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Thursday, December 15, 2011

When Did The Millenium Begin?

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When it comes to Bible interpretation, we have a lot in common with most non-Catholics. Yet there are those verses that are defining of our position to the exclusion to any other interpretation that do divide us. One such set of verses is in the Book of Revelation.

Today we are talking about the Millennium, which means 1000 years.

Revelation 20:1-3 And I saw an angel come down from heaven, having the key of the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal upon him, that he should deceive the nations no more, till the thousand years should be fulfilled: and after that he must be loosed a little season.

The controversy is how we interpret those verses, when do they occur and are they literal?

There are two points here that I would like to raise.

#1 what is meant by 1000 years?
#2 When is Satan bound?

#1 what is meant by 1000 years? I think we must first keep in mind that the book of Revelation is highly symbolic. Next we see the number 1000 used in symbolic ways.

Psalm 50:10 For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.
Do we ask the question, “Which thousand hills is that exactly?” No, because God owns all the cattle on all the hills. Here in the Psalm, 1000 just means – a lot. We believe that is means the same thing here in Rev 20:3

#2 When is Satan bound? Obviously Satan is bound at the beginning of the 1000 years, but do other scriptures talk about when this happens – They do:

Matthew 12:28-29 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man's house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
Luke 13:16 And ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan hath bound, lo, these eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the sabbath day?
John 12:31-33 Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die.

Here is my reasoning at least. Satan had the power to bind people. Jesus came and loosed those that Satan had bound (Luke 3:16). By the work of Jesus binding the Satan - the strong man (Matt 12:29) - Jesus was showing that this was evidence that the Kingdom of God had in fact come.
Just to reiterate; with the first coming of Christ we see Jesus’ kingdom inaugurated and at the same, Satan is cast out and bound.

There is another topic addressed in Revelation 20 that points us again to a first century fulfillment of the beginning of the 1000 years.

Revelation 20:4-6 And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, … and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
So what is the first resurrection? When does that happen?
Notice first that it says that the saints reign with Christ for 1000. Now listen to St. Paul

Ephesians 2:5-6 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus…

- St. Paul here uses the past tense and links us reigning with Christ with his resurrection.
Here in Rev 20 St. John tells us that those who are a part of the first resurrection are priests, and they reign with Christ for the thousand years.

My question here “when is the first resurrection?”

Scripture suggests that the first resurrection is at our Baptism.

Romans 6:3-4 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Ephesians 2:1, 5-6 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins…even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus,
Ephesians 5:14 For this reason it says, "Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you."
Colossians 3:1 If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Colossians 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
To pick up a point from earlier. Jesus associates the binding of Satan with the coming of the Kingdom (Luke 3:16, Mat 12:29). Further confirmation that the kingdom was established in Christ’s first coming is as follows:
Mark 1:14-15 Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

Luke 9:27 But I tell you of a truth, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.
Luke 17:21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Luke 22:29 And I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me;

In conclusion, seeing as how the kingdom was established with Jesus’ first coming the next logical question to ask then is- where is it? We believe that the Catholic Church is this Kingdom.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The 10 Plagues and the gods of Egypt

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The 10 plagues that God used to bring Israel out of Egypt have always captured our imagination. Why did God send those plagues and what was their significance?
Here was the situation: Moses flees Egypt because he murdered an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite. Some people found out about this and he fled to Median. While there, he sees the burning bush where God speaks to him and tells him “the plan”.
Exodus 3:12 And He said, "Certainly I will be with you, and this shall be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain."
So the whole purpose of the Exodus is to bring the people out to Mt. Sinai to worship God. Yet there is a two-fold problem. Naturally, pharaoh doesn’t want to lose his 500,000 slaves and more surprisingly, the slaves don’t want to go either. Not only is Israel stuck in Egypt, but Egypt is stuck in Israel. Israel, as we will come to see, has adopted for themselves the false gods of Egypt.
The “gods” that the Egyptians were worshipping are none other than fallen angels.
Acts 7:41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. And God turned, and gave them up to serve the host of heaven,

Exodus 12:12 - against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments-- I am the LORD.
These demons were worshipped under many forms: cattle, sheep, frogs, water, etc.
God intends to bring them out into the desert and reveal Himself to them so they can finally break away from these false gods and serve the true God.
They can’t do this in Egypt because how they would intend to worship God would offend the Egyptians.
Exodus 8:25-26 And Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron and said, "Go, sacrifice to your God within the land." But Moses said, "It is not right to do so, for we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God what is an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice what is an abomination to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not then stone us?
What they are sacrificing are the animals that represent the false gods of the Egyptians. It is like renouncing your addiction to television by throwing it in the trash and beating it with a baseball bat. It will be good medicine for you but your housemate will get upset. So they need to go outside of Egypt to perform this sacrifice.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t go as smoothly as we would all hope.
God gives Moses three amazing signs to convince Pharaoh that this message is from God and should be obeyed. Staff to snake. Leperous hand. Pour water on the ground and it becomes blood.
So Moses returns and tells the Pharaoh to let the people go to worship.

No one commands the Pharaoh, though. It is at this point that he says that the Israelites can make the same amount of bricks without straw. So this gets the Israelites mad at Moses. So at this point everyone is against Moses, both Pharaoh and Israelites.
When Moses does get a chance to prove that this command was from God, he throws his staff on the ground and it turns into a snake.
Exodus 7:11 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts.
Huh, wonder who gave them that power?
Next, Moses turns the water into blood, but the Pharaoh’s magicians can do that as well.
Then God, through Moses, has frogs cover the land, and again Pharaoh’s magicians can repeat this miracle.
Finally, though, God has gnats come as a plague and cover the land.

Exodus 8:18-19 And the magicians tried with their secret arts to bring forth gnats, but they could not; so there were gnats on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, "This is the finger of God."
Even the Pharaoh’s magicians recognize a more powerful God, even though Pharaoh doesn’t.

Let’s see which of these plagues were against specific false gods:

The Plagues of Egypt                      The Gods of Egypt

1. Nile turned to Blood                    1. Hapi, god of the Nile, fertility

2. Frogs                                          2. Heket, frog goddess of fruitfulness

3. Gnats                                          3. Kepher, beetle god; symbol of sun

4. Flies

5. Cattle                                          5. Amon, Hathor, etc.(male and female cow-gods)

6. Boils                                           6. Sekhmet, goddess of healing

7. Hail (kills remainder of crops)      7. Nut, sky-goddess fails

8. Locusts                                        8. Serapia, protector from locusts

9. Darkness                                     9. Re the Sun god

The 10th plague was against all the first born sons
With the 10th plague, Israel does make a sacrifice inside of Egypt and that was a sacrifice of sheep, which the Egyptians did apparently worship.
The Israelites are instructed to slaughter the lamb and put the blood on the door. This had a two-fold effect, it would protect their homes from the angel of death, but it also stained the door and labeled which households sacrificed the gods of the Egyptians.

The 10th plague was so devastating that it was a bit of time before the Egyptians probably noticed that a ton of sheep were missing and that they had been sacrificed by the Israelites.
This would be probably one of the factors why, though desiring to go back to Egypt, Israel couldn’t and stuck with Moses instead.
Israel would constantly struggle with false god worship throughout their 40 years in the wilderness and beyond. Since we too have been freed from false gods through the blood of Christ, we too should persevere in faith lest we not make it to the promised land like a lot of them didn’t.