jesus was at a chief Pharisees’ house. In chapter 15 the publicans and sinners wanted to hear Jesus speak and had come close, while the Pharisees and Scribes were still nearby. At the end of the Parable of the Unjust Steward, the Pharisees were still listening and resented the message. So, it seems that all these parables may have been told in succession, perhaps while Jesus was at the chief Pharisees’ house.

It is also possible that the parable of the Unjust Steward is a continuation of the Parable of the Lost, with a change of focus now towards the ‘Elder’ Son who proudly stayed with his Father. Although serving for many years and thinking he had never ‘transgressed’ any of the commandments, the Elder certainly never developed the character of his father. He was angry and resentful towards his wayward brother’s return, while his loving father was merciful and forgiving. 

Word Meanings

Sometimes it helps to look at the word-meanings. A ‘steward’ is a ‘house-distributor, or a manager, or an overseer.’ Joseph and Daniel both served faithfully in this capacity and are excellent examples of faithful stewards. However, this steward had wasted his [Lord’s] goods’. To ‘waste’ has the idea of ‘dissipate, squander, scatter’. It is the identical word used of the Prodigal Son who wasted his substance with riotous living’. However, this steward was still in the house; he hadn’t left! Like the Lost Coin parable, the Elder Son was lost inside the house.

‘I cannot dig’

When the steward’s ‘wastefulness’ was discovered, he was told he would be dismissed from his job. Like anyone getting a ‘pink slip’, this provoked anxious thoughts about how he would provide for himself. The first two options that came to his mind were to ‘dig’ or ‘beg’. Dig means ‘dig’ – but the word is only used in two other places in the New Testament!  One is in Luke 6:48, where Jesus talks about digging deep to lay your house (life) on the foundation of Christ. The other is in Luke 13:8, where the gardener decides to dig about an unproductive tree one more time to fertilize it and give it another chance to be fruitful. This is interesting… maybe the wasteful steward was not willing to dig deep and build his life on Christ’s commands? Or dig around others (perhaps the debtors!) to help encourage them to a life of productivity in Christ? As a steward he should have been doing these things – providing meat in due season for all in the house (Matthew 24:45-46). It seems he had never been willing to ‘dig’, and wasn’t willing to change his wasteful ways.

‘To beg I am ashamed’

Well, then what about the word ‘beg’? The word meaning isn’t all that revealing; it simply means to ask again and again, or to beg. Yet, there are plenty of places we are told to ‘ask’.

Ask and it shall be given you” (Matthew 7:7)

God knows how to ‘give good things to them that ask’” (Matthew 7:11).

Was there something the wasteful steward should have asked from his master? For instance, had he ever considered asking for forgiveness? Yes, he had been caught in sin, and he felt guilty and ashamed, but surely the best option at this point would have been to beg for mercy and forgiveness!

Generous with another man’s goods

In contrast, when the Prodigal Son came to his senses and realized he had made a foolish mistake, he decided to return to his Father, confess his failure, and beg for forgiveness. He was so humbled by his experience, he only asked to be a servant for the rest of his life.  The Unjust Steward didn’t consider asking for mercy, he decided instead to rely on his own ingenuity. “Take your bill,” he said to his master’s debtors, and then he ‘generously’ discounted the debts at his master’s expense! This isn’t true generousity – true generosity comes out of our own pocket. Discounting debts on a personal whim, is also not faithful management of his master’s property; he was continuing to be a waster. However, for those of his Lord’s debtors who weren’t loyal customers, this discounting of their debt would have endeared this ‘unjust’ steward to them.

Have we ever had the experience where a cashier, or waitress gives us a special deal hinting that it’s on their own initiative? Do we insist on an honest payment out of loyalty to the owner, or are we quick to take the advantage and go away with a glowing report of the good deal we were given? Would we return to seek out that same waitress or cashier the next time we visited? Would they become our favourite? Our friend?

If the debt in the parable refers to sin, as in, ‘forgive us our debts’ – faithful stewards don’t have the authority to ‘mark-down’ the debt a fellow-believer has to God. Just telling someone, “Don’t worry, God loves you as you are. You don’t have to change, He’ll overlook your sin”, does not take away their debt! In fact, it can give them a false sense of security. Far better to direct them towards God, the one who can truly forgive them!

The Bill

Looking up the word ‘bill’, we were surprised to discover it was the word ‘gramma’ – the word used for ‘scripture’ in many places! Was this steward discounting the Scriptures to bring himself into favour with others? Is it even possible to do this? Some scriptural ‘echoes’ helped to make this analogy clear.

For we are not as many, which corrupt [‘peddle, adulterate, to do a thing for base gain’] the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Or we read in 2 Corinthians 4:2, “But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.”

Discounting the Scriptures?

Now, if this parable was directed to the Pharisees, was there a way in which they were handling God’s Word deceitfully? Were they discounting the Scriptures in order to bring themselves into favour with others, with ‘fake generosity’ that wasn’t coming from God? We were reminded of the Corban law in Mark 7:6-13, where the Pharisees had found a way to get around God’s command to look after one’s father and mother. Jesus told them they were, “Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition.”

The prophet Ezekiel told the people of his day, “with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life.”

The Luke 16 parable is powerful, because we can all think of examples where we or others have discounted people’s debts to God, without truly having the authority to do so. If God has clearly spoken in His Word about right and wrong, whether in regards to belief or practice, we need to be careful to proclaim the same accurate message that He has given. It is God who has set the terms for salvation, not us. Ironically, God’s promise of forgiveness is full and complete to all who confess and forsake their sins and ASK for forgiveness. To change the Gospel message to make it more appealing in order to make ourselves seem more compassionate, or merciful, or generous, will actually defeat the gift that God has given. Sin that is not confessed cannot be forgiven. The Unjust Steward offered 50% forgiveness at the most, while God offers 100%!

Commended?

However, one of the most confusing parts of this parable is that the Unjust Steward is commended for his actions. Is this a true commendation from Jesus, or is it a sarcastic remark? Would Jesus truly encourage us to ‘make friends of the mammon of unrighteousness [“injustice, moral wrongfulness of character, life or act’]’? This doesn’t add up with the lessons he draws from this parable in verses 10-13. He says, “ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

‘Everlasting Habitations’

We looked carefully at what the Unjust Steward hoped to gain. What are the ‘everlasting habitations’ of those who act like this unjust steward? Everlasting means ‘perpetual, eternal, for ever’, which is no surprise. However, ‘habitations’ means ‘tent, tabernacle, a cloth hut’. This is an oxymoron! Tents are certainly not permanent dealing places, any more than being taken into the home of a worldly friend will last longer than this life. The only permanent dwelling place for those who choose not to obey God or seek His forgiveness – is in the grave! This is the ‘eternal home’ offered to an unrepentant unjust steward.

‘Wiser than the Children of Light’

But what about the statement Jesus made in verse 8, that, “the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light”? Paul also drew lessons from godless people, for example, the athlete (1 Cor. 9:24-27), and the soldier (2 Timothy 2:3-6), but he wasn’t trying to encourage us to choose their occupations. Rather, the lesson is to follow their complete dedication and commitment in service to our Master, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Unjust Steward may have enjoyed winning the favour of his Lord’s debtors, and he may have been rewarded for his unjust actions by the grateful customers who loved him for his fake generosity. However, the best they could give him was praise and comfort for this life. “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” Matthew 6:1-6

‘Faithful over a few things’

The lessons Jesus draws from this parable in verses 10 to 13, and the Pharisees negative reaction, support the idea that this parable is against dishonest management whether in financial matters, or the spiritual guidelines that God has entrusted to us. How we act in the small matters of life now, will determine whether or not God will assign us a position in His eternal kingdom in the life to come. In his spiritual house, Jesus and God are looking for those who love God’s righteousness, encouraging others to confess and forsake sin and receive full forgiveness (be completely debt-free!), while balancing this with mercy towards those who are truly repentant for what they have done – like the prodigal son. 

The words we want to hear from Jesus

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” Matthew 25:21 

Click this link for a poem on this subject, “When Mr. Goodman Went Away”

One of the questions dividing many churches and communities today, is how to faithfully handle the growing number of alternative lifestyle choices. Are these choices acceptable to God? Are they something new to the 20th century? As a Christian should we be warmly welcoming those who are openly making such choices? What does Jesus advise?

God’s Purpose 

In the beginning, God made a beautiful world. He didn’t make the world because He thought humans deserved such a world. We are told that He made the world for His purpose. God’s stated purpose is that one day the world will be full of people who bring glory to Him (Numbers 14:21; Revelation 22:12-17) Glory is brought to God when we acknowledge that His ways are right and are the best way for us to live.

God made a woman for Adam out of one of Adam’s ribs. God had just finished creating the whole world out of nothing, and could have easily created Eve from nothing – but he chose to create her in this special way, demonstrating the importance of the relationship between a man and woman. One of the intended purposes was procreation, and the first command was to ‘be fruitful and multiply’.  (Genesis 1:28) Sexuality wasn’t created just for our own pleasure, but to sustain God’s beautiful creation. Sexuality has a purpose.

The Fallen State

Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God and brought a curse upon the ‘very good’ creation, all of us in this fallen state, have some weakness/tendencies that are against God’s commands. There are many different weaknesses, whether it be anger, proneness to addictions, kleptomania, selfishness, murderous tendencies, sexual desires outside of marriage, lying, etc. (Romans 5:12-21; Mark 7:21-23) God has given us ‘free will’, but if we want to live FOREVER, he asks us to overcome our weaknesses and seek to follow His way, not our own. God promises His help. His Word – the Bible is there to guide us. Through prayer He will strengthen us, and He sent His Son Jesus to die for us, so that if we confess and ask for forgiveness – He will forgive ANY sin. “He who OVERCOMES shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son.” (Revelation 21:7)

Our Choices

All throughout history, sexual desires have often provoked the strongest temptations of varied sorts, and for some, homosexuality is one of those temptations. Human tendencies towards homosexuality and alternative lifestyles has been noted from very first book of the Bible – Genesis 19, and is clearly referred to several times throughout the Bible, never in a positive light. Homosexuality is not new. There are very clear Bible passages that show God’s view of homosexuality, listed among other harmful tendencies that can become rampant once society loses sight of God’s Divine wisdom and purpose for His creation. (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:21-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 1 Timothy 1:10; Revelation 22:12-16) 

For instance in 1 Corinthians 6:9-20, it says: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” The passage continues on to say that all these sins can be ‘washed away’ or forgiven, but urges us to ‘flee sexual immorality’ and “glorify God in your body.”

Celebrating Sin

Desiring another person’s spouse, engaging in sex before marriage, and several other sexual acts are also clearly stated to be wrong in God’s eyes, just as thieving, greediness, drunkeness and swindling, etc. are also condemned. However, being prone to weakness and temptation doesn’t mean we are rejected from God’s love, or none of us would have hope. But if we were to say, “I’m proud to be a greedy person. I can’t do anything about it – it’s just the way I am. Everyone has to applaud me for being greedy,” then, we are unlikely to confess our selfish actions as sin, and ask for God’s forgiveness. Without confession and repentance, there is no forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9; See also Luke 24:46-47; Psalm 32:1-5; Proverbs 28:13). There is a HUGE DIFFERENCE between struggling with a temptation, or choosing to proudly give oneself over to it.

Celebrating or Confessing?

Should Christians today warmly embrace those living alternative lifestyles? The answer to this depends on the attitude that is displayed. Christians who hold God’s Word as the authority for their lives, understand that we ALL need help, kindness, and HONEST direction from God’s Word and Holy Spirit to EMPOWER change…to OVERCOME.

However, when someone chooses to celebrate a weakness as something to be PROUD OF, and demands that others applaud their choice to openly embrace that tendency as something GOOD, those who love God’s Word, cannot faithfully give their approval. We know that this is God’s creation – not ours. He has a purpose with His creation. When Jesus returns to judge this world and become King of the Earth, we want to be on His side. (2 Thessalonians 1:5-11)

Do We Love Jesus?

Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.” (John 14:21; 1 John 2:1-6) Many want to talk about Jesus loving us. However, how often in these discussions do we hear anyone ask whether or not WE LOVE JESUS? To love and keep Jesus and His Father’s commands, is the way we demonstrate our love for them.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5:2-4)

I love Isaiah 53. This Old Testament chapter gives such insights into the promised Messiah – who he would be, what he would suffer, and how he would heal the broken relationship between God and His creation. Following cross-references to other passages in both the Old and New Testaments, brings to light many hidden details woven into this remarkable prophecy.

Seeing that we are coming up to yet another Passover anniversary (the Christian’s “Easter”) which pointed forward to the sacrificial work of the “Lamb of God” slain to set us free from death, it seems completely fitting to focus this blog on Isaiah 53.

Who Will Believe the Report?

The Messianic chapter begins with a despairing remark, “Who has believed what he has heard from us?” (ESV) It seems incredible that a prophecy given a thousand years before it was fulfilled would not be believed when it finally occurred.

However, outside of  Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, there are not many prophecies which speak so clearly and specifically about the sufferings the Messiah would endure. This may be the reason that few understood that suffering and death was part of God’s plan for his Son’s life. When one understands the role of suffering in the life of the Messiah, it becomes clear that the Law was also full of allusions to his sacrifice. The Messiah is the Passover lamb, the sin offering, the blood that cleanses and atones, and much more. As Jesus Christ said to his disciples, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:” (Luke 24:44-46)

Everything about Jesus Christ’s life was prophesied far in advance of his coming. Looking back on the Law of Moses, the Prophets (such as Isaiah) and the Psalms, we can view the details and understand his life in a fuller way. Click here for a cross-reference chart showing many connections between Isaiah 53 and the Old and New Testaments.

In the New Testament, John 12:37-38 quotes the despairing remark from Isaiah 53:1, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:” Even though Jesus did many indisputable miracles, few believed in him – he was not what they were expecting their Messiah to be.

A Root and A Branch

We are told in Isaiah 53:2 that, “he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground.” This word ‘root’ has the idea of a ‘sucker plant’ – a new growth coming from an old root. So many prophecies of Messiah refer to a ‘root’ or ‘branch’ coming from the root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1-2, 9-10, Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 6:12-13). David, the son of Jesse, had been promised that one of his descendants would be ‘God’s Son,’ a king who will sit on David’s throne FOREVER! (2 Samuel 7:11-17, Psalm 89:20-48)

When the angel Gabriel told Mary she would have a son, in Luke 1, he said that, “the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.”

Jesus Christ is called the ‘Son of David’ in Matthew 1:1, and the apostles refer to him as being a descendant of David in Acts 2:29-30; 13:22-23. While Jesus was and is the ‘Son of God,’ he is also the son of Abraham, Jesse, David, Nathan… and so on down the line to Mary.  As explained to Mary by the Angel Gabriel, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35) God’s Holy Spirit power acted miraculously upon an egg in Mary’s womb (who was herself a descendant of Abraham and David), creating a baby without the involvement of a human father. God, who can form a living man from dust as he did with Adam, heal barren wombs to bear children, and restore a ‘dead’ womb as he did with Sarah at 90 years old, can certainly create a baby from an egg, without a sperm! 

The Messiah’s Appearance

Isaiah 53:2 also tells us that, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.” The words and phrases used here seem to describe the Messiah’s physical presence, speaking of his form (figure) and his beauty (appearance), and telling us that he was not a man to be admired or desired for his outward appearance. Such a revelation may be surprising as we are used to seeing the very attractive, well-formed, blue-eyed paintings of Jesus. Human-beings generally like their heroes to be handsome, good-looking individuals. However, perhaps it was God’s plan to diminish the outward appearance of his Son, in order that we might be attracted to the Messiah’s character and godly attributes.

Despised and Rejected

Sadly, Isaiah 53:3 tells us that the Messiah would be ‘despised and rejected,’ and that we would turn away from him and not hold him in high esteem. This is echoed in Psalm 22:6-8, “But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people.” Had Jesus been built like King Saul – a head taller than everyone and very handsome, he may have won many hearts for the wrong reasons. Instead, at the end of his life, hardly any stood by his side and most called for his destruction. As it says in John 1:10-11, “... the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”

Why Was the Messiah Afflicted?

“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, we are told in Isaiah 53:4-5, “yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” This is one of the clearest prophecies in the Old Testament telling us that the Messiah was to suffer for OUR sins. Understanding the sacrifices in the Law of Moses, we see many allusions and types, but here in Isaiah 53, we are told clearly that the Messiah was to be the sacrifice for sin – a sacrifice that brought healing. All the other sacrifices in the Law had been made in anticipation of the real sacrifice that God required, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24) God required a willing sacrifice from a man who had never sinned and didn’t deserve to die; a man who chose, everyday of his life, to submit his will to his Father’s. (John 5:30; Luke 22:42; Hebrews 10:3-10) Unlike the sacrifices under the Law which needed to be offered again and again for sin, ‘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.’ (Hebrews 9:25-28; see also 1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:15; Romans 4:25)

Like Sheep That Go Astray

In verse 6 of Isaiah 53, we have the simile, “All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way.” Another passage in the Old Testament gives a reason for this scattering of the sheep. Ezekiel 34 alludes to the leaders of Israel being selfish shepherds, more interested in eating the flock, than in caring for them. In Ezekiel 34, God has compassion on his lost sheep, saying, “Behold, I, even I, will both search for my sheep, and seek them out.” Jesus refers to himself as the good shepherd who would ‘give his life’ for the sheep (John 10:11). In speaking of Jesus’ death and resurrection in 1 Peter 2:24-25 it says, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.”

The Passover Lamb

Not only is Jesus the good shepherd, but he is also the lamb! In verse 7 of Isaiah 53, we are told that he was brought ‘as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.’

The feast of Passover pointed forward to the Messiah’s sacrifice as the lamb of God.’ Exodus 12:17-23 records the details of this feast, when the blood from a ‘lamb without blemish’ was painted on the doorposts.  Painting the doorposts with the lamb’s blood saved the firstborns from death when the destroying angel passed through Egypt. The angel ‘passed over’ the homes with blood on the lintels and doorposts.

Jesus Christ was crucified at the time of Passover. (Luke 22:7, 14-19) He is spoken of as, ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,’ (Revelation 13:8) since the promise of his sacrifice was given to Adam and Eve after the very first sin (Genesis 3:15).

When the Ethiopian Eunuch was travelling in his chariot, puzzling over the words in Isaiah 53, ‘like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth,’ Philip explained that the lamb referred to in this passage is the Lord Jesus. (Acts 8:32-35) In Hebrews 9:13-14, we are told, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

Cut off

How was the Messiah taken from ‘prison’ and ‘judgement,’ as verse 8 of Isaiah 53, indicates? ‘Prison’ has the idea of ‘constraint or closure, or oppression.‘ ‘Judgement’ has the idea of ‘a verdict, or a sentence.’

Jesus was given an unfair trial, greatly oppressed and then led out to be crucified. He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.’

There is another Old Testament reference to the Messiah being ‘cut off.’ Daniel 9:26-27 also records a prophecy of Messiah’s coming, giving a prophetic timeline for when he would appear which begins with the command to return and build Jerusalem. Daniel was told, “And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease…”

The Messiah would be ‘cut off’ for the sins of others, not his own. With his ultimate, willing sacrifice of himself, he ended the need for sacrifices and oblations to be offered according to the Law. “…with his own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption… now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.” (Hebrews 9:12, 26)

A Grave With the Wicked and the Rich

We are told in Isaiah 53:9, that ‘he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.” Jesus Christ died between two criminals (Luke 23:33). A rich man named Joseph, claimed his body and buried Jesus in his own newly-hewn tomb. The fact that there was never any deceit or guile in Jesus’ mouth, is reiterated in 1 Peter 2:21-23, “because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:”

It Pleased the Lord to Bruise Him?

So, why did it ‘please the LORD to bruise him,’ as we are told in Isaiah 53:10? It ‘pleased’ the LORD only in the sense that it was God’s plan and purpose from the very beginning. After the first sin, God promised to bring a seed of the woman’ to crush the ‘head of the serpent’ (Genesis 3:15). Once sin had entered the beautiful world God created, the only way to overcome the sentence of death, was for sin to be fatally crushed by the perfect obedience of another. (Hebrews 2:14) In the process of crushing the serpent’s head (a fatal blow), the seed of the woman was to be ‘bruised on the heel’ by the seed of the serpent (a temporary wound). We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them…For he made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”

A Happy Outcome

Finally, in the last couple of verses in Isaiah 53, we reach the happy outcome of the sufferings, when the Messiah will “see the travail of his soul, and be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.”

Now that the sacrifice has been accomplished and Jesus sits at his Father’s right hand, he sees the many sons and daughters he has brought to glory. He is not ashamed to call us ‘brethren,’ and to see us as the children which God hath given me.’ (Hebrews 2:10-13) By his obedience ‘many will be made righteous.’ (Romans 5:19) Where Adam’s lack of obedience brought death on all God’s creation, “through one man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in the justification of life” (Romans 5:15-19).

Resurrection

However, it wasn’t just the death of Jesus that brought us life. If he was still dead, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, that we would still have ‘no hope,’ and all those “who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.” If perfect obedience led to nothing but death – what kind of a hope would that be?

However, this is the good news – “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Through Jesus Christ’s willing sacrifice, our sins can be forgiven and we, like him (the firstfruits), can be raised from the dead and given immortal life. (1 John 3:2-3; Romans 8:29) Where Adam brought the curse of death on the world, Jesus Christ brought the gift of life forever!

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for giving up everything in this life, submitting your will to your Father’s, and enduring great suffering in order to bring salvation to the world!