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Have You Been Bundled?

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The Lord Jesus gave His disciples a little help in understanding some of His parables.   For instance, in Mathew 13:24-30 we find a parable about wheat and tares growing together in a field. 

 

 

A Field at Harvest Time

 

Right from the start we know that the parable will teach us something about the kingdom of heaven, because we read in verse 24:

 

Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:

 

As the parable continues, we find that it concerns tares or weeds that have been intentionally sown in the man’s field.  In verses 25-26, we read:

 

But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.  But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also. 

 

The man in the parable sowed good seed in his field, but his enemy came and sowed tares in the field.  In time, the man’s servants discovered the problem and reported it, as we read in verses 27-28:

 

So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?  He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?

 

The man’s decision is to let both the wheat and tares grow together until the harvest.  He instructs his servants accordingly in verses 29-30:

 

But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

 

 

Even though that’s the end of the parable, there’s more about it.  When the Lord spoke this parable, there were many people gathered about to hear it.  A while later, after He had sent them away, His disciples asked Him to explain the parable.  The Lord begins His explanation by telling the disciples what is represented by the various elements in the story.   In Matthew 13:37-39, we read:

 

He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;  The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;  The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.

 

Notice that the harvest in this parable is at the end of the world.  The Lord continues His explanation in Matthew 13:40:

 

As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.

 

Tares are weeds that are to be bound in bundles and then burned; but they represent people in this parable.  They are the “children of the wicked one.”  The Lord compares their end with that of the tares, as we see in Matthew 13:41-42:   

 

The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;  And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

 

The final verse explaining the parable is Matthew 13:43:

 

Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

 

The parable really emphasizes judgment, as we have seen; but the Lord’s final verse about it is a wonderful promise for God’s people.

 

 

A Vineyard With Wild Grapes

 

There are many other verses using the word “field” besides those found in the parable of the wheat and tares.  God often uses ideas associated with a field to teach spiritual truths; but He also uses the idea of a vineyard to do this.

 

In Isaiah 5, we read about a vineyard that God planted.   Isaiah 5:1-2 tells us:

 

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill:  And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.   

 

Instead of bringing forth good grapes, this vineyard yielded wild grapes. In Isaiah 5:5-6, we read God’s pronouncement – delivered by the prophet Isaiah – of what will happen to the vineyard:

 

And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:  And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

 

Just as the Lord Jesus explained something about the parable of the wheat and tares, God gives us a verse about this parable of the vineyard in Isaiah 5:7:

 

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

 

If we had only the Old Testament writings of the Bible, our understanding of this parable would probably be limited to seeing it as a prophecy about the nations ofIsraelandJudah.  We know that Isaiah lived and recorded his message before they were destroyed (Isaiah 1:1).  The parable tells about their destruction, and so the prophecy was clearly fulfilled.   However, we find in the Gospels another parable that we need to consider.  

 

 

A Vineyard Taken and Given to Others

 

In Mark 12, we find another parable about a vineyard.  However, in this parable the vineyard is not destroyed.  Verses 1 and 2 provide the setting for this story:

 

And he began to speak unto them by parables. A certain man planted a vineyard, and set an hedge about it, and digged a place for the winefat, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country.  And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard.  

 

 

We know that God sent many prophets to warn ancientIsraelandJudahfor hundreds of years.  In the parable, the man’s servants represent those prophets.  What we read in Mark 12:3-5 shows us what happened to them:

 

And they caught him, and beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent unto them another servant; and at him they cast stones, and wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully handled. And again he sent another; and him they killed, and many others; beating some, and killing some.

 

If you read the books named for the “major” and “minor” prophets in the Old Testament, you will find many instances in which these men were persecuted.  God’s servants indeed were “shamefully handled” and even killed.  

 

As the parable continues, we see that the Lord predicts His death at the cross.  In Mark 12:6-8, we read:

 

Having yet therefore one son, his wellbeloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son.  But those husbandmen said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours.  And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard.

 

In Mark 12:9, the Lord tells what will happen to the evil husbandmen:

 

What shall therefore the lord of the vineyard do? he will come and destroy the husbandmen, and will give the vineyard unto others.

 

Who are these “others” that will be given the vineyard?  We know that God used ancientIsraelto represent His kingdom on earth.  TheKingdomofIsraelreached its height under King Solomon.  It was then broken into two different nations:JudahandIsrael.  After a couple of hundred years, the Assyrian Empire conquered the nation then calledIsrael.  Then, over a century later, the Babylonian Empire conqueredJudah.  EvenJerusalemwas destroyed at that time (Jeremiah 52:12-16).  Solomon’s mighty kingdom was completely gone.

 

WhenJudahwas conquered, some of its people survived.  Most were brought toBabylonin captivity.  After a few decades had passed (in 539 BC),Babylonitself was conquered (see Daniel 5:30-31).  That set the stage for the eventual return of some Jews back toJudea(see Ezra 1:1-2).  Some of these people were undoubtedly saved (e.g., see Nehemiah 8), and so we can say that they still (or once again) represented God’s eternal kingdom.

 

However, after the Crucifixion God made a major change.  To represent the eternal church, He no longer used those who were physical descendants of Jacob (to whom God gave the name “Israel”).  Instead, He began the Church Age and switched to using local congregations of Christian churches.  They would represent the invisible or eternal church throughout the Church Age.  That period lasted from 33 AD until 1988.  The overwhelming majority of these people were not Jews who could trace their ancestry back to Abraham through Jacob; but they were the “others” who would be given the vineyard (Mark 12:9).         

 

When the Lord Jesus told the parable of the vineyard as recorded in Mark 12, some of the Jews’ religious leaders were present.  Mark 12:12 tells us:

 

And they sought to lay hold on him, but feared the people: for they knew that he had spoken the parable against them: and they left him, and went their way.    

 

These religious leaders wanted to arrest the Lord Jesus right there.  They understood that He was saying they would no longer be God’s people.  They would have known about the Old Testament parable of the vineyard with its wild grapes (Isaiah 5), and they certainly understood that this new parable was spoken against them.

 

 

 More Bad Grapes

 

Neither one of the two vineyard parables we have seen tells us about the end of the world, as does the parable of the wheat and tares.  However, there is a place in the Bible that uses the idea of grapes that are ripe and ready to be reaped when the Lord returns.  It’s found in Revelation 14.

 

In the Book of Revelation, we read about a series of visions given to the apostle John.  One of those visions is found in Revelation 14:14-20.   It’s a very strange vision, like all those recorded in Revelation; but the three parables we examined earlier help us understand it.

 

In Revelation 14:14, we read:

 

And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.

 

Perhaps you remember one or more similar verses associating clouds with the Lord’s return on the last day.  For example, in Mark 13:26 we read:

 

And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.

 

There’s no doubt that Revelation 14:14 is telling us about the Lord Jesus on the last day.  Continuing with the account for this vision, we read in Revelation 14:15-16:

 

And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.  And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

These verses don’t tell us what was reaped, but we will be able to understand what they are teaching after we finish reading about the vision and compare it against other things we have learned.  Continuing with the next verses in Revelation 14:17-19, we read:  

 

And another angel came out of the temple which is in heaven, he also having a sharp sickle.  And another angel came out from the altar, which had power over fire; and cried with a loud cry to him that had the sharp sickle, saying, Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.  And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

 

Notice that more reaping is done.  In this case, we read about an angel who has power over fire.  We know that fire is associated with God’s judgment.  Matthew 7:19 is a verse illustrating this:

 

Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

 

The same Greek word used for “fire” in Revelation 14:18 is also used in Matthew 7:19.  Also, notice that in the vision John saw a “great winepress of the wrath of God.”  This also tells us about judgment.  The final verse describing this vision is Revelation 14:20:

 

And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

 

This vision is actually a parable; but what does it mean?

 

 

“Here a little, there a little” (Isaiah 28:10)

 

The vision described in Revelation 14:14-20 is a parable about the destruction of the unsaved on the last day of the world; but in order to realize this we must understand several truths God reveals here and there throughout the Bible.  The three parables we examined earlier help us understand the vision.  We saw that God used the parable of the wheat and tares to show us a picture of the end of the world (Matthew 13:40).  The wheat gathered “into the barn” is a picture of the rapture – that’s when God gathers all the elect to bring them to heaven.

 

From other verses, we know that the unsaved will witness the rapture.  For example, in Revelation 11, we read about God’s two witnesses who prophesy in the last days.   Notice Revelation 11:12:

 

And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.  

 

Their enemies, who are unsaved people of the world alive on the last day, beheld them or saw them ascend to heaven.  The two witnesses represent all of God’s people who are still alive on the last day.  Therefore, the rapture precedes the destruction of the unsaved.   The unsaved of the world will see the rapture before they are destroyed, and it is the rapture that is pictured by the first reaping in Revelation 14:16:

 

And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.

 

What was reaped?  The verses describing this vision do not tell us.  They don’t plainly state that the first reaping pictures the elect being gathered in the rapture; but other verses – such as Matthew 24:31 – show us it is:

 

And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.   

 

Like the “wheat and tares” parable, Revelation 14:16 is a picture of the “wheat” being gathered into the “barn.”  It’s a picture of God gathering His children from all over the world when the earth is “reaped.” 

 

What about the second reaping?  Recall what we read in Revelation 14:18: “Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe.”  Then in Revelation 14:19 we read:

 

And the angel thrust in his sickle into the earth, and gathered the vine of the earth, and cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God.

 

What do the grapes that are in “clusters” and the “vine of the earth” represent?  We know that the Lord Jesus told His disciples that He was the vine.  In John 15:5, we read:

 

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

 

Does the vine in Revelation 14:19 also represent the Lord Jesus?  Recall that in the parable of the vineyard in Isaiah, the vineyard was planted with “the choicest vine.”  Yet in Isaiah 5:5-6, God announced that He would destroy the vineyard:

 

And now go to; I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up; and break down the wall thereof, and it shall be trodden down:  And I will lay it waste: it shall not be pruned, nor digged; but there shall come up briers and thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon it.

 

The vine in Revelation 14:18 is a wild plant that has produced wild grapes.   It represents the local congregations of Christian churches years after God finished using them to save anyone.  In fact, the destruction of the vineyard in the Isaiah 5 parable fits as a picture of God’s judgment on the local congregations.   The “vineyard” was taken from Jacob’s descendants and given to the local congregations.   This is what the Lord Jesus spoke of in the parable of the vineyard in Mark 12 (see Mark 12:9).  Then, many years after this transfer, God finished using the local congregations.

 

Even though the prophet Isaiah delivered his message centuries before God even began the Church Age, the message can be seen as a prophecy of the time when God would bring judgment on the churches.  The Isaiah 5 vineyard identifies with the congregations, and from the day it was destroyed there was “no rain upon it.”  In other words, God’s judgment had begun and no one would be saved in the churches anymore.

 

Revelation 14:18-19 tell us the “clusters of the vine of the earth” are to be gathered  – that is, the grapes – and cast into the “great winepress of the wrath of God.”  These grapes are like the “wild grapes” growing in the vineyard of Isaiah 5:1-2 and like the “tares” growing in the field.

Even though the word for “clusters” is only used in that verse and is of uncertain derivation, we know that grapes do grow in bunches or clusters.  The idea of clusters matches the idea of the bundles in which tares are bound before they are burned, as in the parable of the wheat and tares.

 

The Focus of God’s Anger  

 

It’s interesting to note that God’s anger seems to be directed more against some people than others.  For example, in Ezekiel 34:2, we read:

 

Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 

 

God directed this message especially against the religious leaders of Ezekiel’s day.  These men, instead of seeking the spiritual welfare of the people, used their positions for selfish gain.  The Lord Jesus also had harsh words for the scribes and Pharisees during His ministry.  In Matthew 23:14, we read:

 

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

 

Also, remember how God identified the people against whom He spoke the parable of the vineyard.  In Isaiah 5:7, we read:

 

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.

 

The prophecy that this vineyard would be destroyed was apparently fulfilled when God ended the Church Age.  The wild grapes in this parable are not good grapes, but are like the grapes that are cast “into the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:18-19).  They also appear to be like the tares in the parable of the wheat and tares. 

 

In that parable, Satan sowed the tares through a false gospel.  This false gospel may seem to differ from one church denomination to another; but wherever it’s found, it teaches that man has a degree of control over his own salvation.  This is what has been called a “do-it-yourself” salvation plan.  It’s a false gospel because it doesn’t give all the glory to God.   

 

Now we can understand the treading of the winepress in Revelation 14:20:

 

And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.

 

The blood flowing out of this winepress has nothing to do with the Lord’s blood, the blood of the elect or a testing of the elect.  It represents God’s wrath against those following a false religion claiming to be based on the Bible in some way (see also Isaiah 63:3-4).

 

Notice that the winepress is “trodden without the city.”  In other words, this happens out of the city or away from it.  Remember that in this vision the first reaping represents the rapture.  When the winepress is trodden, the rapture has already happened.  The eternal city ofJerusalem(see Revelation 21:2), which represents all of God’s elect, is gone by this time; so we may understand the words “without the city” in that way.

 

Blood up to “the horse bridles” is another very striking image.  What are we to make of it?  In the Bible, both horses and chariots are used to represent strength.  For example, in Isaiah 31:1, we read:

 

Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

 

The unsaved of the world do not look to God to do all the work required for their salvation.  They place faith in their own actions.  This way of thinking is represented by trusting in horses or chariots.  A horse is controlled by using a bridle; so blood reaching that height points to God’s vengeance against people who have not placed their faith in Him, but in their “horses” instead. 

 

Of course, the number of furlongs stated in Revelation 14:20 is also important.  The verse states the blood is “by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs.”  We have learned that God uses certain numbers to teach spiritual truth.  In the number 1,600, we see the factor 40 multiplied by itself; but the number “40” is associated with testing.  Revelation 14:20 portrays the last day, so this way of understanding the 1,600 furlongs doesn’t fit.  It has nothing to do with testing.

 

There are several ways of looking at this number through its factors.  Here are factors that do fit our understanding of the vision: 

 

4 x 10 x 4 x 10 (or 4 x 4 x 100)

 

We have learned that the number 4 corresponds with the number of points on a compass and represents the farthest extent in time or distance that God spiritually has in view.  The number 10 (or 100) represents the completeness of whatever is in view.  Therefore, with the number 1,600 God seems to be showing us that His judgment will extend all over the earth and possibly even through time – from the end of the world back to a time shortly after the creation. 

 

It’s important to realize that 1,600 is a spiritual number.  It is not to be understood literally, and of course the 1,600 furlongs has absolutely nothing to do with a literal number of days or years.  In fact, none of the numbers in the book of Revelation can be taken literally except possibly for the 200 million mentioned in Revelation 9:16.  That’s because God calls our attention to this number with the words “I heard the number of them.”  This number represents God’s elect and might be the exact number of people God has saved out of all the human race.

 

 

Conclusion  

 

The two parables about a vineyard that we considered (Isaiah 5 and Mark 12) and the parable of the wheat and tares (Matthew 13) all show us pictures of God’s wrath against particular groups of people.  The Isaiah 5 parable was directed against ancientIsraelandJudah, while the Mark 12 parable was spoken against their descendants who were alive during the Lord Jesus’ ministry. 

 

The Isaiah 5 parable also appears to show us a picture of God’s wrath against the local congregations of Christian churches, even though the Church Age was more than two thousand years into the future from Isaiah’s day.  We know from the Biblical timeline that God eventually finished using the local congregations in 1988.

 

The vision described in Revelation 14:14-20, which is also a parable, shows us something similar; except here the time setting is the last day.  This vision is a picture of God’s wrath against those who are following a false gospel – a religion that is supposed to be based on the Bible.  The great majority of those who claim to be Christians today are following such a religion.

 

Most people who think of themselves as Christians are not really God’s children.  They are pictured in the Revelation 14 vision as grapes that have become wild or otherwise gone bad.  In the parable of the wheat and tares, they are pictured as tares – weeds to be bound in bundles (Matthew 13:30) before they are burned.  On the last day, they pay for their sins with their lives.  In the vision, their end is pictured by a great outpouring of blood from “the great winepress of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:19).  

 

We have learned that God focuses our attention on His great anger against people who have deviated from Biblical truth.  He does that in the parables we examined and in many other places; but He doesn’t appear to mention all the other unsaved people of the world.  That includes all the people following any religion other than the Christian religion, and those who consider themselves to be atheists or agnostics.  That’s about two thirds of the world today.   What about them?  In Luke 12:47 and the first part of verse 48, we find something that appears to tell us about these people:

 

And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.

 

Here the Lord Jesus tells us there will be less punishment for those who did not know God’s will.  What is their punishment?  We have learned that the promise of life after death is only for God’s children.  Everyone else will be annihilated.  For them, it will be as though they had never existed.  By using the words “beaten with few,” God is telling us about this annihilation.   He is showing us that the end for all non-Christians will be merciful when it comes on the last day.

 

Of course, this way of understanding the verse raises another question: what is the additional punishment for anyone who “knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will?”  The same scriptural passage indicating mercy for non-Christians tells us that those “which knew his lord’s will” and “prepared not” shall be “beaten with many.”  What could this mean?     

 

God’s anger is especially directed against those who shall be “beaten with many.”  These are people who are following a false gospel and are confident they have been saved; but they won’t be – they will be annihilated on the last day in the same manner as all non-Christians.  Their additional punishment will come when they realize the Lord Jesus has returned to take His children to be with Him and they won’t be going.   That is when they shall be “beaten with many.”  They will witness the rapture and understand what is happening.  Matthew 24:41-42 helps us to understand this truth:

 

Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left.  Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.

 

From its context, we know that this citation is telling us about Christians on the last day.  It distinguishes between someone who is a true child of God and someone who has trusted in church doctrines and self-righteousness.  The one who is taken is caught up in the air to be with the Lord.  The other one was also “grinding at the mill,” but is left behind.  This person sees what has happened and now understands.  Luke 13:28 tells us about these people at that time:

 

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

 

A similar verse is Matthew 8:12:

 

But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

 

Yes, there will be great sorrow when these people realize they have not been saved; but it will not be the kind of sorrow that a person feels when God has saved someone.  Notice that there will be “gnashing of teeth.”  These words indicate anger, and these “children of the kingdom” will be angry with God. 

 

Sadly, this is how it will end for most of the world’s Christians.  Many true believers have loved ones among them.  However, we can thank God for the many promises He has given His children and for mercy on the last day to all the unsaved – even to those who have been “bundled.”

 

 

The Holy Wars

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In the latest of episode of “How Low Can Ya Go?”, starring none other than the Politically Correct, busy Route 495 in North Bergen was recently festooned with a cheery holiday greeting. Funded by the American Atheists, the billboard in question depicts the Magi en route to the Christ child, with the endearing caption, “You know it’s a myth. This season, celebrate reason!”


In retaliation, a few weeks later, the Catholic League erected their own billboard across the river from the atheists’ handiwork on the New York-side approach to the Lincoln Tunnel. Theirs reads, “You know it’s real. This season, celebrate Jesus.”  God rest ye merry gentlemen and gentle women!  It’s good to know that your Sunday Mass donations are going to a good cause, instead of something frivolous such as feeding the starving heathens in third world nations.




Hey. I needed to get your attention.  Now that I’ve gotten it, here it comes: that all-important question, the one I hope gnaws at you at night.  The one I hope you will thrust into your Congressmen’s (and women’s) faces and then follow their resulting actions, and not their rhetoric, before you cast your next round of votes.  For, to paraphrase the great Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth*, “if we all get into the habit of doing nothing, then nothing gets done.”


So here’s the question. Did the atheists actually brainstorm and bankroll that billboard?


Or was it another group with a similar, yet far more insidious objective?


Consider the following factual events and relevant queries:


1.)  9/11 occurred in New York City and was engineered by radical Muslims (note the word “radical”, people!).  Proudly, the twisted bastards took credit for that mass, unprovoked slaughter of thousands and the destruction of lower Manhattan.  Is it a coincidence, then, that as hordes of motorists speed toward the Lincoln Tunnel, which links New Jersey with New York City, that the billboard appears there?

  

If the atheists really wanted to rile up the Christians, why not stick the billboard in Podunk, USA, where the Christians are a lot less liberal?  The thing would have been tarred and feathered and the militia called in to waylay the vigilantes looking for the heads of those who posted the billboard.  Wasn’t that the point of the billboard, to garner such a reaction?  So why choose the well-traveled approach to New York City?


If your answer is that more people will see it there than in Podunk, you have a point.  But look deeper please; this is post-9/11.


2.)  Liberal Democrats are in power now.  Forget John McCain for the moment; you know that, had the McCain team won in 2008, Sarah Palin would have been sitting in the White House before long.  But she’s not.  Thanks, in part, to a skewed, ultra-liberal press, her credibility has been compromised and there’s a long road ahead of her if she still has her eye on the White House.  Palin, whose Christian views irked the atheists hollering for separation of Church and State, wouldn’t allow her own 17-year-old kid to have an abortion.  A more zealous Christian public official is hard to find, even in the lower 48 States.  But Palin is now the star of her own reality TV series, not a serious threat to the atheists or their blood kin, the ACLU.   Again, why would the atheists bother to put up that billboard now?


3.)  In a prior article that I published here, I cited chapter and verse concerning the ACLU’s successful efforts to obliterate the Ten Commandments from U.S. court houses (plural) and to put the kabosh on Christmas tree lighting ceremonies from coast to coast.  God only knows what they did to Menorah lightings!  Well, newsflash: the biggest Christmas tree in the world, the one in Rockefeller Center got lit all right, just last night, as millions watched it courtesy of NBC.  Did the atheists really think that a single, albeit well-placed billboard was going to stop that annual event, or even put a damper on it?  Really???


My money’s on the psychotic radical Muslims, whose entire lives are, from infancy, devoted to the dismantling of Christianity and who plot the destruction of the U.S. of A., simply because we have everything they don’t  Chief among those things are freedom of speech and the freedom to practice our religions without persecution.  Think about it.


If you were the billboard publisher and if, in this economy, a bunch of bearded, crochet-capped dudes showed up in your office and tossed a wad of cash at you to erect their billboard — claiming all the while that they were atheists — you might take the money and run, too.


Before y’all go pointing at me as a fundamental Christian, don’t.  I left the Catholic Church willingly a long time ago.  It was a conscious decision.  I love Jesus, his earthly mother Mary, his heavenly Father and the sweet Holy Spirit, but I don’t love the Catholic Church.  Neither am I a deluded liberal or a hard-lined right-winger.  I’m an average citizen who’s learned to question the motives and actions of the media, religious organizations, big business, the government, and the many special interest groups that our government cossets.


I’m an average citizen who doesn’t like what she sees happening in this country.  I’m an average citizen who detests the perversion of our Constitution at the hands of those who twist its words to their own means.  When one seeks to destroy the inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” — in this case, the right to honor one’s religion peacefully and yes, publicly — one does not do so in order to protect anyone’s life, liberty, and happiness, including one’s own.  Instead, one seeks to hammer this country into something diametrically opposed to the tenets upon which was founded.


________________________

* You’re not familiar with the Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth?  The esteemed Reverend is a great, courageous American who was instrumental in the Civil Rights movement.  Look him up on the ‘net.  Read all about him, and aspire to be one-tenth the person he is by speaking out against, and actively seeking to correct, what is patently wrong in a society trending toward the annihilation of Christianity: a peaceful religion.

Altered States

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Consciousness is what separates mankind from most of the animal kingdom.  The consciousness of ourselves and the world around us shapes who we become as individuals, cultures, and societies.  What is referred to as the normative state of consciousness manifests the real world perceptions of most people who would be classified as sane (although one wonders if any two people share the exact same perception of reality).  So-called “higher” states of consciousness can be achieved through meditation, prayer, yoga, sensory deprivation, or the introduction of pharmaceutical agents.  Whether or not the “reality” manifested by such altered states is real or imagined is a matter of debate.


Early man learned how to alter his state of consciousness via activities like those mentioned above as well as consumption of various naturally-occurring substances, whether that consumption be by eating, smoking, or inhaling.  These substances, often found in the leaves of plants or bark of trees, were often used for medicinal as well as state-of-consciousness-altering purposes.  Many primitive cultures who have been studied and about whom we know a good deal have used such mind-altering substances as a part of their religious worship and ritual.  Amerindian cultures are known to have used the powerful hallucinogenic brew “Ayahuasca” from ingredients found in various species of Acacia trees and a bush “Peganum harmala.”  Such substances, which we would refer to as drugs, have been used by ancient civilization to establish contact with higher realms of spirituality and even the Divine.


It has long been speculated that older religions such a Hinduism and Zoroastrianism used drugs as part of their religious experience.  And it has been speculated that Judaism and even Christianity have a psychoactive component to their religious experiences.  In the March 2008 issue of “Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology Consciousness and Culture,” Benny Shanon, a Professor of Psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, published “Biblical Entheogens: a Speculative Hypothesis” – an article theorizing that the ancient Israelite religion was partially based and associated with the use of mind-altering plants.


He suggests that perhaps Moses was “higher” than the altitude at which he found himself when he experienced God’s presence in the “burning bush” and on Mount Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments.  Indeed, he speculates that the Israelites as a people may all have been in a pharmacologically-altered state when Moses initially presented them with the sacred tablets.  Further, he proposes that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil at the heart of the Genesis narrative regarding Man’s fall from grace may have had psychoactive properties, opening the eyes of Adam and Eve to new “realities” when its fruit had been consumed.  In these and other sacred writings as well as in the plant life indigenous to that area, Shanon finds evidence that mind-altering plants may have had a significant impact on the development of belief systems that a large portion of the world’s population holds sacred.


The question of the impact of consciousness on reality remains.  Does an altered state of consciousness manifest a “higher” truth or a “false” one?  Can Man only achieve true spirituality or experience the Divine by altering his consciousness and, therefore, his reality?  Or, does the normative state of consciousness manifest the only “true” reality?  Is there any reality without consciousness?  Is reality fixed or is it relative?


These and a myriad of other questions defy definitive answers.  One thing, however, is true.  If you alter your state of consciousness, you will change your personal experience of “reality.”  Perhaps, that is all that really matters.

Thoughts on the Historical Jesus

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The approach of Easter engenders thoughts about what has been called “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” the life and death of Jesus the Christ.  Throughout the millennia since the historical Jesus walked this earth, men have argued, fought, and died over questions of his Divinity.  Today, even among Christians, his life and death stir controversy as some claim the imminence of his long-awaited Return (see our previous article on Harold Camping and Family Radio).


Accepting Jesus as God and the second member of the Holy Trinity, however, one still ponders questions that for humankind remain unknowable.  As a God-Man, Jesus was both fully human and fully Divine.  As such, was there a time in his life before which he knew not of his own Divinity, and if so, when did he realize that he was God?  What influence did the environment in which he was raised have upon him?  How did the people who knew him best view him?  The Bible provides little insight on most of these issues, as it is silent on the majority of Jesus’ life.


Yet, if one considers the life of Jesus and his message of love in the context of Jewish history, certain patterns of speculation begin to emerge.


“‘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.’”

(Matthew 22:37-40)


In these four brief sentences, Jesus, according to the Gospel of Matthew, summarizes the teaching of the Law and the Prophets as found in sacred Jewish texts and establishes the foundation from which the Christian religion would germinate.  Living in a period of great oppression, Jesus was well aware of the might of the Roman occupation as well as the hunger of the Jewish nation for a Messiah, a warrior-leader who would vanquish their oppressors and restore God’s people to preeminence in ancient Palestine.


Jesus was well-positioned for ultimate leadership, springing from the merger of the kingly and priestly bloodlines of Joseph and Mary.  His formative years were spent in the insurrectionist-hotbed of Galilee, removed from the direct, daily Roman influence experienced in Jerusalem and dominated by members of the Zealot movement from which some of his disciples were drawn.  Living within that environment, he undoubtedly knew many men who dreamed of a day when the Romans would be overthrown by force and the nation of Israel restored.


At some point, however, Jesus parted ways with the Zealots who likely championed him as he gained followers.  Perhaps, he came to the realization that violence begets nothing but violence.  Perhaps, he understood that any campaign against the might of Rome could gain little more than temporary victory and would ultimately be crushed, further exacerbating the lot of the Jewish people.  Regardless of the process of reasoning and enlightenment, Jesus began preaching the gospel of “love,” love both of neighbor and of enemies.  He taught his disciples to “turn the other cheek” in response to provocation.  These concepts, in all likelihood, deeply disturbed his Zealot followers and supporters – Judas Iscariot among them.  Even more disturbing from a Zealot perspective, however, was Jesus’ comment on taxes: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”


With waning Zealot support and increasing Roman interest in this preacher, teacher, and healer commonly known as the “King of the Jews,” Jesus, in the final weeks of his life, knew that his fate was sealed.  Whether Judas betrayed Jesus for turning his back on his Zealot followers or in the hope that this would initiate the violent overthrow of the Romans that he desperately desired, the die was cast.  Jesus was crucified and bodily resurrected from the dead.  In his victory over death that first Easter Sunday almost 2,000 years ago was born a religion surrounding the precepts and teachings of this God-Man.


Yet, detractors over the intervening centuries have been in no short supply.  Most recently, in 2007, Oscar-winning director James Cameron and Emmy Award-winning documentary film-maker and journalist Simcha Jacobovici co-produced a documentary that posited the discovery of Jesus’ family tomb containing ossuaries with the bones of Jesus, his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, his brother Jose, and other family members.  If true, this would have been the archaeological find of all time.


It would also have been a major blow to Christianity, denying the possibility of a bodily resurrection.  That Jesus’ entire being, body and soul, was taken to Heaven following his crucifixion and entombment is a major tenet of Christian belief.  In Roman Catholicism, it is also firmly believed that, at the time of her death, Jesus’ mother Mary was assumed bodily into Heaven.


The uproar surrounding the release of this documentary was, of course, predictable, with experts lining up on both sides of the issue.  Non-believers were more than happy to have this “proof” that Jesus was nothing more than a man.  In fact, short of having a sample of Jesus’ DNA from the time of his life with which to compare, no accumulation of evidence could possibly prove with absolute certainty that the bones in the ossuary marked “Jesus, son of Joseph” were those of the Jesus whom many around the world refer to as “the Christ.”


And, in my humble opinion, I do not know if it really matters.  We are all products of our Creator and, to that extent, our growth, development, and growing awareness of our roles in this world are Divinely inspired.  Whether Jesus was a man on a mission either from his people or, as I believe, from his Heavenly Father, his message of “love” is nonetheless valid.  War, violence, and tyranny, as we have studied historically and witnessed in our own lives, are self-perpetuating.  Jesus, perhaps better than most, knew this and taught his followers the power of love and non-violence.  It is a lesson that we should all take to heart, regardless of our religious beliefs.


As for discovering the truth about Jesus, bring it on.  In the Gospel of St. John, Jesus himself is quoted as saying “…for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth.”  And, “the Truth will set you free.” 

The 25th of December

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Christmas Shoppers

On the 25th day of December, Christians around the world will celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  His is the story that began in a manger in Bethlehem and ended on a cross in Calvary.  The story tells of a star that appeared in the heavens, serving as a guide to three kings (the Wise Men) who journeyed to that stable in Bethlehem.  There, they found an infant in swaddling clothes warmed by the breath of animals.  To honor the child long promised to mankind as The Light of the World, the royals offered the greatest riches of the times: sweet spices and gold.  From his humble beginnings in a manger, Jesus the Christ grew to establish one of the greatest religions of the world: Christianity.

 

The religion based upon the tenet, “Love thy neighbor as thyself” now has many arms.  Roman Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, et al may differ to some degree in the way that they have structured their religions, but all branches of Christianity embrace Jesus as their savior.   From sea to shining sea, Christianity is the religion practiced by the majority of U.S citizens.   For many years, people in this country have celebrated December 25th as Jesus’ birthday.  We’ve reflected upon Jesus’ sacrifices in giving up his mortal life so that the souls of all too human sinners might find eternal life.  In carrying on the tradition of gift giving as per the Three Wise Men, we give presents to our family, friends, and neighbors.  We donate toys, clothing, food, and gifts of money to worthy charities.  We worship at Midnight Mass, singing hymns of glory to the Son of God and finding a brief respite from the rigors of daily life in contemplation of what is truly valuable in this life.

 

Down through the years, December 25th — Christmas — has also been synonymous with entities that have no religious connotations.  Lawn figures of Santa and Mrs. Claus, Kris Kringle, Santa’s elves, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and other seasonal symbols such as Yule logs, fir trees, wreaths, ribbons, and lights precede the birthday of Jesus, because it is good for business.  Across the nation, cash registers in retail stores ca-ching like jingle bells while online, PayPal takes hits in the most profitable way.

 

Now, Political Correctness, A.K.A. Separation of Church and State ensures that we can no longer display in public places any evidence of a religious holiday. As a result, Christmas is now referred to as Winter Solstice (that moment in time when the sun is the closest to the Earth), Winter Break (when we close the schools to give the teachers a break) or just “The Holidays,” thus relegating Christianity to the closet.

 

Beginning as early as the end of summer, enterprising retailers begin heralding the Son of God by offering special money-saving sales on gift items. They do not advertise them as Jesus’ Birthday sales, Pre-Christmas sales, or Christian Holiday sales, but conveniently name them “Holiday Season Sales.” Given today’s economic woes, many emporiums are pinched by the lack of consumer participation.  From sea to shining sea, abandoned storefronts now stand in place of once-thriving retail enterprises.  To encourage sales, why not appeal to the majority of Americans — the Christian community — by reinstating old clichés like “Merry Christmas” and playing those old favorites, such as “Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing” and “Silent Night” to loosen the purse strings of Christian buyers?   It’s good for business!

 

Once the dust settles on December 26th, we will find out whether store owners will be dancing around their cash registers to a rousing chorus of, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” or glumly singing that old Depression song, “No More Money in the Bank.” 

Merry Mithras

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Mithras Slaying Bull

Born of a virgin on December 25th, followed by a core group of twelve with whom he had a final meal sharing bread and wine, performer of miracles, killed and resurrected, known as the “light of the world” – if you guessed that I am describing Jesus the Christ, you would be incorrect.  Rather, I write about the ancient god, Mithras.

 

The cult of Mithras was one of a number of ancient mystery religions, so denoted because their “mysteries” were revealed only to their initiates.  What we know about the ancient Mysteries of Mithras comes primarily from the commentary of early Christian detractors, references in ancient historical and philosophical treatises, and archeological remains of carvings, temples, and statues.

 

Thought to have originated in Persia in the fifth or sixth century before Christ, the Mithraic Mysteries that flourished among Romans at the same time as the growth of Christianity have more recently been speculated as having their foundation in cosmology and astrology.

 

Regardless of its origin, what is indisputable is that the leadership of Christianity, in their infinite wisdom, chose to celebrate the birth of our Savior on the exact same date that the adherents of the Mithraic cult commemorated the birth of theirs.  Although it is possible that Jesus’ birth occurred on the same date as the mythical Mithras by happenstance, it is highly unlikely.  Saint Luke’s account has “shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night” – an occurrence much more likely in the summer season than at winter’s commencement.  Rather, this is another example of the early Church supplanting a pagan holiday with a Christian one.

 

While the similarities between Christianity and Mithraism are striking, one need not become too concerned.  It is uncertain whether or not what we know of Mithraism actually predated Christianity.  And, even if it did, articles of religious belief are a matter of faith, not fact.

 

But, I wonder if on December 25th, those of us who are Christians should be wishing family and friends a Merry Christmas, or a Merry Mithras. 

Nailed to the Cross: Christianity Under Attack

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Nailed to the Cross

In the latest annals of “Let’s get real,” we turn to the travesty that occurred recently in Italy.  Recently, an Italian court was forced to remunerate “moral damages” of 5,000 lire (approximately $7,400 in U.S. dollars) to one Soile Latusi, a Finnish immigrant who had achieved Italian citizenship and who had sued the nation for the right to remove crucifixes displayed in her children’s public school classrooms.   The ruling in favor of Latusi (who is not, as you may suspect Catholic) came not from an Italian tribunal but from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg. Said court declared that the image of Christ upon the cross sullied the principles of secular education, as per their following proclamation:

 

“The presence of the crucifix could be … disturbing for pupils who practiced other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities. The compulsory display of [such symbols] … restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions.”

 

How could this happen in Italy, a country so staunchly Catholic that the most pious of all earthy realms, the Vatican, chose to establish itself within The Boot’s own borders?  It happened, ostensibly, out of a need to shield young minds from iconography that differed from their own, from exposure to a religion not their own.  Beyond the ostensible, what really happened in Italy last week?  And what, in fact, has been happening to Christianity over the last decade?   Christianity is, in this writer’s eyes, under systematic attack.

 

Before anyone snatches up a sword and a shield to set off on a Crusade, bear with me while I make this honest confession, prior to supporting my convictions with further proof.  Born into the Catholic faith, I made a well-considered decision to leave the Church many years ago.  I hold no allegiance to the Catholic Church, or rather, to the men designated by other men to direct the faithful here on the earthly plane.  I do, however, hold fast to my intelligence as well as my spirituality, the latter of which is defined by my personal relationship with God, and not by any organized religion.

 

What occurred in Italy recently had its precedent established in October 2003 when a zealot, Mr. Adel Smith of the Union of Muslims of Italy, demanded that the crucifixes hanging in the secular classrooms of his child be removed.  In addition to the elimination of the crucifixes, Smith (a convert of Islam hailing from a Scots heritage) insisted that prayers from the Koran be displayed in his child’s school.  He made additional demands deeply insulting to Catholicism, Italian culture, and Renaissance art, demands that were refuted.  The victory that he did win, however, was the obliteration of Christ, hanging in silent effigy over the school children, depicting the moment after he commended his spirit unto the Lord.

 

Hold onto your outrage for one more moment, please, because what happened on our own shores surely must have put the wind beneath Adel Smith’s wings along with the bats in his belfry.  In the summer of 2000, a court in Wyandotte county removed a statue of the Ten Commandments adorning a public area in Kansas City.  The court took this extraordinary action so as to waylay a lawsuit threatened by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), which was once, in my estimation, an organization of integrity and good intent.  The ACLU, you see, asserted that since the Commandments violated the Constitution’s edict of separation between church and state, God’s law must topple from public display.

 

Applying the Wyandotte wedge, the ACLU later achieved the same dismantling at a courthouse in Miles City, Montana (September 2003).  Two month later, it repeated this act when it convinced U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson to remove the Commandments in the State judicial building in Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Anyone with a modicum of intelligence, who chooses to read the Ten Commandments objectively rather than as a religious manifesto, can see that they represent a code of honor, a code upon which our justice system is based — particularly the directives that address theft, slander, and murder.

 

The Bible postulates that the Commandments, emblazoned on two stone tablets, were handed down directly from God (Yahweh) to Moses.  If we remove the Commandments as Commandments, we thus remove God from the equation.  And if we remove God from the justice system as well as our school systems — if we, in effect, obliterate a higher power — to whom, then, are human beings accountable?  To each other?  To those who wage war upon each other in the name of religion?

 

Islam, for those uneducated in is tenets, is not a violent religion; Mohammed never established it as such.  He founded the Five Pillars of his religion upon the Golden Rule manifested in the Ten Commandments and further strengthened by the teachings of Jesus Christ.  Mohammed urged his followers to honor the prophets of both Judaism and Christianity; for upon the beliefs of those faiths, he created his own.  Any disciple of Islam who truly follows the Koran, as opposed to propaganda that oppresses and twists its truths, knows this to be true.

 

Christianity was born out of the belief in a God that did not judge; a God that forgave.  No records exist of Jesus Christ’s whereabouts between his 30th and 33rd years upon this earth (the 33rd being the year that he was crucified). Conjecture has it that during that time, Jesus made a pilgrimage to the East, to study religion there.  The very principles of Christianity seem to support the thinking that this faith is based not completely, but largely, upon the doctrines of Buddhism.

 

If the world’s great faiths are truly interrelated, if all of them honor a being or beings greater than ourselves, what then, is all the fuss about?  In honoring Mohammed as well as Jesus Christ and Buddha, the crucifixes must remain in place, as must the Ten Commandments.  If the human race cannot see past the icons and rituals of individual religions to the very heart of each faith, and the increasingly pressing need to live by that Golden Rule, we are forever doomed to wage jihads and crusades.  We are forever doomed to walk this earth in a deep-seated mistrust, resentment, and ultimately, hatred of each other.  We are forever doomed to a world besieged by violence conducted in the name of religion.  Is this the world that we want to leave our children?

 

For those interested in my sources for this article, I provide you with the following few links:

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8340411.stm

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/03/italy-classroom-crucifixes-human-rights

 

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5j7ePwV7h1sb1YI9XU_nt7Ui3m_iAD9BO3LR01

 

http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/1103/p06s24-woeu.html

 

http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/10-26-2003-46959.asp

 

http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/08/27/ten.commandments/

 

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,98267,00.html

 

http://www.catholic.org/prwire/headline.php?ID=5235

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