The gospel of the kingdom

Believers today have an obligation to tell the good news about God’s rule.

Luke 4:43 – But Yeshua said to them, “I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.”

There are many ideas today about what the kingdom of God is all about, such as how and when it is to be established. However, I would like to present some thoughts as to why the kingdom is already a present and eternal reality, even if it is not recognized as such just yet.

The kingdom is not a physical place, but an ideal.

Luke 17:20-21 – Once Yeshua was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God does not come with things that can be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among you.”

The Pharisees, like many believers today, were looking for signs of when the kingdom was going to be established. They believed a physical king would rule over Israel and subdue all nations to himself. However, Yeshua corrected them and let them know that it was something more than a physical kingdom. A physical kingdom can be observed or identified on a map. But Yeshua taught the kingdom of God was in their midst, among them in that present time. The Pharisees were unable to see it only because they were blinded to the ideal due to their desire for earthly power and prestige. Therefore, it eluded them, even though it was a present reality.

The kingdom does not have a single location but is universal.

Psalm 22:27-28 – All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to Yahweh; and all the families of the nations shall worship before him. For dominion belongs to Yahweh, and he rules over the nations.

The rule of God already extends over all people throughout the earth, and always has. While in the past God had selected Israel as a people for himself out of all the nations, it was for the purpose of demonstrating an object lesson, a way for him to express who he is so the world could see how he chooses to interact with all of humanity. But his rule is not limited to one city or nation above all others, he rules over all nations at all times.

The kingdom is not past or future but is present and eternal.

Psalm 145:10-13 – All your works shall give thanks to you, O Yahweh, and all your faithful shall bless you. They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power, to make known to all people your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Just because individuals may not recognize the rule and authority of God here and now does not mean it does not exist. Like a ruler of old who ascended to a throne, until the message had spread throughout the empire, there was no knowledge of a new emperor or king. This is the role of believers today, to “speak of the glory of [his] kingdom, to tell of [his] power, to make known to all people [his] mighty deeds and the glorious splendor of [his] kingdom.”

This is the message I bring to you today. This is the message, the good news, the gospel of the kingdom.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The gospel of the present and eternal kingdom

God reigns supreme.

1 Corinthians 15:20-28 – But now Messiah has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Messiah the first fruits, after that those who are Messiah’s at His coming, then — the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet; the last enemy being abolished — death. For “he has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

There is so much going on in this passage that many different ideas can be the subject of long discussions and theological treatises. However, the reason I am highlighting this passage is to discuss an unusual perspective that I have come to hold in recent years, and it has to do with the timing of these things.

When speaking of the resurrection, or being made alive, the timing has to do with Messiah’s coming. According to the timeline Paul is laying out here, he says “then — the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father…” From this, it appears that the handing over of the kingdom to the Father happens right after his coming and the resurrection of “those who are Messiah’s.” Most believers would agree with this timeline up to this point.

However, where I diverge from mainstream beliefs is that I believe that this has already happened, and that Messiah has already handed the kingdom over to the Father, and all things, including Messiah, are subject to God. All authority and power over all kingdoms belongs to God the Father and he is supreme over all even now.

Of course this raises the natural questions such as: when did this happen? Have believers already been resurrected? I think we can understand this by reviewing how he only needed to reign until his enemies were to be made “a footstool for his feet.” Who were Messiah’s enemies according to the Bible?

Luke 19:12, 14, 27 – So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and [then] return. … “But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ … “But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”

This parable, Yeshua explains that the “nobleman’s citizens” who did not want him to reign over them were designated enemies. This parable is clearly about the Jews who refused to accept his Messiahship.

A second indicator is Paul’s discussion of the natural vs. wild branches of the olive tree:

Romans 11:14, 23, 28 – if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them … From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of [God’s] choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers;

Here, Paul even says his own countrymen, the Jews, had become enemies “from the standpoint of the gospel.” The good news of Messiah reigning as God’s king was not accepted by them, and they made themselves enemies of Messiah.

So, during the time of the early believers, from Messiah’s resurrection until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, Yeshua was reigning as king over his chosen people, those whom were called out from the Israelites and from the “lost” tribes among the nations. HIs enemies were those who did not believe in him, and did not want him to reign over them: the non-believing Jews.

Then came the Roman war, and judgment was enacted upon the city of Jerusalem. All of the signs Yeshua had foretold came to pass within that generation, as he had prophesied. This event destroyed Jerusalem and the temple was gone forever. His enemies were vanquished.

If his enemies were vanquished at that time, it then also means that believing saints had been resurrected just prior to the destruction of the temple. The early living believers, as Paul predicted, were “changed, – in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…” The perishable had put on the imperishable, the mortal had put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:52-54).

Therefore, Messiah having had retrieved his own and his enemies being put “under his feet,” that means the kingdom has been handed over to the Father and God, even now, is “all in all.” His eternal reign was and is a forever reality that people today need to become aware of and abide within. As the principles of his kingdom and his will are enacted on this earth, his kingdom “comes.” This is what Yeshua prayed for! This happens generation after generation and will continue for all time. Believers today live the kingdom here, and upon death (that Yeshua has conquered) spend eternity with him.

This is the gospel, the good news, of the present and eternal kingdom!


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Which teachings in the Bible should we focus on the most?

God’s word directs us and establishes us in the correct paths that we may remain faithful and fruitful for God’s kingdom.

Core of the Bible podcast #60 – Which teachings in the Bible should we focus on the most?

Today we will be looking at the topic of vigilance, and how the quality of our walk with God will be directly proportionate to the amount of time we spend with God understanding and meditating on his commands. But just which commands are the most fruitful to focus our time and energy on?

In one of the most famous (and the longest) chapter in the Bible, we can gain some understanding of this principle.

Psalm 119:133 – Make my steps secure through your words, and do not let any wrongdoing control me.

Psalm 119:148 – I am awake through each watch of the night to meditate on your words.

If we take the immediate, surface meaning of each verse, we can see that abiding by God’s words makes our steps secure, they are firm and established on right principles. When we take the right steps, we will not be allowing any wrongdoing to control us; our sinful actions will be brought under the authority of the words of God.

Additionally, we can see the vigilance with which the psalmist illustrates the frequency with which we should be associated with the words of God. He states that he is “awake through each watch of the night” to meditate on God’s words.

Now a watch of the night is generally considered to be three hours, such as 6-9 pm; 9-midnight; midnight to 3 am; and 3-6 am. Of course, these are estimates since timekeeping devices were rude and not as accurate as our timepieces today. However, through the use of gravity water clocks or other visual star-based tools, general timekeeping could be maintained throughout the night and defined these various watches.

Regardless of the method, the result is that the psalmist relates how passionate he is to mediate on the commands of God, “through each watch of the night.” That is a commitment that few of us may realize today.

Now beyond the surface meanings which we can take away from these verses, I found an interesting underlying principle in the use of the Hebrew text where the word is translated either as word, or commands, or promise of God. Now, to me, these all have different meanings, so I wanted to try to understand more fully the intent of what is being described here and how it applies to the surface meaning we just discussed.

Now some of the English versions will translate the Hebrew for “words” as “promise,” as in “Make my steps secure through your promise…” However, as the the Keil and Delitzcsh commentary states: “imrah is not merely a “promise” in this instance, but the declared will of God in general.”

Is the “declared will of God” the same as the word of God?

I think we use the term “word of God” a bit loosely in our modern vernacular, meaning anything from the whole Bible, to a specific text, to the name of Messiah, to a personal prophecy one claims to receive. In my own writings, I will typically interchangeably use Word or Word of God with Torah, or the instruction of God. But in this case, I think we need to refine this distinction a little further.

When it comes to good and fruitful Bible study, I find it really helps to define terms and to follow those terms throughout various passages to see how they are applied and what kind of contexts they occur in.  When we simply assume what a phrase means, we can many times inadvertently assign the incorrect meaning to a passage.

Looking at the two verses in Psalm 119 where this term occurs, it is actually a Hebrew phrase (beimratecha) that only occurs in this form in these two verses. The first is how following it keeps us firmly away from wrongdoing, and the second is that if we are passionate about it, we will meditate on it at all times.

Now Hebrew words have base forms that establish a root of a word, and most times we can gain a broader understanding of a word or passage by looking at the root word in different contexts. In this case, the root for beimratecha is imrah. We saw how the Keil and Delitzsch commentary defined this as the “declared will of God.” Yet, when we look at how imrah is used in other contexts, we begin to see a different emphasis. Here are some examples:

Genesis 4:23 – Lamech said to his wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; wives of Lamech, pay attention to my words [imrah]. For I killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me.

Deuteronomy 32:2 – Let my teaching fall like rain and my word [imrah] settle like dew, like gentle rain on new grass and showers on tender plants.

Psalm 17:6 – I call on you, God, because you will answer me; listen closely to me; hear what I say [imrah].

First of all, we can notice how these examples having nothing to do with the word of God per se, but with the spoken words of each of these individuals: Lamech, Moses and David. So this word imrah gives us the idea of speech or spoken words.

Every other instance of this Hebrew root-word imrah relates to to the word or words of God, and almost all occur throughout the psalms.

In one sense, we know that all true prophecy is ultimately from God, however, it was spoken (and written down) by men, even spoken by Yeshua.

2 Peter 1:20-21 – Above all, you know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from the prophet’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

Hebrews 1:1-2 – Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us in his Son…

This fascinates me, and makes me think of what words were specifically spoken by God, what words are the result of God’s actual speaking to his people?

I think you may know where I am going with this, because there are only a few specific instances where it is said God spoke decisively to the assembled group of people at once, where they directly heard the voice of God: Sinai and in the ministry of Yeshua.

Let’s look firstly at Sinai.

Exodus 20:1 – Then God spoke all these words: [and the passage goes on to list the Ten Commandments].

This incredible revelatory event freaked out the people so much that they begged for Moses to receive the instruction from God and relate it to them, but not for God to speak to them any longer.

Exodus 20:19 – “You speak to us, and we will listen,” they said to Moses, “but don’t let God speak to us, or we will die.”

This instance of God speaking directly to the entire congregation has a large emphasis throughout Hebrew thought even to this day. Jewish rabbinic lore even suggests that after every commandment spoken by God, the whole congregation physically died, and God brought them back to life each time. There are also legends that say all the people actually saw the voice or the soundwaves of God’s voice, and that it reverberated through the entirety of their bodies, through every atom or molecule.

While we may view these legends as fanciful embellishments to the story, they nevertheless present a basis for understanding just how significant an event this was in the life of Israel, and indeed, the world. God spoke directly to them, and the words he spoke were the Ten Commandments.

If we now revert to our study of the word imrah and view these passages as focused primarily on the spoken words of God, we find that the “word” that the psalmists focus on as being the primary way of keeping from sin is the spoken instruction of God: the Ten Commandments.

Psalm 12:6 – The words [imrah] of Yahweh are pure words [imrah], like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times.

Psalm 18:30 – God ​– ​his way is perfect; the word [imrah] of Yahweh is pure. He is a shield to all who take refuge in him.

These instances of God’s spoken word make an interesting study. If we consider that the primary instruction that is spoken of as being the meditation of the righteous and the ensuring of avoiding sin is the Ten Commandments, we can see that an in-depth appreciation and ongoing evaluation of God’s words to his people has much benefit. The Ten Commandments are the basis of all of God’s word to his people, and the path to life that even Yeshua speaks of when asked of a bystander.

Matthew 19:17-19 – “‘… If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.’  ‘Which ones?’ he asked him. Yeshua answered: ‘Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as yourself.'”

Yeshua validates the keeping of the imrah, the spoken words of God that were known to his audience, but what of the other spoken words of God? The gospels reveal some other instances that we can also draw inspiration from.


At the beginning of the public ministry of Yeshua, John the baptizer received a sign that Yeshua was the One whom he had the privilege of revealing to Israel.

John 1:32-34 – And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and he rested on him. “I didn’t know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The one you see the Spirit descending and resting on ​– ​he is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.”

The text is not clear that everyone else also saw the Spirit of God descending on him, but Matthew, Mark and Luke make it clear that God did make a spoken announcement at the same time to ensure everyone knew of the significance of Yeshua.

Matthew 3:16-17 – When Yeshua was baptized, he went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on him. And a voice from heaven said: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased.”

Mark 1:10-11 – As soon as he came up out of the water, he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.”

Luke 3:21-22 – When all the people were baptized, Yeshua also was baptized. As he was praying, heaven opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in a physical appearance like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.”

So, these examples are from the beginning of Yeshua’s ministry and establish validity for the works and teaching of Yeshua over the course of the next three and a half years.

There still remains another instance where the spoken word of God is mentioned, and that is at the conclusion of Yeshua’s ministry.

John 12:26-30 – “If anyone serves me, he must follow me. Where I am, there my servant also will be. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.  “Now my soul is troubled. What should I say ​– ​Father, save me from this hour? But that is why I came to this hour. “Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”  The crowd standing there heard it and said it was thunder. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”  Yeshua responded, “This voice came, not for me, but for you.”

If the voice from heaven in these instances was indeed the voice of God heard by the assembled people, then it brings great significance to both the beginning of Yeshua’s ministry and the conclusion of it, validating who Yeshua was and also foretelling the glory that would be realized through his soon-coming crucifixion and resurrection.

This imrah or spoken words of God regarding his Son Yeshua presents a strong witness to the ministry of Yeshua and gives great weight to his teachings. In fact, Yeshua himself said repeatedly that he only taught whatever the Father instructed him to say.

John 12:49-50 – “For I have not spoken on my own, but the Father himself who sent me has given me a command to say everything I have said. “I know that his command is eternal life. So the things that I speak, I speak just as the Father has told me.”

John 14:10, 24 – “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who lives in me does his works. … “The one who doesn’t love me will not keep my words. The word that you hear is not mine but is from the Father who sent me.

If we agree that the teaching of Yeshua is the teaching of the Father, then I submit that the greatest summary of the Father’s teaching that Yeshua provides us is in the Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua admonished his hearers that all stumbling-blocks to righteousness must be removed from their lives with extreme diligence. He uses the powerful imagery of going to the extent of cutting off body parts to maintaining purity and vigilance in obedience to the commands of God if necessary (Matthew 5:29-30).

This level of vigilance now brings us full-circle to the meditation on the imrah or spoken words of God throughout the watches of the night, as the psalmist suggests. Vigilance involves extreme dedication exemplified by staying up all night to study and meditate, or to remove body parts that are used in sinful activities. It’s not that these are actual physical things that we could realistically do, but it’s having the same sense of tenacity and passion for the spoken words of God to do so in striving for obedience to God in all things.

This is why I conclude that the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount are the core of the Bible message; these are the two primary sources of the purest instruction from God that we have recorded for us in the Bible.

The principal ideas conveyed in these passages is that the word of God establishes our way, makes a firm place for us to walk when we are struggling with the vanity of our own efforts. It implies that, left to our own ways, we will ultimately exhaust ourselves, panting breathlessly with those things that have the sum value of zero in the end.

By contrast, God’s word through the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount protects us, directs us, establishes us in the correct paths that we may remain faithful and fruitful for God’s kingdom. Let’s remember the surface teachings of the two primary verses in Psalm 119: When we take the right steps, we will not be allowing any wrongdoing to control us; our sinful actions will be brought under the authority of the words of God. By aligning our lives by the admonition of God through these passages, we can experience the life that God has designed for mankind since the beginning of time, and so his Kingdom can be realized in real time on the earth.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

The balance of true generosity

God reassures the faithful who truly help others.

Proverbs 11:25 – “The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.”

This verse highlights the biblical principle of reciprocity. To the ancient Jewish way of thinking, there is balance in the universe and God is just; therefore, righteous actions will be balanced with righteous rewards in this life. If we are compassionate and generous with others in need, we will be dealt with compassionately and with generosity in return.

Yeshua also taught this principle in several different ways and through various parables.

Matthew 13:23 – “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Matthew 19:29 – “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields because of my name will receive a hundred times more and will inherit eternal life.”
Luke 6:38 – “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

The modern danger presented by this type of teaching is at the root of the prosperity gospel, where people are encouraged to give in order to get. If you want to get rich, give generously (to that specific ministry, of course) and God will abundantly bless you. This is a primary method in how false teachers rake in millions of dollars through their “ministries.” They prey on the covetousness of human nature, and through twisting of these passages they bilk innocent people of life savings and necessary subsistence, all in the name of God.

God hasn’t set this principle in place as a way of believers getting rich, but as a way of rewarding the righteous who faithfully provide for the needs of others. Those who look at this as some sort of God-ordained get-rich-quick scheme are simply lining the pockets of these purveyors of snake-oil.

Peter spares no words in denouncing these false teachers who were present even among the early believers:

2 Peter 2:1, 14, 18-19 – “…there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. … They have eyes full of adultery that never stop looking for sin. They seduce unstable people and have hearts trained in greed. Children under a curse! … For by uttering boastful, empty words, they seduce, with fleshly desires and debauchery, people who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption, since people are enslaved to whatever defeats them.”

Even though these people exist even to this day, we should not be dissuaded from following the true principle of reciprocity by faithfully helping those in need. It is not just the giving that is important, but who and what the giving is for. God wants to reassure us that when we take the time, energy, and resources to help others who are truly in need, something we are commanded to do all through his word, we will be abundantly blessed in return. This should allow us to give joyfully when we know that we are playing a vital part in helping out others who will deeply and meaningfully benefit from our generosity.

2 Corinthians 9:6-7 – “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Faith for those who are about to believe

God counted on visible judgment to spark belief.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 – This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners” ​– ​and I am the worst of them. But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Messiah Yeshua might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who [are about to] believe in him for eternal life.

This passage breaks out into two main ideas: v. 15 which relates what must have become a common saying at the time, and then Paul’s encouragement at his example of God’s mercy in v. 16.

The saying “Messiah Yeshua came into the world to save sinners” was apparently becoming common among the believers as a general declaration of the gospel message. That Yeshua had come to save sinners does sum up this idea; however, in the context of what Paul has written, it appears that it carries an unusual sense of imminency.

This may not be readily apparent upon a surface reading, but I recently noticed that in the Greek text, the phrase that involves believing in Messiah for eternal life is prefaced with the concept of imminency: those being about to, or intending to, believe in Messiah. The literal Greek phrasing is as follows: “I was shown mercy that in me [the] foremost, might display Yeshua Messiah the perfect patience, as a pattern for those being about to believe on him to life eternal.”

It appears as if Paul is implying that something momentous in his day is about to happen that will cause many people to believe in Messiah for eternal life. When they do, they will be able to look at the experience of Paul as a pattern of how gracious God is.

My personal belief is that Paul and the apostles were aware of the impending destruction of Jerusalem as being the motivator for encouraging repentance among the Jewish congregations along with those God-fearers who were participating with them in their worship of the one true God. The urgency with which this judgment and repentance is repeated continually during the message to the scattered Israelites throughout the book of Acts demonstrates this point.

Acts 3:19-23 – “Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, “that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send Yeshua, who has been appointed for you as the Messiah. “Heaven must receive him until the time of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about through his holy prophets from the beginning. “Moses said: Yahweh your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers and sisters. You must listen to everything he tells you. “And everyone who does not listen to that prophet will be completely cut off from the people.
Acts 2:38 – Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Yeshua Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 17:30-31 – “Therefore, having overlooked the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world in righteousness by the man he has appointed. He has provided proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”
Acts 24:24-25 – Several days later, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and listened to him on the subject of faith in Messiah Yeshua. Now as he spoke about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix became afraid and replied, “Leave for now, but when I have an opportunity I’ll call for you.”
Acts 26:20 – “Instead, I preached to those in Damascus first, and to those in Jerusalem and in all the region of Judea, and to the nations, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works worthy of repentance.

The apostles kept this repentance and judgment of God at the forefront of their understanding of the times that they were in, and in their teaching to all the people they ministered to.

Because of this, I believe Paul had a sense that when the judgment was going to be poured out on Jerusalem that many Jews and others among the nations who had heard their message would see and understand those events and would become believers in Messiah for eternal life. The righteous judgment of God upon his rebellious people would spark many at that time to place their faith in the Messiah, and in that way, “all Israel,” that is, the believing remnant inclusive of non-Jewish God-fearers, would be saved.

This is why at the end of his discourse on this concept in Romans 9-11, Paul could exclaim:

Romans 11:33-36 – Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments and untraceable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? And who has ever given to God, that he should be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Forgiveness to all as the fulfillment of prophecy

The gospel is not just good news but GREAT news!

Acts 26:16-18 – “But get up and stand on your feet. For I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and a witness of what you have seen and will see of me. I will rescue you from your people and from the nations. I am sending you to them to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

As Paul makes his defense before King Agrippa, he reveals the purpose for which Messiah had called him. He was to be a witness and a catalyst of deliverance for both Jews and the nations.

There has been much ink spilled over the centuries in Christian theological circles regarding how the “Gentiles” were to receive salvation through the preaching of Paul. But if we understand the overall context of Paul’s mission, I believe those of us who are non-Jews will have a deeper understanding and respect for our position in Messiah.

Those to whom Paul was sent were not just “Gentiles” anywhere and everywhere he could get to. Paul was specifically sent to reach out to both the Jews (those of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin) along with the ten tribes that had been scattered throughout the known world by that time. This is why he would always begin in the synagogue in the community, and only afterwards reach out to others in the area. When it says Paul was commissioned to the nations, these are the ones he is commissioned to call to Messiah: the former ten tribes who had become assimilated into the surrounding nations and absorbed into the wider Roman empire of Paul’s day.

This was the “good news” that Paul was bringing! Even though they had been lost to the nations, God was calling them back to be re-grafted into the original “holy root” of the forefathers through the work of Messiah!

Romans 11:16-18 – Now if the firstfruits are holy, so is the whole batch. And if the root is holy, so are the branches. Now if some of the branches were broken off, and you, though a wild olive branch, were grafted in among them and have come to share in the rich root of the cultivated olive tree, do not boast that you are better than those branches…

This is why the gospel had to be of faith and not of blood lineage anymore, because their bloodlines had become mixed among the nations and they had, from the strict Jewish orthodoxy perspective of the day, become “Gentiles.” This is also why the Jews who heard the message of the gospel were so enraged at Paul’s teaching, because they feared that their self-identification as God’s “chosen people” was being cheapened in offering it to those whom they did not consider worthy.

Through faith in the true Messiah of Israel, the scattered ten tribes were to be reunited with their believing brothers and sisters in Judah and Benjamin, fulfilling the ancient prophecies that all of the tribes of Israel would be reunited.

Ezekiel 37:19, 21-24 – “tell them, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: I am going to take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel associated with him, and put them together with the stick of Judah. I will make them into a single stick so that they become one in my hand.’ … “tell them, ‘This is what the Lord GOD says: I am going to take the Israelites out of the nations where they have gone. I will gather them from all around and bring them into their own land. “I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel, and one king will rule over all of them. They will no longer be two nations and will no longer be divided into two kingdoms. “They will not defile themselves anymore with their idols, their abhorrent things, and all their transgressions. I will save them from all their apostasies by which they sinned, and I will cleanse them. Then they will be my people, and I will be their God. “My servant David will be king over them, and there will be one shepherd for all of them. They will follow my ordinances, and keep my statutes and obey them.

And this was the key to God reaching out to the rest of the world, and how he would get past the nation of Israel alone being his chosen people. By making the condition of the New Covenant by faith in Messiah, then ANYONE who believed in the Messiah of Israel would also be brough into the commonwealth of Israel, even if they had no genealogical connection whatsoever! This is not only good news, but GREAT news for everyone else in the world who would come to recognize Yahweh as the God of all creation. God’s forgiveness would be available through repentance to anyone in the world who would come to him, and so it is to this day.

This is the GREAT news of the gospel: forgiveness is available to all who repent of their rebellious ways. Those of us called by his grace and mercy can now and always “have a share among those who are sanctified” by faith in Messiah Yeshua.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Faithful love for those who need it most

Putting aside our self-righteousness to share the good news of the kingdom.

Matthew 9:10-13 – While he was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Yeshua and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? ” Now when he heard this, he said, “It is not those who are well who need a doctor, but those who are sick. “Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Clearly, Yeshua had a different view of those who were in need of hearing the good news of the kingdom, and who were also willing to listen. In his response, Yeshua tells the Pharisees to “go and learn what this means.” The “this” he speaks of here is a quote from Hosea 6.

Hosea 6:6 – For I desire faithful love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

In this passage of Hosea, God is expressing his frustration with all of the tribes, and how their passion for him was only as a “morning mist” or “a dew that vanishes.” Their constant rebellion was only ritual-deep; whenever they transgressed, they assumed all they would have to do was to present the appropriate offering to get back into God’s good graces. Yet God says that what he truly desires is mercy (faithful love) and the knowledge of God over any sacrifices and offerings.

Yeshua tells the Pharisees to “go and learn what this means.” They were just as guilty of the shallow, ritual-deep commitment to Yahweh, when he really desired them to share their knowledge of God and faithful love and mercy with those who were in need of it most.

True compassion or mercy is in sharing with those who have nothing for themselves, whether worldly goods or spiritual sophistication. The message of the kingdom of God is not for an elite population only but for all people everywhere. True compassion and mercy is in providing the thirsty the water they are looking for, the food they are hungry for, and the peace that they so desperately long for.

I believe the example of Yeshua cautions us from focusing so strongly on our personal righteousness before God that we exclude the very individuals he is wanting us to reach for him.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Are we only sharing half of the gospel?

God established his eternal kingdom, and the resurrected Yeshua as the Lord of that kingdom.

If you were to ask almost any preacher or believer in any congregation today what the gospel is, you will most likely receive the answer: “the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Yeshua.” Where does this basic understanding come from?

As the apostle Paul is wrapping up his first epistle to the Corinthians, he includes this passage.

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 – Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you ​– ​unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.

So this isolated passage is the source of the death, burial and resurrection gospel of the Messiah. It’s not completely without reason, because Paul is obviously trying to “make clear” the gospel that was saving them and on which they have “taken their stand.” Messiah died for their sins, was buried, and raised, all in fulfillment of Scripture. What could be clearer than that?

Well, when we look at an isolated passage, even if it is in the context of the book it is in, we can sometimes draw incomplete conclusions. So if we want to really know what the gospel is, the simplest way is to see what Yeshua taught on the subject, since Paul’s teaching would obviously have to line up with Messiah’s. Did Yeshua go around preaching about his own death, burial, and resurrection?

In fact, he did prophetically reveal to his disciples what would happen to him, even if they didn’t fully understand.

Matthew 17:22-23 – And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Yeshua said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.
Mark 9:9-10 – As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had seen, until the Son of Man rose from the dead. They seized upon that statement, discussing with one another what rising from the dead meant.

He also did declare that his death, burial, and resurrection would be the “sign” to the non-believing Jews that he was indeed the Messiah:

Matthew 12:39-40 – But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Luke 11:29 – As the crowds were increasing, He began to say, “This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks for a sign, and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah.

But this was all very cryptic to both his disciples and his detractors, especially since he had not yet died and been risen. However, we do find a gospel, or good news message, that Yeshua clearly preached throughout his public ministry.

Matthew 4:23 – Yeshua was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.
Matthew 9:35 – Yeshua was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
Matthew 24:14 – “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Luke 4:43 – But he said to them, “It is necessary for me to proclaim the good news about the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because I was sent for this purpose.”
Luke 8:1 – Afterward he was traveling from one town and village to another, preaching and telling the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him,
Luke 16:16- “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urgently invited to enter it.

The good news or gospel message that Yeshua taught was the message of the kingdom, the kingdom of God that would establish the Messiah upon the throne of his ancestor David. This good news of the kingdom arriving was the message of Yeshua’s gospel.

So was Paul’s gospel about Yeshua’s death and resurrection different than Yeshua’s gospel about the kingdom? Only if we think that the message of Yeshua’s death and resurrection is the WHOLE gospel. In reality, we find that this is only HALF of the gospel. Yeshua dying for sin and being resurrected only makes sense in the overall context of the good news about the kingdom of God. Messiah’s resurrection allowed him to assume the throne of his ancestor David in an eternal kingdom, just as had been covenanted with David and was prophesied in Scripture.

Psalm 132:11 – Yahweh swore an oath to David, a promise he will not abandon: “I will set one of your offspring on your throne.”

When we look at the larger perspective of what the apostles were actually preaching throughout the world as the gospel, it contained both the death and resurrection of Messiah AND the kingdom of God.

Acts 2:29-32 – “Brothers and sisters, I can confidently speak to you about the patriarch David: He is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. “Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn an oath to him to seat one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was to come, he spoke concerning the resurrection of the Messiah: He was not abandoned in Hades, and his flesh did not experience decay. God has raised this Yeshua; we are all witnesses of this.

Peter here in his famous sermon spoke both about the throne of David and the resurrection of Messiah, which made attainment of that throne possible.

Acts 8:12 – But when they believed Philip, as he proclaimed the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Yeshua Messiah, both men and women were baptized.
Acts 28:23 – After arranging a day with him, many came to him at his lodging. From dawn to dusk he expounded and testified about the kingdom of God. He tried to persuade them about Yeshua from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets.
Acts 28:30-31 – Paul stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Yeshua Messiah with all boldness and without hindrance.

Notice Philip and Paul were both teaching about the kingdom of God AND about Yeshua as the Messiah, the Lord of that kingdom. The two narratives tie together in perfect harmony: God establishing his eternal kingdom, and the resurrected Yeshua as the Lord of that kingdom.

Even in the epistle to the Corinthians where the death/burial/resurrection gospel idea comes from, time after time Paul speaks about the kingdom:

1 Corinthians 4:20 – For the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 – Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
1 Corinthians 15:24, 50 – then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. … Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

While Paul clarifies good news in the gospel passage of 1 Corinthians 15, he says, “For I passed on to you as most important what I also received…” The most significant aspect of the good news, or that which is of primary importance, is the death of Messiah for sin and his resurrection to eternal life, witnessed by hundreds of people. If this is not true, then the kingdom of God cannot be established, since the covenant with David requires an immortal descendant of his to sit on that eternal throne.

However, if we look only at the death/burial/resurrection as the totality of the gospel message, we are missing half of the story. The real reason that his death and resurrection is important is because now the kingdom of God is established with its rightful Lord, the immortal Messiah Yeshua. He rules until all of his enemies are made his footstool; i.e., until all come to recognize his lordship.

Psalm 110:1-2: “Yahweh said unto my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool. Yahweh shall send the rod of your strength out of Zion: rule in the midst of your enemies.”

Messiah has been firmly established upon the throne of his ancestor David and is ruling from Zion, the New Jerusalem, until his enemies are no more. This is the motivation we have to continue to spread this good news, the gospel of the kingdom AND its Lord, the Messiah Yeshua, who died for sin and rose to live as the Lord of the eternal kingdom of God.

Let’s be sure that when we are sharing the gospel or good news, that it is the WHOLE gospel of the kingdom of God and its Lord, Yeshua the eternal Messiah.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

Maintaining integrity through biblical persecution

Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments.

Core of the Bible podcast #45 – Maintaining integrity through biblical persecution

Today we will be exploring the topic of integrity, and how maintaining one’s integrity and righteousness through severe persecution is a characteristic that God honors. One who faithfully endures is considered blessed by God.

Yeshua stated it this way:

Matthew 5:10 -Blessed are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Integrity involves standing up for what’s right, even while enduring hostile environments. In our day, the concept of persecution has been unfortunately trivialized into essentially any notion of being ridiculed or spoken out against. However, in biblical terms, the concept of persecution conveys the act of having to flee from those who are intent on injuring or even killing those who have opposing viewpoints. That’s a much different emphasis than we see today.

To illustrate this, the apostle Paul recounts to Timothy some of the persecution he endured during his missionary journeys:

2 Timothy 3:10-11 – But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra.

Here he mentions three towns in which he specifically suffered persecution and suffering: Antioch, Iconium and Lystra. Interestingly, we have these accounts preserved for us in the book of Acts, so let’s review them to get a better idea of how Paul views the topic of persecution.

Acts 13:43-46, 50 – After the synagogue [in Antioch] had been dismissed, many of the Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who were speaking with them and urging them to continue in the grace of God. The following Sabbath almost the whole town assembled to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began to contradict what Paul was saying, insulting him. Paul and Barnabas boldly replied, “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first. Since you reject it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we are turning to the Gentiles. … But the Jews incited the prominent God-fearing women and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from their district.

Here it doesn’t say what the specific persecution was except to say that Paul’s detractors rallied enough support to have him physically expelled from their district. He was essentially run out of town.

Iconium

Acts 14:1-2, 5-6 – In Iconium they entered the Jewish synagogue, as usual, and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. … When an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to mistreat and stone them, they found out about it and fled to the Lycaonian towns of Lystra and Derbe and to the surrounding countryside.

In this instance, Paul and those with him found out ahead of time of a plan that the Jews had rallied in a violent rush with anyone who would side with them to mistreat them (which literally means to exercise violence) and to stone them. Once again, they found out just in time and were forced out of town at the incitement of mob violence against them.

Lystra

Acts 14:8-12 – In Lystra a man was sitting who was without strength in his feet, had never walked, and had been lame from birth. He listened as Paul spoke. After looking directly at him and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Paul said in a loud voice, “Stand up on your feet! ” And he jumped up and began to walk around. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they shouted, saying in the Lycaonian language, “The gods have come down to us in human form! ” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.

They then began to preach to the crowds, denying that they were gods and that they were only men.

Acts 14:18-20 – Even though they said these things, they barely stopped the crowds from sacrificing to them. Some Jews came from Antioch and Iconium [the two towns which had expelled them], and when they won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, thinking he was dead. After the disciples gathered around him, he got up and went into the town. The next day he left with Barnabas for Derbe.

Here in Lystra, we see his persecutors finally caught up with him and stoned him until they thought he was dead. Some commentators think Paul actually did die here and the disciples prayed and he was brought back to life, but the text doesn’t explicitly say so. Either way, he was left for dead which shows the violence of the stoning, and yet he miraculously recovered enough to get back up and make it to the next town.

Recounting these experiences with Timothy, he writes:

2 Timothy 3:12 – What persecutions I endured ​– ​and yet the Lord rescued me from them all. In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.

FB Meyer in his commentary on this passage writes:

“Christian piety cannot continue without persecution, because the world is hostile to the kingdom of God… “

And then he cites some of these passages as examples:

John 15:18-21 – “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. “Remember the word I spoke 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 also keep yours. “But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me.

Matthew 10:21-23 – “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. “You will be hated by everyone because of my name. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. “When they persecute you in one town, flee to another.

So we see persecution was predicted by Messiah, and was to be expected by believers who were holding to the integrity of their righteousness and the gospel of the kingdom.

Albert Barnes

Paul takes occasion from the reference to his own persecutions, to say that his case was not unique. It was the common lot of all who endeavored to serve their Redeemer faithfully; and Timothy himself, therefore, must not hope to escape from it. The apostle had a particular reference, doubtless, to his own times; but he has put his remark into the most general form, as applicable to all periods. It is undoubtedly true at all times, and will ever be, that they who are devoted Christians – who live as the Saviour did – and who carry out his principles always, will experience some form of persecution. The “essence” of persecution consists in “subjecting a person to injury or disadvantage on account of his opinions.” It is something more than meeting his opinions by argument, which is always right and proper; it is inflicting some injury on him; depriving him of some privilege, or right; subjecting him to some disadvantage, or placing him in less favorable circumstances, on account of his sentiments.

This may be either an injury done to his feelings, his family, his reputation, his property, his liberty, his influence; it may be by depriving him of an office which he held, or preventing him from obtaining one to which he is eligible; it may be by subjecting him to fine or imprisonment, to banishment, torture, or death. If, in any manner, or in any way, he is subjected to disadvantage on account of his religious opinions, and deprived of any immunities and rights to which he would be otherwise entitled, this is persecution. Now, it is doubtless as true as it ever was, that a man who will live as the Saviour did, will, like him, be subjected to some such injury or disadvantage. On account of his opinions, he may be held up to ridicule, or treated with neglect, or excluded from society to which his attainments and manners would otherwise introduce him, or shunned by those who might otherwise value his friendship. These things may be expected in the best times, and under the most favorable circumstances; and it is known that a large part of the history of the world, in its relation to the church, is nothing more than a history of persecution. It follows from this:

(1) that they who make a profession of religion, should come prepared to be persecuted. It should be considered as one of the proper qualifications for membership in the church, to be willing to bear persecution, and to resolve not to shrink from any duty in order to avoid it.

(2) they who are persecuted for their opinions, should consider that this may be one evidence that they have the spirit of Christ, and are his true friends. They should remember that, in this respect, they are treated as the Master was, and are in the goodly company of the prophets, apostles, and martyrs; for they were all persecuted. Yet,

(3) if we are persecuted, we should carefully inquire, before we avail ourselves of this consolation, whether we are persecuted because we “live godly in Christ Jesus,” or for some other reason. A man may embrace some absurd opinion, and call it religion; he may adopt some mode of dress irresistibly ludicrous, from the mere love of singularity, and may call it “conscience;” or he may be boorish in his manners, and uncivil in his deportment, outraging all the laws of social life, and may call this “deadness to the world;” and for these, and similar things, he may be contemned, ridiculed, and despised. But let him not infer, “therefore,” that he is to be enrolled among the martyrs, and that he is certainly a real Christian. That persecution which will properly furnish any evidence that we are the friends of Christ, must be only that which is “for righteousness sake” Matthew 5:10, and must be brought upon us in an honest effort to obey the commands of God.

(4) let those who have never been persecuted in any way, inquire whether it is not an evidence that they have no religion. If they had been more faithful, and more like their Master, would they have always escaped? And may not their freedom from it prove that they have surrendered the principles of their religion, where they should have stood firm, though the world were arrayed against them? It is easy for a professed Christian to avoid persecution, if he yields every point in which religion is opposed to the world. But let not a man who will do this, suppose that he has any claim to be numbered among the martyrs, or even entitled to the Christian name.

Matthew 10:38-39 – “And whoever doesn’t take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. “Anyone who finds his life will lose it, and anyone who loses his life because of me will find it.


In denouncing the corruption of the Jewish leaders, Yeshua foretold the horrendous actions they would perform on the “prophets, wise men, and scribes” that would be sent to continue to warn them of their wickedness:

Therefore, behold, I send to you prophets, wise men, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify; and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zachariah son of Barachiah, whom you killed between the sanctuary and the altar. Most certainly I tell you, all these things will come upon this generation. – Matthew 23:34-36

He also warned his followers that they would experience these things in standing for the truth of his words:

But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and will persecute [i.e., chase with intent to kill] you, delivering you up to synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors for my name’s sake. – Luke 21:12

History bears out that this is exactly what happened, and believers were hunted and rooted out of synagogues for believing in Messiah. They were scourged, stoned, imprisoned, and killed for maintaining the integrity of their faith. These actions, according to the teaching of Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount, means they were blessed by God for maintaining their integrity and righteousness in the face of the most intense persecution, and they were then inheritors of the kingdom of God.

Some of you may be familiar with Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, a work that was produced in the middle ages detailing the gruesome torture that many professing Protestants suffered at the hands of the Catholic Inquisitors in England and Scotland at that time. As shocking as some of the descriptions of the methods of torture are, it is even more sobering to consider how these practitioners could possibly be so exceedingly cruel to other humans.

This is a far cry from those today who claim persecution because of receiving negative comments on social media, or having others simply disagree with their views and call them names. While maintaining our integrity is still just as valuable in those situations, to claim those mere inconveniences as persecution is dishonoring our spiritual forebears who quite literally put their lives and the lives of their family members, their very daily existence, at risk because of their views of Messiah.

In that first century, we see that early believers suffered many risks to life and dangers, some of which are detailed for us within the pages of Scripture itself. Here are a few examples.

Peter and John put in prison

Acts 4:1-3 – While they [Peter and John] were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, because they were annoyed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Yeshua the resurrection of the dead. So they seized them and took them into custody until the next day since it was already evening.

Acts 5:17-21, 25-26, 28-29, 40-41 – Then the high priest rose up. He and all who were with him, who belonged to the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. So they arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail during the night, brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple, and tell the people all about this life.” Hearing this, they entered the temple at daybreak and began to teach.

… Someone came and reported to them, “Look! The men you put in jail are standing in the temple and teaching the people.” Then the commander went with the servants and brought them in without force, because they were afraid the people might stone them. … “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? Look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than people. … After they called in the apostles and had them flogged, they ordered them not to speak in the name of Yeshua and released them. Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be treated shamefully on behalf of the Name.

Stephen

After denouncing the Jewish council of their hard-heartedness toward the truth of God, the account states that the disciple Stephen was literally stoned to death.

Acts 7:55-60 – Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven. He saw the glory of God, and Yeshua standing at the right hand of God. He said, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God! ” They yelled at the top of their voices, covered their ears, and together rushed against him. They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. And the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he called out: “Lord Yeshua, receive my spirit! ” He knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them! ” And after saying this, he died.

Then in the following chapter, we read:

Acts 8:1-3 – Saul agreed with putting him to death. On that day a severe persecution broke out against the congregation in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the land of Judea and Samaria. Devout men buried Stephen and mourned deeply over him. Saul, however, was ravaging the congregation. He would enter house after house, drag off men and women, and put them in prison.

Acts 12:1-3 – About that time King Herod violently attacked some who belonged to the congregation, and he executed James, John’s brother, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter too, during the Festival of Unleavened Bread.

So far we have prison, flogging, and stoning to death, disciples being chased out of their homes, and execution. The record goes on to list other mob actions, imprisonments and trials. In fact, there is almost no chapter in the book of Acts where some type of persecution is NOT taking place. This is a sobering thought and to my way of thinking, one that is not emphasized enough in contemporary Bible teaching.

Paul and his companions lived out this very mantra he related to Timothy:

2 Timothy 3:12 – …all who want to live a godly life in Messiah Yeshua will be persecuted.

It may seem overwhelming and slightly depressing to recognize that persecution should be considered routine for the believer. However, it needs to be noted that many positive events resulted due to the persecutions they endured. The disciples were noted as joining in prayer, being filled with the Spirit, creating unity and having a positive witness. There was spreading of the gospel, people coming to Messiah, and larger witnesses to the ruling authorities of the power of God. When they were persecuted, the disciples continued to preach and to witness to others.

But in the eyes of God, the persecution was to be expected, and it’s still ok today when it happens. It had happened to the faithful who had preceded the disciples, as outlined in the book of Hebrews:

Hebrews 11:35-39 – Women received their dead, raised to life again. Other people were tortured, not accepting release, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Others experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and on mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised…

If it was only together with the believers in Messiah that these saints received their inheritance, then how much more can we be motivated to withstand the resistance we face today? Light and darkness cannot coexist in the same space, so it’s not unreasonable to conclude that those who don’t want to be exposed will tend to resist. Remember the words of Yeshua that I shared earlier:

John 15:18-21 – “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. “Remember the word I spoke 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 also keep yours. “But they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they don’t know the one who sent me.

While there are areas of the world where legitimate persecution for the kingdom still exists, we can be truly thankful to God that in free societies our voices can be heard, and our lives are not daily in jeopardy for believing in, and sharing the light of, his Messiah.

This should motivate us all the more to demonstrate integrity by maintaining the truth of our faith in all of our words and actions, and in our relationships and interactions with those around us. Doing so can result in many of the positive aspects of those persecutions, the unity, witness to others and expansion of the kingdom coming to pass in each and every generation.


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

How the Good Samaritan teaches us about inheriting eternal life

“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Core of the Bible podcast #43 – How the Good Samaritan teaches us about inheriting eternal life

Today we will be exploring the topic of compassion. In order to review this topic of compassion, I’m going to take a familiar section of Scripture, the story Yeshua told of the Good Samaritan, and break it down in a unique way, starting at the end and working back towards the beginning. I think it’s important to focus not only on compassion as Yeshua defines it, but on the motivation behind our compassion for others.

So let’s begin with how Yeshua, in story form, expresses what true compassion looks like:

Yeshua took up this question and said, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. … But when a Samaritan on a journey came upon him, he looked at him and had compassion. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Take care of him,’ he said, ‘and on my return I will repay you for any additional expense.’

Luke 10:30, 33-35

This famous passage is Yeshua’s definition of having compassion on one’s neighbor. True compassion is not just having a feeling of sympathy, but it is a sympathetic feeling that takes action. The Samaritan did some field first-aid, used his own transportation and brought him to a place where he could rest and recover with on-site care. The Samaritan was moved by compassion so strong that he was willing to interrupt his life to assist someone else, even if that someone was a stranger to him. Therefore, biblical compassion according to Yeshua looks outward to others who are in need, beyond the comfort of one’s own personal situation or condition and says, “What can I do to help?”

Well, with that basic understanding, let’s begin our study of this passage at the conclusion to see how that objective is where Yeshua wants this questioner to arrive.

Luke 10:36-37 – “Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”

“The one who showed mercy to him,” he said.

Then Yeshua told him, “Go and do the same.”

So the conclusion is that Yeshua says that this practice exhibited by the Good Samaritan is one that is to be copied and practiced. By saying, “Go and do the same,” Yeshua is commissioning this man, and by extension believers everywhere, to follow the example of the teaching of this story. We should all exhibit compassion in action to others when it is within our ability to do so.

Continuing to work our way backwards through this passage of the Good Samaritan, we see that the story itself was prompted from a discussion of the Law. An expert in the Law had come to Yeshua to find out more about how Yeshua viewed the totality of the Law. In response, Yeshua first asks his opinion about it.

Luke 10:26-28  – “What is written in the law? ” [Yeshua] asked him. “How do you read it?”

He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

“You’ve answered correctly,” he told him.

Yeshua had also on other occasions verified that these two commandments were the most essential part of all of God’s Torah, his Word.

Matthew 22:35-40 – And one of them, an expert in the law, asked a question to test him: “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest? “

He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and most important command.

“The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

Here, we see that the centrality of the two greatest commandments is key to Yeshua’s understanding of the entirety of the Law. To love your neighbor as yourself is a primary facet of belief; in fact, a sincere and true belief in the God of the Bible will result in love for others. Therefore, the primary motivation behind loving others ultimately stems from a deep, all-encompassing love for God. To “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” should be the desire of every believer.

To love him from the heart means it’s not just a rote belief, like a belief that maybe one’s family or parents have, but one that comes personally from a place of deep desire and personal longing.

To love God with all the soul is to recognize that the complex of emotional and moral understanding is in alignment with his standards and his will.

To love him with all of the mind is that the rational balance of all personal longing and moral understanding are worked out in practical ways of thinking and imagination. All of the being is wrapped up in seeking to understand God’s workings in this world and to align oneself as much as possible with this reality and worldview.

Only when one is imbued with this sense of love for God will one have the appropriate motivation to help others as needed.  Then, loving others becomes simple and achievable, because the motivation and the perspective align with accomplishing all of God’s desires.

Luke 10:31-33 – “A priest happened to be going down that road. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way, a Levite, when he arrived at the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan on his journey came up to him, and when he saw the man, he had compassion.”

To make a finer point, Yeshua mentions that the religious people in the story, the priest and the Levite (who was of the Jewish tribe of priestly helpers) were too preoccupied with their own righteous indignation to provide any help. The stranger on the side of the road could have been anyone, possibly unclean. By contrast, the Samaritan, someone hated by the religious Jews, was ultimately the one to provide the necessary help to the person who had been attacked. He was the one who demonstrated that he truly loved God, and that he had the proper motivation for the task at hand.

Here’s an interesting thought: To the Jewish mind in that day, having a Samaritan as the hero of a story on morality would have been a detestable outcome, in a similar way as having a member of an opposing political party be the hero might affect us today. There was a diametrical opposition to doctrinal ideals between the two.

Even Yeshua understood that, in general, the Samaritans held incorrect doctrinal beliefs. We know this from an exchange Yeshua has with a Samaritan woman over proper worship. The Samaritan woman kept pressing Yeshua over his unusual discussion they were having at the well of Jacob, which culminated in a discussion of the appropriate place to worship.

John 4:20-22 – “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”   Jesus told her, “Believe me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews.

Yet, even with a recognition of the reality of these types of doctrinal difference between the Samaritans and the Jews, Yeshua makes a Samaritan out to be the hero of the story that he is telling to a religious Jew about what true compassion looks like. What does that say about Yeshua? Is he validating that doctrine just doesn’t matter, as long as one is sincere in what one believes? No, not really.

The largest difference between the Samaritans and the Jews was over the canon of Scripture at the time. The Samaritans believed that only the first five books of the Bible by Moses were inspired; there were no more inspired writings beyond those. The Jews of the day, including Yeshua, believed all of the Psalms, Prophets, and other historical writings that are now included in our Old Testament were inspired writings as well.

We can understand more about this exchange by considering that the woman doesn’t apparently have any depth of commitment to her Samaritan doctrinal beliefs about the books of Moses; she is merely parroting the disagreements of others. How can we know? Well, Yeshua revealed she had a hidden record of insecurity and disobedience to the very Law that Samaritans claimed was inspired. He prophetically revealed that she had multiple husbands and was currently living with someone she was not married to. The practical outworking of her beliefs were evidenced in her actions. Her practices weren’t acceptable even by Mosaic standards.

Leviticus 20:10 – “If a man commits adultery with a married woman ​– ​if he commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife ​– ​both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.

Yeshua knew her heart. She was not really a follower of the one true God, but a follower of her own passions using a doctrinal smokescreen to obscure the real issues. His conversation with her was an attempt at drawing her and ultimately her villagers to an understanding of his Messiahship.

To Yeshua, doctrine clearly does matter, otherwise, he would not have disputed with the religious leaders of the day. But to him, even more important than doctrine is where the heart, soul, and mind are in the service of that doctrine. In Yeshua’s way of thinking, even if one only has the five books of Moses and has a deep devout recognition of God and also of loving their neighbor, they can be exemplified as doing what God desires. The practical outworking of this core belief is evidenced by its actions.

The early disciples understood this as well, since we have only to read the rest of the New Testament teachings to show how this conclusion was continued on in the messages to their congregations.

For example, the apostle James, whom many consider to be the brother of Yeshua, drills down even further into the practicality of true faith in the practice of compassion with others:

James 2:15-16 – Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you tells him, “Go in peace; stay warm and well fed,” but does not provide for his physical needs, what good is that?

Paul also was sure to bring this topic up in his guidance of the early Galatian congregation.

Galatians 6:2 – Help carry each other’s burdens. In this way you will follow Messiah’s teachings.

Paul’s original wording here in his message to the believers in Galatia can be rendered within its Hebraic cultural context as, “In this manner you shall fulfill the torah of the Messiah.” This aspect of assisting others in need is considered by Paul to be the essence of Yeshua’s teaching, central to everything he stood for and practiced. We can see that Paul’s understanding of the centrality of this topic to Yeshua’s teaching, which is always in conformity with the Law, is indeed validated.

Okay, so we can see that the conclusion is to “go and do likewise” as the Samaritan did, and how doctrinal differences, while still important, can be placed on the back burner in light of the practical outworking of our love for God. But why even discuss this at all? What was it that began this discussion between Yeshua and this expert in the Law?

We can see that this whole discussion between the Law expert and Yeshua was prompted by this direct motivation:

Luke 10:25 – “Then an expert in the law stood up to test him…”

Notice first that the question being asked had an agenda behind it. Apparently this question about inheriting eternal life would force Yeshua to respond in a way that would potentially isolate some of the people from his teaching. If he answered in a way that consisted in some aspect other than the Law of God, he would isolate the very people he came to minister to: the lost sheep of Israel.

So, in a masterful move, Yeshua puts a pin his response while he reverses the question back on the Law expert himself:

Luke 10:26 – “What is written in the law? ” [Yeshua] asked him. “How do you read it?”

By having the man state what the “official” Jewish doctrine of how to attain eternal life should be, Yeshua would then be able to show how his own teaching in fact agrees with it.

Luke 10:27-28 – [The man] answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind;” and “your neighbor as yourself.”

“You’ve answered correctly,” [Yeshua] told him. “Do this and you will live.”

The man may have been stopped in his tracks for a moment when he saw that Yeshua was not contradicting the Jewish ideas of how to attain eternal life. According to Yeshua, loving God and loving one’s neighbor, when done sincerely and with the correct motives, results in eternal life.

Since the man’s previous goal of causing Yeshua to slip up had failed, he then asks a similarly loaded question of “who is my neighbor?” This may have been out of an attempt to still try to divide Yeshua’s audience over this question on how a neighbor is defined (a divisive topic at the time), or it may have been out of a sincere desire to know more, since the text says that he was wanting to “justify himself.”

Either way, this question was loaded in the sense that there were many Jewish debates of who was to be considered a neighbor. Was your neighbor just the person living next to you, or another member of your tribe, or only another member of the country and people of Israel? Did this “neighborliness” apply to non-Jewish people or members of other nations who were residing in the land, as well?

So to answer these questions, Yeshua then tells the story, which, as we have seen, extends neighborliness to even those who are not doctrinally aligned with you, and even if they are strangers. Loving actions overcome doctrinal differences.

So beyond the agenda of the law expert, what I find most interesting is the question that led into this whole discussion to begin with. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Some scholars think that the Hebrew concept of eternal life was one that was not introduced into the Jewish way of thinking until during or after the Babylonian captivity. However, in the Graeco-Roman environment of Yeshua’s day, it was a well-known and much discussed issue.

What is even more interesting to me is the answer that Yeshua gave to that question. One might expect him to say something like, “believe in me,” or “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” as he did in John’s gospel. But in this instance, he doesn’t say that. The expert in the Law had said the way to eternal life was to love the Lord your God with heart, soul, strength, and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. To this, Yeshua simply answered, “You’ve answered correctly. Do this and you will live.”

This is a telling answer. By doing this (loving God and loving your neighbor) you will live.

In today’s terms, we might have different answers to this question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” If someone came to you today and asked that same question, how would you answer it?

Some answers might include ideas about circumcision (if you’re Jewish), or being baptized (if you’re Christian). It might involve some other ritual to become “worthy” of eternal life. Maybe it might be a discussion over which version of the Bible is the only way to eternal life, or which denomination or group is the sole source of life. Perhaps it would be some specific doctrine or set of beliefs about God according to a creed that would be required.

No, the answer is much simpler: Love God with heart, soul, strength and mind. And it means the God of the Bible, not just any god of one’s own choosing. We need to recognize that all of this discussion about eternal life is in the context of the one true God of the Bible, with individuals who were raised on the Hebrew Scriptures. It is these Scriptures that do not allow for any other gods to be recognized as legitimate, so it’s important to keep that perspective in place when we are talking about God. There is only one God, Yahweh, the Creator of all, who deserves the devotion of our whole heart, soul, strength, and mind.

And the second part of the answer is to love others, not just your fellow congregants or neighborhood residents, but even strangers if they are in need. Yeshua even goes so far as to include loving enemies!

Loving God and loving your neighbor is the gospel of the kingdom that Yeshua shared with us. Since he is the way the truth and the life, then loving God and loving your neighbor is what it means to believe in Yeshua. This is because everything he taught was in alignment with the entire message of the Bible.

To demonstrate this, here are some examples of this message throughout the pages of Scripture.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 – “Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one. “Love Yahweh your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Leviticus 19:18, 34 – “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am Yahweh.  … “You will regard the alien who resides with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.

Micah 6:8 – He has shown you, O man, what is good. What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

Matthew 7:12 – In everything, then, do to others as you would have them do to you. For this is the essence of the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 22:37-40 Yeshua declared, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Romans 13:10 – Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.

Galatians 5:14 – The entire law is fulfilled in a single decree: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

James 2:8 – If you really fulfill the royal law stated in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

Loving of one’s neighbor through compassion is only half of the equation of fulfilling the torah of God. Loving one’s neighbor can only be truly carried out when one first fully loves Yahweh; heart, soul, strength, and mind. And doing both of these demonstrates you are a follower of Yeshua the Messiah, and that he is Lord of your life when you act in compassionate ways because of your love of Yahweh.

Loving God and compassionately loving all others; this is the core of the Bible message and the path to eternal life that Yeshua represented.

If this is the lens through which we should be viewing the life and ministry of Yeshua, then, as his followers, how much more should these same qualities be evident in our own lives? Well, we know the answer to this question because he told us:

“Go and do likewise.”


If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive on our Podcast Page, at Core of the Bible on Simplecast, or your favorite podcast streaming service.

Now also on YouTube! Just getting started, but new videos will be added regularly on many different topics, find us at: Core of the Bible on YouTube.

Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.