Sunday, April 24, 2011

Will Jews get another chance to know Jesus?

Anonymous asked:  Does Ezekiel 37:1-14 mean all Jews will all get another chance to know Jesus as Messiah even if they rejected Him?  Or is it talking about before David reunited Judah and Israel?

Hello, Anonymous.  Your timeline is a bit off. David reigned several generations before Ezekiel wrote his prophecy. But, as for the Dry Bones prophecy, first let me give you some background: 

David's grandson (Rehoboam) rejected the counsel of his elders and opted to do as his friends suggested regarding treatment of the people (see here for the Scripture text). As a result, civil war ensued and Israel was divided into two kingdoms -- North (called Israel) and South (called Judah). 

Ezekiel's prophecy had a partial fulfillment after the Assyrian and then Babylonian captivities when (under the Persian king Cyrus) many of the captive Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple (you can read about it in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah). The nation was pretty much united under Ezra and Nehemiah -- albeit, with persistent pockets of rebellion into the period of the Maccabees, during which some Jews within the 'united' nation of Israel capitulated to the Greeks and fell again into idolatry.  You can read about that in 1&2 Maccabees (Maccabees is found in the Catholic Bible). But the complete fulfillment of Ezekiel's prophecy will occur in the 'End Days' -- the time in which Jesus returns to earth (a time, by the way, which I believe is rapidly approaching). You can read an example of Scripture that speaks of the Second Advent here.

So, to answer your question about the "Dry Bones", the prophecy refers primarily to the time when the "Time of the Gentiles" is over (for example, see Romans 11:25-29), and God begins to deal more specifically with the Jewish nation (e.g. modern Israel). For a more full description of how God will again deal with the Jewish nation, see Romans 9-11, especially chapter 11.

I think what happened (admittedly, I could be wrong) when Israel rejected their Messiah in the first century, God sent His message of redemption to the Gentiles, primarily to move Israel to jealousy (and then to salvation). For example, see Romans 10:19 (quoting Deuteronomy 32:21); and Romans 11:11-21. But the time will come (in the "Last Days") when God no longer works primarily with the Gentiles, and will shift His attention to Israel (Romans 11:25-32, for example). 

Some believe the "Time of the Gentiles" will end with the Rapture of the Church -- a time in which all Christians will be removed from the planet (not all Christians agree with this theology. See this Wikipedia article). At that time, God will shift His attention to the Jewish nation once again.

Whether the Rapture is a viable theology or not, St. Paul makes it clear (see the Romans passages above), as do many of the OT prophets and John's Revelation, God is not yet done with the Jews. He will again deal with them as a nation.

I hope that helps answer your question.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

OT Sacrifices, Solomon's Sacrifice, How OT people were saved

Anonymous asked three questions:
1. Regarding OT sacrifices: what was their purpose, really?

The OT sacrifices served several purposes. For ease of reading and organization, I did a quick Google search for "Old Testament sacrificial system" and found a number of links. Many are cumbersome. Try these for a brief overview of the sacrificial system:

We also find in the Book of Hebrews the comparison between the Old Covenant sacrificial system and the New (Jesus being the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world). See especially chapters 8-10.

2. And why did Solomon sacrifice 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep at the dedication of the temple (see
1 Kings 8:62-65)?

Solomon offered the oxen and sheep as an act of worship, devotion, self-consecration and thanksgiving. Such sacrifices were commonplace during the Old Testament period. For example, see this chart found at 

3. How will people from the OT get to heaven, since they did not have Christ?

People in the Old Testament were saved in the same way people in the Christian era are saved: By grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-10). In the Old Testament, faith was placed in God and manifested through their sacrificial system and good works to prove their faith. The prophets talked about this kind of 'proof' of faith throughout their writings. As for the NT, according to the progressive revelation revealed by the NT writers, we are saved today by grace through faith, with the focus of our faith being Jesus the Christ, who is the Lamb of God (see, for example, Isaiah 53). Baptism and Circumcision are intimately related to these OT and NT salvation concepts, but I won't address that topic here. Furthermore, the NT writers also make it clear that the 'proof' of our faith in Christ is our works (e.g. Matthew 25:31-46; James 2:14-26.

I found this link that might also help answer your question:

Hope this helps.  Sorry for the delay. Busy with Holy Week and work.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Does God Work 'Quid Pro Quo'?

Jessica asked: Do you think God gives us blessings as a direct result of our obedience? If so, will He take those blessings away if I am disobedient?

You ask an important question . . . one that is fraught with peril because it is easy for us to develop a distorted view of God if we come up with the wrong answer.

Yes, many Scriptures tell us God blesses those who are obedient and disciplines those who are not. However, it has been my experience that His blessings are not often according to my expectations. In other words, just because God didn’t answer my prayers does not necessarily mean God is angry with me or I did something wrong. And just because something bad has happened to me does not necessarily mean God is angry with me or I did something wrong. 

I have learned that to associate what we consider ‘blessings of God” according to a quid pro quo formula (e.g. God will do this, if I do that) can be very toxic to our faith.

Besides, life (and Scripture) suggests God sometimes answers prayers and blesses people even when they are not obedient. For example, "God causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45).

Why does He do that? Because God is good. Because He is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all will come to repentance. And because His acts of goodness are intended to draw people to repentance (see 2 Peter 3:9 and Romans 2:4).

As for me, though, I try to obey God – not because He will bless me if I obey, or whip me if I do not -- but because I love Him and I don't want to hurt Him. I am trying to learn that the bottom line – for  me, anyway -- must be, “God is love” and that He does nothing for me (or to me) that is not good for me.

Perhaps one day also I will be able to internalize the attitude of St. Therese of Lisieux (I think I have quoted her before):

"Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our father's love — difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs — everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness — Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events — to the heart that loves, all is well."

But let me reiterate, because it is so important to ‘get this’ -- Quid pro quo by God is I think a common, but dangerous belief because such thinking commonly leads to a distorted picture of God.  Focus on "God is love" (1 John 4:8). It will change the way you think about prayer, about holiness, about sin, repentance, your relationship with Him and His relationship with you.