Sunday, August 29

For The Love of Money...

It is evident that throughout history, prevailing up to today, there is a love of money among men and women. What does God tells us about the love of money? Let's take a look. 1st Timothy 6:10 says, "For the love of money is a root of all evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Understand that the intention of this entry is not to point fingers at anyone, but to inform on what some have asked me to write about, "The Love of Money."

St. Paul calls the love of money the "root of all evil." Is this true? It wasn't an opinion, it was a Biblical fact. It is an often misquoted verse, in which people say, "Money is the root of all evil." That is not what the scriptures say. It says, "For the LOVE OF MONEY is the root of all evil." The Love of Money, not Money itself. Having Money does not make a person evil. Scripture does not devote much time to the love of money, but even though it is mentioned but a few times, it should not be taken lightly. The Laws of Moses were strict to the point that if we stole from other and sold their possessions, if we hoarded money, there were consequences. Colossians 3:5 illustrates this point.

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry." In other words, put off all your former ways, including a love of money. St. Paul warned us about the love of money in the end times. "People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy..." (1st Timothy 3:2) St. Paul goes on to describe the 29 Signs within Man - signs of the End Times. Are people lovers of money today? Of course! It is evident in the world around us.

God warns us to turn from our ways, so that swift judgment does not follow. What does God truly think about money involved in evil acts? Well, let us take a look at what Jesus has said. John 2:13-17 says, "When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers sold doves he said, 'Get these out of here! Stop making my Father's house a market place!' His disciples remembered that it is written: 'My devotion for your house, O Lord, burns in me like a fire.' [Psalm 69:9]" If Jesus was perfect, why did he get mad? He had what is called Righteous Anger. As the prophecy said, "My devotion [zeal] for your house, O Lord, burns in me like a fire." In other words, My devotion to you, when tested, ignites. You do not make church a marketplace. It is God's House of Worship, not a place to sell livestock and other such things.

Since the people who wanted to sell things had a love of money, they went so far as to sell - in God's Temple! So how does God wants us to live, if we have a love of money? If one claims to be a Christian, then we must follow this: "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Does this mean we are to achieve what the New Agers call "Christ-Consciousness?" No. It means we are to be Christian! The Word Christian means "Christ-Like." St. Paul was not making a suggestion, he was giving a commandment from God: Put off your former way of life. If we put money before God, we are not only disobeying what he's told us through St. Paul, through Jesus Christ, we are disobeying the First Commandment. The First Commandment says, "Have no gods before [God]." Yes, we are to take each commandment at face value. But there's a deeper meaning. It also means, "Put God first." Can we say that we put God before money? We should be able to. It is not abstruse. So, if we are lovers of money, what do we do? If we can see that we put money before God, then it becomes an issue.

Troy Hillman

Thursday, August 26

Ever Hear of the Urim and the Thummim?

Not many have. We do not often hear about what is called the "Urim and the Thummim," because like many other Biblical oddities, it is highly misunderstood, and therefore is not often popularized. In this entry, we will look at a "Biblical Oddity." (Photo credit to:

I always enjoy writing about things found in the Bible that to some are highly controversial, forcing me to do much research, as well as things that are not very well-known. For example, to the average church-goer, how many people could tell you what a Urim and a Thummim is, unless they've looked into it? Well, that's the intention of these type of entries - to inform you, and give insight.

That said, let's investigate. The dictionary's definition says, "objects, possibly made of metal or precious stones and inscribed with symbols, worn in the breastplate [breastpiece] of the high priest and used, perhaps like lots, to determine God's response to a question answerable by 'yes' or 'no.'" Precisely.

The Urim and the Thummim were both stones worn by Priests - they gave a yes/no answer to the people of Israel. When the answer was yes, one stone would light up - literally light up, like a light bulb. If the answer was no, the other would light up - and when the High Priest came out of the Tabernacle, all of Israel could see which was lit - what the answer was.

What does God's Word have to tell us about this fascinating topic? Exodus 28:30 is the first to mention this. Now, God had been giving Israel laws at Mount Sinai - he had just given specifications for The Ark of The Covenant, the Lampstand, The Tabernacle, the Altar, and the Courtyard. Chapter 28 is the specifications for Priestly Garments.

Exodus 28:30 says, "Also put Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece, so they may be over Aaron's heart whenever he enters the presence of the Lord. Thus Aaron will always bear the means of making decisions for the Israelites over his heart before the Lord." When Aaron and his Sons were finally ordained in Leviticus 8:8, "[Moses] placed the breastpiece on him and put the Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece."

When Moses was nearing the end of his life, it was decided that Joshua would succeed Moses. God told Moses to have him ordained by Eleazar. "He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions from him by inquiring of the Urim and Thummim before the Lord." (Numbers 27:21a) Henceforth, the Urim and the Thummim were used by the Levites, the order of the Priests.

The Urim and Thummim are again mentioned in Deuteronomy 33:8. In Judges 1:1, most assume that since Israelites did not directly speak with God, the must have asked using the Urim and the Thummim. However, if the Urim and Thummim only gave yes and no answers, this is probably not the case, however, not improbable.

Consequently, since it was not always used by priests, by the time of David, it was carried in an Ephod. An ephod is "a richly embroidered, apronlike vestment having two shoulder straps and ornamental attachments for securing the breastplate, worn with a waistband by the high priest." (1st Samuel 14:3; 23:9)

The stones are not spoken of until after the Exile. Ezra writes a list of the 42,360 Israelites who had returned form Exile, having been invaded by Babylon years before. Ezra 2:62-63 says, "These searched for their family records, but they could not find them and so were excluded from the priesthood as unclean. The governor ordered them not to eat of any of the most sacred food until there was a priest ministering with the Urim and Thummim." Nehemiah 7:65 repeats this passage.

The Urim and the Thummim are not mentioned beyond Nehemiah and Ezra. It is assumed by most scholars that the stones that the stones were lost or destroyed after the time of King David when the Babylonians invaded Israel, Although Hosea, one of the prophets, tells us later on, "For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones [Urim and Thummim], without ephod or household gods." (Hosea 3:4)

Since Ezra and Nehemiah refer to the stone as if it has not existed for quite some time, most Biblical Scholars also agree that the Urim and Thummim had probably lost its use a while before David's rule, since the objects were, in a sense, replaced by the prophets. How can we understand the two stones?

1st Samuel 14:41 says, "Then Saul prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Why have you not answered your servant today? If the fault is in me or my son Jonathan, respond with Urim, but if the men of Israel are at fault, respond with the Thummim,' Jonathan and Saul were taken by lot, and the men were cleared." Scholars believe this passage to be the key to understanding these objects.

By using objects whose function was made right by God, divination, the attempt is made to identify a sinner through the Urim and Thummim, by continually splitting people into two different groups, proceeding to identify which group contained the sinner. It is believed that the Urim and Thummim were not consulted by the common Israelite, but by people of prominent figures, such as Kings, Generals, the like. The only questions asked were those that would benefit Israel.

The Urim and Thummim are also used by the Mormon Religion. Joseph Smith Jr, was is the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Smith claimed that an angel named Moroni told him about "Golden Plates," containing the Urim and Thummim. While some Mormons claim that their beliefs are based on the Bible, that claim is not held, as The Book of the Mormon compared alongside God's Word is, bluntly, factitious.

What do "Urim" and "Thummim" mean? Urim and Thummim can be translated as "Light and Perfection." Urim also means doctrina, or revelation, whereas Thummim also means veritas, the latin word for truth. So, "Doctrine and Truth," or "Revelation and Truth."

On another note, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, in order for the Urim and Thummim to give an answer, it was first necessary for the individual asking the question to stand facing the high priest, fully dressed, and vocalize the question briefly and in a simple way, although it wasn't exactly necessary for it to be loud enough for anyone else to hear the question.

Whatever the case may be, we can understand that these objects were held in great importance from the time of Moses to the time of King David. Where are they now? Destroyed, perhaps, or lost. We may never discover, on this side of life.I pray that this entry of "The Truth" has been informative and insightful. You can email or visit the facebook page if you have any questions, comments, or concerns. Take Care - and God Bless. Troy Hillman

Sunday, August 22

The Ark of the Covenant

What is the Ark of the Covenant? It was a mercy-seat, rather, God's throne on Earth, made of acacia wood. It was built by the Israelites in the desert after the Exodus occurred, and were given instructions - including the Ten Commandments, at Mount Sinai. (Modern-day Jebel el Lawz) You may recognize it from such films as Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, returning for a cameo appearance in the more recent Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. But what about the real Ark of the Covenant? The Ark of the Covenant is first mentioned in Exodus 25:10-22, where God gives Moses the exact instructions on how to build the Ark - to have the ark made of acacia wood, along with two poles to carry it, and an atonement cover (the Mercy Seat) made of pure gold, God's Throne on Earth, where he came to Moses and gave him commandments and talked with him.

Considered the "splendor of Israel" (Lamentations 2:1), the Ark of the Covenant was mentioned over 200 times in the Hebrew Bible. The Ark was usually carried before the army (Numbers 4:5-6, 10:33-36; Psalm 68:1, 132:8), was left in the homes of individuals, sometimes ignored, other times revered - later placed in Solomon's Temple. After the death of Moses, Joshua was made head of Israel. When it came time to cross the river Jordan, Joshua was told by God to have the Priests carrying the Ark to go before the People. When they had reached Jordan, the river was in its flood stage, because it was the time of the harvest. "Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water's edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away... while the water down [the opposite way] was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho." (Joshua 3:11-17)

After the Israelites had crossed, they not long after came upon Jericho. Jesus, pre-incarnate, came to Joshua, (See entry: Who is the "Angel of the Lord?") telling him to march around the city six days with the Ark of the Covenant, and on the seventh day, blow the trumpets and give a loud shout- and the walls would fall. Joshua listened, and the walls fell. (Joshua 5:13-6:27) We can still see the remains of Jericho today, with the only remaining wall. (God promised Rahab that the wall where she lived would not fall, but all other walls would.) When the Ark was covered, it was more often than not wrapped in a veil, in "tachash skins," as well as a blue cloth, and was fully concealed from those around it, even those who carried it - though the poles were visible, to carry. Over the course of time, the Ark of the Covenant went through a long journey.

It was captured by Philistines, (1st Samuel 4:3-11) but was finally recovered, after the sent it back. (1st Samuel 5:7-8; 6) used in the days of King Saul, though we are told that Saul did not consult God before battle (1st Chronicles 13:1-13). It went here and there throughout King David's reign, before coming to rest in the Temple after built by King Solomon. However, that wasn't the end. in 586 BC, the Babylonians invaded Israel, and once they took Jerusalem, destroyed Solomon's temple. The Ark has not been seen since, though some suggest that it was destroyed, while yet others suggest that it was taken by Nebuchadnezzar. Because of this, the rebuilt Temple did not include the Ark in the Holy of Holies room.

In the New Testament, in Hebrews 9:4, we are told that behind the second curtain in the Temple was the Holy Place, "which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant."

We are shown one more glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant. Revelation 11:19 says, "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and within his temple was seen the ark of his covenant." So where is the Ark of the Covenant today? Many theories abound. Some say that the Ark is at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, just beneath the Mount itself, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims to have the Ark, saying that the Ark was brought to Ethiopia by Menelik I with divine assistance, while other countries, such as France, the UK, Ireland, Japan, and South Africa claim to have it. Supposedly, when Queen Elizabeth II visited Ethiopia, she claims to have seen the Ark.

One passage, 2 Maccabees 2:4-10, seems to support its location as Mt. Nebo. It says, "Further, this document records that, prompted by a divine message, the prophet gave orders that the Tent of Meeting and the Ark should go with him. Then he went away to the mountain from the top of which Moses saw God's promised land. [Mt. Nebo] When he reached the mountain, Jeremiah found a cave-dwelling; he carried the tent, the ark, and the incense-altar into it, then blocked up the entrance.

Some of his companions came to mark out the way, but were unable to find it. When Jeremiah learned of this he reprimanded them. 'The place shall remain unknown,' he said, 'until God finally gathers his people together and shows mercy to them. Then the Lord will bring these things to light again, and the glory of the Lord will appear with the cloud, as it was seen both in the time of Moses and when Solomon prayed that the shrine might be worthily consecrated.'" Some claim to have seen a copy of the Ark of the Covenant at Mt. Nebo.

Whatever the case, the Ark of the Covenant proves fascinating to say the least. Though some get confused between Noah's Ark, the "lifeboat" that saved humanity, and the Ark of the Covenant, which was God's Mercy Seat, it remains one of the most sought after archaeological finds in history. Tehre have been many theories and interesting discoveries, and while I have my own opinion on where it is, agreeing with a certain finding, I will not make my opinion known - as it is not my opinion, but what the Bible tells us, that should be shared.

What can we learn from the Ark? The Ark of the Covenant was a portable box that was constructed per divine instruction. The Ark contained the original Ten Commandments given to Moses, as well as a few other objects of interest. The Ark, for many years, served as the focus of the place of God, and was later put into the Temple. God showed his power through the Ark various times, and some tested him. The Ark of the Covenant was lost when the Babylonians destroyed Solomon's Temple. Where it is now, we are not entirely sure.

Troy Hillman

Thursday, August 19

Examining the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ

Perhaps one of the more overlooked - yet very significant - events of the life of Christ is the Transfiguration of Jesus. What is a transfiguration? The dictionary describes it as "the supernatural and glorified change in appearance of Jesus on the mountain." They hit the nail on the head. A "transfiguration" is a change in shape or appearance. Frankly, I love hearing this account. Probably because of people involved - Jesus, Moses, Elijah, St. Peter, St James, and St. John. Now, where does this event take place? None of the gospels specifically mention which mountain, but since the 3rd Century Christians pointed out Mount Tabor, that is the traditional site, although some, such as R.T. Frances, have noted that Mount Hermon is the closest to Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus was in the previous chapter of Matthew. (Picture Credit to: Raphael, ©1520; article revised on 06-08-14)

So what's the general idea? Jesus, Peter, James, and John go up in a mountain. They see Moses, who's been dead for about 1,400 years, (Deuteronomy 34:5) and Elijah, who was taken to Heaven a few hundred years before. (2nd Kings 2:11) They come and talk with Jesus about his upcoming death, and God comes down in a cloud saying, "This is my Son." In other words, he threw off all speculations about who Jesus was. When God Almighty speaks, it is good to listen. So let's take a look at these Biblical accounts, see what they tell us about this spectacular event. St. Thomas Aquinas, an Italian priest, had considered The Transfiguration to be the "Greatest Miracle," in that it happened to Christ himself.

Let's take a look at Matthew 17:1-9. Verses 2-5 say, "There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. St. Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters - one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.' While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!'" Verses 6-7 go on to say, "When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. But Jesus came and touched them.'Get up.' he said. 'Don't be afraid.' When they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus." Jesus proceeded to instruct the three disciples not to mention this to anyone "until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." So they listened, but did not understand until later.

Mark gives his account, which was told to him by St. Peter, in Mark 9:2-8. The account is mostly the same, though verse three gives another vivid description: "His clothes became a dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them." Luke also speaks of the Transfiguration. Luke 9:28-36 gives the same account, though with certain details. "As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him."

John may also have alluded to The Transfiguration, though it may be a general idea of Christ. John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." That may be an obscure reference, but it is true that John saw the glory of Jesus - he was a witness of the Transfiguration.

Though he conveyed it to John Mark, who wrote Mark, Peter later wrote about the event. 2nd Peter 1:16-18 says, "For we did nor follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in Power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.' We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain."

Other early Christian literature refers to this miraculous event as well. According to the Acts of John 90 (written AD 150-200), "At another time he took me [John] and James and Peter to the mountain, where he used to pray, and we beheld such a light on him that is not possible for a man who uses mortal speech to describe what it was like." The apocryphal Acts of Peter (AD 150-200) also mentions the Transfiguration, this time from the perspective of St. Peter, as we saw in 2nd Peter. According to chapter 20, "Our Lord wished to let me see his majesty on the holy mountain; but when I with the sons of Zebedee saw his brightness I fell at his feet as dead, closed my eyes, and heard a voice in a manner which I cannot describe. I imagined I had been deprived of my eyesight by his splendor. I recovered a little and said to myself, 'Perhaps the Lord has brought me here to deprive me of my eyesight.' And I said, 'If such is your will, O Lord, I shall not resist.' And he took me and lifted me up. And when I arose I saw him again in a form which I could not comprehend." In an ancient Gnostic document, the Treatise on the Resurrection (AD 170-200) we read, "if you remember reading in the Gospel that Elijah appeared and Moses with him, do not think that the resurrection is an illusion. It is no illusion, but it is truth!"

Finally, we may turn our attention to a lengthy but curious passage in the Apocalypse of Peter 15-17 (AD 100-150), "And my Lord Jesus Christ, our King, said to me, 'Let us go to the holy mountain.' And his disciples went with him, praying. And behold there were two men there, and we could not look upon their faces, for a light came from them, shining more than the sun and their raiment also was shining and cannot be described and nothing is sufficient to be compared to them in this world. And the sweetness of them... that no mouth is able to utter the beauty of their appearance, for their aspect was astonishing and wonderful. And the other, great, I say, shines in his aspect above crystal. Like the flower of roses is the appearance of the color of his head and the aspect of the color of his aspect and of his body... and on their foreheads was a crown of nard woven from fair flowers. As the rainbow in the water, so was their hair. And such was the comeliness of their countenance, adorned with all manner of ornament" (15).

Chapter 16-17a continues, "And when we suddenly saw them, we marvelled. And I drew near to God, Jesus Christ, and said to him, 'O my Lord, who are these?' And he said to me, "They are Moses and Elijah.' And I said to him, 'Where then are Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and the rest of the righteous fathers?' And he showed us a great garden, open, full of fair trees and blessed fruits and of the odor of perfumes. The fragrance was pleasant and reached us. And of that tree... I saw many fruits. And my Lord and God Jesus Christ said to me, 'Have you seen the companies of the fathers? As is their rest, such also is the honor and the glory of those who are persecuted for my righteousness' sake.' And I rejoiced and believed and understood that which is written in the book of my Lord Jesus Christ. And I said to him, 'O my Lord, do you wish that I make here three tabernacles, one for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah?' And he said to me in wrath, 'Satan makes war against you, and has veiled your understanding; and the good things of this world prevail against you. Your eyes therefore must be opened and your ears unstopped that you may see a tabernacle, not made with human hands, which my heavenly Father has made for me and for the elect.' And we beheld it and were full of gladness. And behold, suddenly there came a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased: [he has kept] my commandments.'"

So, hearing these accounts, we can gather that it must have been extraordinary to witness. It has been speculated that the senses of the disciples were also transfigured (changed) to see his glory. While it does not change the event, it is interesting. It is also interesting to note that Jesus is put above Elijah and Moses, two major figures in Judaism. Moses represents the Law, while Elijah represents the Prophets - Jesus was the one who fulfilled what was written about him in "...the Law of Moses, [and] the Prophets..." (Luke 24:44). Regardless of what deeper meaning this event has, if you take anything away from it, may it be this: God himself proclaims Jesus as his Son. The Transfiguration is the event that shows the glory of Jesus, that shows him in his glorified body. This special event shared with the inner ring of the three disciples was a confirmation to them that Jesus was indeed, the Messiah that was prophesied to come.

Sts. Peter, James and John were witnesses to this spectacular event - and it is so often overlooked. It need not be. Jesus was also proclaimed as the Son of God in Psalm 2:7, Proverbs 30:4, Luke 1:32, and Matthew 3:17, the first two instances from prophets, the next from the angel Gabriel, and in Matthew by God himself at the Baptism of Jesus, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." While the miracles of walking on water, disappearing from a crowd, raising the dead, healing, multiplying food, changing weather, and many others happen to others, the Transfiguration miracle happens to Jesus - and it proves without a doubt to his followers that that he truly is the Son of God. 

Wednesday, August 18

The Five Crowns of Heaven and Christian Tradition

In the Christian tradition, we read of five crowns given as "rewards" in heaven. These are often known as the crown of incorruption or victory, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of life, the crown of glory, and the crown of righteousness. Now, crowns play an interesting role in Scripture. Historically, "The more general name in Hebrew for a crown is 'atarah, meaning a “circlet.” This is used of crowns and head ornaments of divers kinds, including royal crowns. Such was the crown taken from the king of Ammon by David (2 Sam. 12:30). The crown worn by the Assyrian kings was a high mitre, sometimes adorned with flowers. There are sculptures also representing the crowns worn by the early Egyptian and Persian kings. Sometimes a diadem surrounded the royal head-dress of two or three fillets. This probably signified that the wearer had dominion over two or three countries. In Rev. 12:3; 13:1, we read of 'many crowns,' a token of extended dominion."[1] (Photo credit to: Dallas Vintage)

Before examining these "five crowns" and what the Scriptures say about each, it is important to view the role of crowns within Christianity. In Eastern Orthodox churches, we find that the nuptial crown is worn by a bride at her wedding. This practice is a very ancient practice, going back to the early days of the Eastern Orthodox church. The marriage ceremony has a section known as "the crowning." During this section of the ceremony, both the bride and the bridegroom are crowned as "king" and "queen" of their household. This practice is also common in Greek and Slavic weddings, where crowns are made of flowers and pearls (Greek) or ornamented metal (Slavic). In Catholicism, the Virgin Mary is depicted as wearing a crown following her assumption into heaven - a visual depiction of Revelation 12:1's description of the lady crowned with stars. Further, in Sweden there is a symbol of the Three Crowns, which are representative of the three magi (wise men) from the gospel of Matthew. There are also many other ways in which crowns have been used throughout Christian artwork, practice, and history. Thus, crowns play a prominent and sometimes under-appreciated role. But what does the Scriptural corpus have to say about these five crowns?

Within the Scriptures, the first major "crown"is the crown of incorruption or victory. This crown is given to those who live a disciplined life. It is mentioned in 1st Corinthians 9:25, "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last [corruptible crown]; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever [incorruptible crown]." The simple truth: only those who strive in life will get this crown, those who do not, will not. Historically, the Greek term stephanos referred to a victor's crown, given to victors at the Greek games or after winning a contest. This same term is applied by St. Paul in his epistle to the Corinthians, implying that this "crown" is for those who have "run the race" and lived out their faith. There are many scripture references to that fact that crowns and rewards in heaven are for those who overcome, who are victorious (Philippians 3:12-14, 1st Corinthians 9:24-27, Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7).

The next crown, the crown of rejoicing, is given to those who joyously express their faith. 1st Thessalonians 2:19 says, "For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown in which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes..." Other translations explicitly say "crown of rejoicing." This may also be found in Daniel 12:3, which says, "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever." Many scholars believe this implies that if you lead others to righteousness by expressing your faith, you will receive a crown that will shine like the "brightness of the heavens."

A third crown, and perhaps the most well-known, is the crown of life. James 1:12 says, "Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him" (emphasis mine). The crown of life is given to those who are patient, who endure the trials and tribulations in life. Revelation 2:10 says, "...Be faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life." This crown is also referred to as the "Martyr's Crown" (although the crown of thorns is also called the "Martyr's Crown"). The fourth is the crown of glory. This crown is given to those who are faithful in ministering to the world. 1st Peter 5:2-4 says, "Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, watching over them - not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."

The fifth and final crown is the crown of righteousness. 2nd Timothy 4:8 says, "Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." Evidently, this crown is for all those who long for the return of Jesus. Revelation 3:11 says, "I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown." In other words, we are to guard ourselves and to continue in faithfulness. Other early writings speak of crowns as well. In a late 2nd century Gnostic text, the incomplete manuscript of the Gospel of the Savior 42 says, "The elders, seated on [their thrones], cast [their] crowns [down] before the Father’s [throne]." This is reminiscent of the twenty-four elders in Revelation 4:4, which says, "...They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads." On another note, Jesus himself wore a crown at his death - a crown of thorns, likely the nabk from the area around Jerusalem - which later became a symbol of martyrdom for early Christians. However, when Jesus returns, St. John tells us that "on his head [are] many crowns" (Revelation 19:11-19). When Christ returns, he shows his true glory.

Are these crowns intended to be literal "crowns" given to the faithful in God's presence? One cannot say definitively either way. But the notion of getting a "crown" following life should not be taking as an "extra credit" motivation for living a just and moral life. Although we are told to "store up our treasures in heaven," our primary reward is finally beholding the beatific vision: finally entering into the divine presence of the One who is more beautiful, more precious and more wonderful than all of the treasures this world has to offer. Perhaps we can view these crowns along the longs of ancient Christian bridal mysticism. We see in the Song of Songs, this notion of unity between the bride and the bridegroom, a theme later echoed in the gospels and in Revelation. This theme was picked up by later Christian mystics, but it essentially expresses the communion between the Creator and creation. Thus, along the lines of the Eastern Orthodox marriage ceremonies, in heaven, finally united with the Beloved, we are both crowned to share in a reciprocal, deep and loving relationship for eternity.

Troy Hillman
[1]"Crown." WebBible Encyclopedia. Christian Answers Network. Web.  

Monday, August 16

The Miracles of Jesus (Part Four)

The great conqueror Napoleon once said, "I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him." (Photo credit to Visual Bible International, Gospel of John starring Henry Ian Cusick, ©2003)

If Napoleon, a man well-known in history, can make such bold claims about Jesus of Nazareth, and knew the claims to be true - we may also know that the claims of the Gospels are true. They claim divine inspiration, and time after time God proves the Truth of his Word to us. Albert Einstein, world-renowned scientist and theorist, had this to say: "As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life."

Precisely. Unless you outright reject God,  when we read The Bible, we should pray "Open my eyes that I may see the wonderful things in your law." (Psalm 119:18) Each and every time I pray this, God reveals something new to me I had not previously seen or thought about in scripture. Now, there is no guarantee that the same thing will happen to you - but if you read it, knowing that the scriptures are truth, God will reveal himself to you through his Word. In the last three entries, we covered the Miracles of Jesus concerning: healing, casting out demons and raising the dead to life, food, water, and weather, and today we focus on three miracles of Jesus, classified as "others." This is the final entry in this series. Matthew 21:19-21 gives the account of the withered fig tree. This occurred after Jesus cast those who were buying and selling out of the temple.

"Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, 'May you never bear fruit again!' Immediately the tree withered. When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. 'How did the fig tree wither so quickly?' they asked. Jesus replied, 'Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.'"

Now, many get confused on what Jesus meant. He did say that what we ask for in prayer we will receive, but prefaced that by saying, "IF YOU BELIEVE." Let me give you an example. If someone says to you, "You are Christian. Come to my Grandmother's house, and ask God to heal her - she will be fully healed." If you ask God, but have doubts as to whether she will be healed, that is not believing. You may believe he can do extraordinary things, but have doubts. That is also the case with selfish prayers, though we do not always see them as selfish. God knows our entire life, and if we pray for something that he knows in the long run will not be beneficial or teach us anything, help us grow, he cannot grant the request. (See entry: "Are Selfish Prayers Answered?" for more on the subject.) Let's take a look at Luke 4:29-30.

Luke 4:29-30 says, "They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way."What is meant by this passage is... Jesus walked right through them - they could not stop him. Why? Some say that Time was stopped, and Jesus walked away. Some say that out of fear, they merely could not make a move to stop him. Others say that Jesus walked through them without them even noticing. Regardless, this was a miracle of Jesus - he walked away as a mob of people were trying to kill him. The last miracle that we will take a look it is one that is well-known, even among those who have never read The Bible. John 2:1-11. Jesus and his disciples, along with Mary (mother of Jesus) were invited to and attended a wedding in Cana. When the wine was all gone, Mary came and consulted Jesus.

He replies, "Woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come." Without saying another word, she turns to the servants and says, "Do whatever he tells you." Another translation says, "Woman, what do you have to do with this?" What can we tell from this? Mary, knowing Jesus well enough, understands that he will help - but it is still a mystery as to why he replied the way he did, though we can speculate. "Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding twenty to thirty gallons." That's a lot of wine. Jesus said to them, "Fill the jars with water." They filled them to the brim. "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." Here is the rest of the account: "They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, 'Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.' What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the sings through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples put their faith in him." Jesus turned the water into wine. We may also say that this in some way foreshadowed the Eucharistic meal.

Before I close out this series, I want to present a quote, from Daniel Webster, who wrote Webster's Dictionary. "If I might comprehend Jesus Christ, I could not believe on Him. He would be no greater than myself. Such is my consciousness of sin and inability that I must have a superhuman Saviour." (emphasis added). Here are two quotes from Sir Isaac Newton, one of the most brilliant minds in all of history: "There are more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history." "This thing [a scale model of our solar system] is but a puny imitation of a much grander system whose laws you know, and I am not able to convince you that this mere toy is without a designer and maker; yet you, as an atheist, profess to believe that the great original from which the design is taken has come into being without either designer or maker! Now tell me by what sort of reasoning do you reach such an incongruous conclusion?"

What can we gain by looking at these famous men who felt very strongly about God and Truth? That's what they spent their lives doing! Many people accept the laws that Kepler and Newton introduced, yet they were both self-proclaimed Christians. Evidence of the Creator is all around us, it's whether you accept him or reject him - and the miracles Jesus performed. 

Thank you for taking the time to read this series, I pray that it was insightful and helpful. 
Troy Hillman

Previous entry in series: The Miracles of Jesus (Part Three)

Sunday, August 15

The Miracles of Jesus (Part Three)

The Miracles of Jesus are quite fascinating, when we take them all into account. He did not have to perform any of them, but he did so that we may believe that he is the Son of God. This is the third entry in a series of four on the Miracles of Jesus. (Picture credit to: St. Stephen's)

As we've gone over before, John tells us that if all of the Miracles Jesus performed were to be written down, the world would not have enough space for them. That would be a lot of miracles. In this entry, we will take a look at the miracles that Jesus performed concerning Food, as well as Water, and Weather. In the past two entries, we covered healing, driving out demons, and raising people from the dead.

Let's take a look in Matthew 14:15-21. Way to start off with a bang - this is the account of Jesus feeding five thousand people. After John the Baptist was beheaded, his cousin and forerunner, prophesied about in Isaiah 40:3-5 and Malachi 3:1, Jesus went to be alone for a while.

However, the crowds followed him bu way of the roads. So he "had compassion on them and healed their sick." The disciples urged him to send them away as it started to get dark out, so that they could go and buy some food in the village. But Jesus said, "They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat."

This startled the disciples. They replied, "We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish." So Jesus asked them to bring the food to him, and tell the people to sit on the grass. He took the food, giving thanks, and looked to Heaven. He gave the food to the disciples... and the five loaves of bread and two fish were multiplied, and did not stop until everyone had something to eat. There were twelve basket-fuls left over. All 5,000 ate that day, including the disciples, merely from 5 loaves and 2 fish. Incredible.

Not too long after, in Matthew 15:32-39, after Jesus performed mass healings, he asked his disciples to feed the crowd. They asked where they would get the bread from, and in turn, he asked how many loaves they had. Seven loaves and a few small fish. Jesus did the same as before, and this time, 4,000 people were fed. (Plus women and children, who were not counted in the total, so possibly double that amount) There were seven basket-fuls left over.

Another food miracles concerning Jesus that is usually overlooked occurs in Matthew 17:24-27. Jesus and his twelve disciples had just arrived in Capernaum, a temple tax-collector asked peter, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple taxes?" He replied that he died. Peter consulted Jesus, who told him that offense needn't happen, so he asked Peter to go fishing.

"Go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." (The tax was two-drachma per person.) So it happened. Peter was amazed. What were the odds that Peter would go fishing and find a coin in a random fish's mouth?

Luke 5:4-11 also gives an interesting account. Now, this was recently after Jesus had called his disciples. Simon Peter had been fishing all night long, and had not caught one thing. Jesus told him, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch." Peter replied that he was sure he would not catch anything, but since Jesus asked him, he did so. "When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink."

The disciple John, the one who was "beloved" and was shown the future - the End Times - tells of a food miracle. Aside from John 6:1-15, which recounts the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 (found in Matthew 14:15-21), John 21:3-11 tells of a miracle that happened after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As aforementioned, this was after Jesus had risen.Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples had gone out to the Sea of Galilee to fish. That night, they caught nothing. In the early morning, a man on the beach called out, "Friends, haven't you any fish?" The told the man that they had not. So the man said, "'Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.' When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish."

It was then, when they knew that the man on the shore was Jesus. He called out for them to bring the fish in - he had already made a fire, and they sat and talked with him. John's account wraps up shortly afterwards. Now, what of the Water and Weather miracles of Jesus? Matthew 8:23-27 provides our first miracle, of two:

Jesus and the disciples got into a boat to travel to Gerasenes. (It was there that Jesus encountered "Legion.") A "furious storm came upon the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping." The disciples cried out, fearing that they would drown. The woke Jesus, who said to them, "You of little faith, why are you so afraid?" He stood and "rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm." Even the weather obeys this man, truly he was the Son of God!

After Jesus had fed the five thousand, he hurried the disciples to the boat as he dismissed the crowd. Then he went to pray. The boat was already out into the lake. Matthew 14:25 says, "Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake." Wow. They were frightened at first, but Jesus called Peter to come over to him, and Peter started walking towards Jesus. But when he lost focus, frightened from the wind and waves, he began to plunge in, but Jesus immediately grabbed his hand and caught him.

These are the miracles of Jesus. From healing, to driving out demons, from raising the dead to multiplying food, and even walking on water - and making it so that someone else could walk on the water, his miracles show us one thing: He is the Christ, Jesus. The Messiah. In the last entry, we will cover three miracles I feel we should take a look at.

Troy Hillman

Last entry in series: The Miracles of Jesus (Part Four)
Previous entry in series: The Miracles of Jesus (Part Two)

Saturday, August 14

The Miracles of Jesus (Part Two)

In the previous entry, we covered The Healing Miracles performed by Jesus during his ministry. In older entries, we discussed who the Messiah is, and what he came to do, taking a look at prophecies, as well as the life of Jesus and confirming that he is who he claimed to be. (Picture Credit to ITC Entertainment, "Jesus of Nazareth" Miniseries starring Robert Powell.)

Now, we will take a look at two different kinds of miracles: Raising the Dead and Driving Out the Demons. Regardless of what you believe, there is too much evidence to ignore - for God, for the Bible, for Jesus. Let's take a look at merely some of these wonders he performed while on earth. Matthew 9:23-25 says, "When Jesus entered the synagogue leader's house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, he said, 'Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.' But they laughed at him. After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up." Now, I want you to realize that this girl was actually dead.

Declared dead. But when Jesus said "asleep," he was referring to the fact that she was not spiritually dead. So he brought her back to life - all he had to do was speak, and she could have lived again, but he chose touch, which proved to those around who he was. Luke 7:11-15 gives another account of the dead rising. Jesus and his disciples were approaching the town of Nain. As they approached, the only son of a widow was being carried out - he was dead. Jesus said to her, "Don't cry." He touched the bier that he was being carried in, saying, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" Verse 15 tells us, "The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother."

John also tells us an interesting account. This one is a bit different, since he was a friend of Jesus and the disciples, and had been dead for four days. Now, critics say that Jesus could have revived the boy and the girl since they had not been dead long. But critics cannot account for a man brain-dead for four days. In John 11:1-44, we are given the account of Lazarus. His sister was Mary - who was the one who had poured perfume on Jesus' feet and then wiped it with her hair. When Jesus was told that Lazarus was sick, he replied, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory that God's Son may be glorified through it." So he "stalled" for a few days, finally telling them that Lazarus had fallen asleep, but that he was going to go and wake him up.

The disciples were confused, saying that sleep is good for a sick person. So Jesus said plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." So Jesus and the disciples went and met with Martha and Mary. Jesus told Mary that Lazarus would rise again, and she replied that she knew he would rise again on the last day. But Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" She replied by saying that yes, she believed, and believed that he was the Messiah, the Son of God.

He asked the stone to be rolled away from his tomb. John 11:43-44 says, "When he had said this, Jesus called out in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go.'" This was all done to show that Jesus was the Son of God. What about the demons? We will not go in depth into each one, but there is a particular account that I would like to cover. We are told that Jesus drove out demons on many occasions (Matthew 8:16, 28-34; 9:32-33; 12:22; 15:22-28; Matthew 17:14-18; and Luke 4:31-36)

Luke 8:26-39 recounts the story of Legion. Jesus and his disciples sailed to Gerasenes, across the lake from Galilee. When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a naked man, [Matthew 8:28-34 says he was met by two demon-possesed men] who was possessed by demons. He cried out, begging the "Son of the Most High" not to send them before the appointed time. He asks, what is your name? The man replied, "Legion," because he was filled with many demons. They begged Jesus not to send them to the abyss. Instead, they asked to be sent to a nearby herd of pigs. He honored their request. But the pigs were out of control, and all of the demon-possessed fell off a "steep bank and drowned." The townsfolk asked Jesus to leave.

This is just a few of the many miracles of Jesus. I wanted to point out that particular tale because it shows that Nothing is too Hard for God. Some people say, "Jesus can't save me, I've been toobad." Nothing is too hard for the Lord. If he can heal the blind and the deaf, the crippled and the lame, bring the dead to life and cast out demons, he can forgive you. Of course, Jesus himself was raised three days after his death. (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20) I want to point something out. In an older entry, called the Harrowing of Hell, I talked about this at length. I believe it is again time to discuss this. Many - but not all, believe that when Jesus died, he descended to the paradise section of Hell - called Abraham's Bosom by some, and remained there for three and a half days.

Understand this: Before Jesus died, there were two sections of Hell. In ancient Hebrew cosmology, the underworld was separated into two sections by a "Great Chasm" (Luke 16:26), as told by Jesus when he told of the rich man and Lazarus. All of those saved - Adam, Noah, Eve, Sarah, Lot, Jonah, David, Samuel, all those who were faithful to God - were in a "waiting room" in the underworld. Half was torment, fire, for the unsaved. The other half, for the saved, it was a paradise, a waiting area until Jesus died to bring them to Heaven. Jesus himself spoke of being in the Earth for three days. Matthew 12:40, "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." (NIV, emphasis added.)

St. Paul also spoke about the "Harrowing of Hell," when Jesus descended. Understand that Jesus, and all those in Abraham's Bosom, were not in pain, not in torment. St. Paul says in Ephesians 8-10, "That is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.' What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? [also translated, "depths of the earth"] He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe." Consider this blasphemy all you wish, but there are several verses that refer to this. There was a point in bringing all this up: when Jesus rose to life three days later, all of those the the paradise section also rose. Blasphemy? I think not. Let's take a look at Matthew 27:52-53.

"and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were risen to life. They came out of the tombs and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people." Now... I'm not sure about you, but this isn't anything I have seen in the movies about Jesus, or books about Jesus. Why is that? It is because the passage is so misunderstood. But if we understand that Jesus descended to the paradise section, then rose, therefore allowing the saved to also rise, we can understand this better. In other words, Moses and Abraham (as examples) - as we may infer from the account, went around Jerusalem saying, "Hello, how are you this afternoon?" That would have been something to experience.

There are also - few, but existent - records of this event. 40 Days after Jesus rose, he ascended to Heaven. In doing so, all of the saved who had died up to that point - that rose, vanished, and, as described by St. Paul, "When he ascended he took many captives." (Also found in Psalm 68:18, prophecy fulfilled. 1st Samuel 28 also supports the Paradise Section insight.) Though, we are not sure if the saints rose immediately after Jesus' death or they rose along with him - translations differ, and scholars differ in view. (Acts 2:27;2:31 declare in effect that Hell could not hold the risen Christ, and 1st Peter 3:19-20;4:6 also support this view, that Jesus preached to those in the paradise section.)

Regardless, when this happened, when Jesus rose to life, he took the keys and opened the doors to heaven, allowing us to go directly to Heaven when he die - IF we accept him as the ONLY way, truth, and life, as the ONLY one who can save us. Jesus proved that not only could he raise those dead for several hours, four days, and even raise himself, but that he could raise people who had been dead for thousands of years - including Adam. Indeed, the miracles of Jesus are many in number. We have several left to cover, but we will save that for the following entry. I hope that this entry has been helpful and insightful.

Troy Hillman 

Next entry in series: The Miracles of Jesus (Part Three)
Previous entry in series: The Miracles of Jesus (Part One)

Friday, August 13

The Miracles of Jesus (Part One)

Now that we have discussed who the Messiah is, and what he came to do, I believe we should review the miracles that were performed by Jesus. This is the first entry in a short series of perhaps 3 or 4. The NIV version is used. In this entry, we will take a look at the healing miracles of Jesus. While all of the verse references may bore some, for others, it is a confirmation that this can all be found in God's Word, and not something that I made up. (Picture credit to Visual Bible International, Gospel of John starring Henry Ian Cusick)

Keep in mind that these miracles are not all in order. Since the four Gospels are all accounts of Jesus' life, it would be difficult to calculate which came first, though in some cases we know when certain miracles took place. Jesus began his ministry approx. AD 30, which lasted for three years, ending with his crucifixion at Golgotha outside of Jerusalem circa AD 33. He was resurrected three days later, just as he had stated many times, and appeared to over 500 people, (500 at one time, though he appeared to many others, 1st Corinthians 15:4-6) over a period of 40 Days - before ascending into the sky in front of his disciples. Why did he ascend? We are told that after he was risen, he could appear and disappear at will. If he had merely disappeared, the disciples would have had the mindset to look for him on the earth.

Since he ascended, they knew they would not be able to search for him. That is why he ascended instead of disappearing - and to indicate the way in which he would return. We do not know all of the miracles which Jesus performed in his lifetime and ministry. John, the last to write a gospel, had read the other three from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. He had written his own, and at the end of his Gospel, he says, "Jesus did many other things as well. If everyone of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written." (John 21:25) This series takes a look at the miracles - for some we will give an overview, others, we will look into. Let's begin with Matthew's Gospel.

Matthew 8 gives three instances of healing. The first is recorded in Matthew 8:1-4. Now, Jesus had just given the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7) The crowds followed him. A man with leprosy, which is a word used to describe various diseases that affect the skin, knelt and asked for cleansing. Jesus cleansed him, and told him to go show the priest. The next instance, recorded in Matthew 8:5-13, tells of the faith of a man. A Centurion came to Jesus and told him that his servant was sick. Jesus asked the man if he wanted him to come heal his servant, but replied that if Jesus uttered the words, it would be so. Jesus was "amazed" at this man's faith, telling the Centurion that he had not yet found someone with such great faith, and said that his servant would be healed. When the centurion returned, the servant was healed within the hour.

Another instance is recorded in Matthew 8:14-17. Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, who had a fever, as well as healing all the sick that were brought to him in Peter's house. Matthew tells us that this occurred to fulfill Isaiah's prophecy concerning Jesus: "He took up our infirmities and bore our diseases." (Isaiah 53:4). Matthew 9:1-8 paints a picture. Jesus saw a man lying on a mat, and healed him, saying, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." The teachers of the law called Jesus a blasphemer, but Jesus said to them "...I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." He turned to the man, and told him to pick up his mat and go home. The man, who has been paralyzed, was immediately well, and went home.

Matthew tells of several other instances of Jesus healing. Jesus healed a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years - who touched his cloak and was healed (Matthew 9:20-22), healed the blind and the mute, (Matthew 9:27-30), healed a man with a crippled hand on the Sabbath, and was told that it was unlawful to heal on the Sabbath - to which he replied that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath, and told the man to stretch out his hand. It was healed. (Matthew 12:10-13). Matthew 15:30-31 also shows us the healing mercies of God. "Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel."

When Jesus was passing by two blind men, they called out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" The cried out twice, because the first time, the crowd shushed them. Jesus came over to them and asked, "What do you want me to do for you?" (Matthew 20:30-34) The replied that they both wanted their sight. Verse 34 says, "Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him."

Jesus also healed the blind and the lame in the temple on one occasion. Again, the priests did not approve - however, children did, and praised him saying, "Hosanna to the Son of David." The priests asked Jesus if he heard what they were saying and replied, "Yes, have you never read, 'From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise' [Psalm 8:2]?" (Matthew 21:14-16)

Mark gives us two instances. In Mark 7:31-35, which tells of Jesus healing a deaf and mute man. He put his fingers into the man's ears and spit and touched the man's tongue. He proceeded to look up to heaven and say, "Ephphatha!" (Meaning, "Be Opened!") "At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened, and he began to speak plainly." Jesus allowed this man to hear and speak. The other instance is found in Mark 8:22-26. Jesus was taken to a blind man. He spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, and asked what he saw. The man told Jesus that things seemed blurry, that the people looked like walking trees. So Jesus did this a second time, and the man's sight was fully restored.

What of Luke? Surely, Luke must have accounts. He does. Luke 13:11-13. Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, and saw a woman who had been crippled [we are told that she was crippled by a spirit] for 18 years. "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." The woman, who had been crippled for 18 years, straightened up and was healed. In Luke 14:1-4, Jesus healed a man who had swelling, asking the Pharisees if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. They did not reply, and he proceeded. Luke 17:11-19 is interesting. Ten men, all having leprosy, met Jesus and on the road. They stood at a distance and asked for cleansing. Jesus told them to leave and go to the priests. On the way there, they were cleansed. One man came back and praised God.

This is interesting because, here were ten men. Jesus did not touch one of them to heal them, but told them to go see the priests, and on the way, they were healed. Jesus is not bound by human measures, if it is his will for someone to be healed, they will be healed. We can learn from that. If it is his will that an acquaintance of ours be healed, then they will be healed. The last instance of healing in Luke was the night of his arrest. When the men, along with Judas Iscariot, came to Jesus at the Mount of Olives, in Gethsemane, and stated their intentions, Peter cut one of the servants of the High Priest's - named Malchus - ear off. Now... understand that this man's ear was off. Disconnected.

Jesus walked up to Malchus, (John 18:10) touching the spot where his "right ear" was, and it grew back - he was healed. (Luke 22:50-51) That alone probably made the soldiers tremble, since they were the ones who had to arrest this same man. John gives us three instances of healing. John 4:46-54 tells us of a Royal Official whose son was dying. When he heard that Jesus was in town, he came to see him. The Official asked for Jesus to come and heal his son - Jesus replied, "Go, your son will live." With that, the Official left. His servants met him on his way, and said that his son was completely healed. When he inquired at one time, it was the exact same time Jesus had said "Your son will live." So he believed.

Jesus later came to the pool called Bethesda, or Bethsaida. This pool was purported to have healing powers when the pool was stirred. Jesus saw a man who had been "invalid" for 38 Years. Jesus asked the man if he wanted to get well. He replied that he had no one to help him into the pool, and when he finally got down, someone else was already in. Jesus tells the man, "'Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.' At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked." (John 5:2-9). I want to point something out, before we look at our last miracle then close out for this entry. Jesus asked the man, "Do you want to get well." In other words, "Do you want change?" This man we are told had been laying there for 38 years. He probably made money off of people, who took pity on him. If he was healed, he could no longer do that. So when Jesus asked, and the man replied, AT ONCE change occurs in the man. Do you believe that he can change you?

The last instance of healing is found in John 9:1-7. Jesus saw a man who was blind from birth, and walked over to the man, after the crowd told him of the man's condition. He spit on the ground, making mud, and put it in the man's eyes. He proceeded to tell the man to go and wash his eyes in a pool. Verse 7 says, "So the man went and washed, and came home seeing." Overall, there are about 19 recorded instances of Jesus healing. Jesus healed many, hundreds, maybe even thousands, but we are not told about every one, just as John 21:25 told us. Jesus can heal us. He can restore our souls, forgive our sins, he is the way, the truth, and the life. Even if he only performed one miracle, that would be sufficient. But Jesus performed many miracles so that we may all believe. Some critics may be able to explain away certain things, but they cannot account for every miracle of Jesus. The first century historian, who is trusted by secular historians, gave this account of Jesus:

"Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works - a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him;" (The Antiquities of the Jews, 18.3.3.)

I hope this entry has been both insightful and educational. The next entry will take a look at other aspects of the Miracles of Jesus, so be sure to check out the next entry. Take care, dear reader, and God Bless. Troy Hillman 

Next Entry in Series: The Miracles of Jesus, (Part Two)

Book Overview: Ruth

The Book of Ruth. Ruth tells the story of a quiet, ordinary life in the country - of the woman became the Grandmother of Jesse, Great-Grandmother to King David, and ancestor of Jesus. Ruth is a 4-Chapter Book. Ruth is a perfect idyll in prose. (Idyll - A short poem or prose piece depicting a rural or pastoral scene, usually in idealized terms.)

This is the eight Book Overview in a series of 66 Books. These overviews are written so that it may provide readers with details about the book, things that they may have missed, and will hopefully peak your interest so that you will read the book, the entire Bible in fact, as God wants us to do. Now, onto the Book of Ruth.

Title: Ruth (English) מגילת רות ‎ (Hebrew) məɡiˈlat rut (Israel Hebrew) məˈɡɪləs rus (Ashkenazi Hebrew). Ruth was originally written in Hebrew.

Authorship: The authorship of Ruth is accredited to Samuel. Evidence seems to indicate this fact: (1) Judges and Ruth were both composed after Joshua's death and the deaths of the elders who had outlived him. (See Judges 2:7) This means that both works had to have been written sometime after 1381 BC. (2) Both books had to have been written after the Judges ruled over Israel, since, several times, they refer to those days as days of the past, such as "in those days." (See Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25)

(3) Since Judges 1:21 [and 2nd Samuel 5:6] tells us that the Jebusites still held Jerusalem, Judges had to have been written sometime before the seventh year of the reign of King David, 1004 BC. (4) The very fact that the genealogy found in Ruth ends with David supports this. (5) Both books were written from a prophetic standpoint, and is indicative in the moral tone. The person who best fits all of these things (as well as many other reasons and points) was Samuel the Prophet.

Written: Sometime between 1043 BC - when Saul was crowned King, and just before 1004 BC - when David captured Jerusalem. So, between 1043-1004 BC.
Summary: "Ruth demonstrates how the individual can remain faithful to God even when the rest of the world is corrupt. Ruth is a book of loyalty, faith, and love of God and humanity." (NIV)

OverviewRuth 1 - The Famine in Judah and the return to Bethlehem
Ruth 2 - Ruth Meets Boaz
Ruth 3 - Ruth and Boaz at the Threshing Floor
Ruth 4 - Boaz Marries Ruth, the Birth of Obed, The Genealogy of David

Ruth, unlike the previous seven, is not a long book. Ruth tells the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. Ruth and Orpah married the sons of Elimelek and Naomi, whose names were Mahlon (who married Ruth) and Kilion (who married Orpah). The family had left Judah because of famine in the land, and moved to Moab. When Elimelek, Mahlon, and Kilion had all died, all three women were left widowed.

News came that Judah had recovered from the Famine. This was in the days that Judges still ruled, though we are not told which. Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem, and told Ruth and Orpah to return to their mothers. Ruth refused to leave Naomi, giving us one of the most inspirational quotes of the Book, "Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried." (Ruth 1:16-17)

Ruth remained faithful to Naomi, and they moved to Bethlehem. Naomi, in her old age, refused to be called by her name, and asked others to call her Mara. (Which means, Bitter) Ruth meets a man named Boaz, relative of Naomi and owner of a grain field she gleaned from. Boaz and Ruth develop a relationship, and Naomi tells Ruth to go to Boaz.
Boaz proceeds to visit a closer relative to Naomi, asking if he wanted the land she was selling, who agreed, then telling him that he would have to marry Ruth - the man declined, and Boaz married Ruth. They had a child, named Obed - Naomi again went by her real name, and was happy again now that she was a "grandmother." Obed was the father of Jesse, who had a son named David... King David. David was the second king of Israel, heir to the royal line, and ancestor of Jesus Christ.
*Points: Ruth was ridiculed and mocked for being a Moabite. Moab, from who the Moabites come from, was the son of Lot and his daughter. After Sodom was destroyed, Lot's daughters believed that they were the only ones left on the planet. Knowing their father to be a man of virtue, and not wanting to ruin his mental image of himself, the got him drunk, and both had sex with him. Moab was one of the children born to Lot's daughters. (Genesis 19:30-36) This was a shameful thing in the eyes of Hebrews, because only five cities were wiped out, not the world - so Ruth was looked down upon. Ruth took her life, which could have been a sad life, and turned it around, making Ruth one of the happiest stories in the entire Hebrew Bible.

The son of Ruth and Boaz, as stated, was Obed, the grandfather of King David, making Ruth his great-grandmother. Matthew's genealogy, which looks at Joseph's family line, shows between 41-43 generations between David and Jesus. Luke 3:23-32 agrees with this fact, though Luke's genealogy, for the most part, is from Mary's line - though it says Joseph. But Joseph was the son of Jacob (Matthew 1), not Heli, who was Mary's father. (Luke 3)

It is interesting to note that Ruth and Naomi returned to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, setting of the Nativity. Ruth shows us just how "insignificant" this town seems compared to the rest of Israel and Judah. A prophecy, given by the Prophet Micah merely a few hundred years before the birth of Jesus, gives this prophecy: "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans [or rulers] of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times." (Micah 5:2) This was a prophecy regarding the birthplace of one "from ancient times" - JESUS. Bethlehem, a mere country-town in Ruth's day, became the birthplace of the Messiah, savior of the world, just short of 1,000 Years later.

According the Levirate Law (Leviticus), when a man died without offspring, his brother was bound to raise an heir for him by his widow. If there was no brother, or the brother could not, this fell to the closest kin. This is why Boaz had to go speak with the closest relative and the elders of Bethlehem before marrying Ruth. While Boaz was not Elimelech's closest kinsman, his closest kinsman rejected, and the "duty" fell to Boaz, which he readily accepted. Since Jesus brought the New Covenant, this law no longer applies - otherwise, many would have violated it. 

Ruth 4:7 tells us, "(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)" The closer relative removed his sandal. This was a custom of old, and while it is not still in effect, is interesting to say the least.

The only other book in Biblical Cannon to bear the name of a female is Esther and Judith. (considered deutero-canonical by some denominations).

According to many scholars, the book of Ruth was once part of Judges, but was later made independent. The opening verse "In the days when the judges ruled [judged], there was a famine in the land..." Ruth concludes with the Davidic lineage, which, as aforementioned, leads many scholars to believe that Ruth was once part of the Book of Judges.

Elimelech, [Elimelek] Naomi's husband, has a name which means "my God is King," foreshadowing the line of King David and the Reign of Jesus Christ - the King of Kings.

Ruth, by many, is believed to be typical of Jesus and the Church. Typology is a belief concerning the relationship between the Old and New Testaments - exemplified by individuals such as St. Augustine of Hippo. Certain events in the Hebrew Bible are shown as pre-figuring events (or aspects of Christ) in the New Testament, and that it is seen as the purpose behind many of the events occurring in the Hebrew Bible. Typology began in the early Church, was at its most influential in the High Middle Ages, and it continued to be popular, especially in Calvinism, after the Protestant Reformation, but in subsequent periods has been given less emphasis. This includes the prophecies and appearances by The Angel [Messenger] of the Lord, who is believed to be Jesus Pre-Incarnate. (See entry: Who is "The Angel of the Lord?")

Thank you for taking the time to read this book overview. While Ruth is a short book, we can learn much from it - loyalty, love, respect, helpfulness, and matters of faith. I hope this overview was helpful and insightful. For the text of Ruth, I recommend either a NIV or KJV Bible.

Next Book Overview: Book of 1st Samuel
Previous Book Overview: Book of Judges