Memphis Belle

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Zephaniah 2:1-3
Zephaniah 2-3
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Zephaniah

 

“Zephaniah was the last of what we call the ‘pre-exilic prophets,’ which means he wrote before the fall of the southern kingdom of Judah.  He was contemporary to Jeremiah, but all of Zephaniah’s prophecies occurred prior to the fall of Jerusalem, whereas Jeremiah continued to prophesy during the beginning of the exile.  Zephaniah was a great-great-grandson of Hezekiah.  He ministered during the reign of Josiah in the late seventh century B.C.  [627 or 626BC].  He was probably born during the reign of Manasseh, who was one of the most evil kings in [Judah’s] history.  But during the reign of Josiah the people of Judah went through a revival of sorts, and some commentators suggest that perhaps Zephaniah had an influence on Josiah in bringing about the revival [along with Jeremiah, who was Josiah’s age, see http://www.unityinchrist.com/kings/5.html].  It is certainly possible, given the nature of his prophecies and the fact that, as a member of the royal family he would have certainly had access to the king.  At any rate, Zephaniah rebuked the nation for the unbridled sin that was running rampant throughout Judah and warned them that the fate of the northern kingdom, which had fallen already to Assyria, would be theirs as well.  The revival under Josiah was short-lived, and the people would face the consequences of their sinful lifestyles.  He called them to repentance and offered hope from God if they would just turn to Him.  Zephaniah also projected into the future and talked about ‘the Day of the LORD,’ when God would judge all nations for their rebellion against Him.  But He would also foretell the day of ultimate restoration and the joy and celebration that will come when God establishes His kingdom on earth.  He told of the coming Savior and the fellowship with Him that would belong to those who follow after Him.  “The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph 3:17).  [The Word For Today Bible (NKJV), p. 1189, Introduction to the Book of Zephaniah.] 

 

Zephaniah 1:1-18

 

Verse 1, “The word of the LORD which came to Zephaniah the son of Cushi, the son of Gadaliah, the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah.”  Zephaniah was a fourth generation descendant of King Hezekiah of Judah, which made him King Josiah’s cousin.  The theme for the whole book is “Day of the LORD,” the time of God’s great intervention in world affairs.  He happens to use the expression “Day of the LORD” more than any other prophet in the Old Testament, which most definitely gives the prophecies in Zephaniah a dual meaning---then and end-time.  It was an immediate warning to Judah and Jerusalem about their impending conquest and enslavement, and it is a warning to the Israeli nation and Jerusalem of today, just prior to the Great Tribulation, World War III.  His message of doom and gloom did bring the nation of Judah under Josiah to a slight degree of repentance (cf. 2nd Kings 22:3 through 23:5).  But when Josiah died in battle the ‘reformation’ ended.  Remember these had a prior fulfillment, but have a greater fulfillment to come, thus colored red.  Some of the language and scenarios only fit end-times as well, such as destroying all the fish in the sea wasn’t done during Zephaniah’s time, but it will occur, at God’s hand, as shown in Revelation 16.

 

Verses 2-5, “‘I will utterly consume everything from the face of the land,’ says the LORD; ‘I will consume man and beast; I will consume the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, and the stumbling blocks [idols] along with the wicked.  I will cut off man from the face of the ground,’ says the LORD.  I will stretch out my hand against Judah, and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  I will cut off every trace of Baal from this place, the names of the idolatrous priests with the pagan priests---those who worship the host of heaven on the hilltops; those who worship and swear oaths by the LORD, but who also swear by Milcom; those who have turned their back from following the LORD, and have not sought the LORD, nor inquired of him.’”  Baal worship was being and had been in common practice since king Manasseh.  Again Baal worship equated to massive child sacrifices---and today would equate to the multiple millions of abortions being committed (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/kings/1.html).  But remember, with the term “day of the LORD” being mentioned so many times in Zephaniah, what is being said applies to our day and age, the end-times we find ourselves in.  Jerusalem is a city filled with Jews, Muslims and Christians.  True Judaism has been corrupted by Babylonian and Greek religion and philosophy [called Hellenization].  Even mainstream Christianity has absorbed, syncretized elements of the Babylonian Mystery Religion into it.  How, you may ask?  In Baal worship December 25th was Baal’s birthday celebration [see http://www.biblebelievers.com/babylon/00index.htm as well as the other link above, checking out that temple of Baal/high place archaeological site].  Was the early Christian Church like that?  If you think so, you need to read the researched article about the early Christian Church at http://www.unityinchrist.com/history2/index3.htm and read some astounding evidence for yourself, verifiable evidence, don’t just believe the article.

 

Our Modern Baal Worship, God’s Judgment

 

Verses 6-12, “Be silent in the presence of the Lord GOD; for the day of the LORD is at hand, for the LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has invited his guests [cf. Revelation 19:17-18].  And it shall be, in the day of the LORD’s sacrifice, that I will punish the princes and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with foreign apparel.  In the same day I will punish all those who leap over the threshold [a pagan practice of Dagon worshippers], who fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.  And there shall be on that day,’ says the LORD, ‘the sound of a mournful cry from the Fish Gate, a wailing from the Second Quarter, and a loud crashing from the hills.  Wail, you inhabitants of Maktesh!  For all the merchant people are cut down; all those who handle money are cut off.  And it shall come to pass at that time that I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, ‘The LORD will not do good, nor will he do evil.’”  God says he’ll punish “all who leap over the threshold.”  Now what in the world does that mean?  Interesting enough, Alexander Hislop’s Two Babylons which I just supplied a link to answers that question.  In 1st Samuel 5:5 it kind of refers to this practice when the priests of Dagon wouldn’t step on the doorway of the temple of Dagon because the hands and the head of Dagon had fallen there.  Are there any modern connections to this Dagon custom?  Alexander Hislop says “the two horned mitre, which the pope wears, when he sits on the high altar at Rome and receives the adoration of the Cardinals, is the very same mitre worn by Dagon, the fish-god of the Philistines and Babylonians (Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons, 1916, 1959, p. 215),  Verse 12 directly cross-references to a New Testament passage.  Verse 12 describes an attitude the people had, “the LORD will not do good nor will he do evil.”  i.e. he won’t do anything.  The apostle Peter referred to people who say things like this as “scoffers.”  Peter said, in 2nd Peter 3:3-4, “…knowing this first:  that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?  For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation..’  But as Zephaniah shows us, the scoffers are going to find out how wrong they are, all at once, and not pleasantly.  Those ‘sacrificing to false gods’, i.e. participating in false worship, will become a sacrifice of God if they don’t repent (verses 7-8 and cf. Isaiah 34:6; Revelation 19:17-18).

 

The Day of the LORD Hastens Quickly

 

Verses 13-18, “Therefore their goods shall become booty, and their houses a desolation; they shall build houses, but not inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards, but not drink their wine.’  The great day of the LORD is near; it is near and hastens quickly.  The noise of the day of the LORD is bitter; there the mighty men shall cry out.  That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of devastation and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers.  I will bring distress upon men, and they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the LORD; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like refuse.  Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy.  For he will make a speedy riddance of all those who dwell in the land.”  These verses are what make the prophecies of Zephaniah tie directly into and apply to the end-time as the Tribulation, World War III begins and progresses.  Verse 15 is almost a direct repeat of Joel chapter 2, “a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet and alarm…”  After reading that, it is very hard for any honest Bible scholar or student to say Zephaniah only applied to the Jews in Josiah’s and Jeremiah’s day.  Verse 18, I like what Pastor Chuck Smith has to say, “Money won’t help.  “Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the LORD’s wrath.”  When God’s judgment is coming, all the money in the world won’t save you.  There are people who think money [or might I say “survival gear, guns & ammo, bomb-shelters, you own farmland even] will protect them against anything; but sooner or later, everyone will find themselves in a situation that can’t be fixed by writing a check.”  [The Word For Today Bible (NKJV) p. 1191] 

 

Zephaniah 2:1-3

 

Jesus’ End-Time Marching Orders for the Body of Christ

 

Verses 1-3, “Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued, or the day passes like chaff, before the LORD’s fierce anger comes upon you, before the day of the LORD’s anger comes upon you!  Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld his justice.  Seek righteousness, seek humility.  It may be that you will be hidden in the day of the LORD’s anger.”  By the direct context of verses 2 and 11, this period of time “before the LORD’s fierce anger” is the Great Tribulation.  Who then is this nation God is addressing through Zephaniah in verse 1, “O undesirable nation”?  Who in the world could this be?  In context with verse 3, God is identifying this “undesirable nation” as those who “Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld his justice…seek righteousness, seek humility…”  This is identifying this “undesirable nation” as the collective Body of Christ!   Verse 1 shows it is the time of the end, just before the Great Tribulation, World War III, starts. 

 

Three Vital Instructions from the LORD given

 

In these three short verses, the LORD has three vital instructions for what right now is a very disunited body of believers in Jesus Christ.  First instruction from Yahweh, the LORD, Jesus Christ: 

 

1) “Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation…”  Jesus, the LORD is saying this twice in one verse, “Gather yourself together.”  When God repeats himself in any verse or short group of verses, it is for extra emphasis, he really means business.  The Body of Christ, Christians and Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus, have historically always been the despised, the hated and persecuted of the world.  Jesus said we would be.   John 15:18-20, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will keep yours also.”  If you don’t believe the Body of Christ, believers in Jesus Christ, are not a persecuted “undesirable nation”, just subscribe to Voice of the Martyrs for a month, that’s all it will take (see http://www.persecution.com Look at what happened in southern Sudan.  Even in the United States real Christians are becoming a hated minority.  So as the end-times come upon us, Jesus’, Yahweh’s message for the disunited Body of Christ is to “Gather yourselves together, yes, gather together, O undesirable nation, before the decree is issued…before the day of the LORD’s fierce anger comes upon you!”  Some parts of the Body of Christ have been going through divisions and splits which are politically motivated, and not over any particular doctrine.  The Sabbatarian Churches of God have been going through divisions and splits like embryonic cell division over the past 18 years (375 divisions, schisms and splits to date since 1995, which the Lord must find disgusting).  This is in direct opposition to what the Lord Jesus Christ, in his pre-incarnate state, commanded the Body of Christ to be doing before the day of his fierce anger comes.  You people who are leaders within the Body of Christ are the very ones doing this,  and you are doing it in direct opposition to Jesus Christ!  Personally, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes, not for a minute.  This whole website is designed to promote unity within the Body of Christ, a degree of doctrinal unity through better understanding of the Word of God, and finally, unity of purpose---doing the work the LORD gave the Body of Christ to perform, right up to the beginning of that Great and Dreadful Day of the LORD.  Just what “work” did the Lord give us to do?  Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.”  i.e. the end won’t come until we have accomplished that.  Those are Jesus Christ’s words, not mine.  Verse 14 also shows that a good majority of us real believers will “get the job done.”  What happens right after the Body of Christ has fulfilled its assignment here?  Verses 15-16, “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place, (whoever reads, let him understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains…”  This website’s evangelism section is designed to show us how best to go about that immense job.  It also identifies and properly defines the work the Lord has asked us to accomplish---preaching the gospel (cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15).  For a Biblical definition of what “the gospel” is, which is kind of essential for carrying out the assignment of the Lord, log onto http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel%20.htm .  Even a major leader of one of the Sabbatarian Churches of God said the article at that link is 100 percent right on the money in defining what the “gospel” is.  It is very hard to do that work effectively as a disunited, squabbling bunch of discordant Christians that can’t agree on anything.  How can we even preach the same thing as such a disunited ‘group’ that even defies the term ‘group’?

 

related links:

 

Matthew 24:   http://www.unityinchrist.com/mathew/Matthew24-1-31.htm

 

Evangelism:  http://www.unityinchrist.com/evangelism/1.htm

http://www.unityinchrist.com/missionstatement.htm

 

What is the Gospel?

http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel%20.htm

 

The verses in Matthew 24:14-16 and Zephaniah 2:1-3 tell us we will have one, just one, major opportunity to get our act together, drop all of our petty (and I mean petty) differences and get the Gospel and a warning to the world, just before the Tribulation starts.  That is just exactly what those verses are telling us.  Second instruction…

 

2)  Second instruction of the LORD:  “Seek the LORD, all you meek of the earth [all you] who have upheld his justice…” (verse 3a)  How does one seek the Lord?  Prayer, Bible study, fasting, and obedience to God’s instructions found in the Bible.  This site has a whole section on prayer and fasting, and is chock full of connective expository Bible studies going through the Word of God.  Dig in.

 

related links:

 

http://www.unityinchrist.com/prayer/bibleway.htm

http://www.unityinchrist.com

 

3)  Third instruction of the LORD:  “Seek righteousness, seek humility…” (Zephaniah 2:3b)  This is an instruction from the Lord that is one of those “where the rubber meets the road” instructions.  It is one thing to study God’s Word, and to pray.  But without directly applying what you study out of God’s Word, plainly speaking, without obedience to God’s Laws, you are a fair-weather Christian, a fake.  There is a wonderful promise for all those within the Body of Christ who follow the instructions of the Lord found in these three short verses (as amplified in Matthew 24:9-14; Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15).  And that promise is found in Zephaniah 2:3c, “It may be that you will be hidden on the day of the LORD’s anger.”  This message also directly cross-references to what Jesus promised the Philadelphia era of the Body of Christ, which would exist right up to the Tribulation (exact same time period being covered here in Zephaniah 2:1-3).  It is found in Revelation 3:10, “Because you have kept my command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” 

 

Related links:

 

http://www.unityinchrist.com/whatisgrace/whatisgraceintro.htm

 

A Tale of Two Churches (eras):

http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/revelation3-1-22.htm

 

Assignment:  Building God’s Temple, Then & Now

 

As we saw in Haggai, there is a direct correlation between the Jews being commanded and inspired by the LORD through Haggai to build God’s Temple, and his command for believers to be about the business of building God’s holy spiritual Temple.  So that section of Haggai is repeated here, as it fits right into the theme of Zephaniah 2:1-3, applying directly to the Body of Christ.

 

The People Need an Attitude Adjustment---same as we Christians

 

Haggai 1:3-11, “Then the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying, ‘Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?  Now therefore, thus says the LORD of hosts:  ‘Consider your ways! 

You have sown much, and bring in little;  you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.’

Thus says the LORD of hosts:  ‘Consider your ways!  Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,’ says the LORD.  ‘You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away.  Why?’ says the LORD of hosts.  ‘Because of my house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his house.  Therefore the heavens above you withhold the dew, and the earth withholds the fruit.  For I called for a drought on the land and the mountains, and on the grain and the new wine and the oil, on whatever the ground brings forth, on men and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.’”  I’m going to give a comment by Pastor Chuck Smith here, as it fits, titled

 

CONSIDER YOUR WAYS

 

“God pointed out to the people that things hadn’t been going so well for them lately.  Their lives hadn’t been fruitful.  “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.”  As God pointed out that their lives weren’t fruitful, he suggested “Consider your ways!”  Then he told them to get to work on the temple.  They had built and decorated their own houses, but had neglected the house of God.  Their priorities were turned around.  Sometimes it is a good thing for us to consider our ways and to reflect on our lives. Is life really working for us?  Do we see the blessings of God on our lives?  Or does it seem like we are coming up short?  Not enough money, too small a house, a lack of joy and fulfillment?  These can all be signs that we aren’t putting first things first.  Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  In other words, put God first and everything else will be taken care of.  Do you feel like you have holes in your pockets?  Maybe a little more attention to the Lord’s work would be in order.  Think about it.  Consider your ways.”  (p. 1195, The Word For Today, NKJV Bible)

Now I would like to add to that good comment, following up on what the Temple of God represents.  We’re in a huge economic demise right now.  How much of that may have been allowed by God because we’re just not serious about “building God’s spiritual Temple”?  Read the next paragraph while keeping that thought in your mind.

 

Spiritual Counterpart to the Physical Temple of God---this applies to us, folks!

 

We are called the Temple of God by Paul, and we as Christians, believers in Jesus Christ, are a holy building God is building up for himself.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s see what the apostle Paul had to say on the subject.  1st Corinthians 3:16-17, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.  For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”  2nd Corinthians 6:16, “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they shall be my people.’”  The analogy is that each one of us is a holy temple for the Holy Spirit to reside in.  But Paul also makes the analogy that all of us, collectively, are being fashioned into a holy Temple whom the Lord will dwell in and amongst at his return, a building fitly fashioned, as Scripture says.  Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”  How much clearer can you get.  The physical Temple is a mere type of what God is doing in us and through us.  How is this spiritual Temple being built?  Through evangelism, and God’s calling of a people to become believers, individual building stones, being added to his holy Temple.  You see, in the Bible physical things represent spiritual things, especially when you come to something as significant as the House of God, the holy Temple.  In Mark 16:15-16a we see Jesus Christ’s major commission to the Church, all believers in him, “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved…”  That’s evangelism, folks, plain and simple.  And then what does he say.  “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…”  Is that it though, for those who are saved and have been baptized into the Body of Christ?  Is that all we have to do is evangelize to the world?  No, we get the rest of the answer in Matthew 28:19-20, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…”---How?  Evangelism, plain and simple---“…baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…  So, we see in this cross-reference to Mark 16:15-16 a few more details which Matthew fills in.  In Mark we are told we are to preach “the gospel” to the world.  In Matthew 28 we’re told what to do with those who respond favorably to our preaching of the Gospel.  1), first, we’re told in whose name we’re to baptize everyone who believes the gospel message we’ve been preaching, and then, 2) we’re also told to spiritually nourish those who have responded to the gospel we’ve preached, those who have been baptized---“teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you…”  This is how we are to build the spiritual Temple of God Jesus is going to dwell in.  People often ignore the second part of Jesus’ Gospel command, that of nourishing the Body of Christ spiritually.

 

What is the Gospel, and how can we support it?

 

What is the Gospel we are supposed to preach to the world?  Well in Acts 2 we see Peter preached about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (there were elements of the 2nd Coming in Peter’s Gospel message as well).  Paul reiterated the same message in the beginning of the 15th chapter of 1st Corinthians.  1st Corinthians 15:1-4, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved [i.e. pretty clear here, we are saved by hearing this gospel], if you hold fast that word which I preached to you---unless you believed in vain.  [another important part of salvation people often ignore, even though God will never let go of you, you must never let go of God, you have to see the process through, salvation is a lifetime deal, not a one-time confession (cf. Matthew 24:13)]    For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,…”  To see a good article which explains the Gospel of salvation more thoroughly log on:  http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsThrGospel%20.htm.  How can we support the various works of God within the Body of Christ which are preaching this Gospel message worldwide? What does God’s Word have to say about principles of giving?  see these links:

          http://www.unityinchrist.com/gifts.htm

          http://www.unityinchrist.com/missionstatement.htm

 

[Comment: I might add here that a major leader of a Sabbatarian Church of God denomination has read the article “What Is The Gospel?” linked here, and gives it his 100 percent approval as being an accurate description of what the Gospel of Salvation is.  But sadly, the Sabbatarian side of the Body of Christ has not properly recognized that many in the Sunday observing side of the Body of Christ have been properly preaching that Gospel to the world as defined in that article, and that support of the non-denominational evangelistic organizations is proper and right, because if fulfills supporting the preaching of the simple Gospel of Salvation, again as defined in that article.  The Sabbatarian Churches of God need to look into this matter quite seriously before the end-times smack us in the face.]

 

How Did the Jews Respond to Haggai’s Message From God?

 

Haggai 1:12-15, “Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him; and the people feared the presence of the LORD.  Then Haggai, the LORD’s messenger, spoke the LORD’s message to the people, saying, ‘I am with you, says the LORD.’  So the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and worked on the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month, in the second year of king Darius.”  The second year of king Darius II would equate to 521BC – 2 years = 519BC, in the 6th month, the 24th day of that month.  This is when the people ‘got with it’ and took Haggai’s message from the LORD to heart.  You can make the spiritual connections of these verses to getting serious in supporting evangelism of all kinds within the Body of Christ before the 2nd Coming of Jesus, which is an accurate connection to make, based on the passages we’ve already looked at in 1st Corinthians 3:16-17, 2nd Corinthians 6:16, and Ephesians 2:19-22.  You take it from there.  It’s God’s message to you, and it’s your life, as they say.  We find one prophecy in Zechariah, the companion prophet to Haggai, about Jesus Christ’s first coming, and how this BRANCH (Christ) would go about building “the temple of the LORD.”  Based upon what the apostle Paul has told us, this “Temple of the LORD” is a spiritual Temple, made without hands, and that’s us, folks!  Let’s read this short prophecy.  It ties right in with Joshua and Zerubbabel’s rebuilding of the 2nd Temple, but then looks forward to Christ at his first coming and his building of this “temple of the LORD” (which is an ongoing process from Pentecost 30AD to the 2nd Coming).  We see elements of Jesus Christ’s first coming, and what he is doing now, from the start of the Church up until the 2nd coming, and also we see elements which occur after Jesus Christ’s 2nd coming, all contained in this very short prophecy about the BRANCH.  It’s fascinating, when taken in context with what we just read Paul stating.  Zechariah 6:9-13, “Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Receive the gift from the captives---from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have come from Babylon---and go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah.  Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.  Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying:

‘Behold, the man whose name is the BRANCH!  From his place he shall branch out, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.  He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on his throne; so he shall be priest on his throne.  And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.’”

 

More Incentive Given by the LORD Through Haggai to the Jews, And To Us

 

The LORD gives Haggai one more message for the people, to kind of kick them into high gear and really give them some incentive.  Haggai 2:1-9, “In the seventh month, on the twenty-first of the month [this is the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, when the Lord is giving a special message through Haggai to the people], the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, saying:  ‘Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people, saying:  Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory?  And how do you see it now?  [Remember, all those who had seen the former Temple of Solomon were crying when they saw the foundations being laid for this Temple?  God’s calling their attention to that, and is about to tell them something really important and inspiring.]  In comparison with it, is this not in your eyes as nothing?  Yet now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ says the LORD of hosts.  according to the word that I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt, so my Spirit remains among you; do not fear!’  For thus says the LORD of hosts:  Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the LORD of hosts.  The silver is mine, and the gold is mine,’ says the LORD of hosts.  The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the LORD of hosts.  ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the LORD of hosts.’”  Now here in verses 6-7 this can only be a direct reference to the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.  These two verses portray worldwide upheaval only found described in the Book of Revelation, and some in Isaiah.  God at the end of Haggai pronounces a blessing on Zerubbabel for his efforts and service in bringing the people back to the land of Judah and constructing the 2nd Temple.  Strong 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ pronouncements are included in this blessing.  Haggai 2:20-23, “And again the word of the LORD came to Haggai on the twenty-fourth day of the month, saying, ‘Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, ‘I will shake heaven and earth, I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I will destroy the strength of the Gentile kingdoms.  I will overthrow the chariots and those who ride in them; the horses and their riders shall come down, everyone by the sword of his brother.  In that day,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel my servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the LORD, ‘and will make you like a signet ring; for I have  chosen you,’ says the LORD of hosts.”  This prophecy ties right into the end-time destruction of nations which we see taking place in the Book of Revelation (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/revelation4-10.html ; and http://www.unityinchrist.com/revelation/Pentecost-Revetion1.htm  ).  Almost all of the Book of Zechariah, the companion prophet of Haggai, is about the time of the Tribulation (World War III) and the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.  When the LORD preached what he did here in Haggai and then what we see written in Zechariah chapters 12 through 14, well, these poor Jews thought this was all about to occur in their lifetimes, and so they got real busy and finished the construction of the Temple.  Just take some time and read through those three chapters in Zechariah, with statements like “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem.  And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it…The LORD will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become greater than that of Judah.  In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them.  It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:2-3, 7-9) and also, “Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst.  For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; the city shall be taken, the houses rifled, and the women ravished.  Half of the city shall go into captivity, but the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.  Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle.  And in that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east.  And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half toward the south…And the LORD shall be King over all the earth.  In that day it shall be---‘The LORD is one,’ and his name one…And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (Zechariah 14:1-4, 9, 16).  But we know these prophecies, as almost all of them do in Zechariah, apply directly to the 2nd Coming of Jesus Christ.  And we have also just seen how the Lord Jesus Christ is building his spiritual Temple, which is us, folks!  And God the Father wants all of us to be busy helping the Lord build his spiritual Temple just before the end, when no man can work, and there will be a famine of the Word of God, as Amos said in Amos 8:11-12, “Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD.  They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but shall not find it.”  We don’t have forever to finish the proclamation of the Gospel message to the world.  There will be a time when the Lord allows our works for him to be cut off, a time when there is time no more.  This will be like the calm before the storm, just before the Tribulation strikes.  Those prophecies in Zechariah are more for us now, those of us who are building the Temple of the LORD that the apostle Paul spoke of, they were written to give us our incentives toward the Temple Jesus is using us to help him build. But we don’t have forever to get the job done.  It behooves us all to find out for ourselves what the Gospel of Salvation is, and be promoting it however and wherever we can, as well as helping to nourish the Body of Christ, those precious building blocks Jesus has already gathered for his Temple.  That’s the whole purpose of this website (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/missionstatement.htm and http://www.unityinchrist.com/memphisbelle.htm).  I’m doing my best to do both of those things (and I’m retired on a very fixed income, so what’s your excuse?)  What are you doing? 

 

Promised Blessing Because They Heeded the LORD’s Message Through Haggai---does it apply to us today?

 

Now you remember how God had cursed the Jews’ crops, clothing and everything they were doing to make an income in Haggai chapter 1?  Then it says they heeded the LORD’s message through Haggai and Zechariah.  What was God’s response?  We find it in Haggai 2:15-19, “And now, carefully consider from this day forward:  from before the stone was laid upon stone in the temple of the LORD---since those days, when one came to a heap of twenty ephahs, there were but ten; when one came to the wine vat to draw out fifty baths from the press, there were but twenty.  I struck you with blight and mildew and hail in all the labors of your hands; yet you did not turn to me,’ says the LORD.  ‘Consider now from this day forward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, from the day that the foundation was laid---consider it:  Is the seed still in the barn?  As yet the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree has not yielded fruit.  But from this day I will bless you.”  The United States, and a lot of the rest of the world, but particularly the United States, has been in a huge economic downturn.  Now in the spiritual sense, God is not judging the United States nor any physical nation yet.  But is he judging ‘the household of God’?  Have we as believers in Jesus been more interested in pursuing our careers than the things of the Lord, the two major things he’s interested in, nourishing the Body of Christ, and evangelizing the world?  Have we been more interested in fixing up our houses than supporting the various Works of God which promote those two central parts of Jesus Great Commission for believers?  I am quite sure, if we heeded Haggai’s and Zechariah’s message of encouragement for us by changing over our priorities, we’d be equally blessed in our physical harvests as well.  Just think how much more Haggai’s and Zechariah’s messages apply to our time than theirs.  God can bless in lean times, and curse in fat times.  The economy of the nation and world doesn’t have to pick up for God to bless your physical harvest, although he may just chose to do so.  Don’t try to put God in a box.  Just do his will in your life and see what happens.

 

How Can We Achieve Unity Within The Body of Christ, As Jesus Has Called For In Zephaniah 2:1-3?

 

If Jesus Christ, as Yahweh, the pre-Incarnate Christ emphatically commanded the greater Body of Christ, this “undesirable nation, the meek of the earth who have upheld justice” to come together in unity, how is that possible?  Taking a cold, hard look at the real Body of Christ (which is composed of all the Christian denominations in whom God’s Holy Spirit dwells, guides and leads) they all tend to agree on the fundamentals of the doctrines of salvation, but at times adamantly disagree on the secondary doctrines of the Bible, each having their own personal interpretations.  These secondary doctrines would include doctrines about heaven & hell, the coming of the Millennial Kingdom of God at Jesus’ 2nd coming, predestination verses free moral agency, free choice, soul-sleep verses soul remains conscious at death, understanding about days of worship, young earth verses old earth creationism, just to name a few.  Realistically, the active parts of the Body if Christ include the various denominations of Evangelicals, Baptists, Pentecostal churches, the Calvary Chapel’s (Chuck Smith, Costa Mesa variety), the myriad groups of Messianic Jews God has called to salvation (about 1 million so far), and lastly the Sabbath-keeping Church of God denominations.

 

I. Number One Hurdle To Achieving A Form of Christ-desired Unity Within This Divergent Holy Spirit indwelt Group of Believing Denominations:  Recognition of each other.  Boy, that’s a mouthful, but it’s to the point.  As far as unity is concerned, the Body of Christ is seriously messed up.  They not only disagree on many of their held and cherished secondary doctrinal interpretations of the Bible, but many of them teach their members that those that do not hold to their specific interpretations are lesser Christians, or even not Christian at all.  The bickering, backstabbing and character assassination is well known to those of us who have spent some time within the differing denominations, as I have.  So, the first major hurdle the various members of the greater Body of Christ must leap (with God’s help, of course) is to come to a firm recognition of all the other churches and denominations within this Body of Christ as being genuine Holy Spirit indwelt brothers and sisters in Christ.  For example, and I’m going to get specific, many of the real and genuinely Holy Spirit indwelt Pentecostal denominations kind of slander the other non-Pentecostal churches and denominations because they don’t “speak in tongues.”  At the same time, many of those same other denominations target the Pentecostals for actual or perceived abuses in their “speaking in tongues”, some even going as far as saying their speaking in tongues and various practices they hold are demonic.  As Paul said, the knowledge of prophecy, speaking in tongues, even faith itself is secondary doctrinally to having the overall agape’ love of God, which overlooks such puny differences we have made doctrinal mountains out of.  Look, realistically, if a church or denomination is orthodox in its primary taught beliefs about salvation, the Gospel, that Jesus Christ was God in the flesh, about the death, burial, resurrection of Jesus Christ to pay for the sins of mankind, and the need for sinners to accept that sacrifice and Jesus into their lives, receiving the Holy Spirit to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of salvation, and if they accept that God created the heavens and the earth (regardless of how you may believe he did that, six days, 15.75 billion years, specific creation, theistic evolution), and you have Holy Spirit indwelt believers within your church/denomination, you are a viable part of the Body of Christ---if you have a love for God and the things of God, including his Laws, Romans 8 is operative in you, then your church/denomination is a genuine part of the Body of Christ.  So then, if you are a genuine part of the Body of Christ, what in the world are you doing as a denomination/church attacking or belittling another church/denomination that believes the same things in the primary doctrinal beliefs about salvation and is of God?  For example, and I’m getting personal here, because I come from the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God side of the Body of Christ, but all the Sabbath-keeping Church of God denominations actively teach their members that because Sunday-keepers are not keeping the 4th Commandment, the Sabbath command, they are “false Christians.”  Now there is a huge dichotomy between the beliefs of Sunday-keepers and Sabbath-keepers on this subject, which is discussed in the “About the Author” section of this website, with links going to other pertinent articles on the subject.  On the Sunday-keeping side of the Body of Christ, they call the Sabbath-keeping Churches of God “cults”, they essentially hurl the same insult back at the Sabbath-keepers.  And let me tell you, if both groups have the indwelling Holy Spirit active within them (as I know they do, I’ve spent years on both sides of this fence, attending the Worldwide Church of God for 25 years, and a Calvary Chapel for 7.5 years, and a Messianic Jewish congregation for about 3.5 years so far), then calling “the other group” either “false Christians, or a cult,” is a direct denying of the Holy Spirit that indwells both denominational groups.  Jesus himself warned the Pharisees and scribes when they accused him of doing miracles by the power of Beelzebub, that they were close to blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is an unforgivable sin.  Your condemnation is essentially blaspheming what the Holy Spirit is actively doing within that other denomination.  That places you on scary ground.   So my advice, you denominations that like to do this, tread very lightly and cautiously.  You cannot see spirit, or the Holy Spirit, so if you’re not sure, best to zip the lip and wait, rather than fall under God’s direct condemnation.

 

II. Second Hurdle To Achieving A Form Of Unity Within The Body of Christ:  Recognition and acceptance of a common Biblical definition of what the Gospel of salvation is.  Jesus Christ gave the Church, now the greater Body of Christ, the assignment to preach the Gospel to the whole world before the end of the Age and his 2nd coming.  Throughout the Church Age various parts of the Body of Christ have been faithfully doing that.  But near the end of the Age, where we find ourselves now, Jesus had something critical to say on the subject of getting that Gospel message out.  Let’s read what he had to say, as recorded in Matthew and Mark.  Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”  What end is that?  The coming of World War III, called the great tribulation, and the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ to put an end to World War III.  This is described by Jesus in verses 15-31 of this same chapter 24 of Matthew.  So this is our end-time assignment, given to the Body of Christ by Jesus Christ directly in Scripture.  Mark repeats the assignment with a slight alteration of words, but not meaning.    Mark 13:10, “And the gospel must first be published among all nations.”  Matthew 28:18-20, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:  and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.  Amen.”  Now naturally, you’re only going to be baptizing those who respond favorably to the preaching of the Gospel.  So this is kind of a two-fold assignment here in Matthew 28, teaching all nations amounts to teaching them the Gospel of salvation, and then those who accept the Gospel and ask Jesus into their lives, you baptize, and teach them “whatsoever I have commanded you…”    But how in the world can the collective Body of Christ preach the Gospel of salvation effectively, so Mathew 24:14 is fulfilled, unless they all are agreed on what that Gospel message is composed of?  I have put together a very Biblically based article defining the Gospel of Salvation, which most Sunday-observing Christians would agree with, and I even ran it by the leader of a major Sabbath-keeping Church of God denomination, and he agrees that my article is just about 100 percent Biblically accurate.  The article is at: http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel .htm.  If we’re all teaching this same Gospel message to the world, even from our differing denominations, the world will take notice.  Notice that Jesus said that this particular preaching of the Gospel would be as a witness to the world, indicating it is kind of a last-ditch effort, it’s sort of a witness and a warning about what is just over the horizon, i.e. World War III. 

 

3. Third Hurdle:  What Type Of Unity?  Now Jesus pointed out a spiritual principle that I firmly believe we need to take careful note of before we go rushing into some sincere but ill-advised unity movement.  In Matthew 9:16-17 Jesus said, “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse.  Neither do men put new wine into old bottles [wineskins, goat wineskins at the time Jesus spoke this]:  else the bottles [wineskins] break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles [wineskins] perish:  but they put new wine into new wine bottles, and both are preserved.”  When Jesus said this he was referring to the archaic religious system then extant in the Temple, Judaism, as compared to his new ministry which was just about to begin (cf. Acts 2).  But I have been witness to this painful bursting of the denominational wineskin of the Worldwide Church of God, when Joe Tkach Jr. attempted to bring in “new” teachings which some of the Sunday-observing denominations hold as being true, which run strongly contrary to Sabbatarian teachings.  The Worldwide Church of God burst asunder into 375 differing Sabbath-keeping Church of God denominations, while the parent Worldwide Church of God, under Tkach’s leadership ceased to be a Sabbath-keeping Church of God denomination, changed its name and became a Sunday-observing church.  The forces at work, looking back, were both spiritually destructive and harmful to most of the original membership. 

          So what kind of unity should we seek, taking this warning of Jesus into careful consideration?  First, as pointed out in the 2nd hurdle, we all need to agree on a common definition as to what the Gospel of salvation is.  You already have my suggestion on that point.  So we as separate denominations need to start cooperating in the proclamation of “the same Gospel message.”  Taking Jesus’ wineskin warning into consideration, I am not going to suggest the Body of Christ merge into one giant denomination, where everyone would be somehow coerced or required to drop all their own denominational secondary beliefs.  We’d just end up with a bunch of burst denominational wineskins.  If you want to know what that felt like going through something like that, find a former member of the Worldwide Church of God and ask him or her.  Instead I am proposing that all genuine Holy Spirit indwelt denominations unite into a confederation of denominations all sharing the common goal of proclaiming the same Gospel message, all under the inspired guidance of Jesus Christ via the Holy Spirit.  Each denomination will remain free to retain its own secondary belief systematic theology.  This pattern I propose would follow what the great Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to do with the former Soviet Union, bringing together in a confederation their 15 ethnically differing republics, all having their own democratic Constitutional governments, but united under a strong central government (the Center) in Moscow.  He would have succeeded in this noble effort (which included a total global nuclear disarmament) had he not been politically undermined by Boris Yeltsin (under the clandestine backing of the U.S.).  To retain cohesiveness and a degree of unity toward promoting the various Gospel proclamation efforts, some structure of top leadership made up of the denominational leaders over this confederation of denominations might prove helpful and needed.  I will take that idea no further, beyond just throwing it out there.  Pfb

 

Related links: 

 

Gospel of salvation definition we could all rally around.

http://www.unityinchrist.com/misc/WhatIsTheGospel .htm

 

To learn more about the strange dichotomy between Sabbath-keeping and Sunday-keeping beliefs, see,

http://www.unityinchrist.com/author.htm

 

Beware of putting “new wine into old wineskins.”  see,

http://www.unityinchrist.com/wwcofg/wwcofgod.html

 

 

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