Thursday, 28 April 2011


In regard to end-times, Jesus said there are a number of things we are not meant to know:

* We are not meant to know the times and seasons which the Father has placed in His own hands.

* We do not know the day nor hour in which the Son of man shall come.

But there are a number of things which I think are quite clear:

* Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy.

* The Temple and city of Jerusalem have been destroyed, just as foretold by Jesus.

* The Gospel is to continue to be preached among all nations.

* All who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer tribulation.

* Jesus is coming again.

* There shall be a resurrection from the dead.

* There is coming a day of eternal judgment.

* His kingdom shall be revealed.

* His coming is soon.

There are also a number of other modern popular beliefs about end-times which, to me at least, still seem quite unclear in the Bible, such as:

* Any future special period of worldwide tribulation lasting seven years, or 3 1/2 years.

* A pre-tribulation rapture, or mid-tribulation rapture.

* A One-World government and One-World currency.

* A cashless society.

* That microchips fulfill the mark of the beast.

* That there must come a nationwide spiritual awakening in Israel.

* That the Temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem.

* That Christ must return within the lifetime of the generation that saw the rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948.

* That there must come an exponential increase in earthquakes, famines, pestilences and wars in the few years immediately preceding Christ's second coming.

* A literal, Jewish Millenium.

When it comes to end-times teaching, I think we should have the integrity to distinguish between what we cannot know, what we must know - and what still appears unclear.

If something is unclear in the Bible, we should at least admit it's only our opinion - rather than promulgate it as Gospel truth. And in those matters we ought to be tolerant of others who may have a different opinion. But by all means, we should be shouting the things which everyone must know, from the rooftops.
Jesus is coming!

Preparing Sermons

When I first started preaching, back when I was a high school student holding a luchtime evangelistic meeting, I used to prepare notes - but I found I was always led down a different path when I got to actually speaking.

So one day while I was preparing notes again, I asked myself why. I threw the piece of paper in the bin, and decided to go to the meeting trusting God to give me His Word. It became a new habit that stuck with me even later on when I started ministering in churches. God would usually give me the Word during the last worship songs before the preaching-time. Doing so meant that my messages took on somewhat of a prophetic character.

Then one day years later during the worship, God wouldn't give me a Word. It came time for the Pastor to hand the pulpit to me - but still no Word. So I asked the Lord what He wanted me to do instead, and He said: "Just hand the meeting over to Me, and let Me move". And to our surprise, we experienced an outpouring of the Spirit that day. So this became a new habit - allowing the Holy Spirit to do whatever He wants, rather than assume that I should always spend the whole time speaking.

It didn't mean I didn't prepare for meetings - I prepared by spending time speaking with tongues, and by spending time fellowshipping with God through His Word.

Of course not everyone will be led the way I have been led. Pastors have a responsibility to present the wider counsel of God, whereas exhorters can be used to bring a single emphasis or to minister the Spirit in a specific way, wherever they go. Exhorters who share the same emphasis wherever they itinerate probably have their message memorized, whereas Pastors have to come up with something new every week and therefore might feel a greater need to prepare their topic.

"...every man has his proper gift of God..." said Paul.

Romans 11 - My Explanatory Notes


I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.

Paul had finished presenting and proving his premise that salvation is by faith in Jesus, irrespective of ethnicity or law-keeping.
He now responds to a question regarding the ramifications of that premise for Israel: does it mean God has utterly, completely excluded Jews from His plans?

Of course not! For Paul himself was an Israelite. Therefore, on God's terms, God's plans are still open to Jews.

2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,

God foreknew that He would call out His Church - comprising of those who believe in Jesus. These, He has not cast away. (It was always in God's plan - and declared by the Prophets - that His plans would focus around them which believe, on the basis of their faith in Jesus, not on the basis of their ethnicity or law-abiding).

3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.

4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal

5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Just as God reserved to Himself 7000 men who chose to be obedient, in Israel's past - so now there actually are a number of Jews who are participating in God's purposes - those who participate on the basis of God's choosing, which is the basis of grace, not the basis of ethnicity or law-keeping: by grace, through faith.

6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.

It's not that no Jew has access to today's fulfilment of God's promises to Abraham, because a certain number of Jews today are enjoying the fulfilment of those promises - but they are doing so not on the basis of keeping the Law, but on the basis of grace (through faith).

7 What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded

By-and-large, Israel failed to obtain what the nation was looking for - they were looking for Abraham's blessing - for justification - for entry into the Messiah's kingdom. But the election - those who participated on God's originally-intended basis - are obtaining it. God's originally intended basis was by the grace of Jesus Christ and through faith in Him. The rest were blinded - they were left in their darkness.

8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.

It was given to them as a consequence of their unbelief. God decreed that both blessing and judgment would hinge on the issue of faith.

9 And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them:

10 Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway.

The state of being blinded, slumbering, deaf, snared, trapped, stumbling - are all said to be a recompence - that is, a consequence - not a cause of their unbelief, but a consequence of it.

11 I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.

It means, their stumbling is not an irreversible, irretrievable situation. They can still be saved! Seeing Gentiles enjoying God's salvation is meant to provoke Jewish people to desire those same blessings.

12 Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

It is still possible for a Jewish person to repent and experience fulness. It is still possible for a Jewish individual to stand up again. The diminished state of collective Israel is a potentially reversible situation. (But Paul is not here specifically prophesying a nationwide revival of Israelites. Rather, he is answering the confused notion that salvation by faith somehow meant it was no longer possible for Jewish individuals to be saved.)

13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.

Some of them: proof that Paul did not have in mind a future nationwide revival of Israel during some future special dispensation. Rather, his discussion is all about the potential salvation of the Jewish individual.

15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?

Jews can still potentially be reconciled - and when one is, imagine what a blessing he can be to Gentiles! Paul himself, as the apostle to the Gentiles, is an example of that! This is so far from the mistaken notion that all Jews were cast away, excluded from God's promises.

16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.

17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;

18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.

The root holds the grafted branches - that is, God holds us on His own stated basis - which is, that we continue in faith.

19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.

20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:

21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.

The only reason He would not spare them, is if they cease to comply with God's intended, stated, basis for inclusion - which is, faith.

22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.

Continuing in His goodness - continuing in faith - is the basis for sustained inclusion in God's promises.

23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.

Any Jewish individual can be included in God's promises, if they come via God's stated doorway, which is faith in Jesus.

24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?

It is still entirely appropriate for Jewish people to become believers in Jesus! (Rememeber, Paul was answering the mistaken first-century notion of some believers at Rome that perhaps Jewish people could no longer be saved).

25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.

Only part of Israel was experiencing blindness - and deafness, and had stumbled, and been broken off, as a consequence of, not a cause of, their unbelief. This state will continue until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. In other words, there will continue to be unbelievers amongst ethnic Israelites right up until the end. Paul wasn't necessarily foreseeing a nationwide revival during some future special 'dispensation' during which Jews can allegedly be saved on some different basis than the basis of faith in Jesus.

26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:

The sense is: and so (in this manner, according to this scheme of things) all Israel shall be saved (potentially). Paul then quotes a prophecy, which was fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus, not at the second coming. Therefore Paul was not necessarily here predicting a special future event in ethnic Israel - rather, he was saying that the current scenario (as it was being witnessed even in the first century by believers at Rome) fulfilled the sense of the prophecy.

27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.

Only the remnant was obtaining the fulfillment of this promise - according to the scheme explained by Paul. Thus, Zechariah's prophecy was being fulfilled, even in the first century. This is the scheme according to which all Israel could potentially be saved. But if not all Israel believed, it didn't nullify God's promises at all. And the sum total of all Jews who shall believe, comprises the true Israel of God. No true Israelite - no Israelite indeed - no true Jew, who is a Jew inwardly - shall fail to be saved in the last day. Truly, all Israel shall be saved in the day of judgment - but only after the method so described by Paul - that is, by grace through faith in Jesus.

28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.

Just like you still love your unsaved relatives, because they are relatives - so, unsaved Jews are still loved, because they are the line of Abraham's descendant's which were chosen as the original custodians of God's promises.

29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Meaning, the opportunity to be saved still exists for Israelites. As a nation, they were given a gift - but like the unwise steward, many of them were unfaithful with it, and so were not assured of entering the kingdom. As a nation, they had a calling - a privilege, a first opportunity - but few were chosen - that is, few actually complied with the conditions previously set by God as the prerequisite - that is, faith in Jesus. But the opportunity still exists for Israelites! Paul's message of salvation by faith doesn't take away from that.

30 For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:

31 Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy.

The Lord used the situation to set-up His work of knocking on the doors of men's hearts - both Gentiles' and Jews' - with His offer to come in and sup with them and they with Him.

32 For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.

He concluded - not caused - them all under the category of unbelief. He did this so that their salvation would be based on mercy alone - and not on ethnicity nor law-keeping.

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

34 For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counseller?

35 Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

36 For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.

It means: not that Israel's unbelief - and spiritual blindness - is caused by God, but that God even works around their unbelief - and the consequential, retributional blindness due to their unbelief - in order to use it to produce an even wider opportunity for His mercy to Israel.

There is no precedent for the tenets of five-point Calvinism in the topics of this chapter.

Romans 9 - My Explanatory Notes

Romans 9

1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,

2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.

3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;

5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:

Having presented his premise that salvation is by faith (chapters 1-8), Paul now proceeds to answer an objection to that premise: Did it mean the promises concerning ethnic Israelites had somehow failed? did the emergence of the predominantly Gentile Church mean God's promises to the Patriarchs, and through the Prophets, had been anulled?

No - it's just that not all Israelites were meeting the conditions.

7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.

Descendency from Abraham alone was never to be the intended criteria. Right from the start, God gave His promises on another basis altogether - a different basis of His choosing.

8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.

That other basis was not ethnicity - it was another basis of God's own choosing.

9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son.

10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;

By one: God's purpose was narrowed down even further - on a basis of God's own choosing - irrespective of descendency from Abraham.

11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)

God's plans for Israelites were never to revolve around the person's works - but from the very start of God's dealings with their forefather Jacob, God's relationship with them was to be on another basis entirely - another basis of God's own choosing. Paul had revealed, and was now defending, that that other basis today is by grace through faith.

12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.

13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

In context, the above verse, quoted from the Old Testament, was stated after Jacob and Esau had lived, not before. It wasn't a prophetic statement about the individuals Jacob and Esau's future - it was a prophetic explanation about God's response to both individuals - or better still, about God's purposes for the nations which descended from them. In the same way, it's God's own prerogative to make plans to save people on the basis of faith rather than ethnicity or works - and then to treat those people in accordance with whether they had believed or not.

14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.

Is it unrighteous of God to treat people in accordance with no other basis other than whether or not they believe? Of course it isn't.

15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.

God has shown us the basis upon which He has chosen to show mercy and compassion - and that is, upon those who believe.

16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.

Salvation therefore does not originate with a man's own will (nor ethnicity), nor does it come as a result of a person's running (nor his works in the Law - but it's only on the basis of God's mercy. And God has shown us that He extends His mercy through Jesus Christ to those who believe.

17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.

The existence of an ethnic nation didn't automatically indicate God's saving-favour: God has other purposes. In the same way, the existence of ethnic Israel wasn't necessarily an indication that all ethnic-Isralites would be saved on that basis.

18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

He has chosen to have mercy on them that believe. And to those who won't believe, it's His prerogative to reserve their judgment for a future time - it's His prerogative to let their unbelief takes its course - for His own purposes.

19 Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?

Does this mean He can't hold individuals accountable?

20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?

Answer: no. If God has chosen to save on teh basis of faith, we can't argue with Him and say that He should have granted salvation on a different basis of our own choosing (such as ethnicity, or attempts at keeping the Law).

21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

It's God's own merciful prerogative to honour one vessel and to dishonour another vessel, upon His own basis - and His chosen basis is the basis of faith in Jesus.

22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:

Just because an ethnic nation had survived to that day, did not mean God had granted every individual in the nation salvation. The nation may by-and-large have already qualified itself for wrath and destruction - but God has His own purposes for reserving them until a future day of judgment.

23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,

His vessels of mercy, are those vessels to whom He has chosen to show mercy, upon the basis of His own choosing - with is the basis of their faith in Jesus. He has already prepared heaven for those who are believing in Jesus.

24 Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

He has called those who believe - irrespective of nationality.

25 As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.

26 And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.

The emergence of a Gentile-church was an outcome that was already foreseen by the Prophets.

27 Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:

The outcome that only few Jews - rather than all Jews - would be saved, was an outcome that was already foreseen by the Prophets.

28 For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.

29 And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.

The exclusion of ethnic Jews - because of their failure to comply with a condition of God's own choosing (that is, the condition of faith in Jesus) - was a scenario that had already been foreseen by the Prophets.

30 What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.

31 But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.

32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;

33 As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.

Paul sums it up: faith in Jesus was always intended to be the basis upon which Israeli individuals could be saved - and Gentiles are also mercifully included in that opportunity.

The five-points of Calvinism do not even feature as part of the topic Paul was addressing in this chapter.

Will Judas Be Saved?

I'd say, possibly not - because the Scripture says:

"... Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place."

He went to his own place! I wonder what that means? Doesn't sound good!

Also, was Judas' heart ever right, in the first place? Because Judas was stealing from the bag all along; and long before betraying Jesus, Jesus already said, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and ONE OF YOU IS A DEVIL". So it's possible Judas was never quite right in the first place!

But I don't know for sure. Perhaps we can take Paul's attitude:

"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God."

One thing I know: the devil can try to condemn believers and make them feel as though they've committed the unpardonable sin. To those believers I would say:

"Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation."

My Take on Romans

My take on the Epistle to the Romans:

Paul had tried several times to get to Rome, but so far he hadn't managed to make it there. He was all too aware of the doctrinal winds which no doubt were blowing against the new found faith of the believers there - so he was so keen to clearly delineate the truth of the Gospel, and to address some of those opposing winds of doctrine.

Paul was presenting and defending his Gospel. Paul's Gospel, in a nutshell was: "Salvation for all - including the Gentiles - by grace through faith - without the works of the Law."

But there were some fierce, opposing winds that were likely coming against the believers at Rome, as elsewhere. Paul addresses those winds of doctrine in his epistle:

There were the Judaizers who were insisting that believers at Rome should begin keeping the Law or at least parts of the Law.

There was also the danger that disunity could threaten the weaker believers in the church, and scatter the congregation, and slow-down the church's growth. Some were stronger in their new found faith, and so had become free from the observances of the Law. Others were still weak in their new found faith, and still felt duty-bound to certain observances. It was important that both groups were patient with each other, so as not to blow the whole church apart.

There were those who may have wondered whether the emergence of a predominantly Gentile congregation meant that God's promises to the nation of Israel had somehow failed to come to pass.

Others of the Gentiles were at risk of becoming over-confident in their new found privileges in relation to God, and may have even thought that it was hardly possible for a Jew to be saved at all.

Some may have felt unsure how to respond to criticisms from outsiders who mistakenly said the doctrine of salvation by faith had to be wrong because it logically meant people could continue in sin.

Many of the believers were so young in the faith, they still needed to become grounded in the basics of what to believe and how to behave in the church and how to answer critics.

So to address these issues, Paul's design was:

To show that all Gentiles were sinners (chapter 1);
All Jews likewise were sinners (chapter 2);
That the remedy for sin for both Jew and Gentile is the salvation that is in Christ Jesus by grace through faith (chapter 3).
Then he proved the importance of faith with illustrations from the revered patriarch Abraham (chapter 4).
He described in detail the effective reach of the salvation that comes by Christ alone (chapter 5).
Then he addresses the mistaken objection that salvation by faith somehow allows a continuance in sin - it does the opposite (chapter 6).
He describes the ineffectiveness of the Law, in comparison to the effectiveness of Christ - towards producing actual holiness (chapter 7).
He sums it all up by reassuring the believers of how original, pre-planned, accurate, trustworthy, reliable, effective, thorough, Scriptural, and eternally promising the Gospel of salvation by faith is (chapter 8).
He explains that the fact that salvation was being offered on the basis of faith rather than on the basis of Jewishness and of law-keeping, did not mean God's promises to Israel had failed, because it had always been God's prerogative to save on His own basis - based on His mercy - based on faith in the promise - rather than based on ethnicity or law-keeping. And Paul illustrated this principle with the examples of Isaac, Jacob and Pharaoh. He shows that it had been foreseen by the prophets, and it was not unrighteous of God, to extend His mercy to Gentiles (chapter 9).
Which draws him to a crescendo about how to be saved by faith (chapter 10).
Then he addresses further concerns about what it all means for the nation of Israel. He explains that it is still possible for a Jewish person to be saved, if he believes. He also explains that Gentile believers shouldn't become conceited. He validates the existence of the predominantly Gentile-congregation, but explains the manner in which it is still possible for any Israelite to be saved - which is, by faith (chapter 11).
Then he addresses behavioural matters, each of which are designed to solidify the church, until such time as he can finally make a personal visit (chapters 12 - the end).

There isn't any indication that Paul believed in the five-points of Calvinism, or that he believed in a future special dispensation for Israel during which the whole nation shall be saved on a different basis than on the basis of faith.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Staying in Your Church

Some people leave a church for the wrong reasons.

If you're feeling frustrated because you see problems with the church that you feel others don't see, then that might be precisely why you are in that church. It may be an indication you are in the right church. To make a difference. To contribute in the areas you see lacking. To work towards change perhaps.

That's provided you are not blocked from making your contribution. That's provided your contribution is received by the church.

But if you feel your contribution is not being received, that still may not be a reason to leave the church. It may be that you need to offer your contribution in a different package. It may require a strategy. And patience. It may take time. Sometimes you need to spend time making a lesser contribution before your greater contribution will be received.

Sometimes it's not so much a person's contribution itself that is not being received - but it's the way the person behaves that is not being received. For example, if a person is overly critical, or if he speaks out against things before the other is ready to hear it, of course others will put barriers up. Sometimes we can behave in a way that causes others to put-up unnecessary barriers against our message. Paul said to behave in a way that adorns the Gospel. He said to give no unnecessary offence in anything.

Many times, people think they have wisdom from God, and they feel their wisdom is being rejected by their church. But very often it's the way they package their 'wisdom' that causes people to reject them. If we are truly wise, we should show it by behaving well and behaving meekly. But if our 'wisdom' causes us to feel bitter, jealous, and contentious - then our 'wisdom' isn't all that godly. Wherever there's jealousy and contention, there will always be disruption and unhelpful conduct. The sad thing is, many people still think they're the wise one - and they leave the church because of it!

But you can tell someone who has truly anointed wisdom because first of all they live a pure life, then they are easy to get along with, they are gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. Truly righteous people are people who are in good relationships with others in the church, and they actually create good relationships. But the sad thing is, some people actually blame the church for their own inability to foster good relationships - then they sow discord by criticizing others, and they leave the church, thinking themselves to be 'wise'. Most of them end-up unsettled in church-life after they leave.

Sometimes people leave churches prematurely, before addressing the merit of a wise, peaceable approach. Sadly many of them end-up making a smaller contribution to the overall scheme of things than they could have had they accepted the necessary adjustment or delay-factor and stayed where they were. Very often they leave because they feel their prophetic gift or their evangelistic gift was not free to function - but by starting their own church, they end-up needing to function as a pastor instead of as the prophet they are called to be. Their prophetic mantle takes second place, or it ends-up being heard by only a small group.

If you feel you don't quite fit-in because of your prophetic perceptions, then it could be a sign you're in the right church. Why would the Lord need to place a prophet in a church which already perceives everything you perceive? You could well be in the right place. But it takes the wisdom of God and a heart of love to work towards God's goal for the church.

Sometimes we can also think more highly of ourselves than we ought. We may feel a desire for a greater ministry than our church seems to be currently allowing us - but God knows what's best for us better than we do. You may not be ready yet for the rigours of that level of public life. We may think we're a prophet or an evangelist - when really, we are not yet ready to stand in those offices. We may have a gift of prophecy - but are not yet ready to stand in the office of prophet. We may have a flair for evangelism - but might not be ready to stand in the office of evangelist. Therefore, it's better for us to be happy about our contribution in our church, rather than gripe about not being recognized yet as the great evangelist we feel called to become.

Or it maybe for someone else that we need to stay in the church where we are - someone may need you where you are, even though you may be hoping to be doing other things in future. God knows what is best for you, for others, and for the overall scheme of things.

Another reason budding prophets and evangelists leave their church is money. They can't imagine they'll ever be paid by their church - so they think the solution is to start their own church or their own meetings. But there can be two problems with that. One problem is, if they're not called by God to stand in the office of pastor, it will hinder their effectiveness as a prophet or evangelist. Secondly, if they recognize they're not called to pastor a church, so hold meetings instead of starting a church, who is going to come? Are they ministering to the people who really needed their ministry? Sometimes the people who really needed your ministry are back in the church you left.

Of course this applies only so long as you are able to make the contribution that God wants you to be making at the current time and place - even if it's not the full contribution you'd like to be making. If you can't make even that level of contribution - adjusted in the love, purpose and wisdom if God - then He may lead you elsewhere. Or more likely, the church itself may ask you to go elsewhere. But so often today, ministers leave a church for lesser reasons. Certainly the Reformers ministered outside their churches. But Wesley had the doors of the church closed on his face. Luther's life was threatened. Nowadays people leave churches for far lesser reasons, to the detriment of their own effectiveness in ministry.

Nevertheless, there are also times when God or circumstances say, Go! For example, if you are called to minister in some way to the wider body, then God will expect you to go and do that. But we need to be sure it's really God, and not just our own inept relationships that is making us feel we should go.

Seek the wisdom of God. Walk in the love of God. Maintain good relationships as far as possible. And stay in your calling. Functioning as a prophet or evangelist in a church requires maturity - and the pathway needs to be modelled for younger prophets and evangelists coming behind you.

Bible Greek and John 1:1

It's not true that Bible-Greek contained no articles. New Testament Greek contained the definite article.

So in John 1:1 where it says: "...and the Word was God" if anyone wants to claim there should have been an article placed before God, it could only have been the definite article the and not an indefinite article a - because no such indefinite article existed as a preposition, in Bible-Greek. The Bible is clear that there is only one God - double reason not to take the article as indefinite, even if an article need be used at all here.

In actual fact, Bible-Greek did indicate the indefinite article - by changing the way a noun ends - not by a preposition. And no such noun-ending is used in John 1:1. Therefore The New World Translation is incorrect. The Word was not merely a god - the Word was indeed God.

Jesus is God!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Predestination - Mishearing Question/Misapplying Answer

You can hear someone answering a question - but if you didn't hear what the question was, you might not understand and apply the answer properly.

When you hear someone speaking on the phone, without hearing what he is responding to from the other side of the line, you might misapply what you hear him say. You might not even be in the same ballpark with what he's really talking about.

In the same way, many read Paul's statements in Romans 9, and seek to find answers in it to the question that was debated by Calvin and Armenius - but there's one problem with that: Paul was never, in Romans 9, addressing the specific question that Calvin and Armenius debated - Paul was addressing another issue not related to their question at all!

Take another look at the text. Observe the issue which the text states Paul was addressing. The meaning of the rest of the chapter will then fall into place nicely, as a defence of his premise that salvation is by faith.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Was Jesus a Communist?

Something for those who think they see a basis for communism in the life and teaching of Jesus:

Jesus never took anything off anyone - and yet today multitudes all around the world give to Jesus.

Jesus exemplified generous giving - but never took anything that was another's.

He encouraged generous giving - but He never taught that we should take that which is another's.

He gave, He received, He borrowed - but He never taught that anything should ever be taken from anyone by another.

He taught generosity - but never taught that self-determination with one's personal property should ever be interfered with by another.

He never did anything but uphold the ethics of private property and self determination.

He taught that we should be ethical with that which is our own - He never taught that we have the right to take that which is another's - even if your intention is to redistribute it to the poor.

If Capitalism is being abused, then identify the specific abuse and outlaw it - but don't take away freedom itself.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

How Fascism Is Ruining the Aboriginal Art Industry

Here is an example of the difference between intervening to stop an abuse of capitalism (which is helpful to everyone), and intervening in a socialist/communist/fascist way (which is helpful to no-one).

Years ago, it was felt that the aboriginal art industry was being abused. Art dealers were paying relatively small prices to artists of original aboriginal art work. They then sold the paintings for high prices. Royalties on resale weren't always being paid to the artists. So aborigines weren't benefiting as much from the value of their work as they potentially could, while some of the art dealers may have been profiting considerably.

So the Coaltion Government decided to intervene. The government required royalties on the resale of artwork to be paid to artists. Aboriginal Art Centres were set-up, where the sale of original aboriginal art to dealers could better be regulated.

Sounds good. Nothing wrong with that. The aboriginal art industry came to be worth about $25million per year.

But years later, some groups tried to protect the aboriginal art industry even further, which resulted in a different kind of abuse. Some groups attempted to prohibit all direct dealings between sellers and buyers outside of the Aboriginal Art Centres, even if the artist was happy with the deal.

As a result of this interference, there arose a glut - an oversupply - of aboriginal art works, and the oversupply caused prices to drop even in the Arts Centres.

Despite the Labor government pumping $9million into the Arts Centres, the value of the aboriginal art industry dropped from $25million to $15million per year.

Intervening to stop the original 'abuse' was good - but when groups went beyond that by controlling the freedom of sellers and buyers to negotiate directly and set prices they were each happy with, was itself an abuse, zn abuse which caused the entire industry to become almost non-viable.

Socialism and Communism can't work. Freedom (capitalism) benefits everybody.

Target and outlaw any specific abuse that may be perpetrated under capitalism - but don't remove freedom itself.

An Ordinance Forever Unto Israel?

"This shall be an ordinance forever unto Israel".

Have you heard people say that the above verse from the Law means Israel is still to keep certain feasts - such as the feast of Passover - literally forever - even in the New Covenant?

My thoughts:

For starters, it says, "...unto Israel" - not unto Gentile believers.

But more to the point: "an ordinance forever" didn't literally mean forever - it just meant, for as long as the [Old] Covenant was in place. The New Covenant made all things new.

Otherwise, if the term "an ordinance forever" to Israel literally mean forever, then all Jews today should still be required to keep not only the Passover, but also:

The feast of unleavened bread for seven days;

They should still offer sweet incense, the continual shewbread, and burnt offerings morning and evening;

They should still offer a blood-sacrifice on the Day of Atonement on the seventh month every year;

The Levitical priesthood with all its garments should still be in use;

The nation of Israel should still have a High Priest and priests;

They should still be complying with ceremonial washings in the tabernacle;

The priests should still blow trumpets every time Israel goes to war;

Jews should engage in special washing ceremonies and sacrifices after every visit to a grave; and

Candles should still be lighting-up the court on the other side of the curtain in the tabernacle, because ALL THOSE THINGS WERE INCLUDED AMONG THE THINGS WHICH THE LAW SAID WERE TO BE "AN ORDINANCE FOREVER UNTO ISRAEL".

So if one of those things was meant to be an ordinance unto Israel literally forever, then all of them should be!

But we know that's not the case - because the New Testament Epistles are quite clear that all those things were only shadows and that the observance of them passed away when the New Covenant in Jesus' blood began.

So if some of them are not meant to be an ordinance literally forever, then none of them are meant to be.

Christ fulfills all of them - and so do we, in Him - by grace through faith in Christ.

That's why, in the council at Jerusalem, the Apostles and elders - and the Holy Ghost - decided to put no such burden on the churches.

Therefore it was never God's intention that Jews continue to observe the Passover, and the other feasts, and the sabbaths even long after the New Covenant. They are free from that obligation.

This truth could set millions of Jews free, and could also set many mistaken believers free.

Nevertheless we who are strong in faith (strong in our confidence about the New Covenant's scope) and who therefore feel free from obligation to observe special feasts, ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves (we ought to bear the infirmities of those whose conscience is weaker in their confidence in the New Covenant's scope) and who therefore feel obligated in their conscience to observe special days.

Christ Our Passover

Should Jews still keep the Passover? What is meant by "as an ordinance forever to Israel"? Does that mean certain things should continue to be observed by Israel even in the New Covenant? Should Gentile believers keep the Passover? Should believers celebrate Easter?

Someone wrote:

"I would rather do my celebrations God's way rather than the pagen worship of man according to man's ways. If you believe in God - than when you read His Word - you will follow HIs celebrations and not the traditions of man which are often pagan."

Okay - so what is God's way? Read the following discussion I had with a friend:

John Edwards
Christ is our Passover. And we keep the feast everyday. I regard all days to be equal, to the Lord. Therefore I don't feel any moral obligation to observe any day as special.

To regard all days as equal - thanks to Jesus - is my way of saying thanks to God and honoring Him.

But I also see that those who do honour a certain day above another, do so because of a desire to honor the Lord also.

So the correct attitude is, "Live, and let live". We don't need to feel obligated to regard a day as special - but neither should we pressure those who feel they should do so not to do so. Each of us should derive joy from following our own conscience and let other believers in Jesus do the same.

My conscience is free not to do so. But those of us who are free shouldn't be unneccessarily offensive towards the consciences and customs of others. By empathizing with where others are coming from, we can better win them.

I wish everyone a great experience and celebration of Christ as their Passover, at this time of year, and everyday of the year - in whatever way each person feels is appropriate for him.

And if anyone is celebrating the Passover who hasn't experienced Jesus as their Passover - He is the fulfillment of the symbolism of the Passover - I desire that you will today.

But if you don't make your passover offering, you miss out on the Angel of the Lord bringing you His 7 blessings! Ex 23 vs 20 - 26. "And this day shall be a memorial. You shall keep it as a feast to the Lord throughout your generations, as an ordinance forever." Ex 12 vs 14

John Edwards ‎
It's impossible to keep the Passover today, because Deuteronomy 16:6,7 forbade killing and eating the Passover anywhere other than in the Tabernacle or Temple, which don't exist anymore.

The Holy Ghost, and the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem, decided not to require the Gentiles to keep the Passover.

Deut 16 vs 6, 7 is telling us that God will make known to us where the offering is to go, so I don't see how that contradicts with what I was saying. As to your second statement, it must be referring to the words spoken to Peter by Paul, which were not about the Passover, but a correction to Peter for behaviour that was to please man and not God!

As u said it is up to the individual, but I want to recieve the 7 blessings, and when the Lord tells me in no uncertain terms to make a Passover offering this year, I will choose to do so!

John Edwards
‎Attempting to keep the feast of Passover presents a problem, because Paul stated that if anyone attempts to be justified through keeping the Law, he must keep the whole Law, not just part of the Law. Duet.16:6.7 stated that the Passover was to be killed only at the Tabernacle or Temple - which is a detail of the Law impossible to keep today, seeing the Temple no longer exists. Therefore attempting to keep the law of the Passover today is to attempt the impossible.

The second statement referred to the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15. The Apostles and elders met at Jerusalem to discuss whether or not the Gentile churches should be required to keep the Law. The decision was made that no such burden should be placed on the believers.

Jesus is your Passover, my friend. He fulfilled the meaning of the Passover, and so do you in Him. In Him you have all seven blessings, and more! By all means, give as the Holy Spirit leads, and - yes, by giving you shall receive!

So John, how do you explain Ex 12 vs 14? Yes, Jesus is our Passover and the Holy Spirit allows us to read the Old Testement with renewed eyes and in that, I must have a different understanding of Acts 15, as a Passover offering, I do not see as something that should be disturbing or annoying to a true lover of God, but maybe it is better that as usual we just allow the old school to beg to differ with the new school! Happy Passover!

John Edwards ‎
The term "an ordinance forever" to Israel didn't literally mean forever. It meant, for as long as the Old Covenant still stood. The New Covenant made all things new!

Otherwise, the Jews today should still be required to keep not only the Passover, but also the feast of unleavened bread for seven days; they should still offer sweet incense, the continual shewbread, and burnt offerings morning and evening; they should still offer a blood-sacrifice on the Day of Atonement on the seventh month every year; the Levitical priesthood with all its garments should still be in use; they should still be complying with ceremonial washings in the tabernacle; the priests should still blow trumpets every time Israel goes to war; they should have to wash in special ceremonies after every visit to a grave; and the candles should still be lighting-up the court on the other side of the curtain in the tabernacle - because all those things were included in the list of things which were to be an "ordinance forever to Israel".

The New Testament Epistles are quite clear that all those things were only shadows and that the observance of them passed away when the New Covenant in Jesus' blood began.

But of course, if the Holy Spirit is leading you to give some money away (this week, or at any time), of course do so - and receive in return!

Yes, in matters of conscience, Paul taught something like "live and let live" (to use the words of John Wesley!) Those who were freer from observing special days, because of their stronger faith in the New Covenant's scope, were not to pressure those who because of their weaker confidence in the New Covenant's scope still felt obligated to observe special days. So, Happy Passover, to you too!

These truths could set millions of people free.

John, u need to look at the Hebrew translation of the word "forever" in Ex 12vs 14. It is vanishing point, time out of our mind frame, eternity. No, we are not meant to practise old laws that would be dificult or uncomfortable for us, but are we not to make the time special that commemerates Jesus death and rising. It a time to celebrate new life, just as the Passover was in days of old.

Keeping the details of the Law isn't just difficult or uncomfortable for us - it's actually impossible, especially seeing the tabernacle or Temple don't exist anymore. As for commemorating the Lord's death and rising - Jesus said, "this do ye as oft as ye drink it". As often as ye drink it - not only once a year. Everyday is a Passover in our hearts. This faith honors the Lord. However, if a believer whose conscience is weaker feels he must observe a special day to commemorate the Lord's death and rising, then he also honors the Lord by doing so. Isn't that beautiful?

Friday, 15 April 2011

The Pre-Existence of Jesus

"He is preferred before me, for He was before me," said John of Jesus.

John said of himself that he was sent before Him, to prepare His way.

How can John have been conceived before Jesus, and sent into the ministry before Jesus - and yet Jesus was before him?

Because Jesus was pre-existent.

Even "before Abraham was, I am," said Jesus of Himself.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Are Ministers and Churches Rorting the System?

Someone quoted the following verses, along with their question about whether it's wrong that some ministers of the Gospel are paid, especially if the minister already owns assets:

1 Corinthians 9:18 What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.

2 Corinthians 11:7 Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge?

I engaged the person in a conversation, as follows:

Paul said that although he chose not to be paid, he actually had the right to be - because the Lord ordained that those who preach the Gospel should live of the Gospel.

Was that from the law of Moses ?

No. From Jesus, in the New Testament. And Paul quoted it in his Epistles. But the Law of Moses also taught that ministers should be paid.

I guess it's ok as long as Paul didn't love money.

Yes - the love of money is the root of all evil. You can't serve both God and mammon. Just one or the other. But the right of the labourer to be paid is a universal ethic, taught in every part of the Bible - by the patriarchs before the Law, by Moses in the Law, by David, by the Prophets, by Christ as recorded in the four Gospels, and by the Apostles in the Epistles. And preaching the Gospel is work. To deny a labourer his wages is theft. It's the right of preachers of the Gospel to earn a livelihood from the Gospel.

Now consider this: the labourer's existing assets can't diminish his right to be paid. He has just as much right to be paid for his labour no matter whether he already owns nothing, little or much. In the same way, a preacher of the Gospel has just as much right to earn a livelihood from the Gospel no matter whether he already owns nothing, little or much.

But Paul chose not to avail himself of that right during his season at Corinth. Instead, he chose to work long hours in his trade so he could preach to the Corinthians without receiving a single piece of bread from them. (During that time, Paul did however accept an offering from another church in another city.) But even though Paul didn't accept support from the Corinthians, he still said it was his right to. He chose not to, for personal reasons. But it would have been within his rights to give-up his trade and accept support from the church at Corinth.

It's like my dad. For many, many years as the preacher of the Gold Coast Japanese Church, he chose not to be paid a single dollar by the church, and instead he worked to support himself. In fact, he gave money to the church! But he would have been quite within his rights if he'd acceped some remuneration for his efforts during all those years.

Paul also wrote that church elders who rule well - who labour in the Word and doctrine - should be counted worthy of double honour. Double pay!

But in the Epistles it also says bishops shouldn't serve for filthy lucre. They shouldn't be motivated by gain. Don't we need to be reminded of this today! But honest pay is not the same as filthy lucre.

Should those who teach 'mythology' be subjected to pay tax for their public addresses? Should those who preach the "Gospel" be subjected to paying Personal Income tax?

They are. Ministers of the Gospel pay personal income tax. They are also subject to every other form of tax like: GST, excise, capital gains, Medicare levy, etc.

I think either none of us should pay a tax, or all of us should pay it. And I also think one rate - a flat rate - should apply to all, irrespective of profession, assets or income.

Do Ministers pay personal income tax if it is their sole income?


Ok but when the 'tithe' net drags the flock! All that is scooped up! Is counted in cash, then that "sum" of money is then banked. That amount is not Taxed. i.e. Is not subject to 30% company Tax? Is this correct to your knowledge?

Yes that is correct - while the money sits in a bank. But if any amount of the money gets withdrawn from the bank to pay a wage, then that amount of the money becomes subject to income-tax at that point.

Or, if the money gets used to buy a building, then Government Stamp Duty is payable (churces still pay Stamp Duty - educational institutions are exempt).

Or, if money is used to purchase goods or services, GST may be payable upfront but can be claimed-back afterwards. But GST can be claimed-back ONLY if the purchase is for something that will be used exclusively during church services inside the church building.

If a preacher is standing in cavill mall for e.g. and a person comes up to them and offers them a $50 (gift) is that deemed to be income and should it be "morally" subject to personal income tax?

In the case of a minister being given a gift, the Tax office treats it exactly the same way as if a businessman gets given a gift...the same way as if anyone like you or I got given a gift, as described here:

Contrary to popular misconceptions, churches do not receive privileges in ways that businesses do not. Quite the opposite. For example:

In regard to income tax, the government is double-dipping. When you earn money, your income is taxed, then when you give some of your money to a church, you cannot claim it as a deduction - but when some of the money you gave to the church then gets paid to a minister as his wage, the money again becomes subject to income tax at that point - for a second time.

But the business-world is treated differently, in some cases. If you earn money, and pay income tax, and then you use your money as a sole trader to pay an employee or a contractor, the recipient will pay income tax, however you can claim his wage as a deduction - therefore the money isn't subject to income tax twice.

But with gifts to churches, you can't claim any deduction - therefore the portion of the money that pays a wage gets subjected to income tax twice. It's double-dipping. The system favours business and disadvantages the church, in that respect.

The government also favours schools. Churches are not exempt from Stamp Duty; and donations are not deductible. But schools don't pay Stamp Duty; and donations are tax-deductible - even though many schools are privately owned and are profitable.

The government also favours researchers, inventors, artists, hobbyists, cultural groups and other religions ahead of Christian churches. Each of these groups, including other religions, are eligible for "cultural" funding and grants, while Christian churches are not.

For example, former QLD Labor Premier Peter Beattie allocated $ thousands to build a mosque - but any similar donation to a Christian church would be considered as a discrimination against another religion in favor of Christianity, so it seldom if ever happens.

Other religions, cultural organizations, educational institutions and some businesses receive funding, grants and tax deductibility status - Christian churches do not.

Why Capitalism is Compassionate

Here are some figures which illustrate why conservative politics is actually more compassionate towards the poor than socialism is.

When the Howard government started in 1996, it inherited from the previous Labor governments:

* $7.6 billion "black hole" in the budget
* $96 billion national debt
* 8.2% unemployment
* 17% interest rates

By the time the Howard government finished in 2008, it had created:

* budget surpluses of up to $25 billion - every budget
* paid off the government debt
* $ 90 billion government surplus
* including $51 billion Future Fund
* the Future Fund would soon have $200 billion in it, if the Liberals were still in government
* 855,000 new jobs were created
* unemployment dropped to 4.1%
* 5.95% interest
* inflation within 2-3%
* saw the elimination of many taxes

Since Labor got back into government in 2008, they've managed to:

* turn a $ 90 billion surplus into a $125 billion debt
* $48 billion interest alone will be paid on the debt in the next four years
* Treasury projects the debt will reach $1 trillion in nine years
* the cost of living is increasing
* enormous new taxes are being discussed

Under the Howard government, the poor benefited. Why? Because more people found jobs. And because more people found jobs, the government's revenue through taxation increased, even though the Howard government reduced taxes. The government was therefore able to fund more services to the poor. And life was easier because inflation and interest rates were lower.

The Howard government was able to help in huge ways: like giving $1 billion to Indonesia after their tsunami.

But in a few short years under Labor, unemployment increased because of Labor's anti-business policies. Therefore the government's revenue goes down, so it has to increase taxes. This is a disinsentive to business, and causes businesses to employ even fewer people. It results in recession. So the government has to borrow, and pay interest on its borrowings. It keeps spiralling downwards until the public get tired of it and vote to put the Liberals back in government.

Socialism doesn't help the poor.

Capitalism lifts the poor.

If you have to outlaw any abuse of freedom that might occur, then outlaw the specific abuse - but by not interfering with the overall freedom of property and business, everyone's prosperity in the nation increases together - including that of the poor.


Monday, 11 April 2011

Some of Them Shall Not Taste of Death

This verse is about what will happen when the kingdom comes, and why it matters - it's not about when it will happen.

28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

It says there be some standing here - but it doesn't say when. It also says they - not you - shall not taste of death until they see the Son of man coming.

Now let's turn to Mark's account:

MARK 9:1
1 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

Here it's narrowed-down even more. There be some of them - not just some, but some of them - not some of you. And again it says, they - not you - shall not have tasted of death till they have seen the kingdom of God come.

So, Jesus was not necessarily speaking about some of those to whom He was speaking at the time. He was speaking about some other people - them - who shall not taste of death. "Them" refers to a group of people different to the group to whom He was then speaking. He doesn't specify who the group is. Therefore, it could be a distant generation. The text doesn't disallow this meaning. Therefore, it's not a proof-text for preterism. It leaves the timeframe open.

When you think about the context, and the point Jesus had been making, it doesn't fit that Jesus would need to make a statement about timing. Therefore, this verse is not so much about when, as it is about what and why.

It's not about when the kingdom will come - it's about what its coming will be like - and why that should motivate us to take up our cross today.

Acts 4:27-28 and Predetermination

Acts 4:27-28
27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together,
28 For to do whatsoever THY HAND and THY COUNSEL DETERMINED BEFORE to be done.

I think the mood of it is that Peter was declaring that the things Herod and Pilate did against Jesus - which they did with their own motives - actions for which they themselves shall be held fully responsible - were the things which the Prophets had already said would happen.

They were the things which God was pleased to allow - things which He was pleased to subject the Messiah to, rather than deliver Him from from them - because those were the very sufferings which were necessary for the procurement of our eternal salvation.

It means God predermined not to intervene and stop those things from being done to His Son, by those people.

It means Scripture had been fulfilled.

It meant God had a reason for commanding His Son to subject Himself to their cruelty.

Man meant it for harm, but God achieved good out of it.

The wording of the text allows this meaning. And the rest of Scripture supports it.

Someone may object: "In the Greek, it says that he DETERMINED these things to happen."

Yes, He did. He determined it should happen, by commanding His Son to subject Himself to it. By not intervening to stop it. By hiding as it were His face from Him. By declaring it ahead of time, by the Scriptures of the Prophets.

But He's not the author of sin. He tempteth no man with evil. God even gave Pilate's wife bad dreams, prompting her to warn Pilate not to do any harm to Jesus. Why would God do that if He was actually spurring Pilate on to do what he was going to do? That's contradictory.

Someone may respond: "There are lots of contradictions in Scripture......unless you believe in antinomy."

I don't believe in antimony. I believe Scripture explains Scripture.

But even without comparing other Scripture, the wording of the text in this passage in Acts 4, as a stand alone verse, is able to convey the meaning I explained above. It's only contradictory to the rest of Scripture if you take it differently to how I've explained it. And the grammar of the wording itself allows the explanation that I've given.

The way I've explained it fits gramatically, ethically, morally, historically and it fits with the rest of Scripture. But to take it another way immediately brings one into conflict.

It's not rocket science.

It might not have been easy for me to see, once, either. So I'm sympathetic about that. It sometimes takes years for the penny to drop, but when it does, a Bible verse shines so clearly and with it a multitude of other Scriptures verses finally become clear too.

I may see it differently in several years from now. But as for now I personally feel really satisfied and thrilled with the grasp I seem to have of it - satisfied gramatically, intellectually, ethically and Scripturally, about it.

The best key I think I can give to help a person grasp the way I understand predestination is this:

I think the concepts of predestination & election, as taught in the New Testament, were given as a response to a specific objection that was... huge in the first century: namely, that the message of salvation by faith was never something God had previously planned.

Wherever you see the words election, predestined, etc in the NT, it was used in order to simply say that the Gospel actually really was something God had planned in advance.

It wasn't used to answer the Calvinist/Armenius dilemma. That question was not an issue in the first century, and it wasn't something Paul ever addressed.

The big concern in the first century was to answer the question: was all this really part of God's own plans? Did the Messiah really have to come meek, and die? Were Jews really going to largely miss out? Can Gentiles really be saved through faith without the works of the law? Did God really envisage the Church?

Yes He did. God always planned, elected, predestined, purposes, promised to save Gentiles through faith.

If you don't identify what the question was, you won't understand what the answer was meant to mean!

Romans 9-11 answered that issue - now read it again and see how it answers that question, instead of trying to see how it answers Calvin's and Armenius' unrelated question centuries later. It will start to fall into place.

Back to Acts 4, here is an illustration:

I have determined that tomorrow morning, I shall place some break-flakes in our fish tank. The hungry fish shall gather around the bread-pieces, tear them to bits, and consume them.

I determined what should happen to the bread. But I didn't make the fish do it. It's just what fish do! All I had to do was put the bread in the fish tank, and it happened.

If I wanted to, I could withold the bread from putting it into the fish tank. But I chose to, knowing full well what would happen if I did, because I had a purpose in it.

In the same way, God pre-determined to send Jesus, and place Him at the hands of the Jewish and Roman rulers, to do what they did - but that doesn't mean God made them do it. It was their nature. Just like it was the fishes' nature to swarm around the bread and tear it to bits.

That's the sense of the word "determined" in Acts 4.

This was all allowed to come to pass, in accordance with God's "counsel" - that is, He had a plan in allowing Jesus to be subjected to such treatment.

And thank God, that plan has saved us all, who believe!

Predestination in Context

Instead of approaching Rom.9-11 seeking to understand how it answers the Calvin v. Armenius question, approach Rom.9-11 seeking to understand how it answers the specific first-century objection which Paul was addressing.

"Was God's decision to save through faith really part of His pre-plan?"

"Isn't it unjust of God to reject ethnic Israelites and choose to save believers instead?"

"Doesn't that mean God's promises to Israel have somehow failed?"

Those were the questions.

Now re-read Romans 9-11 and see how it answers it.

It will come clear!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Can Christ Return Today?

Many who think that Christ cannot come until certain things happen first, also seem to have the belief that His coming is just around the corner. Yet, some of the things they think must happen first can't happen in a day.

Like, the preaching of the Gospel to all nations; like the Church becoming spotless; the world accepting a whole new system; a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem - all of that's gotta take quite some time. And yet, at the same time, they have the belief that He could come suddenly - like, in a night or two.

Others believe many end-times prophecies may in fact have already been fulfilled, and therefore they believe that Christ can return literally today if the Father wills.

Which is it?

The Solution to the Abuses of Capitalism

Capitalism (the free matket) can be abused - but that doesn't mean the free-market system should be abandoned: it just means the abuses should be outlawed.

Don't disallow freedom - disallow the abuse.

We saw an example of this in Australia yesterday. A Singapore company was planning to buy an Australian company - but the Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan decided it was not in Australia's best interests, and blocked the purchase.

Another example is foreigners desiring to buy houses in Australia. Application for all residential purchases must first be made to the Foreign Investment Review Board, which answers to Treasury. There was once a time when the Government stipulated that foreigners could purchase only brand-new houses. This prevented foreign takeovers and spurred new construction.

Prime Minister Thatcher of the UK rarely intervened in the free market, but she did once - when the Kuwaiti Sovereign Fund wanted to buy BHP. She felt it wasn't in the UK's best interests for BHP to be owned by the Kuwaiti government.

Notice that such rules don't abandon the free market system entirely; such rules don't mean government controls business or controls the distribution of wealth - it simply prevents an abuse.

There is a precedent in Biblical Law for this concept. Moses' system was always entirely a free market (capitalist) system, however it was forbidden to sell rural tribal land to a buyer who didn't belong to the tribe: only inner-city land could be sold to outside buyers.

Moses also commanded that ancient landmarks should not be removed. That meant the heirs to traditional lands were protected from outside exploitation.

Abuses were prevented under Moses' law - but the system itself remained capitalist (free). There is no basis for communism in Moses' Law - but there were one or two examples in Moses' Law preventing the abuse of freedom (of capitalism).

Any intervention by the law in the free market should be careful to target only the specific abuse, and not to rob wider society of its freedom.

In a country like the Philippines, the solution to any perceived abuses of capitalism is not to impose communism (to rob freedom) on the entire nation - but to outlaw the specific abuse.

The answer is not for government to control businesses and control the distribution of wealth - the answer is just to target the specific abuse and outlaw it.

The Philippines already has some laws in place for this purpose. For example, I think foreigners can own only a 49% stake in a Filipino company; and I think there are restrictions on the value of Real Estate which foreign spouses of Filipinas can own.

When you think about it: our salvation is on the same principle. Christ has made us free, but we are not to use our freedom to indulge the flesh - rather, we are to by love serve one another. Our freedom in Christ can be abused, but God didn't respond to that by withdrawing our freedom - instead, He instructed us how to walk as Christ walked.

In the same way, the solution to the abuse of capitalism (freedom) is not to withdraw freedom (impose communism) but simply to outlaw the abuse.

But any such interventions in the freemarket ought only to be done very wisely and very rarely.

(Treasurer Wanye Swan's decision yesterday has denied the Australian owners $8 billion in sales. Plus the merger could have given access to $ trillions in investments to our region. It could have provided a lot of new jobs. But the Treasurer blocked it. The Treasurer's decision was never debated in Parliament and he has not explained all his reasons to the Australian public. Many Australians are disappointed with the Treasurer's decision, for obvious reasons. Others feel he hay have protected their best interests. If such interferences in the free market are not made only rarely and wisely, the interference itself can become an abuse.)

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Who is/was the Restrainer? Man of Lawlessness?

Who do you think the restrainer was/is?

One end-times speaker once said that when Yasser Araffat would be taken away, we would see the works of the Antichrist.

The Bible said the restrainer is hindering the man of lawlessness from being revealed. The Bible called the restrainer a "he" (not "they" or "it" - but "he"), and the Bible said he was already restraining the man of lawlessness from being revealed.

So he (the restrainer) can't really be someone alive today - nor somebody still to come in the future - because that would make the guy about 2000+ years old!

The restrainer would have been taken away by his own natural death, if not sooner. And seeing Paul said that the man of lawlesness would be revealed once the restrainer would be taken away, doesn't it follow that the man of lawlessness must have been revealed in the first century or thereabouts?

Some prophecy 'experts' ignore that Paul said the restrainer was already restraining, and claim he is a future figure.

But if he's a future figure, then up until now there's been no restrainer. Why then wasn't the man of lawlessness already revealed?

Plus, the man of lawlessness is said to sit in the Temple of God - but the Temple existed only up until AD70. Even if Israel constructs a replica 'temple' in the future, it couldn't be called the Temple of God - because under the New Covenant, God isn't into commissioning the construction of temples anymore.

So if the Temple of God, and the man of lawlessness, and the restrainer were likely first century realities - what Scriptural relevance did Yasser Araffat - or 21st century gas prices, or such thing - have, as far as end-times prophecy goes?

Unless there is another way to interpret the relevant passage of Scripture.

To Tithe or Not To Tithe

I think tithing was the vehicle that God gave Israel to express certain ethics. The vehicle won't be exactly the same today - especially seeing the Temple and Levitical priesthood don't exist anymore - but the underlying ethics are timeless. Therefore as believers we do fulfil the same underlying ethics - if we are led of the Spirit and walk in love.

Some of the relevant ethics include: honouring God with your substance; honouring God with the firstfruits; giving proportionately to one's income; honouring those who minister to us; offering some help to the poor; paying to all their dues; paying everyone who serves us in some way; paying our fair share of things; giving in faith that God will provide our needs - and then there is giving that is extravagantly above what is proportionate to our income. It may be that the amount of 10% is also an ethic in and of itself.

Anyway, one day I sat down and thought about all those ethics; then, completely ignoring the amount of 10% for now, I estimated the annual cost of running our local church; and I divided it by the number of adults in our church - to find-out how much each person should contribute on average; then I found out the average wage in Australia, and expressed my income as a percentage of the annual income; then multiplied that figure by the average cost per person of running the church - to find-out what my personal annual contribution to the cost of running the church should be if I pay my fair share.

I found out that the amount came to almost exactly 10% of my income - even though I calculated it not by working-out 10% of my income but purely from the point of view of pulling my share of the weight.

In other words, as New Covenant believers, we fulfil the ethics that were underneath the law of tithing just by acting responsibly and ethically - even without consciously calculating our tithe. But the Law is still good, for the lawless, said Paul.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Intervention, Colonization, Trade and the Gospel

What came first - the chicken or the egg?

How were nations changed and great nations forged - was the Gospel preached first, or did commerce with those nations happen first, or in some cases did intervention and colonzition happen first?

Jesus said to go and preach the Gospel - go and teach all nations - He didn't say go and trade or go intervene and colonize.

But Paul needed a ship to get to some of those islands. Those shipping-routes only existed because of trade. The ship was built originally for commercial purposes.

Preachers of the Gospel couldn't have come to Australia, or the Americas, except on ships. Those ships were commercially owned. And the commercial-routes serviced colonies.

So which comes first - the preaching of the Gospel, or commerce? and in some cases, colonization.

Sometimes, intervention is a moral imperative. If intervention was justified, so is occupation for as long as it is viable to hand self-rule over. Meanwhile, commerce develops - and there's nothing immoral about that, in and of itself. In fact, it's ethical to be productive, and to give others the opportunity for self-improvement through activity. And preachers of the Gospel ride on the backs of that.

The Apostles traveled the world on existing shipping-routes, on ships constructed for commercial purposes - servicing the Roman empire initially.

It's viewed as politically incorrect to talk of 'colonization' these days. But that view is hindering the opportunities to better people's lives, and to preach the Gospel in some places.

Sometimes, it's a moral imperative to intervene, to run the government, and to trade.

But it has to be based on principles of righteousness, equity, justice, mercy, love - out of a heart to serve. And it's not wrong to profit from serving. It must be a win-win situation. For mutual good. To profit withal. The Gospel rides on the back of that.


I don't understand end-times as well as others think they do.

When Can Christ Come?

The statement, " But of that day and hour knoweth no man", can't refer to the timing of the Temple's destruction - because the Roman General knew the day for that. It probably refers to the timing of His coming and of the end of the world - which no-one knows.

Can Christ come at any time? Or are there still some other events which must happen first ( e.g., a rebuilt Temple; the Gospel preached in all the world; a great falling way; and the rise of the Antichrist)?

How about a secret rapture - could it happen at any time? Or are there still some events which must happen first (e.g., the falling away [it can't happen after we're gone]; the Gospel preached in all the world [if it hasn't happened been accomplished while we're still here, it will hardly be accomplished after we're gone]!)?

Or has the falling away already happened? Has the Gospel already been preached in all the world? That would be enough for a secret rapture to happen at any hour.

Or even more than that, has the man of sin already been revealed? Has he already sat as God in the Temple of God? Has the abomination causing desolation already stood in the Holy Place? Has the Temple already been destroyed? Were the Jews already deported all around the world? That would be enough for Christ to come at any hour.

Anything other than post-trib, however, doesn't seem to fit Scripture though.

Conclusion: either many of those things have already happened, or else if they haven't, maybe Christ can't come just yet.    

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Matthew 24

1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.

The same incident is also recorded in Mark 13:1; and Luke 21:5.

2 And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.

24:2 See ye not all these things? Jesus was talking about the Temple which still existed. Some claim He was talking about a future Temple yet to be built, immediately prior to the Second Coming. But that's awkward. Others claim He was talking about both Temples. But there isn't any precedent in the Bible for such a 'double fulfilment' hermeneutic. There shall not he left one stone upon another - This was fulfilled in AD70 when Titus, the Roman general, ordered the very foundations of the Temple to be dug up, and the stones burnt with fire to retrieve all the gold - then the ground on which it stood was ploughed up by Turnus Rufus.

3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?

24:3 As he sat on the mount of Olives - From there they could look out over the Temple. It was the existing Temple that they had in mind, not some future Temple. When shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? - The disciples asked three questions: the timing of the Temple's destruction; the signs of Christ's coming, and of the end of the world. Notice, concerning the destruction of the Temple, they asked its timing - but concerning His coming and the end of the world, they asked not concerning its timing, but concerning its signs. The Lord answers all three questions, but of the timing of the Temple's destruction He gives some indication, but of His return and of the end of the world He gives no indication of their timing but only of their signs. Of that day, no-one knows the day nor the hour. But the imminence of the Temple's destruction could be approximately known. The challenge is to distinguish which parts of the chapter answer which question. Whether or not that's entirely possible, I don't know. Jesus now proceeds to answer those three questions.

4 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.

5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.

24:5 Many shall come in my name - John the Apostle wrote that many antichrists had already gone out into the world, in the first century (I John 2:18). Many impostors did appear in Jerusalem a few years before the destruction of the city; "...undoubtedly because that was the time wherein the Jews in general expected the Messiah" (John Wesley).

6 And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.

24:6 All these things must come to pass - leading-up to the destruction of the Temple - But the end - of the world, is not yet - but the end of the world is still quite far away - these things, leading up to the destruction of the Temple, are merely the beginning of birthpangs.

7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.

8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.

24:8 These things shall happen during the lead-up to the destruction of the Temple, and afterwards until His coming, until the end - but these do not indicate the end of the world: these are merely like the beginning of painful birth contractions. The catastrophes that happened in the lifetime of the early disciples would have been immediate indicators that the timing of Jerusalem's destruction was near, for Jesus had told them that it would happen in their generation. But of His coming, Jesus has told us that no-one knows when it will happen. Therefore the catastrophes that occur in our generations, unlike in the early church's prior to the destruction of the Temple, are no indication that the Lord's return is going to happen in our generation. They merely indicate that contractions have started! They don't indicate how much longer the labour will be.

9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to affliction - the Apostles, but also many of those that believe through their word. The Apostles would be killed, before Jerusalem would be destroyed. Nevertheless, the timing of the Temple's destruction was so near that Jesus told the Apostles they wouldn't even have had a chance to finish preaching throughout all the Judean villages before the event would take place.

10 And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.

24:10 Then shall many he offended - This falling-away was already evident at the time of writing of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Paul said also that all those of Asia had forsaken him.

11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

24:11 The Epistles warn that this was already happening in the first century.

12 And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

24:12 This was already happening by the time John wrote the letters to the seven churches, in the Book of Revelation.

13 But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

These trials seem to happen in most every generation, therefore endurance-to-the-end is a trait required by every generation of believers.
14 And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.

24:14 This Gospel shall he preached in all the world - Paul said that the Gospel had already been preached to every creature under heaven, even in his day. This will continue, right up until the end. Jesus seems to speak fluidly of the destruction of the Jerusalem, and of His coming, and of the end of the world, almost as if they are each part-and-parcel of the same topic, even though the destruction of the Temple came to pass earlier than His coming.

15 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:)

24:15 When ye see the abomination of desolation - Daniel's term is, The abomination that maketh desolate, Dan 11:31. Question: did this come to pass around the time of the Temple's destruction, or does it refer to events still to happen, closer to His coming? It could refer to the pagan banners set-up in the Temple by the invading Roman legions, which bear pictures of their idols: Standing in the holy place - The Holy Place doesn't exist today, because the Temple was destroyed in AD70. Therefore, all of this probably refers to the Temple then existing. Unless, the term "holy place" refers to the mount itself, not to the inner court of the Temple. He that readeth let him understand - Jesus linked Daniel's prophecy with His own. See Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20; Dan 9:27. It might help to look at Daniel's prophecy, to see whether its fulfilment fits better in the first century, or in some future time.

16 Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains:

24:16 Then let them who are in Judea flee to the mountains - "So the Christians did, and were preserved. It is remarkable that after the Romans under Cestus Gallus made their first advances toward Jerusalem, they suddenly withdrew again, in a most unexpected and indeed impolitic manner. This the Christians took as a signal to retire, which they did, some to Pella, and others to Mount Libanus" (John Wesley).

17 Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:

24:17 Let not him that is on the house top come down to take any thing out of his house - The topic here is about the destruction of Jerusalem, not about Christ's coming - because if it was about Christ's coming, why worry about fleeing from the city!

18 Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes.

19 And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days!

24:19 Wo to them that are with child, and to them that give suck - This wouldn't be a problem if Jesus was talking about the Rapture here. But He was talking about the destruction of the Temple and city.

20 But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day:

24:20 Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter - "They did so; and their flight was in the spring. Neither on the Sabbath - Being on many accounts inconvenient; beside that many would have scrupled to travel far on that day. For the Jews thought it unlawful to walk above two thousand paces (two miles) on the Sabbath day" (John Wesley).

21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

24:21 Then shall be great tribulation - Notice, 'great tribulation' is a term that refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Notice also it doesn't say, "The Great Tribulation" but just "great tribulation". If this refers only to a future time in Israel's history, then did Jesus really say nothing of Israel's sufferings in AD70? and ever since? So they must have referred to the events of the Jewish-Roman War AD67-70. But they may refer to the ensuing Jewish history too, because Israel's sufferings certainly didn't end in AD70.

22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.

24:22 And unless those days were shortened - "By the taking of Jerusalem sooner than could be expected:" No flesh would be saved - "The whole nation would be destroyed. But for the elect's sake - That is, for the sake of the Christians" (John Wesley). Israel's sufferings might have been much worse, if left up to the vengeance of the Romans, but it was for the sake of the believers that God cut the days short.

23 Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not.

24:23 See also Mark 13:21; Luke 17:23.

24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

24:24 This danger existed prior to the destruction of the Temple, and still today.

25 Behold, I have told you before.

26 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not.

27 For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

24:27 For as the lightning goeth forth - For the next coming of Christ will he as quick as lightning; so that there will not be time for any such previous warning.

28 For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.

24:28 Don't be deceived - don't expect the Lord's coming to precede the death and destruction of Jerusalem. This Jesus said, to counter the disciples incorrect assumption that Israel could not be destroyed before the Kingdom arrives. Had He not corrected them, then upon seeing the imminent destruction of Jerusalem, they may have mistakenly looked somewhere for the returned Christ. But Christ's return, when it later happens, shall be so open as to be universally unmistakeable. This information was designed to help the disciples make sense of the destruction - rather than the exaltation - of the city of Jerusalem, which was to occur less than a generation later.

29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

24:29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days - Does He mean, the tribulation surrounding the siege and destruction of Jerusalem? If so, then the "sun darkened" and "moon not giving her light" etc would be symbolic prophetic language referring to the demise of the nation. But if it refers to the ongoing tribulations faced by Israel particularly, and also by persecuted Christians, and also by the whole world in divers places, then it could refer more literally to the astronomical bodies. In other words, although He was answering a more specific question about the existing Temple, He was indicating that such catastrophes would describe the entire period from then onwards right up until the time of His coming. Daniel, and Jesus, and we - have no idea of the exact timing. But Jesus did tell parables that indicated time - "a long journey".

30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

24:30 Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven - Daniel saw a vision of this.

31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

24:31 They shall gather together his elect - "That is, all that have endured to the end in the faith which worketh by love" (John Wesley). The book of Revelation mentions trumpets. So does Paul.

32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:

24:32 Learn a parable - "Our Lord having spoke of the signs preceding the two grand events, concerning which the apostles had inquired, begins here to speak of the time of them. And to the question proposed, Mt 24:3, concerning the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, he answers Mt 24:34. Concerning the time of the end of the world, he answers Mt 24:36. Mark 13:28; Luke 21:29" (John Wesley).

33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.

24:33 "It is near" may refer to all three events. Everything Jesus mentioned is all part of what was in the church's future, at the time when Jesus foretold it. All of this was necessary information in order for the Apostles to formulate a proper idea of how they might expect the future to unfold. The budding of the fig-tree does not refer to Israel's rebirth in the 20th century, because the fig-tree is not always used in Scripture as an exclusive symbol of Israel, but also of other nations - and it's always used in the context of a nation being destroyed, not rebirthed. Besides, in Luke's account, it adds, "...and all the treee..." not only the fig tree. So if it really is used here as a symbol of Israel's rebirth, then all the nations (all the trees) must experience a rebirth too. "All these things" therefore refers to all the things Jesus had just finished describing.

34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

24:34 A great part of that generation hd indeed passed away, but not all of it, before the city and temple were destroyed 39 or 40 years later. But I'm not sure whether this refers to the generation that saw the destruction of the Temple, or whether it has a wider, more distant meaning.

35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

The Apostles weren't expecting such calamity to be in Israel's future! But Jesus reassurred them.

36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

24:36 But of that day - This might qualify what was meant when He said earlier that this generation would not pass away until all these things were fulfilled - because here, He now refers to a distinct day - "that" day. Of the timing of the Temple's destruction, He was able to say, "This generation shall not pass away" - but of "that" day - the day of His coming and of the end of the world - He could only say, No man knoweth. Or, is He referring still to the destruction of the Temple, and saying that having told of the signs, He cannot now tell of the timing?
37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

See 24:37 and Luke 17:26.

38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,

39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.

40 Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

24:40 One is taken - up into the air, in the rapture? or taken by death, in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70?

41 Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.

24:41 Whether He speaks here of events surrounding the destruction of Jerusalem, or of events to occur on the day of Judgment; whether He speaks of being taken by death, or taken up as in the rapture, the main point is - we don't know when it's going to happen, therefore we should be ready at all times.

42 Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up.

44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.

45 Who then is a faithful and wise servant, whom his lord hath made ruler over his household, to give them meat in due season?

46 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing.

47 Verily I say unto you, That he shall make him ruler over all his goods.

48 But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming;

49 And shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken;

50 The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of,

51 And shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.