Tag Archives: Christ

11 Jews in Eternity

On October 27, 2018, 11 Jews worshiping in The Tree of Life Synagogue were killed by a man bent on white supremacy and a hatred for Jews.  Eight men and three women perished.  Today begins the first of many funeral services. As I was thinking of this tragedy, my mind could not help but think that the souls in that synagogue were just a few of those all around the world that have so much but just don’t know it.  The Apostle Paul asked the question, “Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews were entrusted with the oracles of God,” (Romans 3:1-2, ESV). From the Law to the Prophets to the Writings, the Jews were given the very Word of God.  To the Psalmist, this word was greater than gold (cf. Ps. 119:127).

I am not sure, that these eleven men and women, or the Jewish community at large understood or understand what a precious commodity they have in their Scriptures.  Like many Christians, the Jews leave their oracles of God unread and untouched.  The are content to hear the traditions of men rather than the Word of God. Because of this, many die daily without ever knowing their Messiah, the one whom the Law and Prophets and Writings were pointing toward.  “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith,” (Galatians 3:24, ESV).

Those who were at the Tree of Life synagogue were there for a Torah study, Shabbat services (Sabbath worship including prayer and reading), and a bris (circumcision of a boy 8 days old).  As we’ve seen, the Torah’s job was to be a guardian over us until the Messiah came. It points us to Jesus, He who is the Prophet Moses foretold would come, the Son of David. But the circumcision also was pointing us to Him. It was a shadow of the covenant of blood in Christ. “These (festivals, new moons, and Sabbaths) are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ,” (Colossians 2:17, ESV).

Sadly, of the 15 million+ Jews on planet Earth, only a small percentage knows of their Messiah and have received him.  Those in that synagogue died Saturday and met their Maker having rejected the very Cornerstone of their faith. As the Apostle Peter said, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” (Acts 4:11-12, ESV).  I say this not in anger or malice, but with a broken heart.–as Richard Baxter would say, “as a dying man to dying men.”

Like the rich man in Jesus’s parable, there are 11 persons suffering at this very moment desiring to tell their brothers and sisters at Tree of Life and everywhere to be reconciled to God. But the response is the same, “‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ . . .’If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'” (Luke 16:29, 31, ESV). Is that not heartbreaking? It was for the Apostle Paul,

I am speaking the truth in Christ–I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit–that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They were Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. to them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5, ESV).

They had and have all they need, but they have turned from it. Let us pray that those who remain return, as is the promise of Romans 11:25-26.  It is too late for these 11 men and women, but not for their kinsmen.  May this tragedy stand as a reminder that those who were once part of the tree, but have been cut off, can be grafted back if and when they received their Messiah Jesus.

I was reminded this weekend at a conference, of Psalm 67:2, “that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations,” (ESV). It is because of God’s working through the Jewish nation and in Jewish people that the nations were brought to God through their Jewish Messiah.  We owe so much to these people. May we seek to bring them to the salvation that they brought to us.

Roger Foley and the Culture of Death

Last Saturday I re-watched The Avengers: Infinity War.  This time my wife got to see it.  If you’ve seen it, the main bad guy in this movie has the name Thanos.  Thanos is seeking to gain the six infinity stones that will give him the power to eliminate half the universe’s population in the snap of his fingers.  What a lot of people don’t know is that his name comes from the Greek “thanatos,” meaning death.  William Cullen Bryant wrote a poem titled “Thanatopsis,” which explained means the consideration of death.  The word euthanasia comes from “eu,” Greek for good and “thanatos.”  Hence it is supposedly a “good death,” or as Thanos would say, a mercy.

This leads us to Roger Foley.  Foley is a 42 year old Canadian man who is chronically ill and is in need of constant attention.  He claims that after multiple attempts to get him to accept help dying, he recorded a couple of these sessions in which he was encouraged to received assistance with ending his life.  In one instance, he asked to receive home health care, but instead was once again told about the option of receiving assisted suicide.

While I could make an argument about government-run health-care and how eventually they turn into bureaucracies that have to make financial decisions which could eventually lead to this kind of encouragement to die and eventually to an obligation to die, I won’t.  Instead, I believe that we live in a culture where death has become normalized.  With abortion and now end-of-life “solutions,” the world has become “thanaekkaio:” obsessed with death.  It is prevalent in our video games, our movies, our books, our healthcare, our thoughts.

As Christians we are not to be obsessed with death and dying, but with life and living, even in the midst of dying.  Why? Because Christ is life.

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden in Christ in God.  When Christ  who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory, (Colossians 3:1-4, ESV; italics mine).

Look at those verses! Our minds are not to be set on things in this world, whether we are referring to televisions and iPhones or diseases and death.  That doesn’t mean we can’t seek treatment when sick.  To set the mind on something is to put focus upon it and to put our energy into it.  Paul wrote that we’ve already died, but have been raised with Christ, our lives hidden in Christ in God.  In other words, we don’t need to obsess with death since all death is now is a move from this world into the next.  All the things that would make us anxious have already been dealt with.  No judgment, no torment, no wrath.  Hence the writer of Hebrews wrote that Jesus, “likewise partook of the same things [flesh and blood], that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is the devil, and deliver all those through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery,” (Hebrews 2:14-15, ESV).  I know, most people seem to be more afraid of how they will die rather than death itself, and I’ll deal with that, but we should see the lack of obsession.  If there is any obsession with death, it really ought to simply be an obsession with seeing Christ face to face.  That’s why Paul wrote to the Philippians,

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.  Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two.  My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better,” (1:21-23, ESV; italics mine).

Notice that once again, that Paul brings up that living is Christ.  Our lives are in Christ, we are “partakers of the divine nature,” as Peter would say (2 Peter 1:4).  Who we are is defined in who Christ is.  But Paul wanted not just to be in Christ but with Christ.  Yet, his desire to be with Christ did not affect his decision to live on earth.  He would still be willing to go through all that he must if it is what Christ would have him do.  He gave up his desires and wants for what Christ wants because he was in Christ.  That would of course mean

far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches, (2 Corinthians 11:23-28, ESV)

And, of course, that doesn’t include his last imprisonment and his beheading.  No one wants to suffer, whether at the hands of some other person or at the hands of some disease.  Yet, we are not to fret and obsess with death (or how we die) like our culture is pushing upon us.  We must push back.  As J. I. Packer wrote, “The Christian’s most loving service to his neighbor in our modern world. . .is to uphold the authority of God’s law as man’s one true guide to true life,” (Knowing and Doing the Will of God, originally in Growing in Christ, 232-233).  That means that we must speak God’s truth, His law about life and death, in this fallen world.  But in addition to that, we must live it and love it ourselves.