Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Guest Post: Great Among the Gentiles

For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles; and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen [nations], saith the Lord of hosts.


We have often pointed out in these pages that prophecy comprises nearly one-third of the Bible. Though so neglected by most of the church, prophecy is, in fact, the cornerstone of Scripture. In Isaiah:42:8-9, 46:9-10, 48:5 and many other places God declares that He will prove His existence and vindicate His Word by telling, through His prophets, what will happen in the future and watching over history to make certain that it does.

To most Christians, prophecy involves "last days" events. Yet most biblical prophecies have already been fulfilled. These are world-shaking and history-making events foretold centuries and even thousands of years in advance—and their fulfillment has been witnessed by the entire world.

No one can honestly be an atheist or agnostic in view of the evidence Scripture provides. Prophecy fulfilled provides absolute proof that the Bible is God's Word, that the Jews are His chosen people and the land of Israel belongs to them, and that Jesus Christ is Israel's Messiah and the true and only Savior of sinners (Jew or Gentile).

There are simple and often overlooked prophecies such as the declaration 3,500 years ago that the Jews would keep the Passover forever (Ex 12:14). The prophets of the goddess Vesta in Rome also swore that the sacred fires tended by the Vestal Virgins would burn forever; and the Zoroastrian prophets declared that the sacred fires in Persia would never go out. Neither remain, but the Passover is still observed, even by millions of Jews who do not believe in God or the Bible.

Then there are such well-known prophecies as Daniel:9:24-25, which foretold that "the coming of Messiah" would occur 69 weeks of years (483) after the command to rebuild Jerusalem. That command was given 100 years later to Nehemiah (Neh:2:1) by Artaxerxes Longimanus on Nisan 1, 445 B.C. And 483 years later, to the very day (by the Jewish and Babylonian calendars of 360 days), Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that donkey and was hailed by multitudes as the Messiah (exactly as foretold in Zechariah:9:9) and then "cut off" as Daniel:9:26 and Isaiah 53 had foretold. He was crucified, as David prophesied (Ps:22:14-18) long before crucifixion was even known. His rejection by Israel was followed by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple as both Daniel (9:26) and Jesus (Mat:24:2) prophesied.

Jews who are still hoping for their Messiah to come to Jerusalem must face the fact that we have passed the prophesied time of His coming by nearly 2,000 years. The undeniable historical fact is that these events have already taken place, exactly as prophesied.

Malachi:1:11, quoted above, is another powerful prophecy the fulfillment of which is one of the most amazing and inspiring and undeniable in the entire Bible. Indeed, this newsletter itself and the fact that you are reading it is part of the fulfillment of this astounding prophecy.

Malachi was the last prophet to speak exclusively to Israel. Even 1 Maccabees:9:27 and 14:41 confirm that "prophets [had] ceased to appear among the people." Therefore 1 and 2 Maccabees could not have been inspired by God and consequently were not part of Scripture. Thus, Roman Catholicism, which attempts to justify purgatory and prayers for the dead from 2 Maccabees:12:45, is in grave error.

After Malachi, the next prophets of God to arise would speak both to Jews and Gentiles. The latter would hear and heed God's voice, while the Jews would continue to disobey and to pervert the Word of God. So said Israel's prophets.

About 500 years of silence followed Malachi before God sent another prophet, John the Baptist, to introduce the Messiah to His people and to the world, as Isaiah had foretold (Isa:40:3). As Malachi declared (Mal:4:5) and as the New Testament confirmed, John came in the "spirit and power of Elijah" (Mat:11:14; 17:11-12; Mk 9:12-13; Lk 1:17), not as his reincarnation, as New Agers claim. Elijah, having been taken bodily alive into heaven (2 Kgs 2:11) and appearing bodily with Moses to speak with Jesus as witnessed by three disciples (Mat:17:3), could hardly have been reincarnated into another body as John the Baptist.

Notice the setting for this verse in Malachi: Israel has sunk so deeply into apostasy that God says, "I have no pleasure in you...neither will I accept an offering at your hand" (1:10). They have "polluted" the Temple worship (1:12); they have disobeyed His commands repeatedly, even from the very beginning (3:7); they offer unacceptable sacrifices (1:14); and the priests won't even shut a door without a fee (1:10). Worst of all, God indicts Israel with despising His Holy name (1:6, 2:2).

In this context God says, "From the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles..." (Mal:1:11). What a shock that statement must have been to the Jews! This contradicted everything they believed! They were a chosen people who worshiped the true God, whereas the nations around them all worshiped false gods:

Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and...I will take you to me for a people, and...ye shall know that I am the LORD your God....(Ex 6:6-7)

The LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. (Deut 7:6)

For all the gods of the nations are idols...(Ps:96:5)

How, then, could God's name become great among the Gentiles? That prophecy must have stunned the rabbis. Even the disciples couldn't believe that the gospel was to go to the Gentiles. God had to speak to Peter in a vision and take him into a Gentile house (Acts 10), where He had prepared hearts to receive the gospel of Christ, in order for Peter to see that the Gentiles as well as Jews were to be in the church. Even then, the other church leaders at that time criticized Peter for having anything to do with Gentiles (Acts11:1-3).

Let's recap the situation in Malachi's day to see how remarkable this prophecy was. Israel, God's chosen people, was indicted with being unfaithful to Him, the only true God, and with having repeatedly rebelled against Him and His laws. He had sent His prophets, "rising up early and sending them, saying [to Israel]...amend your doings, and go not after other gods," but Israel continued in disobedience (Jer:35:15, etc.). And now, Malachi was the last prophet, and his message was shocking: the God of Israel, to whom they had been so unfaithful, would be known among the Gentile nations from one end of the world to the other—and not through them!

The language is clear and powerful. There would not be a small enclave among the Gentiles who would know Jehovah, a few converts of Israeli evangelists, but many millions from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same! That astonishing prophecy, so unbelievable to the Jews, has come to pass. There is no explaining away the fact that approximately 1.8 billion Gentiles in every part of this earth now claim to believe in the "God of Abraham...Isaac and... Jacob" (Ex 3:6; Mat:22:32, etc.).

Even before Malachi made it so clear, other Israeli prophets had already declared that this would happen. Referring to the God of IsraelPsalm:22:27 declares that "all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee." Jewish apologists who do not want to admit that the God of Israel whom they have dishonored is truly known by millions of Gentiles try to explain away this and the many other similar prophecies by arguing that they refer to the millennial reign of the Messiah. It is true that during the Millennium "every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem [at Armageddon] shall even go up from year to year [to Jerusalem] to worship the King, the Lord of hosts..." (Zech:14:16). Yet the Scriptures make it clear that long before this time millions of Gentiles will truly know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Even more disconcerting to the Jews was the way this would come about—through Gentiles believing in the Messiah! The prophets repeatedly declared that it would be through the Messiah that the Gentiles would come to know God. That truth was already innate in God's amazing promise to Abraham when He called him from Ur of the Chaldees: "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Gen:12:3). That promise could only be fulfilled through the Messiah's descent from Abraham and Gentiles believing in Him.

Of all the prophets, Isaiah makes most clear the connection between the Messiah, Jehovah's "servant," and God's name becoming great among the Gentiles. Interestingly, the book of Isaiah, recovered with the Dead Sea scrolls, is among the most ancient Old Testament manuscripts we have. Contrary to expectation, that manuscript turned out to be the same text that was already in our Bible. Housed in its own special museum in Jerusalem, the Isaiah scroll is proof that we have the exact words that God inspired Isaiah to write.

In Isaiah:49:6 we see that Jehovah's servant (undoubtedly the Messiah) who is called "to raise up the tribes of Jacob" will also be "a light to the Gentiles... [and] salvation unto the end of the earth." Remarkable! God's light comes to the Gentiles as salvation—obviously through the Savior, whom Jehovah himself claims to be: "I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour" (Isa:43:11; 45:15; 49:26; 60:16; Hos:13:4, etc.). Isaiah explains it further:

Behold, my servant...in whom my soul delighteth...he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles...and the isles [see Gen:10:5, "the isles of the Gentiles"] shall wait for his law.... I the LORD...[will] give thee ...for a light of the Gentiles...." (Isa:42:1,4,6)

"Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isa:7:14)

Immanuel means "God with us." The Messiah is God himself and thus bears God's name. Isaiah makes it even more clear that the Messiah is God coming into the world as a man, which can only be through a virgin birth: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David..." (9:6); i.e., this can only be the Messiah who will rule Israel.

Isaiah thus declares that the Messiah, Jehovah's "servant," will be "The mighty God, The everlasting Father" born into this world and that God's name will become great among the Gentiles as they believe that He is the Savior of the world. Even more astonishing, the Messiah becomes the Savior of mankind and brings that salvation to the Gentiles by virtue of His own people rejecting Him. As a result of that rejection, He dies for the sins of the whole world:

...all the ends of the earth [i.e., Gentiles] shall see the salvation of our God....Behold, my servant...his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men [i.e., from his suffering for our salvation]....So shall he sprinkle many nations....(Isa:52:10, 13-15)

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows...we [Israel] hid...our faces from him;....But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities:...and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all...mak[ing] his soul an offering for sin....(Isa:53:3-6, 2, 10)

The means by which the Gentiles will know and honor the name of Jehovah/Jahweh through the Messiah is clearly through the salvation the Messiah brings. After describing the Crucifixion, David declares, "All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the LORD" (Ps:22:27). So it would be through the Crucifixion that multitudes all over the world would "turn unto the Lord" and God's name would be great among the Gentiles.

The very name of Jesus means "Jehovah saves." At His birth, the angel said, "Thou shalt call His name JESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins" (Mat:1:21). What language is this! Call Him "Jehovah saves," for He shall save His people from their sins." He can only be Jehovah!

Jesus the Messiah, who said, "he that hath seen me hath seen the Father...I and my Father are one" (Jn:10:30; 14:9), was in perfect harmony with the Old Testament Hebrew prophets when He told His disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15). It is through the gospel of Jesus Christ and the church which He established that God's name has become "great among the Gentiles"!

And it is through pointing to the prophecies and their undeniable fulfillment in Jesus Christ that we are to preach the gospel of God's grace and thereby bring salvation to the ends of the earth. Prophecies such as this should so fill our hearts with wonder, joy and confidence that the good news of the gospel literally overflows from us to those we meet! May it be so. TBC

By Dave Hunt

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Guest Post: Choosing God's Will

During the temptation in the wilderness, Satan offered to give Jesus "all the kingdoms of the world...and the glory of them" (Lk 4:5-6). He was not bluffing. This world really is Satan's to give to whom he will. Jesus did not dispute Satan's boast that this world had been "delivered unto me [by God]; and to whomsoever I will I give it." The conditions upon which Satan offered this world to Christ were clear: "If you bow down and worship me"—which, of course, Jesus refused to do. Beware! For the kingdoms and glories of this world are still the favors Satan bestows in order to entice today's recipients into worshipping him.

Like their Lord, Christ's true followers refuse the kingdoms and glories of this world. This refusal includes the highly touted new world order, which will still be under Satan's control. Christ has promised believers something far better—an eternal and heavenly kingdom procured through His defeat of Satan at the cross. As a result of that victory, "the kingdoms of this world [will] become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ" (Rev:11:15). Worldly kingdoms will soon pass away, and in their place the kingdom of God will come to earth. Then Christ, together with those who have shared in His rejection and suffering (Acts:14:22Rom:8:172 Tim:2:12), will reign in glory and ultimate joy forever.

It would be a denial of their Lord for Christians to bask in the popularity and honors which this present world may bestow upon them. That is not to say that a Christian should never be successful in business, science, the academic world, sports, etc. Indeed, Christians should be the very best they can possibly be at whatever they do. But their skill, talent and diligent efforts are expended for God's glory, not for their own. This world has no attraction for believers; they neither love it nor its plaudits. They are not swayed from the course they must run (1 Cor:9:24-272 Tim:4:7-8) either by the world's criticism or its compliments. They know that ultimately nothing matters except God's opinion of them.

We are warned, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" (1 Jn:2:15). Satan is called "the god of this world" (2 Cor:4:4), and those who love this world are siding with and honoring Satan, whether they realize it or not. Indeed, they are on the road to Satan worship, which will be the worldwide religion during the Great Tribulation (Rev:13:4).

One obvious evidence that Christianity has been seduced by Satan is the fact that those who are highly honored by the world are, on that basis alone, given instant and special honor in the church. The Christian media fawns over a sports hero, an attractive actress, a wealthy businessman, or a highly placed politician who has supposedly become a Christian. These too-often immature, worldly new believers are paraded and lauded on Christian TV and held up to the church as heroes of the faith and role models for youth—and Christians turn out by the thousands to "ooh" and "aah" at their testimonies. Yet the humble, godly missionary, mature in the faith, who has remained true to Christ through decades of privation, temptation, hardship and danger, and who has won souls in difficult fields of labor, can scarcely draw an audience. Obviously, the average Christian admires worldly success far more than godliness. Something is badly askew!

Jesus told His disciples, "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you " (Jn:15:19). Thus, to Pilate, Jesus declared, "My kingdom is not of this world" (Jn:18:36). He did not mean that His kingdom is totally detached from this earth, but that it is not of this world system. In fact, it stands in opposition thereto. This present world system (including the new world order), which belongs to Satan, must be destroyed for the kingdom of God to be established.

Christ came to "destroy the works of the devil" (1 Jn:3:8), which He accomplished upon the cross (Jn:12:31-33). Such is His purpose in all those who receive Him as Savior and Lord. The works of Satan in and through our lives, and any attachment to this world, must be destroyed so that Christ can reign in us. This goal can only be effected through the work of His cross applied to one's daily life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Only to that extent will the love of God and His will and Christlike character be manifested in the hearts and lives of believers.

The unsaved love the world. In contrast, Christians do not love the world; they love the Father. We are citizens of heaven, "from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Philippians:3:20-21). Instead of trying to make our mark in this world and to receive its benefits and enjoy its pleasures, we seek to please the Father because we desire a heavenly and eternal reward.

The choice we face is not, as many imagine, between heaven and hell. Rather, the choice is between heaven and this world. Even a fool would exchange hell for heaven; but only the wise will exchange this world for heaven. One cannot have both: "all this and heaven, too." One cannot live both for God and for self. Many who call themselves Christians find it difficult to resist the temptations of this world and to live wholly for Christ.

Why should it be difficult to choose life instead of death, joy instead of sorrow, eternal fulfillment instead of remorse, God's truth and love instead of Satan's lies and destructive lusts? The choice is only difficult for those who are deceived by Satan, and who thus, in believing this liar, doubt and dishonor God. What an insult it is to their heavenly Father for Christians to act as though surrendering to God's will were a great sacrifice—as though exchanging this world for heaven were a bad bargain!

Motivation is a key element. One powerful motivation comes through comparing the length of eternity with one's brief life on this earth. Only a fool would trade the heavenly and eternal for that which is earthly and temporal—and, remember, one cannot have both. "Christians" who habitually live for what they can accumulate and enjoy in this present world, instead of "lay[ing] up treasures in heaven" (Mat:6:19-21) as Christ commanded, deny with their lives the faith they profess with their lips.

Those who repeatedly, in the daily choices they face, opt for this world instead of for heaven, should not be surprised when God gives them for eternity the choice they have made. How can one complain if he is not taken in the next life to the heaven he consistently rejected in this one? Someone has said there are only two kinds of people in the world: (1) those who say to God, "Not my will, but Thine, be done," and (2) those to whom God says, "Not My will but thine be done." What a tragedy to be chained for eternity to one's own will instead of His—forever imprisoned with self and separated from God!

Christ's declaration to the Father, "Not my will, but thine, be done" (Lk 22:42) put Him on the cross. Likewise, we must deny self in submission to the cross (Mat:16:24). That submission puts an end to self, and Christ becomes our very life, our all. This is the path of wisdom (Job 28). The wise will "shine...as the stars for ever" (Dan:12:3) with His light in their hearts—pure vessels eternally radiating His glory. Fools will experience the blackness of darkness forever and ever because they have insisted upon doing their own thing and being their fallen selves. Man's destiny is either eternal joy in the presence of God and His angels and saints, or a lonely and eternal agony, shut up to self.

William Law had the gift of expressing with unusual clarity the choice between heaven and this world. He pointed out that a man would be considered insane who spent his life planning the house, tennis court, swimming pool, retirement condominium, etc. that he expected to build on Mars—yet someone who spent his life equally absorbed in planning, achieving and enjoying such things in this world would be respected as successful and prudent. In fact, said Law, both men are fools. The first is obsessed with a world where he cannot live—while the other is attached to a world where he cannot stay. The degree of their folly differs only by a few short years.

Jim Elliot, one of the young missionaries martyred in Ecuador in 1956, put it succinctly: "He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep in order to gain that which he cannot lose." What a tragedy to barter eternal life for the enjoyments of this brief world. The Bible does not say that sin has no pleasure; it says that the pleasures of sin can only be enjoyed "for a season" (Heb:11:25)—and a very short season at that, particularly when compared with the endless ages of eternity. A bad bargain indeed!

The phrase "eternal life" refers not only to the quantity of the life God offers but to its quality—a quality of life that God wants us to begin to experience here and now. Jesus said that eternal life was knowing (not knowing about) God and His Son (Jn:17:3). Paul warned that Christ would one day take vengeance upon those who "know not God" (2 Thes:1:8). In keeping with the truth of these and similar scriptures, evangelicals profess that they don't practice a religion about God but that they have a personal relationship with God. Unfortunately, this boast has become almost a cliché—one that sounds good in theory but for which there is often little practical evidence in daily life.

Recognizing that eternity is infinitely longer than one's most optimistic life expectancy provides a powerful motivation for living for Him (and thus choosing heaven instead of this world). But to truly know God provides an even more powerful motivation.

Knowing God leads to holiness. He alone becomes one's consuming passion, displacing all other desires and overcoming the power of sin in our lives. His presence within is sufficient to satisfy every longing. For to know God is to love Him—and there is no higher motivation for obedience to His commands than love. In fact, no other motivation is accepted. It is no accident that the first commandment is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might" (Deut 6:5).

Obedience to God's laws must spring from love for Him. Otherwise, as 1 Corinthians:13:1-3 declares, obeying the letter of the law is nothing. We could give all our possessions to the poor and submit to martyrdom at the stake in service for Christ, but if our motive is not love it would all be in vain. So it is that Christ declared, "if a man love me he will keep my words...he that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings" (Jn:14:23-24).

Loving God is the secret of the Christian life. If we truly love Him, then we want to serve and please and glorify Him. We would not want to do anything or even think a thought that would displease or dishonor Him. A genuine love for God—and only that love—produces consistent holiness and godliness in our daily lives. Love is also the great wellspring of joy and peace. It causes us to witness to the lost about us with passion and without shame. For who is ashamed of one's lover? And who does not rather speak well, boldly and continually, of the one he loves!

Where shall we find this love that we must have for God, and without which we cannot please Him? It is not hiding somewhere in our hearts waiting to be discovered. Nor is it a potential that we have which only needs to be developed. We cannot work it up. It cannot be produced by effort. This love is not in us at all. Though it involves our will and emotions, it comes from God alone.

How then is this love produced? Love is the fruit that the Spirit bears in our lives (Gal:5:22). It is miraculous, like the fruit on a tree—something that only God could produce. Yet we are not like a tree, which has no will or emotions. Obviously, much more is involved when the Spirit bears fruit in the believer's life than is involved in fruit-bearing in nature. His love is the key.

"We love him because he first loved us" (1 John:4:19) tells us that our love for God comes as a response to His love for us. We know of His love through His Word. Our hearts are stirred as we believe what the Bible tells us of God's love in creating us, giving His Son to die for our sins, patiently bearing our stubborn rejection, pardoning and saving us from the penalty that His holy law demands for our sin, providing heaven at infinite cost. Surely to meditate upon God's love for us must produce, by His Spirit, fervent love for Him.

Much more, however, is involved than reading and memorizing and believing what the Bible says about God and His love. Jesus reproved the Pharisees for searching the Scriptures and at the same time refusing to come to Him, the One of whom the Scriptures testified. What the Bible says about God is there in order to lead us into a personal relationship with Him. We must know not only His Word, but we must know Him personally. There is an intimacy with God that is promised to those who love and thus obey Him, an intimacy that is missing in the lives of many Christians.

To those who love and obey Him, Christ offers an incredibly wonderful promise: "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him" (Jn:14:21). This promise to manifest Himself to those who love Him implies a real communication of His presence. This is more than a strong belief that He is with us. It is a spiritual manifestation of His presence.

This intimate fellowship begins at conversion with a real communication from God's Spirit to the believer's spirit. God's Spirit "beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God" (Rom:8:16). It is not simply putting one's name in John:3:16 and taking it "by faith." There is a knowing God, a very real knowing that we are His, and an ongoing communion with Him in prayer. This does not involve visualization, journaling or any technique, but an intimacy that He initiates and promises to maintain with those who love and obey Him.

Most people, Christians included, would jump at the chance to become an intimate friend and confidant of some world leader, perhaps an astronaut, Olympic gold medalist, the head of a multinational corporation, or a famous heart surgeon. How many, however, neglect the infinitely more wonderful opportunity to know the God who created the universe, to have continual and intimate fellowship with the One who has all power, all wisdom, all knowledge, and Who loves us immeasurably! As with anyone else, God's companionship must be cultivated. It takes time. And we will only devote the time if we really believe that we can know God and that it is worthwhile.

"He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek [not success, pleasure, health, or wealth in this world, but] him" (Heb:11:6). God said to Abram, "I [not land or cattle or other possessions that I will bless you with, but I] am thy shield and thine exceeding great reward" (Gen:15:1). God wants to reward us with Himself. Let us not settle for any lesser rewards, for mere gifts instead of the Giver. Let us diligently pursue this intimate fellowship with God himself that He desires for each of us.

God willing, if our Lord tarries, we will come back again later to this subject of knowing and loving God. In the meantime, let us say with David, "O God...early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee" (Ps:63:1); and with Paul, "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death" (Philippians:3:10). And may knowing and loving God be our passion, as it was theirs.

By Dave Hunt