Saturday, December 30, 2017

Is the Great White Throne only a death sentence?

My father recently went to the hospital for brain surgery; fortunately, it was successful, and he will regain, in time, motor skills that the tumor had taken from him. We went to visit him after the surgery while he was still in intensive care. Though groggy from the anesthesia and morphine they were giving him for pain, and still he had the awareness to fire off a statement/question at me about the end of time, specifically, the Great White Throne. He said something that is a common belief among those at the Monday morning Bible Study. He opened with, "I know you don't agree with me, but, I believe that everyone who presents themselves before that throne is non-Christians and that they are all sent to the fires of hell." Considering what he had just come through, it was good to have him back.
I, however, after reading my Bible, have concluded, that my understanding is in complete opposition to theirs. And, I believe I can prove my point through some logical reasoning amidst scriptural backing. With that being said, let's tackle this false notion about the Great White Throne judgment from several directions.

First, he used the term belief.
So, what is a belief? Webster's dictionary conveys a generalized explanation of belief that has more to do with a feeling; however, it also has more concise definitions, which I will address shortly.

Feelings do not buy you anything, and our relationship with Christ and the Father, are through faith alone.

Feelings are solely yours, and, though your beliefs may be based on truth, they are most often anchored upon how someone made you feel. In this case, the Bible study leader either, made the men feel good about sending everyone to hell, or, because he raises his voice unnecessarily and slams his hand down on the table he intimidated the men into thinking he was correct in his assumptions, or, they have become inculcated simply because of the repetition of his false teachings.
What I just described is precisely what false teachers do, and you can find this defined for you in 2 Peter chapter 2.

Continuing with Webster's definitions. A belief is:
  1. A state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing.
    There it is, the basis for the belief of many. Since many Church members won't open their Bibles and read them for themselves, they are compelled to accept, as truth, anything the Pastor, or, in this case, Bible study leader, tells them. In doing so, they have placed their belief in a person, trusting that the teacher has their information correct, and their best interests at heart.
  2. Something believed; especially: a tenet or body of tenets held by a group.
    Sadly, most of the men at morning Bible Study, agree, (almost with a stupor,) with the convictions of the leader and the former elder, who is allegedly keeping false teachings restrained. Since the old elder rarely ever disagrees with what is being said, then he too must believe this garbage. So, what do I gather from this? That the group, in the majority, hold to false beliefs and refuse to accept the truth from the Word, when it is set out before them.
  3. Conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence.
    To have a conviction of the truth of some declaration does not work for me, especially in our morning Bible study. The leader can speak with confidence, and yet because he does not apply the notion of context nor allow for similar passages to help define questionable matter, he rarely has a shred of evidence to back his statements. The men sitting there may feel some sort of conviction of the truth (typically some misplaced sense of justice.) But again, he has no evidence for his brash statements.
I won't burden you with any more examples, but suffice it to say that most of these men fall under all these categories in some way. Sadly, this is the way far too many people acquire their belief systems. Once it became possible for me to attend on a regular basis, I did, and it is because of that involvement, that I can speak from first-hand experience about what is said there.

The leader(s) declare that everyone going before the Great White Throne is sent to hell. Note that I wrote leader(s) and not the leader. That is because one man, (the former church elder,) has been involved with the church in a teaching role, for over 50 years, and never challenges false teachings.

What is their basis for thinking that God would send all before the Great White Throne, to hell?
I can tell you from experience that this comes uniquely from Revelation chapter 20. So, what do we see in this chapter?
Revelation 20:11-15 NASB 11 Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

Verse 11 refers to “Him who sat upon it” (“it,”is the Great White Throne.)
So, who is the Him being referred to? Since we have conclusive evidence, let's look at that.

Revelation 1:1 tells us that the entire book of Revelation is The Revelation of Jesus Christ,

The whole book of Revelation is about Jesus, even if we perceive Him to be God, for that is who He is. So, the person sitting on the throne, doing the judging, is Jesus Christ.

In Revelation 20:12 we are told that John saw, “the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne.” As a student of scripture, you have seen the dead popping up at every turn. It becomes necessary to sort this all out, and we will attempt to do that.

Revelation 20:4-5 NASB Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.

All this takes us to the next point.
While God's wrath will be more than enough to get people's attention, there will be a secondary reason for the deaths of people on the earth, and that would be the wrath of Satan, as displayed through those who still choose to serve him. Currently, Islam and your neighborhood bully sufficiently fit those descriptions. Revelation 20:4 portrays an innumerable amount of people, who stand their ground, refuse all three aspects of worshiping the beast, and are beheaded because of their refusal. All these components feed into the dead.

But there is one catch. All those beheaded for their testimony, are deemed to be the martyred, saints and are raised to life again upon the return of Jesus to the earth, this is spelled out for us and called the first resurrection. These martyred saints are not reckoned among the numbers brought before the Great White Throne but sit in judgment over the planet during the thousand-year reign.

So, who then is left to be judged when the Great White Throne gets set up?
There is no good way of approaching this without scripture, so here goes. There has already been a game-changing event, and it happened when Jesus voluntarily put himself on that cross and died as the price necessary for the redemption of the entire world. Paul, in Ephesians 4, gives us a small glimpse into what happened during those three days we "thought" Jesus was dead.

Ephesians 4:8 KJV Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.

What does Paul mean when he says, “When he ascended up on high.”? He is talking about Jesus dying. Hung on the cross until dead, and then speared by a Roman soldier to make sure, he was declared dead and put in the grave. Then the amazing happened, for He went into hell, stripped the keys to death, hell and the grave from Satan, set the captives free, and apparently took them into heaven with Him when He rose from the dead.

Captives? I can look at this two ways:
First, no one, including Israel, received Jesus as their savior, as we can. Israel only had the option of making sacrifices for their sins. Lacking this personal relationship, is it possible that these old testament saints may have been included among captives? Most religious zealots would consider this idea preposterous, so let's ignore that feasibility for a moment, and assume that God somehow included the Old Testament saints among the church, and caught them up in the rapture.

If the possibility of catching the Old Testament saints up in the rapture is valid, then they would not have been included among those captives that Christ set free. The captives then were those that died from the beginning of time, as we know it. But then this logic also creates problems, for Christ, as we saw in Ephesians 4:8, preached to the captives. If the old testament saints, and anyone else there were capable of hearing His voice, you would think that they would have accepted Him as the Messiah, and therefore received Him. So, by this logic, they too would no longer be included among the dead, but be in heaven already.

As you ponder the logic of a situation, what do you do with the person who, when confronted by the slain Messiah, God himself who now lives, and yet still chooses to ignore His voice, perhaps thinking that there will be another opportunity? This is unimaginable, and yet a possibility. And, what of Judas Iscariot, a man who most send off to a fiery hell for his betrayal. Wouldn't he too have heard the voice of the Messiah?

This only leaves us with the second option, and that is the dead who have died out of a relationship with the Father since His resurrection. Since we have had over two-thousand years to supply that number, it could be quite significant.

So, an aspect of this belief that everyone called to the throne of judgment is sent to a fiery hell lies in the terminology “dead.”

In 1Thessalonians 4:13, Paul, in trying to bring some comfort about the dead and our being caught up to heaven, explains by calling those that have died, asleep.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 NASB 13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.

Just to make sure that you associate asleep with death Paul uses the Greek word nekros for dead instead of koimáō meaning asleep. It is just a few sentences later, in verse 16, that he conveys that those are the "asleep in Christ" he just spoke of, are simply dead. Dead or asleep, it is all the same, and at the catching away of the Church, those "dead" will rise first.

1 Thessalonians 4:16 NASB 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

Revelation 20:5 Tells us,
The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed.

The word dead, used here in Revelation 20:5 is nekros. The Prophet Daniel conveys an alternate view,
Daniel 12:1-2 NASB "Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued. 2 "Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.

Sleep, as used in verse 2, is the Hebrew word yāšēn: An adjective designating someone as sleeping. It refers to persons in a sleeping state or condition of seemingly sleeping, being inactive. When I apply this understanding to Daniel 12:2, where many are sleeping in the dust of the ground, then it lends itself to the idea of involuntary inactivity.

In a state of inactivity, the dead, we are told, have no thought.
Ecclesiastes 9:5 CJB For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing;...
Psalms 6:5 NASB For there is no mention of You in death;...

Whether they be dead from the origin of time, or merely those since Christ's ascension into heaven, does it really matter? Many will not go up in the rapture as those who have died in Christ. Therefore, our immediate assumption would be that they will only go to hell. Others will come later, in the form of those who choose to fight against God at the end of the seven-year period. While more will die during the thousand-year reign, there is the uncountable number of deceived, who attempt to kill Christ in the last battle at the end of the thousand-year reign. 
Once again, the assumption is that they all go straight to hell, as those who have died without Christ. 
But then you now have another problem as Matthew 25 verses 31-46 describe an entirely different scenario; one in which, Christ, seems like a gracious shepherd who still cares about the flock, and judges the crowd gathered here (the nations,) and shows many of them mercy.  
While we don't have the process explained to us, He is showing mercy because of their small acts of kindness. In a sense, those He calls sheep have acted as Jesus would have, and in so doing, displayed the nature and character of the Father, God. A benefit, we the religious community apparently cannot give them, because they did not jump through all the religious hoops that most of us have. In acting this way, we have set ourselves up as harsh judges, in opposition to the Father's wishes and character, which we are supposed to display.
A contrast and comparison between the Great White Throne of Revelation 20 (the judgment of the dead,) and the Final Judgment of Matthew 25, (the Judgment of the Nations.)
Revelation 20 - The Great White Throne – The gathering of the dead.
Matthew 25 - The Glorious Throne – The judgment of the nations.
Great White Throne - Great is the Greek word mega meaning large, or physical magnitude. White means white, and Throne is the Greek word thrónos; A seat, usually high and having a footstool, a throne as the emblem of royal authority.
Glorious Throne – Greek, the word is doxa; glory (as very apparent), in a wide application (literally or figuratively, objectively or subjectively): - dignity, glory (-ious), honour, praise, worship.
Revelation 20:12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne.
Since we have learned that the dead are merely asleep and know nothing, that does not exclude them from the nations. The nations are merely those outside of a relationship with God. John, in Revelation 20, unlike the strictly Jewish crowd that Jesus was speaking to, John was writing to Jewish believers. We now have a third people group to consider, the church. Anyone out of the original two groups who accepts Christ into their life moves into the group called the Church. Setting aside such prejudices continued to be difficult for the early church, which for many years was a Jewish one.
Matthew 25:32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him
The understanding we apply to Matthew 25 comes from the idea that Jesus was speaking to a strictly Jewish audience. His audience only concerned itself with two people groups, the Jews, and the nations, for at this time there was no church. Since the Jew deemed those among the nations to be idolaters, those from the nations were utterly lost as far they were concerned. The Law and the prophets considered the dead as knowing nothing, while the righteous were understood to have a reward. So, for Jesus to describe the nations before this throne was a given. And the Jews saw no difference between a live gentile and a dead one.
In Revelation 20, although it appears to be God, it is Jesus. Revelation 1:1 tells us that the entire book is a revealing of Jesus. Therefore it is Jesus on that throne.
In Matthew 25 the judge is presented a gentle shepherd. In John 10:11 Jesus said, I am the good shepherd. Do we believe that? Many do not, and anxiously look for an ominous, wrath-filled God, which they seem to find in Revelation 20, as they choose to ignore that this is Jesus alone.
In Revelation 20 we see books opened. Among those books is the book of life. From all these books the dead were judged.
In Matthew 25 there is no mention of books from which to judge. There is, however, this: Matthew 25:32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. What does he use as the basis for separation? I think it is rather apparent even if the passages do not speak of them. These are not indistinguishable cattle, they are people; people of every race and color. In reality, no real distinction, and yet He, finds a difference and separates them, calling some sheep and the others goats.
People from this group were judged according to their deeds, nothing more.
People from this group were judged according to their deeds, nothing more.
Revelation 20 focuses on those not found in the books
Matthew 25 focuses primarily on those who were found in the books. We know this because their deeds were recorded.
In Revelation 20, those not found in the books were sent to a fiery hell. While it makes no mention of anyone that might have been found in the books. Does that lack of mention exclude some from not being found in the books, like we see in Matthew's account? No, and it points out the preposterous attitude we convey when we speak of a God that opens such “useless” books, if He, the one who knows the beginning from the end, knows full well whose names are written and where. It merely promotes the idea of a mockery on God's part, and that is not an aspect of His nature.
In Matthew 25, the sheep were given entrance into the kingdom of heaven because of their acts of kindness (works.) While the goats were sent off to eternal punishment.
Something to consider: Both of these groups were judged according to their deeds (we could probably use the words, works, or acts of kindness, instead of deeds.) And, there is entirely NO mention of judgment for sins. Why would that be? Because all sins were forgiven on the cross; and, as much as we might say it from a pulpit, we do not believe it. I know this because we employ the word sin perpetually in religious gatherings, and the terminology is always used as a motive and method of control. Not even God needed to do that. Whether you believe that these two events are the same matters not to me, but what does matter is our flagrant regurgitation of distorted and false teachings that misrepresent the nature and character of God. This is the garbage drives people away from the one thing our hope is based in, the God of grace and mercy. If we are going to make nervy statements, then keep them based in truth. And by the way, the only basis we have for truth is the Word of God, not what you feel or believe simply because your companions believe someone's garbage.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

An extremely ludicrous example. Gal 2:19-21

Although I might have used other translations as I wrote about Paul's transition out of legalism into the grace of God we find in Christ; the CJB seems to convey what I perceive Paul is saying, the best.
Galatians 2:18-19 CJB Indeed, if I build up again the legalistic bondage which I destroyed, I really do make myself a transgressor. 19 For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself that I died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation, so that I might live in direct relationship with God.
Operating as Saul the Pharisee, he enforced the legalistic bondage. Although the transition to freedom in Christ began while he was stilled called Saul, his references to the time in which he started destroying the legalistic bondage, started about three years after his conversion to being a follower of the Way, on the road to Damascus.
The idea that he could or would make himself a transgressor by teaching legalism once again is an intentionally ludicrous example; one which would never happen.
Previously I wrote about Paul's statement, “For it was through letting the Torah (Mosaic law) speak for itself that I died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation.” While this may sound appropriate to me, it might not seem right to you, because it is foreign to your ear. The NASB translates the same sentence like this.
Galatians 2:19 NASB "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.
Allow me to point out the obvious. There is a huge and drastic difference between the two translations. I am assuming that, as a student of the Bible, you would, of course, want to dig enough to find out what the original Greek is, for the phrase “legalistic misinterpretation.” Here is where our problem lies; there is no direct wording for the phrase “legalistic misinterpretation.”
If I show you the NASB with the Strong's numbers, perhaps you will understand better.
Galatians 2:19 NASB+ "For throughG1223 N1the LawG3551 I R1diedG599 to N1the LawG3551, soG2443 that I might liveG2198 to GodG2316.
  • For through” - The word "for" is presumed, however, it makes grammatical sense; but, it is not included in the Greek. The word through, on-the-other-hand, is a straightforward word in the Greek meaning "through, on account of, or because of."
  • the Law” - Strong's gives us this: nomos; from nemō (to parcel out); that which is assigned, hence usage, law.
    So, what was assigned to Israel? You have to think back to Moses receiving the law (the ten commandments) on Mount Moriah. When you read through Exodus and Leviticus, you find it was not just ten simple commandments, but somewhat detailed laws about cleanliness and sacrifices for sins.
    Why would God need these people to hold fast to rules? Because they had been, with few exceptions, entirely assimilated into Egypt's idolatrous ways and culture. Proof of this shows up when Moses descends from the mountain with the tablets, and Joshua says to him, it sounds like war. Have you ever thought to yourself, what does a battle sound like? It sounds like screaming, horn blowing, crying, and perhaps, dancing; all of these things may well be what they were doing. In the New Testament, it was Stephen, that gives us, and the Jewish council before him, a history lesson as he describes the idolatrous images they had made.
    Sadly, one of those "images" was Moloch, half man – half bull, that was hollow so that fire could be placed inside of it. With the upright hands of a man, babies were roasted on it to some Egyptian god. And, Aaron, the brother of Moses, made this ghastly thing for the children of Israel.
  • I died” apothnēskō to die off (literally or figuratively): The NASB with Strong's numbers, has an added dimension, as it references three scriptures indicated by R1. (I R1diedG599)
    Saul, on the road to Damascus, died that day. How is that possible? Having read the story myself, I know that he became blind and had to have someone lead him to the home of Ananias. Ananias prayed with Saul; baptized him; taught him a little, and introduced him to other followers of Christ.
    Nowhere in this process did Saul quit breathing. So, the act of dying has to take on another role in our life, one which we cannot immediately see.
    Romans 6:2 NASB May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
    I am not clear how this applies to the theme, however, there the concept of dying to sin, something which we, as believers, have done.
    Ponder this. The statement conveys that in Christ, we have died to sin. And yet, we are highly capable of rolling around in this “sin.” How does that work?
    Romans 7:4 NASB Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.
    1 Corinthians 9:20 NASB 20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law;
    Consider what verse 20 is saying. To the Jews, I became as a Jew. Since Paul was born to Jews – Pharisees, his becoming a Jew was not a question. I would imagine it was more of demand and an aspect of his heritage. However, he is telling us that he enacted these roles with one purpose, to win those who are under the Law. That goal, it seems, was to win those under the Law. Time for some questions:
    - Wasn't Saul initially under the Law?
    - Who won him over, freeing him from that Law, and how did that happen?
    - Seeing as Paul verbally accosted Peter for his hypocrisy, why does it seem that Paul is now doing the same?
    - Considering how dramatic God was with Saul on the road to Damascus, what would it take to win over the Jew, one under the Law?
  • the Law” - Here it is again, and nothing has changed. Strong's gives us this: nomos; from nemō (to parcel out); that which is assigned, hence usage, law.
  • so that I might live to God.”
    so” is merely a conjunction.
    that I might live,” Live is the Greek word, zao meaning to spend one's existence. The additional words are merely presumed.
    to God.” God - Theós; Originally used by the heathen, but in the NT as the name of the true God. The heathen thought the gods were makers and disposers (thetḗres, placers) of all things. [Word Study Dictionary]
    Strong's concordance merely tells us that theos means of uncertain affinity; simply, a diety.
I like to plug in the other possible words and see what it looks like, so here goes.
Galatians 2:19 in its original condition - “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.”
And here it is rewritten - On account of that which is assigned, the Law. I have had to die off, in a sense, to the law - that thing which I used and it used me. This dying off all happened so that I might spend my existence living a life before the maker of the universe instead of living because of rules.
Eugene Peterson's message conveys the same verse in this manner,
Galatians 2:19 MSG What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn't work. So I quit being a "law man" so that I could be God's man.
Moving on slowly, let's look at verse 20.
Galatians 2:20 NASB "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
In contrast, the Message states,
Galatians 2:20 MSG Christ's life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
How simple Eugene Peterson's version makes this whole idea of being crucified with Christ seem, and it is; what makes life in Christ difficult is that the enemy is continually attacking through the primary point of entry, your thoughts.
If you, like Paul, chose to step away from religious legalism, then you can anticipate family attacking you. In some communities, you are disowned or treated as dead. What if your choice to follow the grace and life found in Christ, causes you to suffer verbal abuse at work and you lose your job or social position in life over your commitment?
Peterson's version emphasizes, “My ego is no longer central.” Is that because somehow, in this process of becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, you understood that you were now placing your life in the hands of God, and taking on a new identity, His identity? With our standard pleas for salvation, most of which include an escape plan from hell's flames, there is little talk of this crucifixion of self, and the taking on of a new identity. I do not think most of us understand this process at all. If you can't accept that statement, go to a recovery group and listen, as people will verbalize their struggle to figure out who they are. Most still identify with that aspect of their person, that lived on the streets; or, they had a high paying job and could afford a constant stream of drugs and alcohol. Their minds, which have yet to be changed, still think there is nothing more than the quietly tortured life they led.
Don't think for a second that Paul did not understand this concept, for most Pharisees were married. Ask yourself, do you see much in the way of details about Paul's life, before the Damascus event? Not unless he tells us. It is possible that the impact Jesus had on him, and the trauma associated with Paul's expulsion from the Jewish, Law bound, religious council, may have played a role in Paul's rarely speaking of his past? Maybe. Lacking definitive documentation we have to go on presumption and what others have written about the Jewish social life.
Presumption itself is not that bad, especially when it makes sense and somehow associates itself tightly with God's design and plans. In our case, His plan of action was to redeem the world, and He prearranged to do it through His own Son, Jesus. Well, that happened, and the only demand placed upon us was to accept His mercy and grace, by recognizing that Jesus, the Son, is the Messiah. The Jewish community calls Jesus the Gentile Jesus, and will have nothing to do with him; however, the day will come when the blinding veil will be lifted, and Jew and Gentile will be able to see. The problem with that is that it happens immediately after the catching away of the Church, during the seven-year period that far too many like to call the Tribulation period. This period I speak of is the time of God's wrath being poured out on the earth, the Jews, and the nations (Gentiles.)
In church, I find a multitude of opinions, false teaching, and an exhausting lack of grace and mercy. The general theme of the messages has more to do with works than anything else. These "works," it seems, are done to maintain your standing in God's grace, or, they are some presumed requirement that proves you are a follower of Christ. Is this what Paul was trying to get across to us? Hardly. Eugene Peterson explains it like this:
It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.”
Why would Paul have this kind of determined purpose and freedom? Because he knew without a doubt that Christ lived in him.
What was the consistent pattern that we see, as Paul came into villages and looked for their synagogue? Almost immediately he began to inform them, from the Law, about, not only the Messiah who lives, but the grace found in Him.
Let's finish chapter two by continuing with the Message version.
Galatians 2:21 MSG I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God's grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.
Paul says, “I am not going to go back on that.” People make statements like this right after making some definitive assertion about what they believe, or, what they will do, primarily with their life. If you look at verse 20 and compare translations, the life statements are there. A change had come, and it has allowed me to bring change to others; what did that, was the obtaining of Christ's life inside himself and taking on that identity; it is this knowledge that seems to motivate Paul's statement, “I am not going to go back on that.”
I am going, to be honest with you. I have moments when I find myself asking, is this heaven thing is for real, because if it is not, and I am merely trying to find some way through this land of the walking dead, then I won't play by the restraints of decency (scripture calls these restraints of decency, the perfect law of liberty, and it includes loving people.) I think Paul may well have had these moments; but then, there was that vision, or let's just call it an event, Paul had on the road to Damascus, the one where he saw Jesus. That extraordinary vision changed him and how he looked at the things he had learned from the Law, and about God.
The voice in my head that confronts the decency in me (perhaps that is an inferior way of saying that there is someone out there, called Satan,) incessantly tries to persuade me that I am wasting my time and that none of this is real. It also says, “beside that, there is no hope of an eternal life with the Father, and you will merely become worm fodder when you die.” In moments like this, I cherish the words found in a worship song we used to sing a couple of years ago, which says, I remind myself of all that He's done, and the life I live, I live in the Son.
I mentioned this song and how it had integrated its way into my life, to someone close to me. Surprisingly, they became adversarial and asked why I would feel that way since I have Jesus in my life. If I, for whatever reason, am being attacked with doubts, does that mean I do not have a firm grasp on what God has done for me and why? Not at all, but ignoring that we have an enemy certainly does not make your life better; it just makes you ignorant. Jesus told us that in this life we would have tribulations. If those trials come in the form of haranguing doubts, they still have to be dealt with, and not through the Law.
As Eugene Peterson's Message put it, “If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.” This entire second chapter of Galatians has been an effort on Paul's part to demonstrate this concept. The Law, we are told, never brought anyone to Christ. However, mercy and grace have.
If you have ever read about the dreams and visions that many Muslims are having, you never hear them say, Jesus came and condemned me; Jesus, merely told me to follow him, and why. Since many of you live in areas where a flood of Islamic refugees has entered, then you know how violent many of them have been. The legalistic, judgmental side of our nature, demands justice and punishment. Sadly, many of us, expect God to be the same way (this is why many religious zealots will falsely tell you that everyone brought to the Great White Throne is sent to hell.) These zealots want judgment. The problem is that God has forgiven all sin, and will judge no one at that throne based on sin (something we all do, every day.) But, he will judge them according to what they did with His Son, Jesus. And that is why Paul's final comments are important and vital to this life we lead as followers of Christ.
The life you see me living is not "mine," but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
It is all through faith in the Son; nothing else.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It's not because we followed the law. Galatians 2:16-19

Yes, I am aware, I already covered 2 Galatians 2:16, but there is always that one last thing, and I am trying to keep the posts relatively short. Read this verse from one of the standards like the NIV, and you get a very impersonal feel. I feel as though I have to read it several times to understand the meaning.
Galatians 2:16 NIV know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.
So I opted to try the Easy to Read Version and found that it makes the point without all the religious doublespeak.
So we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, because we wanted to be made right with God. And we are right with him because we trusted in Christ—not because we followed the law. I can say this because no one can be made right with God by following the law.”
Why would anyone want to put their faith in another?
Perhaps out of necessity; possibly their words were convincing; or maybe, they were charismatic and dressed nice. Short of some miraculous vision, one in which you see Jesus (It happens daily,) few of us have seen Him. No one could describe him as a well dressed, handsome man.
Isaiah 53:2 NASB For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
There is a method of approaching others about the gospel in which you, in a sense, defend the message of Jesus with good, solid arguments. This approach is referred to as Apologetics. While I find it interesting that someone can stand toe to toe with some argumentative blowhard, it is not my cup of tea, that and I see my memory to be borderline useless anymore.
As I have read the Bible I never really saw God finding a need to play the Apologetics card. Instead, He merely said, “As for me”; after making that statement He just went on to fulfill the promises made, regardless of what the person He made the covenant with would do. (And yes, I get it, that many of those promises took hundreds of years in some cases.) If you were to ask me, why do you trust God, or, how could you put your faith in Him? I would have to say because He has consistently stayed faithful to His Word. Simply put, He is believable. Take Jesus, for example; He told the disciples what He was going to go through and why. It's evident that most of those who traveled with Him did not understand what He was telling them, but it did not slow Him down. He still rose from the dead, and many witnessed to the fact that He appeared to them, alive.
All these things give me reasons to believe Him, and I have.
Paul says,
So we have put our faith in Christ Jesus, because we wanted to be made right with God.”
I think, in some way, I wanted to be right with Him. Growing up in church, we went down front to pray, and there repented every week, as though the power of God never took root in us. See, this is what I am talking about when I tell you that religion is filled with false teachings. Sure, the pastor may stand in front of and say you are forgiven, but then you wait for next week because they will tell you what a sinner you are. Understand something. When you put your faith in Christ Jesus, it is a permanent gesture on your part. The Father engraves you on his hand, and you are ever before Him.
I contend that this book we carry around, (at least some of us do,) is a profoundly Jewish book. The subject matter carries a Jewish style at every turn. Galatians 2:17 is one of those places we can see this.
Galatians 2:17 NASB "But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!
if, while seeking to be justified in Christ,”
The Jews considered the Gentiles to be wholly idolatrous and lost causes to God. Why then would a phrase like this be associated with a Gentile? It wouldn't. It would most definitely be attributable to the Jew, as their lives were little more than efforts to be justified, but not in Christ. If you take the phrase on step farther, and consider how the early church was primarily Jewish, up to the point that they balked at the possibility of Gentiles joining in without enduring Jewish rituals found under the law of Moses, such as circumcision.
So, Paul writes as a Jewish believer, that had experienced the concept of trying to be justified in Christ, while performing what constitutes works for redemption religion/faith.
we ourselves have also been found sinners,”
Keep in mind that the sentence effectively starts with the word “if.” This phrase continues to play a huge role in our understanding of what Paul is saying.
  • we ourselves” – The Jewish community of believers.
  • have also been found sinners,”
    Wait a minute. Since we like to read this letter as though it was written to Gentiles, people who as new believers, only have an understanding and background in the newly appreciated grace of Christ, then this idea of having been found sinners, doesn't make sense. It does, however, make sense when applied to a Jewish community that thought their righteous acts (acts mandated by law, and tradition) made them holy and acceptable to God. It did not.
    I told you that the Jewish community deemed outsiders to be godless pagans. There must have been a realization in some of the Jews that without a relationship with Christ Jesus, there was no acceptance, and therefore no righteousness.
  • is Christ then a minister of sin?”
    This statement could only apply if one had accepted the extraordinary sacrifice offered by the Father, and performed by the Son. The implication then would be that the acceptance of Yahshua as the Messiah sent by the Father, as the prophets foretold, caused many Jews to see precisely how unrighteous they indeed were.
    If acceptance causes this kind of effect, then the presumption is that Christ is the administrator of sin. Is that true? Hardly, as He merely shines a light into your soul through the Holy Spirit; that light shows you the sin.
    Stop here for a moment. Focus on the truth that “sin” is simply your missing the mark of the target at which you are shooting. We have these opportunities to hit the mark multiple times on any given day.
The Greek word for minister is diakonos and means an attendant or waiter. Christ then, would be thought of as being God's waiter? Sin is the Greek word hamartia, meaning offense or sin. So, Christ would be the waiter that brings you a variety of infractions to use? Don't be ridiculous.
Galatians 2:18 is a continuance of Paul's thought and theme, so pay attention. I am going to give you three versions, starting with one of the most difficult.
Galatians 2:18 KJV For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.
If I was not paying attention, nor reading with purpose, I could readily be asking what buildings did Paul destroy? The obvious extension of such thought is that committing a crime, such as the destruction of property, makes you a transgressor; a criminal. The problem, however, is that what Paul destroyed was people; in particular, Jewish believers and their desire to trust and cling to things such as tradition and bad religion. (Stop. Am I saying that Judaism is a bad religion? Only if it tries to circumvent acceptance of the Messiah, through a multitude of added on rules and laws, which is exactly what they did.)
Galatians 2:18 CJB Indeed, if I build up again the legalistic bondage which I destroyed, I really do make myself a transgressor.
The Complete Jewish Bible states the case rather bluntly when it says, “if I build up again the legalistic bondage which I destroyed.”
Question? Did Paul destroy Judaism? No! But, he did have a considerable influence on many Jews; and, this impact included the Gentiles toward the end of his life. So, when he refers to something which he destroyed, he is speaking then of changes in individual lives.
One more version, the Easy To Read version.
Galatians 2:18 ERV But I would be wrong to begin teaching again those things that I gave up.
The ERV translation makes it personal and prompts us to consider that the legalistic bondage Paul felt was primarily internal. The destruction, on the other hand, was more about what he gave up. If I were to try and figure out what Paul/Saul gave up that day, on the road to Damascus, it is all wrapped up in personal history, Jewish traditions, community status, acceptance on an intellectual level with the Pharisees, and entirely possible that monetary and family issues were impacted.
Vincent's Word Studies declares,
Peter, by his Christian profession, had asserted that justification was by faith alone; and by his eating with Gentiles had declared that the Mosaic law was no longer binding upon him. He had thus, figuratively, destroyed or pulled down the Jewish law as a standard of Christian faith and conduct. By his subsequent refusal to eat with Gentiles he had retracted this declaration, had asserted that the Jewish law was still binding upon Christians, and had thus built again what he had pulled down.”
I also like what Finis Jennings Dake tells us.
If I act like a Jew, and enjoin the observance of the law upon Gentiles, which I have repeatedly asserted and proved to be abolished by the death of Christ (Eph_2:14-15; Col_2:14-17; 2Co_3:6-15; Hebrews 7:11-10:18), then I build again the things I destroyed and thus make myself a transgressor, undoing my justification by faith in Christ.”
Moving forward into more muddy water; we look at Galatians 2:19.
Galatians 2:19 NASB "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.
How did that come about? I am not sure, using this translation that I even understand. So, again, I indulge in alternate translations.
Galatians 2:19 CJB For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself that I died to its traditional legalistic misinterpretation, so that I might live in direct relationship with God.
In the CJB I get the sense of something I had suspected for a long time. The Torah contained the freedoms that Paul taught. Paul, who was well trained in the Torah, expounded this new freedom from example and a fresh understanding, that he obtained directly from Jesus (in a vision.) It was this understanding alone, for over ten years, that has opened my eyes to what I see in the Old Testament, a knowledge of where, Jesus, as a human, obtained the truths and freedoms He taught.
Our Monday morning study leader invited a lady to give a brief testimony. Raised a Catholic, she somehow meets a Pentecostal young man, and attempts to date him. That young man, whom I know personally, got her to come to our Holy Spirit and fire inspired church; at least it was back then. She said that during the prayer time, at the end of the service, that her now-husband said, I am going down front for prayer. Someone nearby told her, you should go down also; and, she did. That night she received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke with other tongues. Apparently, she was sixteen at this point and wanted to please her parents. So when she went home and told them that she was now filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues, they exploded on her. She was taken to the priests to bring her back to some form of normalcy for their family. She said, the priest talked with for a time and then stepped out to tell the parents that in time she would be back to normal. When the priest returned she began to describe to him about the love of God, and how he too should be teaching this (at which point she showed him out of Corinthians. As she spoke, she could feel the presence of God fill the room, and she began speaking to the priest in tongues. He again excused himself so that he could talk with her parents. He told them that she just spoke to me in perfect Latin. It would be important to note that she did not know Latin. Well, you might think that everything went great for her, but it did not. The parents restricted her from seeing this young man for two years; however, at the end of that time, the two got married.
What's the point of this information?
Somehow, this young lady stepped out of God's way, without realizing what she was doing, and let the “Torah” speak for itself. When it did, several lives were, in time, dramatically changed. That priest and a nun from the school she went to went on to become Holy Spirit filled Catholics (These are known as Charismatics.) As this dear lady finished her “testimony,” one of the men in our group asked a legitimate question; he said, “as a Catholic, did you read the Bible? To which, she answered rather emphatically, NO. We were taught not to, as we would misinterpret what it said.
Interesting, I have heard far too many teach a version of that very thing, in spite of sound bible teachers instructing us to let the scriptures interpret scripture. Sadly, most Christians seem to think no one can understand the Bible and therefore must have someone to teach them. This kind of thought is in opposition to what Paul tells us here in Galatians 2:19.
For it was through letting the Torah speak for itself.”
I perceive from this statement that Paul was able to gain access to the scrolls that were so few and costly that they were only maintained at the Synagogues. There is an alternative possibility, and that would be that Paul relied upon the training and memory of what he learned as an up and coming Pharisee. In reading these scrolls, he was this time, given new and fresh insight. These words were no longer laws to govern, but guides to freedom. As I write these words, images of Jephthah crossed my mind. I have I ever seen him, no, but my mind, as I read the story in Judges 11, paints a vivid picture of someone who would fit the imagery of a motorcycle gang member. Short tempered and harsh as they could come, thanks to childhood abuse at the hands of half-brothers, he frees Israel from its oppressors and goes on to become listed as a hall-of-famer. When you read the story, you see a man guided more by grace and muscles than law (the Torah.) Even in God's story (if I may call it that,) grace and mercy shine like the sun at every turn.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

With the purpose of getting his family back. Galatians 2:15,16

In Galatians 2:14 we see Paul, recapping his aggressive challenge of Peter's actions; over an event that may have happened 18 years prior.
But when I saw that they were not behaving consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all, "If you, although you are a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you try to force the Gentiles to live like Jews?" Galatians 2:14 NET.
It may be a translation issue, but the manner in which this is stated is an aspect of what I saw as directed confusion.
Let me explain. “But when I saw that (those gathered with Peter) were not behaving consistently with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in front of them all,” The allusion is that Paul had been there with Peter and witnessed the hypocrisy. We have nothing to substantiate that assertion; therefore it is an unprovable conclusion. I could also infer from this, that Paul is seeing the affects of Peter's hypocrisy show up in Antioch.
Biblically, we are only shown two interactions between Paul and Peter. One at the end of the first three years of Paul's preaching. You can find this in Galatians 1:18 where it says, I stayed with Peter for fifteen days to become acquainted with him.
The second interaction comes years later after Paul has endured much at the hands of Jews who believed much like Saul did, and at the hands of Gentiles, the Jews were able to rally against Paul. Take a moment of your time to read 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, where these abuses are detailed by Paul.
With that in mind, where can we find Paul, having enough contact with Peter to witness such hypocrisy?
One of the things to consider, is that we are not given the time frame surrounding his visit to Antioch, and, it may have been that he was there long enough to enjoy the freedoms of grace before others, of the Jerusalem community that still held to Mosaic law, came to visit the Antioch church and Peter as well. This would explain many things. It could easily have worked this way. But we do have some solid evidence in Acts 11: 1-3. What we see here is directly related to Peter's interactions with Cornelius and his family. Perhaps we will have to ask God for an answer to this question when we see Him in the eternal kingdom.
A commentary or two, tells us that this may not be the Peter we understand to be the Apostle. “When Peter was come to Antioch - There has been a controversy whether Πετρος, Peter, here should not be read Κηφας, Kephas; and whether this Kephas was not a different person from Peter the apostle. This controversy has lasted more than 1500 years, and is not yet settled.” [Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible; Adam Clarke, LL.D., F.S.A., (1715-1832); Published in 1810-1826; public domain.]
Since I am not a grammarian, and the things we read are not so black and white, I then have to fight my way through the language and context to sort out what has happened. And, good or bad, you have been a part of that process over the last few years. I feel very confident that all this came out of Peter's interaction with Cornelius, many years before this letter was written, and I shared that with you previously.
What Paul said to Peter also impacts me, as occasionally someone shares something with me, that causes my religious hairs to stand up. In moments like this, I am reminded, that I have done those very things and I need to back off the judgmental attitude. Knowing that I too operate in an ever-present outpouring of mercy and grace how can I try to force somebody to live like a religious zealot when I could not do it myself! (I changed the wording a bit, so it applied more effectively to me.)
You cannot just attack someone, as Paul did, without giving them some definition of how we are supposed to act and who we are. Without a doubt, a statement like this evokes an excess of questions.
Who then are we, as followers of Christ, and how are we supposed to act?
Ultimately, we look to Jesus as our example, but then he was not provoked by internal brokenness as we are; so living like Jesus doesn't often seem like an achievable goal.
What then is the definitive pattern for us?
It all boils down to the letters we find in the New Testament; letters that describe who we are and how we should act, such as walking in love – something that I failed at recently.
If, or since, we are in Him, then these attributes are who the Father considers us to be, even when we don't look or feel like it. In this example, I am pulling excerpts from Ephesians 1:3-15.
  • Blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ.
  • Chosen in Him.
  • Holy and unblemished in His sight.
  • We have redemption through His blood.
  • Through that same blood, we have forgiveness of our trespasses (sins = merely missing the bulls-eye on the target of life.)
  • We are God's possession.
  • All this was done so that we would be to the praise of His glory.
    Many, will find this a very self-serving statement. And yet, for me, it is filled with joy and freedom. Freedom because I don't just feel trapped by this life, I am trapped; trapped in a world of stress and destruction. In Christ, I find acceptance, mental peace, and a hope no one has ever been able to give me.
In the process of believing, we were set aside and protected in our spirit by the Father, until He could redeem His own – (This is the theme of the Revelation and a recurring theme throughout many books of the Bible.)
Why would I say, you are protected in your spirit, and not mention your flesh?
Because Jesus himself told us, that in this world we would have tribulation. Tribulation includes stress, pain, beheadings, and other common and daily events. Sorry, there is no escaping those things; and, there is no denying that most of them will come at the hands of others; many under the guise of "religion."
As I read those attributes that scripture assigns to me, I get a sense of nobility, as though I had been knighted at some royal gathering of the Kings court.
Lacking all the pretense of nobility, then how am I to act?
As one set aside for the conveyance of the Kings needs, with the understanding that this King loves and cares for those under His charge. If my scenario was real, then what would become of one who refused the orders of the king?
In the natural world you would, at the minimum, be demoted; at worst, killed. Fortunately, for those who are His own, God does not operate that way.  First, we seem to forget daily, that our sins are forgiven and as scripture puts it, cast as far as the East is from the West. That by the way, is an unlikely and infinite number.
Are you then punished for disobedience?
His patience with us never runs out. Here again, the religious, natural mind cannot think of anything but punishment. I suppose they do that out of some twisted sense of justice.
What happens then to the person who refuses to listen to God?
Their mind becomes clouded. Thinking that God is now humiliated by the mention of their name, they create a separation in their mind and turn their backs on God, not the other way around; and that is what most of us do.
An obvious factor, and hopefully you picked up on it, is that while God so loved the world; becoming one of His own through adoption, requires that you accept that He is a benevolent Father. And, that He gave His only Son to die a bloody and violent death for the specific purpose of redeeming us back to the Father (In case you find this a cruel choice, then remember that the Son, willingly gave His life for us.) Don't believe that? Then read it from Jesus' lips.
Paul, having gained Peter's attention, says, to Peter and those listening,
We are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that no one is justified by the works of the law but by the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” Galatians 2:15-16 NET.
But this statement, “we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by the faithfulness of Christ,” indicates that Paul had caught on to something that would change everything, including the narrow, prejudiced world in which he had been raised. This message of grace, was, without a doubt, for all. It was no longer just another Jewish thing or religion; this was God exploding upon the world with the life of Christ. And it was all done with the purpose of getting His entire family back; a family, which now happened to include adopted Gentiles.
What did Paul say?
  • we have come to believe in Christ Jesus,”
    And so have I. If you consider yourself a follower of the risen Christ; the Son of the living God, then so have you.
    They were taught to do anything but accept and believe in the “son of Mary” as the Messiah. What we do not have clear is that the hatred, name-calling, and bigotry ran deep and was present throughout Jesus life. A possible example could come from -
    John 8:39 NASB They answered and said to Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus *said to them, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham.
    There would be only one reason to make a retort like this, and that's because Jesus, according to them, could not prove who His Father was. This takes us back to Mary. A woman with a backbone of steel, who operated under the endorsement of an angelic messenger. And when Jesus was about to be born. Joseph, who has come to his hometown, where all the relatives are, is not given the grace of a place to stay. He finally has to beg for the use of a small stable area. Prejudice, rejection, and bitter feelings? You bet there were, and Jesus dealt with it all His life.
  • so that we may be justified”
    Justified is the Greek word dikaioō and means to render, show, or regard as innocent.
    This idea of making things right is precisely what Jesus did on the cross for us. Think about this; Christ dies all those years ago, with the express purpose of giving salvation to all. Nothing or no one was is being held back from that salvation, as all the benefits involved in this redemption are freely given to all who accept this grace and freedom.
    Ah, but then I was born, and I have done everything wrong.
    Sure, I received His grace; but sinning, I do that every day. The catch is, that forgiveness was granted to me, without regret, over two thousand years ago. I, nor you, will ever be judged for sin, and yes, this is contrary to what many teach; and, I will be condemned for saying it. But, like Paul, I don't answer to the critics, as they speak in opposition to the Word of God. Besides that, they are not the judges, no matter what they say. What people will be judged for is, what did you do with Jesus the risen Messiah. That's it. In my case, I accepted Him. What did you do with Him?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

When Peter came to Antioch. Galatians 2:11

When those of us who did not go Seminary, read the Bible, we tend to glaze over passages like the one we see here in Galatians 2:11. I think we do that because there are aspects of it that make little sense to us, and, it is difficult at times to find the events that explain why Paul is so angry with Peter, and when this all happened.

As a visual learner, I have become quite obsessive when it comes to studying the Word of God. I have to be able to visualize the event or chronology for things to make sense to me, and this passage is one that frustrates me. Thank God for perseverance and the freedom of time to keep digging, because I have been looking as intently as one might hunt for gold.

So allow me to point out some approximations. The letter written to those in the region of Galatia was written from Rome about 68 A.D., about the same time as the letter written to the Hebrews (Jews in general.) The book of Acts is the second part of a two-part set beginning with the publication of Luke's gospel. It is understood that these two books were written about two years after Paul's imprisonment in Rome, around 62 A.D. At this point and with this information you cannot make any assessment as to the timing of Peter's actions that caused Paul to become so hostile toward Peter.

Other events that may give us clues about Peter's infraction(s).
  • In Acts 9:10 we find Ananias baptizing Saul, and Saul, then stays for some days in Damascus with the disciples (Jewish followers of the way) there. Acts 9:31 demonstrates that with Saul now a changed man, the church began, once again, to have peace and be built up.
  • The interaction with Cornelius comes about in chapter 10 of the book of Acts.
In my Chronological Bible, the authors show us a "time capsule." In this time capsule, they indicate that Peter's meeting with Cornelius (Acts 10:25,) happened in 35 A.D. It was this same year that Saul begins preaching Christ as the risen Messiah in Damascus.
  • Herod, on the other hand, becomes prominent in our story in chapter 12 of the book of Acts.
Josephus places Herod in the time range of 37 A.D. - 44 A.D. During which time he has James killed, and Peter arrested, with the intent of killing him also.
The Bible Knowledge Commentary explains Acts 12:20 in this manner, “On the appointed day when Herod was delivering a speech, the people honored him as a god, and the Lord God judged him with death, in A.D. 44. This account parallels that given by Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews (19. 8. 2).”

Why would this information be important to us? With Herod gone, those who want Peter killed are effectively gone. Peter then could return to Jerusalem, if he so chose to. That information alone still does not answer the question as to when Peter acted so hypocritical.

It was Paul who told us that he did not interact with others, with the exceptions of spending some time with the local disciples; three years in Damascus, and, after finally going to Jerusalem he spent 15 days with Cephas (Peter), and some brief interaction with James. All of this provided ample time for Peter to tell Paul of his indiscretion, and yet, that apparently did not happen.

Galatians chapter 2 opens with,

Galatians 2:1-2 NASB Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. 2) It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.

If Paul is holding to a chronological timeline, then up to this point he does not indicate that Peter acted hypocritically. When I think about how information transferred from person to person, then I can't exclude Barnabas as one of the messengers. Regardless of how Paul learned of what Peter did, he was not going to let it go, and hence we see Paul confronting Peter about something which Peter probably has to be reminded.

Galatians 2:11 NET. But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he had clearly done wrong.

This passage makes me uncomfortable on several levels.
  • First, there is Paul's aggressive and point-blank approach with someone we assume should be given respect.
Peter might deserve respect only because he seems to be part of the Jerusalem council; if not for that reason, one might think he commands a bit of respect simply because he walked so closely with Jesus; apparently, this means very little to Paul.
  • The other aspect that makes this difficult is that I was not raised to be disrespectful to people in authority. Lying in bed, not sleeping, I was thinking about this scenario. The Holy Spirit reminded me to consider the Jewish culture; a culture that still pervades their communities today. They, love to debate. To me, this looks like people on the edge of a fist fight, but to them, it is just another day. I have to force myself to set aside assumption frequently, and one of those assumptions has to do with, how long has it been since Peter has done this wrong? With what I perceive as fury on Paul's part, I assumed this event just happened yesterday. The reality is that it may have been 14+ years ago.
Because life takes you on unexpected paths, you can develop a gruff persona as a defense mechanism. Sadly, that persona impacts the way you react to people in your life. I have described my persona as being bear-like. Add to this rough imagery the peculiar gift of being a prophet (I say peculiar because after all these years I have no real definition of what a prophet does; I just know that I admired the Prophet Samuel and he hacked up king Agag.) The combination can be rather explosive at times, as I frequently find myself fighting the desire to call fire down from heaven on people. NO, that has never happened, it's just how I feel, and it comes on especially strong when my pastor unjustly attacks me and then demonstrates how human he is through some false teaching. 

While you may not be able to relate to what I am saying here, I can see this type of behavior in Paul. Keep in mind that Paul told us that he had this continuing thorn in the flesh, a person or thing that continued to keep him humble. Do you think a man that went around zealously trying to kill those who chose to set aside the traditional ways of Judaism, could have anger issues and hence a thorn in his flesh? I think we can see this in his interaction with Peter.

Try to find any other allusions to Peter/Cephas coming to Antioch; you won't.

There is only one reference, and it is Paul that gives it to us. In my pursuit of answers, I searched for significant words such as Peter; believer; Gentiles, and finally, Antioch. As a side note, the word Antioch, using the NET translation, located only 18 references to the name in the New Testament (This is where our focus is centered.) The first occurrence is in Acts 6:5.

Since I already pointed out, from the Chronological Bible, that there were established timelines, and how that in some cases they paralleled Saul/Paul's life with Peter's. And, I have given you that information above. 

Lacking someone else to do a timeline for us, all we have is scripture.

Where is the scriptural proof of this happening? The only place in scripture where this possibility arises is in Acts chapter 10, where Peter goes to the house of the Roman Centurion Cornelius (A Gentile; but an oddity appears in the description of the man, for it calls him devout. Devout could imply he had quietly become a Jewish convert. Practicality says no, but then how would one be able to make an assessment of a man like this, a man said to be devout?)

Scriptural evidence, or proof, is the one thing we should always have when trying to present an informative, intelligent study or Apologetic (A defense.) And, we have a mandate that nothing should be judged without two or more witnesses. In our case, the witnesses are scripture. Well, the answers are out there (as Mulder and Scully used to say on the X-Files television show,) and I thought for a moment that I had found some evidence of Peter in Antioch, but alas, the majority of translations and commentators indicate that Acts 12:17 is speaking of Herod going to Caesarea, not Peter.

Acts 12:17 NASB But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, "Report these things to James and the brethren." Then he left and went to another place.

Although many have commented on this verse, it still brings some confusion because of what Peter says in his instructions to those gathered at the house of Mary. Mary is John Mark's mother, and, according to commentator John Gill, John Mark is the nephew of Barnabas (That makes sense as Barnabas is a significant promoter of John Mark to be on the missionary trips.) Peter tells those gathered at the home that night, that they were to report these things to James and the brethren. Why, because Peter was getting out of town quickly.

Acts 12:17, as I noted above, tells us that, “he left and went to another place.” The obvious question is, where did he go? We are not told that he shared this location with any of the others, quite probably because it could cost them their lives. I would think that in time it would become apparent that Peter had left town.

I thought for a moment that I had found Peter going North as I followed verses 18, 19. However, this is where grammar comes into play, as Herod, not Peter, is the focus of attention.

Acts 12:18-19 NASB Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter. 19) When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.

Note how it says, “When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution.” Those Roman soldiers had clues as to where Peter might be found, and I imagine they brutishly questioned and challenged all they spoke with. If Peter was still there, they would have found him. Not obtaining Peter would surely mean their deaths. So the guards had a strong motivation to do a thorough search, and yet, not a trace of Peter was found. What do I make of that? Peter was no longer in Jerusalem.

Still, presuming I have no timeline, then I have only circumstantial evidence. Since the book of Acts is somewhat chronological, then it makes sense to have Peter moving quickly North toward Damascus, where we are about to find a young man named Saul. But, if you were paying attention, you would have noticed that this Herod episode and Peter fleeing, happened in chapter 12, and here I am in Acts chapter 11, where Jewish followers are verbally accosting Peter for eating with Gentiles. 

This verbal attack has some similar properties to Paul's criticism of Peter, which we see in Galatians 2.
Acts 11:1-3 CEV The apostles and the followers in Judea heard that Gentiles had accepted God's message. 2) So when Peter came to Jerusalem, some of the Jewish followers started arguing with him. They wanted Gentile followers to be circumcised, and 3) they said, "You stayed in the homes of Gentiles, and you even ate with them!"

From the viewpoint of a former Gentile; now grafted into the vine. I desire to understand these relatively new Jewish roots of mine. Maybe that is why I find the conversation the Jewish followers are having with Peter so offensive.

Peter explained his actions and this attack against him in Acts 11:4-17.

Acts 11:4-17 CEV Then Peter told them exactly what had happened: 5) I was in the town of Joppa and was praying when I fell sound asleep and had a vision. I saw heaven open, and something like a huge sheet held by its four corners came down to me. 6) When I looked in it, I saw animals, wild beasts, snakes, and birds. 7) I heard a voice saying to me, "Peter, get up! Kill these and eat them." 8) But I said, "Lord, I can't do that! I've never taken a bite of anything that is unclean and not fit to eat." 9) The voice from heaven spoke to me again, "When God says that something can be used for food, don't say it isn't fit to eat." 10) This happened three times before it was all taken back into heaven. 11) Suddenly three men from Caesarea stood in front of the house where I was staying. 12) The Holy Spirit told me to go with them and not to worry. Then six of the Lord's followers went with me to the home of a man 13) who told us that an angel had appeared to him. The angel had ordered him to send to Joppa for someone named Simon Peter. 14) Then Peter would tell him how he and everyone in his house could be saved. 15) After I started speaking, the Holy Spirit was given to them, just as the Spirit had been given to us at the beginning. 16) I remembered that the Lord had said, "John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." 17) God gave those Gentiles the same gift that he gave us when we put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. So how could I have gone against God?

This vision was a green light to freedom in God's grace, and Peter's call to be a missionary to the Gentiles. Having had this rather enlightening experience Peter passed on the opportunity. Why? Because of peer pressure? 

In summary, Peter's hypocrisy may well have happened at the home of Cornelius where for several days Peter enjoyed the freedoms of grace. How and when Paul found out about it is unknown. But, even with the improbabilities of Paul maintaining an intense anger over Peter's actions for as much as 18 years, it is clear that Paul still dealt with his thorn, which may well be anger.

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