Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Are You In Touch?

That is, are you in Touch with the Blood of Christ?

Consider the following:

[We have come] to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. - From Hebrews 12:24 (NAS).

The question is this: Have you come to the soul saving blood of the Lamb?

Many have come to an acceptance of the truth; Jesus is Lord, victorious over death and ascended to Heaven above. Some have come also to a solid knowledge of doctrine and the observance of good Christian practice. Those things are necessary and important. But unless a person has also come to the blood of Jesus, they have no power to save.

Among Bible believers, this isn’t exactly news. There is much talk within Christendom about “The power of the Blood”. And for good reason; the Bible tells us that:

=> The Church is purchased by Christ’s blood – Acts 20:28; Revelation 5:9
=> We are justified by His blood – Romans 5:9
=> We have redemption through Christ’s blood – Ephesians 1:7; 1Peter 1:18-19
=> Without sacrificial blood there’s no forgiveness – Hebrews 9:22
=> His blood cleanses us from all sin – 1Jn 1:7

Christendom’s focus upon Christ’s Blood

Scripture references such as these have led Christendom throughout the ages to an appropriate focus on the importance of Christ’s blood in salvation. In recent years some have caved in to pressures from the world, which – being in the power of the evil one – has complained that Christianity is “too gory” a religion for modern times. But most continue – in fidelity to the teaching of scripture – to emphasize the importance of Christ’s blood. It is common, therefore, to hear or to read such comments as these:

“Trust the blood” “Plead the blood” “Call upon the blood”
“Trust in His blood and believe that it was poured out for you personally”

It is good that many still emphasize the importance of Christ’s blood in salvation. But do such statements as these really tell us what we need to know about being in touch with the blood of Christ?

Christ’s blood was shed

This makes salvation possible for all men.

The book of Hebrews instructs us extensively in old covenant principles that reveal new covenant truths. For example:

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness–Hebrews 9:22 (NIV)

Here we see that sacrificial blood is needed in order for sins to be forgiven. Under the old covenant, the blood of bulls and goats was shed for this purpose. The blood of those sacrifices merely looked ahead to the true sacrifice; the death of Christ, without which the blood of those previous sacrifices would have meant nothing:

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins - Hebrews 10:4.

But Christ Jesus has died, has shed His blood; and has carried it in His own flesh into the true Holy of Holies which is in Heaven above.

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle,not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood,He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. – Hebrews 9:11-12 (NAS)

Christ’s blood is to be applied

Salvation becomes actual (personally valid) only when we come in touch with the blood of Christ.

When Jesus died, shedding His blood, the old covenant ended and the new began. But for people to become blessed through this covenant they must come in contract with the blood:

Therefore even the first covenant was not inaugurated without blood. For when every commandment had been spoken by Moses to all the people according to the Law, he took the blood of the calves and the goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, "THIS IS THE BLOOD OF THE COVENANT WHICH GOD COMMANDED YOU." –Hebrews 9:18-20 (NAS)

As stated above, the book of Hebrews does a wonderful job of using old covenant principles to teach new covenant truths. God has offered the blood of the new covenant in the sacrifice of Jesus, the Holy Lamb. But as with the Hebrews of old, contact with the blood was necessary to be blessed by the covenant. The original account is recorded at Exodus 24. Verses 7 & 8 of that account read as follows:

Then he took the book of the covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said,"All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!" So Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people,and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words."–Exodus 24:7-8 (NAS)

The Hebrew people, assembled together, listened to the words contained within the book of the covenant. They agreed with those words. Only then did Moses take the blood of the sacrificial beasts, “with water and scarlet wool and hyssop”, and sprinkle it on the people.

The covenant between God and man is sealed when man connects with the blood.

Another old covenant example can be used to show this exact same truth; the account of the original Passover. The Hebrew people had been in cruel bondage to Egypt for many years and even after many plagues against Egypt, Pharaoh refused to let them go. God determine one final and devastating plague upon Egypt.

On a certain night – the 14th of Nisan according to their ancient calendar – a mighty angel was to pass over Egypt, slaying the firstborn of every household there. But God offered the Hebrews a way of protection. They were to take a perfect lamb, one year old and set it apart. They were then to sacrifice their lamb and eat it together in their homes in a prescribed manner the same evening that the death angel was to “pass over”. They were also to take the blood of the sacrificed lamb and paint it onto the two doorposts and lintel of their homes:

'And the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.– Exodus 12:13

But what if all had been done properly but for one detail? What if a Hebrew family had neglected to display the blood, as instructed, upon the doorway of their home? Certainly, in that case, there would be no “sign” upon that home indicating that there were faithful Hebrews within. In that case the death angel would not pass over. That family would not be protected and the plague would fall upon them.

We see again the same lesson as shown in Hebrews 9, above. Here is the pattern:

=> God has offered His Son and considers His Son’s blood a covering for our sins. It serves as our shield against God’s judgment upon sin.
=> Those who want to receive the blessings of that covenant must hear and agree with the things said in “the book of the covenant”; the gospel teachings of the New Testament.
=> So far, so good. But the covenant is ratified or made official only when the blood is applied to us. So, we ask again, “Are you in touch with the blood of Christ?”

How? How do you get in touch? How can you know?

Under the old covenant the people were given visible signs of the blood’s contact.

=> When the Hebrews in Egypt painted their doorways with the blood of the lamb, they could see that it was there.
=> When Moses said to the Hebrew people, “This is the blood of the covenant”, they saw the blood that was mingled with the water. They felt it splashing onto them as they passed by the basins in which it had been mixed.

Under the old covenant the Lord God also saw these signs.

=> In Exodus 12:13 the Lord specifically said: when I see the blood I will pass over you

We understand therefore that there were – under the old covenant – visible signs that both the Lord God and the Lord’s people could see. Yet today, most of Christendom, though aware of the importance of the blood, tries to approach Christ’s blood in invisible, mystical ways:

“Trust the blood” “Plead the blood” “Call upon the blood”
“Trust in His blood and believe that it was poured out for you personally”

God gave visible signs of contact with the blood under the old covenant. Are we to suppose there are no such signs given us under the new? We should ask again, as was asked earlier, do such commonplace sayings really tell us what we need to know about “getting in touch” with the blood of Christ?

Three ways to get in touch:

The blood was in the water.

Hebrews 9:19 together with the Exodus 24 account showed us that the blood of the old covenant was in basins in water. May I suggested that – in the mind of God – the blood of the new covenant is in the waters of baptism? Such a thought might seem outrageous to some but before disregarding it there are some things to be considered:

=> Baptism is – according to Acts 2:38 – “for the forgiveness of sins…” And according to 1Peter 3:21, “baptism now saves”. But as we have seen above, without blood there is no forgiveness. How, then, can baptism be involved in our forgiveness & salvation unless it connects us with the blood?
=> Jesus shed His blood in His death. Romans 6:3 states that we are baptized into Christ’s death; that is, into the event during which His blood was shed.
=> Romans 6:3 also states that we are “baptized into Christ” (as does Galatians 3:27). We are not baptized into a dead corpse but into the living Savior, life sustaining blood coursing through His veins.

Baptism is a visible sign; one that – according to the scriptures cited above – saves and forgives. It puts us in touch with the death of Christ. It brings us into the Savior Himself. It is a sign, visible to both God and man, even as the blood of the covenant was visible under the old Mosaic covenant.

The Blood is in the cup.

We should have no difficulty in seeing this connection. It is plainly stated:

And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.–Matthew 26:26-28 (NAS)

This is an account of Jesus’ instituting the memorial that is variously known throughout Christendom as the Lord’s Supper and Communion. He plainly stated that “My blood of the covenant” was within that shared cup. Literally speaking, we do not see anything there but the juice derived from the vine. It is not and does not become literal blood any more than the unleavened bread becomes literal flesh. What then did Christ mean?

What this passage shows us is that the elements of the Lord’s Supper ARE Christ's body and His blood – in the mind of God. How do we know this? We know this because it is from the mind (or heart) that the mouth speaks (Mt 12:34) and it was God that spoke the words of Matthew 26:26ff.

The Blood is in Christ’s Body

We noticed above that we are baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). Scripturally speaking, Baptism is also the ordinance by which people are added to Christ’s church. All Christendom acknowledges that the 1st Christian church began on the day of Pentecost, 33 AD, as recorded in Acts 2:

So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.-Act_2:41 (NAS)

Those who believed were baptized. Those who were baptized were added. Added to what? The answer is obvious; they were added to Christ’s church. Elsewhere in scripture we read that the church is Christ’s body:

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all. –Ephesians 1:22-23 (NAS)

The church is a living body, the body of Christ. Scriptural principle states that “the life is in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). Therefore the living Church of God is infused with the life sustaining blood of our Lord. His church is a place of refuge, encouragement, refreshment. And, of course, it is a place of Christian fellowship:

but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.–1John 1:7 (NAS)

Are you in touch?

The blood is not – literally or physically – in the Communion Cup nor is it literally, physically in the waters of baptism or Christ’s church.
But it is more than reasonable for us to accept that – in the mind of God – Christ’s blood exists in all three of these places.

=> The blood is in the water. Therefore, those who have heard and agreed with the good teaching of “the book of the covenant” are baptized and saved (Mark 16:16). They are immersed in water for the remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, meeting the blood as they do so.
=> The blood is in the cup. Therefore, having met Christ’s blood in the water, Christians partake with one another of the Loaf and Cup, remembering the Lord in the manner that He asked. In this way we remember and re-devote ourselves to the covenant of God’s grace in His blood.
=> The blood is in the body of Christ. His church. Christians are “added” to the church when they come into initial contact with Christ’s blood at baptism. There we abide, faithful to Him and in fellowship with one another “and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin”.

As in the old covenant, God has given visible things by which we see the spiritual ones. He has given us the water, the cup and the body. It is more than reasonable – based on the study of scripture – to see Christ’s blood in all of them; all of them together. It is more than reasonable to believe that God sees the blood of Christ in these things, as well.

For our own part we must realize, though, that our contact with the blood of Christ is not an “either–or proposition”. This is not “multiple choice”. We must contact the water, we must partake the cup, we must abide in the body. Only then can we know for certain we are in touch with the blood of Christ.

I am, by God’s grace,
Rich In Christ

Thursday, April 5, 2012

When Was Our Lord Crucified?

Tradition, of course, states that it was on “Good Friday”

But before accepting this on faith, we would do well to consider the statement of Matthew 12:40:

“For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” - Matthew 12:40 (NAS)

Accepting this statement at face value, we would expect a specific period of time to pass between Jesus’ burial and resurrection; namely three days and three nights. In other words, we’d expect Him to be in the borrowed tomb for six periods of roughly twelve hours each, or about 72 hours.

But if Jesus died Friday afternoon, as per tradition, it is very difficult to account for anything close to a 72 hour passage of time, or for “three days and three nights”, either one. Friday night and Saturday night are two nights. Add in the daylight hours from Saturday and you have one and a half complete days. “Three-days-plus-three-nights” simply cannot be worked in between Friday afternoon and the early morning of hours of “…the first day of the week, while it was still dark…” (John 20:1).

Had Jesus predicted that he would be “three days in the heart of the earth” we might more easily account for this difficulty. In that case we might suppose that Jesus meant that He’d be in the heart of the earth for all of one day (Saturday) and some fragment of two others. But Jesus specifically said He’d be “three nights” in the heart of the earth. We can account for Him being in the borrowed tomb Friday and Saturday nights – two nights - but if He died on Friday there is no possibility of His being in the tomb for a third night.

The only way to account for Jesus being in the tomb a third night is to assume Jesus was crucified Thursday. I am aware that this raises some questions as well, and beg the readers’ patience as they continue reading. Questions arising from the proposition that Jesus died on Thursday will, I believe, be answered in the final section of this entry.

Friday? Or Thursday?

Before going any further, we might ask, “Why is this question important?”

The quick answer is that unbelievers are convinced that the Bible is “full of contradictions” and that the “Good Friday” tradition for Christ’s crucifixion presents the appearance of contradiction.

Jesus, in scripture, said He’d be in the tomb three days & three nights. Meanwhile, all Christendom remembers His death on “Good Friday”. 24 hours passed between Friday and Saturday afternoons and by the time the sun had risen the following morning (not more than 12 hours) Jesus has already arisen.

This has every appearance of a contradiction and for good reason. And we’d be very na├»ve to suppose that atheists, zealous for their cause, have not noticed and published materials on it.

Fortunately the “contradiction” is between man’s traditions and the Bible rather than being in the Bible itself. Let’s begin working to resolve this “contradiction” by looking at…

The Thursday Timetable

Placing the Crucifixion on Thursday resolves any 3 days / 3 nights questions that might arise:

=> Thursday PM (1st night), Friday PM (2nd night) and Saturday PM (3rd night)

=> Friday AM (1st morning), Saturday AM (2nd morning) and Sunday AM (3rd morning)

As can be seen, three days and three nights fits well if we assume our Lord was crucified Thursday. And as it turns out, proposing Thursday as the day of the crucifixion fits into the overall framework of Jesus final week, as well.

Events of the Crucifixion week:

Confusion: What about Wednesday?

No one is actually sure what became of Wednesday during Jesus’ final week. There seems to be a prevailing desire among Bible scholars to go along with the idea of Jesus dying on Friday but this leaves Wednesday of the crucifixion week more or less in limbo. You can confirm this for yourself checking the standard references that come easily to hand. For example:

=> The Dickson New Analytical Bible states, concerning Wednesday, "No record of this Day".

=> The Thompson Chain Reference Bible avoids questions of "what happened to Wednesday" by combining the "Tuesday and Wednesday" events under one heading.

=> The Chronological and Background Charts of the New Testament reference by H. Wayne House lists a single event for Wednesday, the “Plot to Kill Jesus” but attaches a question mark (?) to the entry.

=> Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts jumps from Tuesday straight to Thursday, indicating that Wednesday was simply passed by in the scripture record.

The Bible, of course, apart from identifying the 1st day of the week (Sunday), never says which day is which. But it does point to events occurring on five separate days, beginning from the day of Christ’s Triumphal entry and ending the day of the crucifixion.

During this final week, Jesus spent His days in Jerusalem, His evenings at Bethany.

If Jesus was crucified Friday, we would expect to see activities recorded in Jerusalem during six days (Sunday-Friday, inclusive). We would also expect five trips into and out of the city prior to Christ’s arrest. But we have scriptural indicators for just four such trips:

=> 1st Day – all are agreed this was Sunday: This was the “Triumphal Entry” - The 1st Return to Bethany is recorded at Mark 11:11.

=> 2nd Day – Monday: 2nd entry to Jerusalem - Mark 11:15. The 2nd Return to Bethany is recorded at Mark 11:19.

=> 3rd Day – Tuesday: 3rd entry to Jerusalem - Mark 11:20, 27. The 3rd Return to Bethany is recorded at Matthew 26:1-6

=> 4th Day – Wednesday: 4th return to the city - Matthew 26:17; Luke 22:7-10a. The 4th withdrawal is followed by the Garden of Gethsemane account and Jesus' arrest – Matthew. 26:36ff; Mark 14:32ff; Luke 22:39ff.

=> 5th Day – Thursday: According to this chronology – a scriptural chronology - Jesus seems to have been arrested Wednesday night and would have been crucified Thursday.

Objections to Thursday as the day of crucifixion

The only significant objection is that the Jews did not want Jesus’ body left on the cross because of the Sabbath.

Then the Jews, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away - John 19:31 (NAS).

This verse shows plainly that the day after the crucifixion was the Sabbath (a high day). Since the weekly Sabbath fell on Saturday, many have pointed to this verse as proof positive that Jesus died on Friday. But let’s look at the verse more carefully.

John 19:21 supplies two important facts in addition stating the next day was the Sabbath. 1st it states that this particular “Sabbath was a high day” (NAS), a “special Sabbath” (NIV). 2nd, It states that it was the “day of preparation” on which Jesus had died.

We should therefore be asking two questions. What was the “day of preparation”? And what kind of “special Sabbath” or “high day” was the next day going to be? The answers are as follows:

1. Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover. He was crucified on the same day that the Passover Lambs were being prepared for the holy celebration of Passover. This was a most appropriate time for our Savior also to be slaughtered, considering that He was the true Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

2. The following day was Passover itself, always celebrated according to the Law on the 14th of Nissan, regardless of what day of the week it fell on. Ordinary Sabbaths were Saturdays, occurring each week. But there were also “Special Sabbaths” – Holy Days that were set apart for the special worship of God. And the Passover was one of them.

Computer modeling has now demonstrated that during the year 33 AD, the year Jesus died, the 14th of Nissan fell on a Friday. See Roger Rusk, "The Day He Died" (Christianity Today, Vol. 18, No. 19), p. 4 (722).

Jesus died as our Passover Lamb on the day of preparation for that special Sabbath, that most special of all Passovers, 33 AD. Jesus died on Thursday.

I am by God’s Grace,
Rich In Christ