Posted in old testament, theology

Dead bodies and live bodies

By Elizabeth Prata

I’m reading through 1 and 2 Kings this month. There are certainly many interesting and strange things happening in those books of history. Remember, the events in those Bible books really happened. Elijah really slew 400 prophets of Baal. God really threw down fire and consumed the sacrifices in the showdown with the prophets of Baal. Wars happened. In 1 Kings 20:29 we read that the Israelites killed 100,000 Aramean foot soldiers in one day. I looked up the slaughter at Gettysburg, well-known to be one of the bloodiest battles, and about 50,000 died. The same with Waterloo. Can you imagine, twice as many Arameans dying on one day?

Here are two other unusual happenings:

In 1 Kings 17:19-21, we read of the prophet Elijah raising the Zarephath’s widow’s son, who had died.

He said to her, “Give me your son.” Then he took him from her bosom and carried him up to the upper room where he was living, and laid him on his own bed. 20He called to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, have You also brought calamity to the widow with whom I am staying, by causing her son to die?” 21Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and called to the LORD and said, “O LORD my God, I pray You, let this child’s life return to him.”

In 2 Kings 4:18-37 we read of the prophet Elisha’s raising of the Shunammite’s son, who had died. Here are verses 32-34,

When Elisha came into the house, he saw the child lying dead on his bed. 33 So he went in and shut the door behind the two of them and prayed to the Lord. 34 Then he went up and lay on the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes, and his hands on his hands. And as he stretched himself upon him, the flesh of the child became warm. 

The prophets laid outstretched on the dead person and the LORD graciously used their body as a vehicle for life-giving resurrection power.

It reminded me of the same but opposite historical punishment. Paul was probably thinking of this punishment when he wrote in Romans 7:24,

“Who will set me free from this body of death?”

As John MacArthur explains the punishment:

In the ancient times, one of the ways they punished murderers was to take the victim, the dead corpse, and strap them to the back of the murderer. And eventually the rotting body would cause the rotting of the murderer…a horrific way to suffer for your crime.

The corpse was used to bring death to a living body. The bodies of the prophets were used to bring life to the dead.

The wages of sin is death. Only God can resurrect life, both physical and spiritual.

As I read along, I just thought it was an interesting juxtaposition. It’s what I was thinking about.

new life 4

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Visions, dreams, and revelations: Demon possession or genuine prophetic fits?

Please see also the related essay Are my personal experiences, dreams, visions, signs and wonders valid? 

Have you noticed the similarity among some of the founders of the major false religions of what I call “prophetic fits”? Most cults in the world began from some kind of vision or direct revelation or visitation from celestial beings claiming to be Mary, Jesus, angels, and so on. I listed some below and more down further below.

Accompanying these visions and revelations and visits, are physical manifestations akin to epileptic seizures and fits that the recipients later report. The recipient of the revelation undergoes a physical trauma of, for example, flailing around, rapid heart beat, or no heartbeat, sweating, groaning, foaming at the mouth, high fevers, and the like. As I listened to one such physical fit that Muhammad had, founder of Islam, I was struck by its similarity to the incidents of demonic possession recorded in the Bible. I wondered if such fits were manifested by other cult founders during their visions or trances, and I learned that they did. Here are a few examples.

Muhammad – Founder of Islam. Muhammad notes that he was visited by an angel claiming to be Gabriel, who pressed or hugged Muhammad so hard that he couldn’t bear it. Three times this pressing hard on Muhammad occurred, though we have no record of any angelic visitation in the Bible where the angel manhandles the person to whom he is charged with bringing a message. Rather, each time, the angel unfailingly comforts or works to quell the fear in the person.

Muhammad was so spooked by the angel and his experience, initially he suspected the visions were from evil spirits. In addition to the previously reported physical manifestations, sometimes Muhammad growled like a camel, and streamed with perspiration even if it was cold. He saw a bright light quite often. The seizures were thorough and convincing. Adherents and critics alike acknowledged Muhammad did suffer from a physical manifestation of some kind. The only question among critics in his day and to this day, was whether Muhammad’s fits were genuinely divinely sent or were evidence of a demonic possession.

Joseph Smith, founder of the church of Latter Day Saints, AKA Mormons, also displayed physical symptoms in some kind of fit that coincided with his revelations, also supposedly from Gabriel. In addition to “Gabriel”, twenty-three other divinely sent visitors also revealed ‘truths’ to Joseph, including dead men such as Adam, Abraham, and Joseph’s own brother Alvin. These ghostly appearances of dead mortal men violate biblical verses in Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, Leviticus 19:31, Leviticus 20:27, Deuteronomy 18:10-13 and several others.

When these revelations occurred, Joseph Smith was seized with a strange power, he was rendered speechless, and he fell on his back. He had visions of darkness and light, a light similarly described as Muhammad’s light.

Ellen G. White– This is the woman who is acknowledged as founding the Seventh Day Adventism cult. The following is from Wikipedia’s entry Criticism of Ellen G. White.

“Her physical experiences during the visions revolved around, becoming unconscious, losing control of her arms and legs, shallow breathing and visual phenomena all of which are symptoms of an epileptic fit such as automatic movements of the hands or mouth, altered ability to respond to others, unusual speech, or unusual behaviors all of which were experienced during these visions. Moreover, following each of these seizures, there is some period of recovery in which neurological function is altered. This is called the postictal state. These states were independently witnessed by Ellen G. White’s followers.”

Padre Pio– is a highly esteemed Catholic visionary of modern times. When he went into vision states, it is reported that perfume emanated from and outward off his body, (Catholics call this ‘odors of holiness’), Pio had many bleeding stigmata, high fevers (off the charts high), and, the usually manifested violent seizures.

Did any OT or NT prophet go into fits when they received an angelic visitation or divine revelation from Jesus or God? Did they flail about, become incoherent and insensible? Abraham fell down and entered a deep sleep after feeling a dread. The same with Daniel. That’s it.

Daniel manifested some physical symptoms, as described in Daniel 10. He lost his strength, and he fell face forward (not backward as the false prophets above did.) He was left afterward with no strength, and remarked he had barely any breath in him, either. (Daniel 10:17). The angel gave him strength. (Daniel 10:19). Daniel did tremble, but it was not in a seizure or fit, his trembling was in fear and anguish at the vision’s contents. When he was commanded to stand up, Daniel did. (Daniel 10:10-11).

Jacob dreamed of the ladder to heaven and then awoke and worshiped. (Genesis 28:10-17). Samuel heard God speak to him and listened. When morning came, Samuel opened the doors to the temple and went about his duties. There were no physical manifestations or seizure-like fits, no lengthy comas, just obedient listening, fully conscious with subsequent worship or attending to the task he was given. (1 Samuel 3:10-15). No seizure.

Balaam went into a trance, (Numbers 24:4) falling forward with his eyes open. No seizure.

Zacharias in the New Testament was visited by an angel, and Zacharias was afraid, but was comforted. He listened to the angel’s message about the upcoming birth of his son John the Baptist, and was conscious and sensible enough to ask his question. The angel rendered Zacharias mute for his impertinence. Zechariah finished his term of priestly duties as a mute and went to his home. Luke 1:5-23. No seizure.

Peter received a vision about the clean foods on the sheet, and no untoward flailing occurred along with the revelation. Same with Paul – no severe physical manifestations accompanied his several visions.

Now comparing the false visionaries such as Muhammad, Smith, and White, we see that the incidences of demon possession in the Bible more closely mirror their experiences than do the experiences of the Bible’s true prophets.

Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid.” (Mark 9:17-18).

These are exactly the symptoms Muhammad exhibited, indeed, Muhammad himself often wondered that his fits were due to demonic spirits.

In Mark 5:3-5 we have the story of the demon possessed Gadarene, who exhibited superhuman strength, yelling, cutting himself, and craziness. We know he was out of his mind with lunacy because after Jesus sent the demons out, we read that the man returned to his right mind. (Mark 5:15).

Matthew 17:15 records that a father begged Jesus to heal his son, who was a lunatic and insensibly threw himself into the fire and the water constantly. Jesus sent the demon out of the boy. (Matthew 17:18).

It’s clear to see the difference between the false prophets’ visions and dreams, and the true prophets’ experiences. The Biblical prophets were sensible, conversed with the angel or with God in their right mind, did not flail about in fits like a lunatic, and were able to rise up afterward and either go about their duties or to worship, with the lone exception of Daniel who was mightily depleted at times from what he had seen. But we can’t blame him, Daniel was given horrific visions to see and record.

Today, we see false prophets of the Charismatic movement falling to the floor, writhing, foaming, screaming, laughing uncontrollably, exactly like those who were recorded as having demons in their body. John MacArthur sums this up:

I was watching the other day some behavior among Hindus who are a part of what’s called the Kundalini cult, the Kundalini cult. They have certain body movements that appear to be perhaps best explained by demon possession. And they’re the absolutely identical body movements to people in the charismatic movement in the extreme behaviors that we see in so-called revivals. This is paganism. This is the work of Satan. This is the work of the kingdom of darkness, and it is not to be attributed to the Holy Spirit. Source

Justin Peters has said, “It is not enough to believe in Jesus. You have to believe in the right Jesus.” (Source, video Devilish Puppet Master of the Word of Faith movement.)

Muhammad’s Islam, Joseph Smith’s Mormonism, Ellen G. White’s 7th Day Adventism, Padre Pio’s Catholicism, and all other cults that begin with a supposed vision from God, deliver a false Jesus. They say they believe in Jesus, but it is not the right Jesus. How can one tell if one is following the right Jesus? He will be the Jesus of the Bible.

Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11 KJV).

It is very concerning that many women Bible teachers say they have had visions and are drifting toward Charismatic behavior with physical manifestations. One hallmark of a false vision is that true visions call upon people to repent. False visions never do. They’re always about one’s comfort and ease, or a new way to be a Christian, or some other puffery that will lead a person away from the only true word, the Bible.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

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More information-

Most Dangerous Religious Cults: begun from visions and direct revelations from celestial beings claiming to be Mary, Jesus, angels, and so on. Beware those who claim to have had visions, dreams, and interactions with celestial beings! From these, some of the world’s most dangerous cults and false religions have sprung!

L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the cult of Scientology, started his cult on the basis of a near-death experience he had under the influence of nitrous oxide during a dental procedure. When he awakened and recovered, Hubbard  said he had seen the secrets of life. (Source, his unpublished tome Excalibur, later re-worked into his more famous Dianetics book). Not that I can find particular evidence of any visionary manifestations of the physical, but with Hubbard I’m just noting that once again, a cult is built on personal revelations supposedly received from the divine or otherworldly source.

Unification Church members believe that Jesus appeared to Mun Yong-myong when he was 16 years old on Easter morning of 1935 (April 17) and asked him to accomplish the work left unfinished because of his crucifixion. After a period of prayer and consideration, Mun accepted the mission, later changing his name to Mun Son-myong (Sun Myung Moon). Source

The Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God was a breakaway religious movement from the Roman Catholic Church founded by Credonia Mwerinde, Joseph Kibweteere and Bee Tait in Uganda. It was formed in the late 1980s after Mwerinde, a brewer of banana beer, and Kibweteere, a politician, claimed that they had visions of the Virgin Mary. Source

Raëlism is rooted in the experiences of a French former automobile journalist and race car driver Claude Vorilhon. In his books The Book Which Tells the Truth (1974) and Extraterrestrials Took Me to their Planet (1975), Vorilhon had alien encounters with beings who gave him knowledge of the origins of all major religions. Source

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Who else longed to look into the Gospel besides angels?

We’re familiar with the part of the verse that tells us that angels long to look into these things. The full context of that verse is pasted below, it’s from 1 Peter.

Apostle Peter, formerly Simon, formerly a fisherman, is nearing the end of his life. It’s about the early 60s and Peter had been a leader of the church. The elect to whom Peter addressed his letter were beginning to suffer persecution, and his letter, which was to be circulated, was aimed at encouraging them. Peter strongly urges them to link doctrine and practice, a point he makes in chapter 1:12, 15, and he begins in the first chapter with elevating the glory of the Gospel. Here is where we remember that the Gospel is so great, so mysterious, that angels long to look into it.

Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. 12It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.
(1 Peter 1:10-12).

In reading the passage I realized that not only angels longed to look into the mystery of the Gospel, its wonder, atonement, wrath, crucified and sinless God-Man. The Prophets also wanted to know about it. They, who had the Spirit in them, inquired of the LORD as to the aspects of this religion they were required to speak. Here is the wonderful Barnes with his Notes:

Of which salvation – Of the certainty that this system of religion, securing the salvation of the soul, would be revealed. The object of this reference to the prophets seems to be to lead them to value the religion which they professed more highly, and to encourage them to bear their trials with patience. They were in a condition, in many respects, far superior to that of the prophets. They had the full light of the gospel. The prophets saw it only at a distance and but dimly, and were obliged to search anxiously that they might understand the nature of that system of which they were appointed to furnish the comparatively obscure prophetic intimations.

They were writing to us and for us. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, Peter wrote. Us. The elect saints in the church age would be the recipients of the further information than myriads of angels- who live with God- . and prophets – who personally spoke with God – longed to look.

Next time someone says they “want a fresh experience” or desire the Spirit to fall down and manifest some kind of event, or that they wish to hear Jesus personally calling, or that they feel stale and covet a miracle, please remind them of this glorious truth. We already have the benefit of the most glorious experience of all, the understanding of the plan of God with regard to His Son. The angels and the Prophets wanted to know about Him, who He would be, what would be his life and doctrine and character, and what would be the nature of the work which He would perform on behalf of the people. They didn’t know. They wished to know. They asked to know. They did not know. We do.

As Barnes says of verse 12,

By them that have preached the gospel unto you – The apostles, who have made known unto you, in their true sense, the things which the prophets predicted, the import of which they themselves were so desirous of understanding.

knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. 20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you 21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)
Have a blessed day, pondering these truths into which angels and Prophets inquired and longed to look.

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Old Testament Prophets: Resources for you!

The OT is full of marvelous poetry, wisdom, history, narrative accounts, and of course, prophecy, like the prophecy above from Isaiah. As we know from the Bible, all scripture is profitable for correction, education and reproof. But sometimes the prophecies, which are embedded within ancient history, and sometimes use highly figurative or symbolic language, can be a challenge to read, understand and interpret.

I’d like to first encourage you all by saying that we have THE interpreter available to us in the Person of the Holy Spirit. If you pray and ask for wisdom when reading the scriptures, it will be added to you without reproach. (James 1:5).

The prophetic books can be a challenge though, and there is no problem whatsoever in consulting commentaries, historical books, or sermons from the greats that came before us. The Holy Spirit raised them up to inspire their generation and the generations after, namely, us. So don’t feel inhibited if after reading some passages that challenge you, and after prayer and your own study, in seeking good resources. To that end, here are a few suggestions if you are feeling intimidated by some of the less well-known prophetic OT books.

Pastor-Teacher Mark McAndrew is pastor of North Avenue Church, Athens GA. He is my pastor and this is my church. Mark is uniquely gifted by the Holy Spirit, especially for someone so young, to possess such deep insights of the entire Bible. He teaches Bible to High School students at a Christian Academy as well as a Bible class in the public school system (after hours and off campus). He also substitute preaches at a large, local Baptist Church. (He’s busy!). He spent many months going through Genesis almost verse-by-verse and he recently began going through the minor prophet book of Micah. I can confidently recommend our pastor to you for Old Testament preaching as a solid resource (and also NT of course!)

Micah 1: Learning to Read the Old Testament Prophets
Micah 2-3: Learning to Read the Old Testament Prophets (Part 2)

Dr. James Montgomery Boice has preached through almost all of the Old Testament prophets (of course many other books too). His simple, clear preaching carries the listener along in ancient days when the prophets lived and preached. You can hear him at The Bible Study Hour. Want to hear about Daniel? Habakkuk? Haggai? Other Minor or Major Prophets rarely preached on? All of his series are here. They are trustworthy.

Dr. John MacArthur is known for his Holy Spirit supported feat of preaching through every verse in the New Testament. It took him 42 consecutive years, beginning in 1969 and concluding with Mark in June 2011. Though he has not preached through OT books, he has substantively preached from many of them, notably Daniel and Isaiah. On the right is a list that is available of sermons from the Old Testament prophets (and other books) from John MacArthur. The sermons are transcribed, too, so you can follow along in print, print them out or download the sermon itself for later listening. The OT books covered by MacArthur are listed to the right. They are trustworthy materials, here.

Dr. S. Lewis Johnson is an excellent teacher of all texts and preached much of his career at Believer’s Chapel in Dallas TX. His sermons were recorded and remain free and open to the public. His sermons were also transcribed, so you can follow along or print them out if you desire. Many of the OT prophets are exposited through his calm and reassuring teachings, here.

Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones preached 133 sermons from the Old Testament thorough his fruitful career, many of those from the prophets. The list of MLJ’s Old Testament sermons is to the left. They can be found here. You can also search for his sermons by book.

Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world. His ministry is called Truth for Life, and his simple, clear teaching is always a joy to listen to. The British accent doesn’t hurt, either 😉 He can be heard here, and in addition to many of the prophetic books, Pastor Begg also has preached from Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations, books that also do not get a lot of love or attention. His OT list on on the right.

So I hope that helps for a list of credible sermons from the OT books, the prophetic books particularly. They can be challenging, but they are so worthwhile. As Charles Haddon Spurgeon said in his sermon ‘Christ in the Old Testament,

The Old Testament was Christ’s Bible, and it is a Bible full of Christ.”

Enough said!