The Pagan Path

Those who wonder are not lost; they are trying to awaken! 'The Sleeper must awaken!'

Friday, November 25, 2011

Empire-builders versus Kingdom-builders ( the city of man versus the City of God )

Where do wars and fights [ come \ from among you? Do [ they ] not [ come ] from your [ desires for ] pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet[a] you do not have because you do not ask. "( James 4:1 & 2 )

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, [ saying ], Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us. ( Psalm 2:1-3 )

Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. ( Psalm 127:1 )

'Death and destruction around the world': so said a good friend of mine in referring to the havoc that has been created and foisted upon the world, through wars unconstitutionally perpetrated in the name of freedom and democracy! I believe that most of us, if we're honestly seeking the truth, would have to admit that, at the basis of these 'wars', is not, as we've been led to believe, in our willful ignorance, a concern for freedom and democracy, but rather, a self-seeking and self-serving lust for power, and an undeniable greed for 'all the oil under the sand'!

From the American Heritage dictionary; we get this definition of the word 'empire', 'A political unit having an extensive territory or comprising a number of territories or nations and ruled by a single supreme authority'. From a very basic study of history, both ancient, and recent; we can note the rise and fall of many empires that have been established, and maintained, for awhile, the the strength, power and authority ( ? ) and most often, cruelty, of man. As we see in the quote from the book of James, above, wars occur because men 'lust and do not have', they 'murder and covet and cannot obtain', yet, James says 'you do not have because you do not ask'. There have been wars for centuries, particularly in the Middle East, needless wars, simply because certain men lust for what they do not have, but other men do. Peace is sought, a truce, at least, from the fighting, but it cannot be obtained, because the only way it can be gained, they seem to think, is by more war, or threat of war.

Jesus said, in Matthew 6:33, 'seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you', but men, it seems, would rather seek their own kingdom, or empire, empires which have been proven to fail, than the unfailing, everlasting Kingdom which has been established by God, and whose rule and dominion will never cease! Why is this, do you think? Was David right when he wrote that 'the nations rage', and 'the people plot a vain thing', because they want to 'break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us'? I believe that a more careful study of the above-mentioned history will show that this is the case, and even though many of these 'wars' ( the Crusades, for instance ) have been waged, and atrocities committed, in the name of God; you will find much the same reason has been the instigation, and the true impetus behind these wars was that men 'lust and do not have'.

Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man: these words are famously recorded in Genesis 9:6, and are clearly a command for the punishment of murderers, As we have seen ( noted ) throughout history, with its many wars; 'bloodshed begets bloodshed'. Lawful bloodshed, or execution, as punishment for the crime of murder, then, is warranted, but although the bloodshed that we have only read of may seem to be warranted, it is simply the lawless murder of other lawless murderers!

The unlawful, and unconstitutional resolution of war, as, for instance, the resolution that embroiled us in an endless 'War on Terror', has, at its very core, a selfish and rebellious spirit that wishes to 'break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us'. The natural man cannot abide the rule of law, much less God's Law, because it requires him to at unselfishly, in the interest of others, rather than himself. As we realize this annoying fact; let us also remember, that, as the people of God, and rulers with Him, of this Kingdom He has bequeathed to us, it is our divine right, nay, responsibility, to call these 'empire-builders' to task for their many crimes, and to remind them, and ourselves of what Jesus tills us;

'Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you'.

In His Kingdom and love,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, November 19, 2011

How Many Resurrections? ( Revelation 20 )

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and scrolls were opened, and another scroll was opened, which is that of the life, and the dead were judged out of the things written in the scrolls - according to their works. Revelation 20:12-YLT

Wonder not at this, because there doth come an hour in which all those in the tombs shall hear his voice, and they shall come forth; those who did the good things to a rising again of life, and those who practiced the evil things to a rising again of judgment. John 5:28 & 29-YLT

These passages seem to indicate that there are two ( different and separate ) resurrections, what Scripture calls 'the first resurrection', and what others have termed the second, or more popularly, the general resurrection. The 'first resurrection', one would think, would be what Jesus told the Pharisees ( Jews ), 'the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live.' ( John 5:25 ). The second, or so-called 'general' resurrection, then, would be that to which Jesus referred above, in John 5:28 & 29, quoting Daniel 12:2. Daniel's prophecy ( actually, Gabriel's ), though, gives no hint of a separate, and later, resurrection; so, why not?

The resurrection that Jesus spoke of in John 5:25, as happening at the present time of His speaking, I think most will agree, was primarily a spiritual resurrection, the resurrection that Ezekiel witnessed in his vision, recorded in Ezekiel 37. Remembering that Jesus had told His disciples that, 'in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel' ( Matthew 19:28 ); would it not be safe to assume that this is the 'first resurrection' of which John wrote? Now, some might object here, and for two seemingly very good reasons; first, Jesus used a different word in Matthew's Gospel, than what He most definitely terms a 'resurrection' in John's Revelation, and two, those who 'sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel', or, as was revealed to John, 'they did live and reign with Christ the thousand years', were, according to the latter, 'the souls of those who have been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus', or those who had suffered martyrdom for Jesus' sake. Interestingly enough, though; Luke does not record in his account that Jesus mentioned this 'regeneration', or restoration ( rebirth ), as being the occasion of His disciples sitting 'on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel', but rather, He told them, this would occur in the Kingdom that 'I bestow upon you' ( Luke 22:29 & 30 ). Without going into a lengthy exegesis, or explanation of the particular context of Jesus' words here ( different in Matthew's account ), suffice it to say that it is those who who were counted worthy to enter the Kingdom that would 'live and reign' with Christ!

Yes, I know; I haven't answered either objection......or have I?

Jesus assured His disciples that 'there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom' ( Matthew 16:28 ); He obviously knew that, although some of them would not end in a martyr's death, at least not till the Kingdom was fully present, some, or most of them, would die before this came to pass. Much of the problem, I believe, in understanding the resurrection is the idea of individual, biological bodies being raised ( anastasis ) from the dead ( grave ). The corporate body of Israel, as we saw in Ezekiel 37 is what the whole Scriptural concept of the raising of the dead referred to, and what the several examples that we have noted before in both the Hebrew and Greek scriptures pointed to and signified. As we have noted before too; inasmuch as the corporate was, and is, made up of individuals, individuals do take part in the resurrection. Primarily, though, the resurrection that Scripture signified was never about individual bodies being raised, although this took place, but about a corporate body, as 'in Adam all die', and, 'in Christ all shall be made alive'; it was under the federal headship of Adam that covenant man lost communion with God, and it was through, or in Christ, that he regained Paradise!

The question of why John saw the martyred saints raised to reign with the Christ for the thousand years ( a highly typological and significant figure, as we have seen ), although maybe a difficult one on the surface, really loses it's difficulty when viewed from a covenantal aspect. It was the corporate body of saints, both biological living and dead, who would reign with Christ. Whether they were physically alive or dead had no bearing on whether they were alive to God. Paul wrote, in his first letter to the Church at Thessalonica, that 'we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep'; earlier, in his first letter to the Church at Corinth, he wrote 'We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed'. He wrote, a little later, that 'the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed'. The dead, as we have seen in previous studies, referred, not ( necessarily ) to the biologically dead, but to those who had engendered covenantal separation from the blessings of God's Presence.

We have noted that, in the Gospel account that Matthew recorded, that it was 'in the regeneration' that His disciples would rule and reign with Him, whereas John, in the Revelation, uses the Greek 'anastasis' to portray the truth of the resurrection, the raising to life of the dead ones of Israel. Although somewhat differently worded, both of these words connote much the same truth, especially when taking into account the true, spiritual and covenantal nature of the resurrection. Regeneration is what Jesus talked with Nicodemus about, as we read in John 3. Nicodemus thought, strangely, that Jesus was giving him a biology lesson, but Jesus was really imparting a greater spiritual truth to him. So with the physical resurrections that we see in Scripture; they simply pointed to the greater spiritual truth of the resurrection to true life, life in covenant communion with God, life without which one is truly and really dead, though his physical heart may continue beating.

Are/were there two separate and different resurrections portrayed in John's vision in Revelation 20, one spiritual, and the other physical, as Jesus supposedly declares in John 5?  It would almost seem so, wouldn't it? When you think of Jesus words though, to Martha, in John 11:26 ( yes, I'm harping on John 11:26 again! ), 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live'; it  becomes clear ( it should, anyway ) that there is but One Resurrection, over a period of 'the thousand years', maybe, but ONE resurrection, several glorious iterations, maybe, but the same glorious Truth!

Rejoicing in this gloriously fulfilled Truth.
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, November 05, 2011

In God We Trust?

How can we say we trust in God, and yet rely on the state for our salvation?

There are many Christians out there who seem to want it both ways. We want to keep God and Government in separate realms. Over here; we want to have our faith, and live our lives according to that faith ( as long as we don't offend anyone ), but over there, we want to let the civil government have their way, whether it's right or wrong. In spite of this; we often complain when the civil government steps on our God-given liberties. Some of us don't seem to care, having seemingly given themselves over to an attitude of 'que sera, sera'; like the realm of civil government doesn't have anything to do with our Christian faith. Speaking of attitude, we often take the same stance towards wicked civil government ( often not very 'civil' ) as we sometimes have toward young men; 'boys will be boys': you might well say, 'bad government will be bad government', so we might as well vote for the lesser of two evils, right? Wrong! Many Christians seem to have forgotten the fact that God has called us to bring every thought ( word and deed ) into subjection to Him, and when we try to separate these realms into religious and secular ( 'and never the twain shall meet' ); we tend to forget, as well, that there is no such thing as two separate realms; Jesus removed the separation, and if we would still posit that the separation is firmly in place, then maybe we need to rethink our own position!

Words have meaning, and religion, or religious, put simply, means to live according to what we believe. Everyone, if they're honest with themselves, is religious! Politics is another area that has been abused thusly. Politics, put simply, is the unified decision of a certain group of people, to do one thing, or another.

A question that needs to be addressed is, 'in what God ( or god ) do we trust? Americans, many of them, like to keep God in their back pocket, in the pages of a book, so to speak, but if this is the 'God' you serve, if this 'God' allows you to throw your allegiance to other gods ( the state, etc. ) as well; is this truly the jealous God ( Who does not change ), the Almighty Creator of the universe, the Sovereign Lord of all? If your religion is 'behind the eyes and between the ears' where it won't offend anyone, even other Christians; is it a true religion? If your 'God' is content to rest his laurels between the covers of a book, or within the safe confines of four walls, behind prison bars, so to speak, and your active Gospel is not offending someone, then perhaps you are truly not religious, and your 'Gospel', your 'God' is not the true one!

True religious faith is an active faith, and if we are actively supporting, through varied means, whether by omission or commission, the wicked and apostate government of this nation, or this state, rather than being the watchmen we are commanded to be, if we are not actively speaking out and engaging the enemy; how will our fellow servants know how to fight them ( even who )? More importantly, though; if we do not religiously enter into the body politic, and make decisions for the good of the Body, and not selfishly for the individual, the Body is going to suffer; indeed, history has shown us many examples of how the Body has suffered, and lost her political freedoms; her freedom to make the right choice, the choice to follow God's Law, rather than man's!

It is not too late! What we need to do is to repent of our lackadaisical ( dead', as James put it so well ) faith, our 'faith' that resides 'behind our eyes and between our ears'! If we repent of a faith that agrees with those politicians that say 'I have a deep personal faith in Jesus Christ, but I will in no way allow this to affect my policy-making decisions', and adopt a true religious faith. a faith that involves us in the politics of governance, a governance that begins with ourselves, works its way out through our families into the Church, and from there into the civil realm (  city, state, and nation ); then our Creator God with whom we are in Covenant will bless those efforts, and this nation will yet again be the Christian nation that our fore-fathers set out to found!

Waking up, by His good grace,
Charles Haddon Shank

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Who is this 'Satan', anyway, and why do we blame everything on him?

I've thought about this quite a lot in the past, and even written more than a few lines on the subject. I really searched my conscience and prayed about whether or not I should even broach the subject again. I realize that many of my brethren have seen 'Satan' for who he is ( 'we have met the enemy, and he is us' ), but I know that as many, or most likely, even more, still believe ( almost dogmatically ) that 'Satan' exists as the personification of evil, a spirit being that 'fell from grace' as one of God's angels, even an arch-angel, to become the 'adversary' of God's people, and is now, depending on your doctrinal stance, anything from a fallen spiritual being who rebelled against his Creator and became His arch-enemy, and in some cases, well-nigh equal in power, to one who was defeated at the Cross and has no more power over the Christian, but is still at work in 'the sons of disobedience' ( Ephesians 2:2, 5:6, Colossians 3:6-in context, those first-century Jews who yet denied Christ ), and will continue to wreak in the world ( 'among the nations' ), until the physical return of Christ in glory. Although this saddens me greatly, and even 'peeves' me to no end sometimes; I do count these all beloved brethren! I hope that through what I have written in the past, and even by what I write tonight, to set people's minds at ease, and even to realize that as evil does not exist, but only happens, so this personification ( of evil ) cannot exist, but that it happens when certain people make a choice to do something that is not right, as we often do.

As a child, especially in my early teens, I was often hit, especially when left alone in the dark, with an almost uncontrollable fear, which at the time, I thought was caused by the presence of 'demons', but now know to have been adrenalin 'surges' brought on by my own fearful mind. In my mid to late teens; I got into, and actually enjoyed reading Frank Peretti's 'This Present Darkness', and 'Piercing the Darkness', which only served to strengthen my resolve that 'Satan' was out to get me!

Before I began my descent into things fulfilled; I gradually realized that 'Satan' was no longer able to exercise his power over men as he used to, and eventually I came to the 'doctrinal stance' ( the latter one ) that I outlined above, though I did not necessarily attribute this to any eschatology, not having been indoctrinated much on that subject. As I continued my descent, however ( and I can't blame it all on my eschatological beliefs ); I, through the study of Scriptures, and other men's arguments from those Scriptures, became convinced that 'Satan' was, in a sense, the figment of our imagination, and biblically the love-child of Greek mythology and superstitious Christianity! The term/name 'Satan' comes directly from the Hebrew shaw-tan, and means simply 'adversary'. The people of God throughout the Scriptures have had many 'satans', in fact, as I explained in one of my articles several years ago; God Himself, as the Angel ( messenger ) of the Lord, became an adversary ( 'satan' ) to Balaam ( Numbers 22:22 ) when he was trying to go against God's will. Although, to my knowledge, never expressly said; God became an adversary to the Old Covenant ( physical ) seed of Abraham, and as I reminded a brother not too long ago; Jesus called Peter 'Satan' ( 'adversary' ) when Peter misunderstandingly opposed himself to God's will. ( Matthew 16:23 )

The point of what I have been saying here is that, although it is only natural for us to want to blame anyone but ourselves for our problems, and the modern-day translations ( at least as far back as 1611 ) have only served to strengthen that notion, so that men ( as far back as..........?? ) have conjured up this super-natural spirit-being, who was once an ( arch ) angel of God, and is now, as I said earlier, anything from THE ( arch ) enemy of God, to just a trouble-maker, as I even postulated once, 'a mob boss in prison' with his cronies on the outside doing his dirty work. James wrote that 'each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed' ( James 1:14 ). He further says in the first several verses of chapter four, 'wars and fights come from......your ( desires for ) your lust and do not have, you murder and covet, but cannot fight and war......that you may spend ( it-have ) your pleasures.' In the context of James' writing; he was speaking to his brethren, the natural 'children' of Israel, and yes, our situation as believers under the New Covenant ( in Christ ) is much 'changed' ( I Corinthians 15:52 ), but we still have problems with this today; we are still sometimes 'our own worst enemy', but in the world at large ( of unbelievers ), there are still many who set themselves as adversaries to the cause of Christ, so I guess, in the words of a noted author, 'Satan is alive and well on planet earth'!

It may be thought that a subject like this is not all that important, and 'what does it hurt that some brethren believe in a powerful spirit-being who opposes all things Godly?' so 'why write on such a divisive ( heretical ) topic, and risk alienating even more of your brethren?' Good question; 'why?'

I remember hearing the question from an elderly lady, during a bible-study that I attended once, 'but isn't Satan everywhere and all-powerful, just like God?' ( It was something along those lines, anyway ) The reason that this incident has stood out to me oer the years, and one of my reasons for writing, is because I believe that it is this kind of thinking ( 'Satan' as a super-powerful spirit being who opposes God...........hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....... ), that naturally leads to a morbid interest in demonology, the study of the occult, and the selfish desires that we all have to want to blame our problems on a creature who's existence is questionable at best!

Here are several quotations on the subject that I have written in the past'

'Right off, some more conservative and traditional people would most likely object, saying something like, "The Bible says that there were two different trees", or "God is not the Author of evil, therefore since the tree of life typifies, or typified, Christ, all throughout Scripture; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil must typify, or have typified an opposite, or the fallen spiritual being, known ( traditionally ) as Satan".'

from 'The Tree ( s ) of the Garden'

'Even with the traditional understanding of 'Satan' taking over the body of the serpent, and speaking through a creature ordinarily incapable of human speech; it must be a supernatural occurrence, which, I will admit, is quite possible, or else this is an example of 'prophetic license', an allegory, a story told in such a way as to portray a certain hidden meaning.'

from 'The Righteousness of Christ'

'One might argue, as tradition is, I believe, that the Day-star, or this 'Lucifer' was once 'an angel of light' ( II Corinthians 11:14 ) before he got jealous of God's position and tried to exalt himself above God's throne, and was 'kicked out' of Heaven; but I believe that it can be proven from Scripture that this is not necessarily the case.'

'My purpose in this little study is, first of all, to bring glory to His holy name by reminding my readers that it is His purposes that will be accomplished, not ours, not 'Satans', and second, to edify and strengthen my readers by relieving them through the fact that , although Paul warned his readers, in Ephesians 6:12, 'For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.', it is not the tradition 'demons' and 'devils', per se, which we strive against, but that we fight against the desires and purposes of wicked and selfish people, as we ourselves once were, and sometimes, still are!'

from 'The Anointed Cherub'

'And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘ Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, And their ears heavy, And shut their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, And hear with their ears, And understand with their heart, And return and be healed.

'God seems here ( Isaiah 6:9 ), to be telling Isaiah to intentionally deceive His people! Who then is this 'devil' that would come, in verse 11 of Luke chapter 8, and take away the word of God? Assuming that this 'devil' is the same 'Satan' that we know from the Old Covenant Scriptures; we can easily see that Isaiah was acting the part of a 'Satan' to his people. In Matthew 16:23 and Mark 8:33; it it recorded that Jesus once called Peter Satan! Whether Jesus meant to rebuke Peter by comparing him with the fallen spiritual being known as Satan, or whether He was saying that Peter was being adversarial; this was a pretty harsh statement!'

from 'He Who Has Ears....'

'This 'great star..........................burning like a torch', whether speaking, as is traditional, of 'Satan' being cast out of Heaven to the earth, or simply symbolical of God 'loosing' His judgment upon covenant-breaking and apostate Old Covenant Israel; it should be fairly clear that God, by whichever means, did reveal, 'in flaming fire' ( II Thessalonians 1:8 ), judgment upon His enemies, the adversaries of His people, in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, in AD70!

from 'Studies in the Book of Revelation' ( Pt 5 )

'You may have heard, pretty convincingly, I might add, that when Job chapter one records that 'Satan' ( literally 'adversary' ) came before the throne of God to accuse Job, it simply showed that the accuser of the brethren' stands before His throne yet, accusing us ( Christians even ) of our failures, trying to fault us in God's presence. As I implied previously; this is, in a sense, a correct assumption, were it not for several glaringly obvious facts, for example, where Paul, in Romans 16:20, promises the Roman believers that 'the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.' Peter also wrote, concerning this 'adversary', that he 'walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour' ( I Peter 5:8 ( Luke 20:47 ).'

'When Jesus died on the cross, an earthquake, along with the other above-mentioned signs, signified that He had indeed defeated the powers of darkness, which, in effect , swallowed up the 'flood' of evil that Old Covenant Israel ( after the flesh ) had unleashed by their rebellion, and eventually, apostasy, against the Righteousness of God, seeking their own instead. Jesus condemningly told the Pharisees, in Matthew 23:13, that they had 'shut up the kingdom of heaven against men', because of their traditional 'laws', which Paul said, were 'contrary to' them ( Colossians 2:14 ), were attempting to carry away from the True Path those on whom the seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had fallen ( Matthew 13:9 ). When the 'dragon' attempted to imitate the power of God, as in Daniel 2:35; God defeated his purpose by sending His Son in the form of a man ( earthy ), in essence, 'swallowing' the 'flood' of evil, which had been unleashed by the Old Covenant. ( Romans 7:7-12 )'

from 'Studies in the Book of Revelation'' ( Pt 9 )

These quotes are not definitive or even authoritative statements on this subject, and should not be viewed as such; my purpose in quoting them, and in writing this study, as in all my studies, is to help people to think for themselves, and most importantly, to study Scripture for themselves to see if these things are so; they we may realize, as I quoted a famous politician once, 'we have nothing to fear but fear itself', that do not 'battle' against some certain fallen angel, or spirit-being, who is intent on our demise, but within ourselves, and against the evil desires of those around us!