R E T U R N  O F  T H E  K I N G

2 Kings 11:1-21  

Athaliah, the ruthless queen of Judah, was even more wicked than her mother Jezebel. When her son Ahaziah died, she quickly seized control of the kingdom by executing all of her grandsons who might reign in her place. “But Jehosheba, … sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah, and ... they hid him … from Athaliah, so that he was not slain. And he was with her hid in the house of the Lord six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land.” 2 Kings 11:2, 3. For six years only a handful of trusted people knew that the royal child was living and hidden in the temple of God. Jehoiada, the high priest, loved and trained young Joash as his own son. For six years Jehoiada planned and prayed for the best moment to present this rightful heir to the people. Finally the old priest secretly summoned trusted captains in the army and showed them that the youngest son of Ahaziah was still alive. They decided to wait until Friday evening, when all of the faithful people would come to the temple for Sabbath worship, to present the young king to them. With hundreds of armed soldiers on every side, Jehoiada brought the heir of David’s throne before the crowd and introduced him. At first the people were astonished, but when they saw the royal crown placed upon his head, “they clapped their hands, and said, God save the king.” 2 Kings 11:12. Now when wicked Athaliah heard the noise of trumpets and all the people rejoicing, she came running into the temple only to discover that her reign of terror was through. That day she and her followers were slain, and Joash was given the kingdom. The Bible tells us that another son of David will soon emerge from the heavenly temple amidst the blowing of trumpets to receive His rightful kingdom and to destroy the wicked.

Prepare for some surprises!

1. The rapture is not silent, but rather is extremely noisy. The Scriptures say Jesus will descend “with a SHOUT, with the VOICE OF THE ARCHANGEL, and with the TRUMP OF GOD.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16, emphasis added. David says, “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence: ... it shall be very tempestuous [violent, whirling] round about him.” Psalm 50:3. And Jeremiah says, “The Lord shall roar from on high, ... he shall mightily roar ...; he shall give a shout. ... A noise shall come even to the ends of the earth.” Jeremiah 25:30, 31. Nothing about it is quiet! Christ will come with a noise heard around the world. Mark this well. If you are living when Jesus returns, you will hear Him come. Your ears will ring with catastrophic noise.

 2. The rapture is not invisible; it will be seen by all. All of the angels will come with Jesus (Matthew 25:31). One lone angel appeared at Jesus’ resurrection, and his brightness was so overpowering that the entire Roman guard fell to the ground as dead men (Matthew 28:2-4). Consider the staggering brightness of all the angels of heaven! Added to the glory of the angels will be Jesus’ own glory (Matthew 25:31) and the glory of His Father (Matthew 16:27). The brightness will be overwhelming. Jesus added, “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matthew 24:27. Secret? By no stretch of the imagination. In fact, the Bible forever settled this by saying, “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him.” Revelation 1:7. Rest assured, if you are living at Jesus’ second coming, you will see Him come!

3. The rapture does not leave the wicked alive. They are slain at the Lord’s coming (Isaiah 11:4; Malachi 4:1; 2 Thessalonians 2:8).

4. God does not remove the righteous from the tribulation, but rather protects them through it (Psalm 91:5-12).

 5. Christ’s second coming will not be in two stages—one secret and the other seen by all. There is only one second coming, and it will be seen by every living person on earth. There is no Scripture to support a two-phase second coming.

 6. The secret rapture teachers claim that there is a seven-year period between the two second comings of Christ. This is not scriptural.

 7. Antichrist does not appear three and one-half years after the second coming of Jesus. He has been active for centuries (1 John 4:3) and is doing his nefarious work even now.

 8. The wicked will not have a second opportunity to be saved after the second coming. All sinners will be destroyed at the second coming. There is no second opportunity for anyone after Jesus’ second coming.

D R E A M  O F  T H E  A G E S

 Daniel 2:1-49

The vast kingdom of Babylon was opulent and prosperous, yet Nebuchadnezzar the king stirred in his royal bed. How long would this golden era last, he wondered, and what would become of his powerful empire when he was gone? With these disturbing questions in mind, the mighty monarch drifted off to sleep. That night, a vivid image of a towering multi-mineral man flashed into his mind with a panorama of color unlike anything he had ever experienced. Throwing aside his embroidered covers, the king jumped out of bed and shouted to his bodyguards: “Call all the magicians and astrologers to come at once. I must know the meaning of this dream!” The king’s wise men were roused and herded into the presence of the bewildered sovereign. “And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.” Daniel 2:3. One of the phony prophets smugly responded, “Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.” But as often happens with dreams, the details had already grown cloudy in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind. These men had claimed divine insight, but the king was beginning to doubt their abilities. This would be the perfect test. “Tell me the dream and the interpretation, and you will be rewarded,” the king told his counselors, “otherwise I will cut you in pieces and turn your homes into dumps!” The magicians and astrologers had no choice but to admit that they were powerless to explain the king’s dream without first hearing it. Furious with these imposters, the king commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be gathered for execution. However, the Lord still had one person in Babylon who could explain the kings prophetic dream that outlined the of history of Man.

Gold = Babylon The head of gold represented Babylon, which was the ruling world power from 612-539 B.C.

 Silver = Medo-Persia The chest of silver represented Medo-Persia, the ruling world empire from 539-331 B.C.

Bronze = Greece The thighs of bronze represented Greece, the dominant world ruler from 331-168 B.C.

Iron = Rome The legs of iron represented Rome, which enjoyed world supremacy from 168 B.C.-A.D. 476.

Iron and Clay = the Divided Empire The feet that were partly iron and partly clay represented a divided empire that would not cleave together. No single power has ruled the world since A.D. 476, and it will remain divided until Christ’s return.

Stone = Christ’s Eternal Kingdom, His Word, and His Law

T H E  P R I N C E  O F  P R I D E

2 Sam. 13:1-18, 33

 Absalom was the most handsome, cunning, and ambitious of David’s sons. The Bible says, “But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.” 2 Samuel 14:25. But this determined young prince wanted more than just the admiration of the people for his stunning appearance. He wanted the power of his father’s throne. He wanted to be king of Israel—at any price. First Absalom killed his older brother, Amnon, after Amnon mistreated his sister Tamar. Amnon was David’s firstborn son and in line to follow David as king. Then, after Absalom wormed his way back into his father’s favor, he began to sow subtle seeds of doubt throughout the kingdom about David’s leadership, judgments, and laws until he “stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” 2 Samuel 15:6. Finally, his sinister plan erupted into a full-blown rebellion as Absalom tried to assassinate his own father and kidnap the kingdom. David and his followers were forced to flee from Jerusalem. But after a severe battle a few days later, David was once again secure on his throne, and handsome Prince Absalom was slain. A sad story indeed, but this was not the first such royal family feud. In another great kingdom long ago, very similar events led to the most tragic rebellion of all time. The kingdom was called—heaven!

Satan Symbolized by the Kings of Tyre and Babylon In Isaiah 14:4-15, the Bible uses the king of Babylon as a symbol of Satan, and in Ezekiel 28:11-19, Satan is symbolized by the king of Tyre. In both cases we know that the symbolism goes beyond earthly kings because God’s description of the being could not apply to any mortal man.

Notice the ways Lucifer (now called Satan) is described in these passages of Scripture:

 • fell from heaven (Isaiah 14:12)

• was full of wisdom and perfect in beauty (Ezekiel 28:12)

• had been in Eden (verse 13)

• every precious stone was his covering (verse 13)

• was the anointed cherub that covereth (verse 14)

 • was upon the holy mountain of God (verse 14)

• was perfect in his ways (verse 15)

Since the kings of Babylon and Tyre exhibited the same policies and suffered the same complete destruction as will Satan’s kingdom, God used them to represent Satan himself. Virtually all Bible authorities are in agreement on the symbolism.

 Incidentally, the Bible records many other references to Lucifer (see Luke 4:5, 6; 10:18; John 8:44; 2 Peter 2:4; 1 John 3:8; Jude 6; Revelation 12:7-9), but without Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14, we would not have the complete history.

Expect the Unexpected Many people expect Satan to openly appear as God’s enemy in the end time, but this is not so. Satan is indeed God’s bitterest enemy, but his approach will be to feign righteousness (Matthew 24:24). He can appear as a glorious, angelic being (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) and will seek the worship of people (Revelation 13:12). Scripture is clear that his godly front will be so convincing that “all the world” will wonder after the beast (Revelation 13:3). Talk about a tragedy! Satan will be so effective in posing as Christ that virtually the entire world will follow him, thinking all the time that they are following Jesus. Will you be deceived? Not if you heed the Bible warnings presented in this series. A Brilliant Angel Satan is delighted when people portray him as an ugly, red, bat-winged creature that is part-man and part-beast, having split hooves and a long, pointed tail, or carrying a pitchfork and stoking the fires of hell. Nothing could be further from the truth. Such concepts come from Greek mythology. No such nonsense can be found in Scripture. The Bible describes Satan as a brilliant, highly attractive angel with an uncanny ability to communicate. He is also well acquainted with Scripture (Matthew 4:5, 6). The devil is a self-proclaimed enemy of God whose aim is to defame His character and capture His kingdom. Satan also despises you and your loved ones and has plans to destroy you. This series will help you understand his plans and learn how to thwart them. Just place your life in the protective care of your mighty Saviour, and pray earnestly for His guidance.


Genesis 22:1-19

The sky was still dark when the old patriarch clearly heard God speak. “Abraham, … Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.” Genesis 22:1, 2. Abraham began to tremble when he considered the staggering consequences of this command. God had promised that through Isaac he would father a mighty nation. All of Abraham’s hopes and dreams were set upon this miracle son given to him and Sarah in their old age. He didn’t understand why God was asking him to do this strange act, but he had learned to trust and obey his heavenly Father—even when perplexed. So Abraham gently awakened young Isaac and two trusted servants, and the small company began the three-day trip to Moriah. As they neared the mountain of sacrifice, Abraham instructed his servants to wait for him and Isaac to return. Then he placed the wood on his son’s back, and together they started up the mountain. Sensing that something was wrong, Isaac said, “Father, we have what we need to start a fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham replied, “My son, God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” When they reached the top, Abraham tearfully explained the reason for their mission. Willingly Isaac submitted to God’s command. After the last embrace, the father tenderly bound his son and laid him upon the rock altar. Abraham raised the knife, but suddenly he was stopped by an angel and directed to sacrifice instead a wild ram that was trapped by its horns in a nearby thornbush. This moving story was not the only time a father had to make a painful decision to sacrifice his beloved son.

Once Saved, Always Saved?

Can a person be lost once he has accepted Christ as his Saviour? Only in God’s Word can we find an answer to this question. The Bible speaks for itself: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works. ... For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.” Hebrews 10:23, 24, 26.

 Nowhere does the Bible teach that our responsibility ends when we become a Christian. God’s Word is clear: “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” 2 Peter 2:20-22.

 Christianity is more than one single decision. Jesus said that our salvation is based on the condition that we continue to abide in Him (John 15:4). And the apostle Paul said, “I die daily.” 1 Corinthians 15:31. This means that he chose on a daily basis to deny himself and follow Jesus. The Lord Himself said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23.

The Bible does not teach that we can turn our backs on truth and still be saved. Ezekiel 18:24 says: “But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.” Paul also reminds us, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12.

 Some people think they can “talk the talk” without “walking the walk.” But Jesus said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23.

 Paul depicted the constant struggle of the true Christian when he said: “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. … But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.” 1 Corinthians 9:24, 25, 27.

To believe that once we are saved we cannot be lost is to believe that God takes away our greatest freedom—the freedom of choice. On the other hand, God does want us to have assurance that He will finish the work He has begun in our lives. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6. We can be confident that if we continue to follow, He will continue to lead and will never let go of the hand placed willingly in His. “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” Matthew 24:13.

T H E  U N C H A N G E A B L E  L A W

Daniel 6:1-28

After Darius, king of the Medes and Persians, had conquered Babylon, he executed all Babylonian government officials, except one. That fortunate man was Daniel, a servant of the true God. Seventy years earlier, he had been carried from Judah to Babylon as a captive and made to serve in the palace as an advisor to the Babylonian kings. Daniel became known throughout the kingdom for having “an excellent spirit.” Daniel 5:12; 6:3. Not only did King Darius spare Daniel, but he “thought to set him over the whole realm.” Daniel 6:3. When the Medo-Persian officials learned that the king was going to promote an old Hebrew captive to rule over them, they were jealous and outraged. So they plotted to entice Darius to sign a law that for the next 30 days, anyone who petitioned any god or man except the king would be thrown into the lions’ den (Daniel 6:7). Apparently these men knew that Daniel was unswerving in his prayer life and firmly committed to obeying the law of his God, which forbids worship of any other gods (Exodus 20:3). Just as they expected, the officials caught Daniel praying to God from his open window. When King Darius discovered that he had been tricked and that his old friend was headed for the lions’ pit, he tried every possible angle to deliver Daniel from the foolish law he had signed. But the law could not be changed. Daniel went to the lions’ den, and God rewarded his faithfulness by sending an angel to shut the lions’ mouths (Daniel 6:22). Prophecy tells us that in the last days, God’s people will have to make a similar decision regarding which king and which law they will obey.

Parallels Between Bible Characters and Jesus

Many of the Bible heroes are types and patterns of Jesus. Moses, Joseph, David, and Solomon were all people who, at some point in their lives, foreshadowed the life and ministry of Christ. The similarities between their experiences were intended to help the world recognize Jesus as the Son of God. Daniel’s experience with the law and the lions is one example of such a spiritual parallel.

Notice the following similarities:

• The leaders in Medo-Persia wanted to remove Daniel from his high position because they were jealous of his close relationship with the king. Daniel 6:3 says, “The king thought to set him over the whole realm.” Likewise, the leaders in Jerusalem wanted to get rid of Jesus because they were jealous of His close relationship with the King of the universe (John 5:18-20).

• The Medo-Persian officials followed Daniel around in an attempt to catch him doing or saying something wrong (Daniel 6:4). The religious leaders of Jesus’ day sent spies to follow Jesus, hoping to catch Him doing or saying something wrong (Luke 20:19, 20).

• Daniel’s enemies could find no fault with him, so they created a trap to accomplish their purposes (Daniel 6:5-9). Likewise, the chief priests and scribes conspired with Judas Iscariot to make a trap for Jesus (Luke 22:2-6). However, Pilate declared that he found no fault in Jesus (John 19:4).

 • After Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den, a stone was placed over the entrance and sealed with the government seal (Daniel 6:16, 17). Jesus also was placed in a tomb that had a large stone at the door and was sealed by the government (Matthew 27:58-60, 65, 66).

 • Both Daniel and Jesus were innocent and emerged alive from their earthen prisons (Daniel 6:23; Mark 16:5, 6). See if you can find other parallels between the lives of Bible characters and the life of Jesus!

T H E  M A G N I F I C E N T  K I N G D O M

1 Kings 3:5-15; 10:1-29

 After Solomon was established as the new king of Israel, the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask what I shall give thee.” 1 Kings 3:5. The young king could have requested money, fame, or long life, but he didn’t. Instead, he asked for wisdom to justly govern God’s people. In answer to that humble and heartfelt prayer, the Lord gave Solomon tremendous wisdom and perception—surpassing every other human. On top of that, God also blessed him with fame, riches, and long life. During Solomon’s reign, Israel enjoyed unparalleled peace and prosperity. Precious metals were so abundant in Jerusalem during his time that silver was considered as common as stones (1 Kings 10:27). In addition to the magnificent temple of marble and gold that Solomon built for God, he also constructed a lavish palace and courtyard plus entire cities to house his chariots and horsemen. Splendid flowering gardens with rare trees graced every town. Monarchs, nobles, and royalty came from around the world to visit and bring gifts. They longed to hear the profound wisdom that God had put in Solomon’s heart (1 Kings 10:24). Among the many regal visitors was a rich and beautiful queen from the far-away land of Sheba. She wanted to see firsthand if the reports about Israel’s king were true. The Queen of Sheba tested Solomon with many hard questions and was stunned by his brilliant answers. Everywhere she looked, her senses were dazzled. But even Israel at its zenith was as nothing compared to the glorious kingdom God has prepared for you.

The Kingdom of God

The Bible is a record of two kingdoms in constant conflict—the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan. Jesus made the kingdom of God central in His preaching. There are over 100 references to the kingdom of God in the New Testament alone, and many are contained in Jesus’ parables. From His teachings we learn that God’s divine kingdom is divided into two different categories—the spiritual and the literal. 

Citizens of the spiritual kingdom of heaven have God ruling and reigning in their hearts. Before conversion, the throne in our hearts is occupied by Satan, sin, and self. But after we accept the forgiveness and power of Jesus, that bondage is broken. This is why Paul says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. … For sin shall not have dominion over you.” Romans 6:12, 14. “But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.” Luke 11:20. 

As soon as a person accepts Christ, he instantly becomes a citizen of God’s spiritual kingdom. This is why both Jesus and John the Baptist began their ministries by urging people to repent, “for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:2; 4:17. “At hand” means available or accessible now. This is why Jesus said, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:20, 21. As soon as a person is baptized, he leaves Satan’s kingdom of darkness and joins God’s kingdom of light.

Every true follower of Christ is an ambassador to this world from God’s spiritual kingdom. Ambassadors from other countries often speak a different language, wear different clothes, eat different food, use different currency, and have different customs. In the same way, as Christian ambassadors we should be very careful to rightly represent our Lord’s kingdom by the way we eat, talk, dress, and spend our time and money.

Someday God’s people will inherit the literal, physical kingdom of God that is discussed in this lesson. It is this kingdom we are longing for when we pray in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” Matthew 6:10. God’s literal kingdom will be fully and finally established after the post-millennium judgment and battle described in Revelation 20.

T H E  R E S T  O F  O U R  W O R K

 Exodus 4:29-5:19

 Before Moses approached the king of Egypt to seek freedom for the children of Israel, he and his brother, Aaron, met with the oppressed leaders of Israel. During this meeting, Moses and Aaron encouraged the people to consecrate themselves to the Lord and told them God was about to deliver them from slavery with a mighty hand. The Israelites had been laboring seven days a week to maintain their heavy workload for the Egyptians. But after this meeting with Moses, they apparently decided to begin resting again every seventh day. This is why the furious Pharaoh later said to Moses and Aaron: “Ye make them rest from their burdens.” Exodus 5:5. (The Hebrew word for “rest” used here is “shabath.” It means “to cause to keep sabbath.”) The angry king knew that he must do something drastic to hold this nation of slaves under his control, so he decided to drown them with work and crowd both God and worship from their thoughts. He said, “You shall no longer give the people straw to make brick as before. Let them go and gather straw for themselves. And you shall lay on them the quota of bricks which they made before. You shall not diminish it.” Exodus 5:7, 8, NKJV.* As in the days of Moses, God is about to do great things for His people. Soon they will be delivered from the slavery of sin and journey to the heavenly Canaan. And once again, God is now trying to turn the minds of His people toward the importance of the Sabbath rest. * The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (c) 1979, 1980, 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

What the Dictionary Says

 Look up the following entries in almost any dictionary, and notice what you’ll find:

Saturday (noun) The seventh and last day of the week.

seventh-day (adjective) Of the seventh day (Saturday). Sunday (noun)

The first day of the week. First day (noun) Sunday.

 Hasn’t the Calendar Been Changed?

The calendar was changed once in October 1582, but it did not alter the weekly cycle. Ten dates were omitted from the calendar following October 4, 1582. What would have been Friday, October 5, became Friday, October 15. 

The Richest Caveman

B E W I T C H I N G  S P I R I T S

1 Samuel 28:3-25

King Saul was at his wit’s end and trembling with fear. The entire Philistine army had gathered to attack Israel’s smaller and weaker troops. Saul moaned, “If only Samuel were here, he would tell me what to do.” But the great prophet of Israel had died a few years earlier. The aged monarch tried desperately to find some advice or guidance from other prophets or priests, but the Lord would not speak to him. As a young man, Saul had been close to God. But after ascending the throne, he became cruel and rebelled against God’s Word. Once he even had a whole village of priests murdered. King Saul had persistently refused to listen to the Lord, and now in his distress, God would not answer him. “Then said Saul unto his servants, Seek me a woman that hath a familiar spirit, that I may go to her, and inquire of her.” 1 Samuel 28:7. God had clearly commanded His people never to consult a witch or medium (Leviticus 19:31; 20:27), but Saul now had little regard for God’s implicit instruction. Upon finding a woman in Endor who claimed to consult with the dead, the king disguised himself and went to see her. He said to the medium, “Bring me up Samuel.” The witch went through her spells and enchantments until an apparition claiming to be Samuel the prophet appeared and gave the king an utterly hopeless message. It predicted that Saul and his three sons would die in battle the next day. The following day Saul’s sons were slain by the Philistines, and afterward the wounded and discouraged king fell on his sword and took his own life (1 Samuel 31:2- 4). Who spoke to Saul through the witch—a resurrected prophet of God, or a devil in disguise?

The Thief on the Cross

Did Jesus promise the thief on the cross immediate access to heaven when He said, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise”? The meaning of Christ’s statement in Luke 23:43 is determined by a scriptural answer to one very important question: Did Jesus Himself go to heaven on that day?

Not according to Scripture. On the day of the resurrection, when He met Mary at the garden tomb, His words were: “Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father.” John 20:17. Jesus could not have gone to paradise on Friday if He hadn’t yet ascended to the Father by Sunday!

Why then did Jesus say, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise”? The apparent problem vanishes when you consider that the original Greek manuscripts had no punctuation. The commas and periods were introduced into the text of Scripture by translators, who inserted them where they thought they should be. And believe it or not, a single comma can change the meaning of an entire sentence! The Lord’s statement in Luke 23:43 should read: “Verily I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with me in paradise.” This is what Jesus was really saying. Today, when all seems lost; today, when I do not look like a Lord or King, and after even My disciples have fled; today, although My hands are nailed to a cross, I can still save you!

Someday that thief, along with all others who have accepted Christ, will claim the promise of the resurrection and be with Jesus in paradise.

What Do the Words “Spirit” and “Breath” Mean in the Bible?

Job 27:3 points out that a person’s “spirit” and “breath” are the same. Job further states that this spirit, or breath, is in his nostrils. Please remember that God placed the “breath” in Adam’s nostrils at Creation (Genesis 2:7). So the spirit that returns to God when a person dies is the breath of life—not a disembodied soul. Never in the Bible is a disembodied soul said to return to God at death.

Where Does the “Soul” Go When a Person Dies?

At Creation, two things combine to make a soul—body and breath. Until these two things combine, a soul does not exist. At death, these two components separate. The body returns to dust, and the breath returns to God. The soul goes nowhere; it simply ceases to exist.

T H E  F I N A L  F I R E S T O R M

 Genesis 19:1-29

Abraham knew that his nephew was making a big mistake when Lot chose to move his family to Sodom. The cities of the lower Jordan valley were beautiful and lush, but they were also very corrupt. “The men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” Genesis 13:13. Finally, God decided to destroy these sinful cities for their abominations, but first He sent two angels to Sodom to rescue Lot and his family. Before entering Sodom, these angels took on the appearance of two wayfaring men. Lot saw the two handsome strangers when they first entered the gates, and knowing that the streets of that wicked city were far from safe at night, he urged them to find refuge in his home. But wicked men were watching, and that evening they gathered about Lot’s door and insisted that he bring out his guests so they might abuse them. Lot tried in vain to reason with the perverse mob gathered at his door. Their demonic obsession only intensified, and soon the crowd began to threaten Lot as well! At this point, the angels could no longer conceal their true identity. They pulled Lot inside the house to safety and struck the maddened mob at the door with blindness. Early the next morning, the angels told Lot and his family, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you. ... Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.” Genesis 19:17, NKJV.* “Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven.” Genesis 19:24. Only Lot and his two unmarried daughters were spared, for his wife looked back to Sodom with longing and was turned into a pillar of salt. God’s Word tells us that in the last days, world conditions will resemble that of Sodom—and so will the punishment!

The Rich Man and Lazarus

Many have used the parable of the rich man and Lazarus to try to prove that people go right to heaven or to hell at death. This was never Jesus’ intention in employing this story. The word Jesus used for “hell” was “Hades,” a place of torment in Greek mythology. All of the Jews listening to this discourse would have understood that Jesus was using a well-known myth to illustrate a point. If we take a closer look at Luke 16:19- 31, we will quickly see that this parable is filled with symbols that Jesus never intended for us to take literally

• For example, do all the saved go to Abraham’s bosom? No.

• Will the people in heaven and in hell talk to each other? No.

• Would a drop of water cool the tongue of a person burning in hell? No.

• Does Abraham decide who is saved and who is lost? No

In the same way, this parable cannot be used to teach that people who die before the last judgment day at the end of the world will go right to heaven or to hell when they die. John 12:48 declares, “The word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” 

So what does this parable mean? The rich man was a symbol of the Jewish nation, feasting on the Scriptures, while the beggar at the gate—the Gentiles—were starving for the Word. Jesus concluded the parable with the observation that “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Luke 16:31. Indeed, Jesus did later raise a man named Lazarus from the dead, and most of the Jewish leaders still did not believe (John 12:9-11).

T H E  D E V I L’ S  D U N G E O N

2 Chr. 36:11-21

 Our world was created with a perfect balance in nature. Man, animals, and plants lived in total harmony. But with the entrance of sin, everything changed. Man started eating animals, and animals began eating each other. Thorns and thistles sprouted everywhere. The scourge of sin depleted even the soil. God told Cain, “When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength.” Genesis 4:12. This is one reason the Lord commanded the children of Israel to rest the farmlands every seventh year (Exodus 23:10, 11). It would give the ground a chance to recover its vitality and provide a volunteer crop for the poor to eat. But most of God’s people ignored this law or simply refused to obey it. Then came a day of awful judgment. Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, came to Judah and executed those who had rebelled against him. Others were carried off to the golden city of Babylon. Meanwhile, the land of Israel lay quietly in ruins, “until it had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath.” 2 Chronicles 36:21. At the end of 70 years, the survivors returned to Canaan to replant the Promised Land and to rebuild Jerusalem. For 6,000 years now, Jesus has been sowing the seed of the gospel. The Bible tells us that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years.” 2 Peter 3:8. Soon King Jesus will come to harvest the world. Some will be slain by the brightness of His coming, and the rest will be carried off to His golden kingdom. Then this tired old planet will keep a 1,000-year Sabbath, becoming a desolate dungeon, a bottomless pit, that imprisons Satan in chains until the millennium comes to an end—just in time for a new world to begin.

Events that begin the 1,000 years:

1. Jesus returns FOR His saints, and the righteous dead are resurrected.

2. Wicked are slain by the Lord’s coming, plus devastating earthquake and hail.

3. Living righteous are changed, then caught up to meet the Lord in the air.

4. Cloud carries the righteous to heaven

Conditions and events during the 1,000 years:

 1. Saints in heaven participate in judgment of the wicked.

 2. Satan and his angels are forced to remain on earth in total devastation and darkness.

3. No people are alive on earth.

Events at the close of the 1,000 years:

1. Jesus returns WITH His saints, and the holy city descends upon the Mount of Olives.

2. Wicked are resurrected, and Satan persuades wicked to attack the holy city.

3. Wicked are judged, then punished by fire from heaven that eventually devours the lost.

4. God creates new heaven and a new earth on ashes of a purified earth.

The Bottomless Pit 

The term “bottomless pit” from Revelation 20:1 is often misunderstood. It is translated from the Greek word “abusos,” the root of the English word “abyss.” In the Greek Old Testament, this word is used to refer to the formless, dark earth as it was before Creation. “And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” Genesis 1:1, 2. The word “abusos” is used again in Luke 8:31 to illustrate a condition where demons have no one to possess or manipulate.

 During the 1,000 years, the devil is chained by circumstances, “that he should deceive the nations no more.” Revelation 20:3. A literal chain could never chain a spiritual being. Only one thing would prevent him from tempting people, and that is if there were no people alive! When Jesus comes, the wicked are all slain and the righteous taken to heaven, so Satan and his angels are confined to this planet with no one to tempt. For 1,000 years they will roam and behold the fruit of their rebellion. No more galling chain of circumstances has ever been forged. It is in this manner that Satan and his angels are bound. “And they shall be gathered together, as prisoners are gathered in the pit, and shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited.” Isaiah 24:22.

C L E A N S I N G  T H E  S A N C T U A R Y

 John 2:13-17

 Jesus was visibly grieved as He entered the temple courtyard and surveyed the turmoil. On every hand He saw pens filled with sacrifice animals and heard salesmen shouting and bargaining with visiting pilgrims for the highest price. The cooing of doves, bleating of sheep, and lowing of oxen mingled together with the odors of a barnyard to form a concert of chaos. This bedlam was never God’s plan. When Solomon built the first temple in Jerusalem, there was such respect for God’s house that not even the sound of a hammer could be heard during its construction. All the stones and boards were precut elsewhere, then brought to the temple site and quietly assembled (1 Kings 6:7). Jesus found a handful of cords used for restraining the sheep and tied them into a small whip. Then the Son of God called out in trumpet-like tones: “Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.” John 2:16. “It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Matthew 21:13. Moving from one booth to another, He then released the animals and overturned the moneychangers’ tables. Sensing they were in the presence of Omnipotence, the terrified merchants fled from the temple courtyard without looking back. Jesus wanted more than anything for people to have a clear concept of His heavenly Father’s love and purity. This is why it broke His heart to see the holy temple turned into a flea market. Many years earlier, the prophet Daniel had foretold of another time when the temple would be defiled, God’s truth would be distorted, and His people oppressed. And once again, the Lord would come to cleanse His sanctuary

The Floating Week

Some Bible students detach the last week (or seven literal years) of the 490-year prophecy given in Daniel and apply it to Antichrist’s work at the end of time and a seven-year tribulation. There is no Bible support for this practice. Let’s review a few facts:

A. The 490-year prophecy is a continuous time period, as were the 70 years of exile for God’s people mentioned in Daniel 9:2.

B. The starting point for the last seven years of the prophecy was Jesus’ baptism (A.D. 27). This is why He began to preach, “The time is fulfilled.” Mark 1:15.

 C. At the moment of His death on the cross, in the spring of A.D. 31, Jesus cried out, “It is finished.” The Saviour here clearly referred to the predictions of His death made in Daniel chapter 9. They are as follows:

 1. “Messiah” would be “cut off,” or crucified (verse 26).

2. He would “cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease” by dying for all as the true Lamb of God (verse 27; 1 Corinthians 5:7; 15:3).

3. He would “make reconciliation for iniquity” (verse 24).

His coming as the foretold Messiah, right on time, proved all dates of the entire 490- and 2,300-year prophecy to be flawless and complete.

B O R N  I N  A  R I V E R

 2 Kings 5:1-14

Naaman was a brave, rich, and famous commander for the armies of Syria who contracted leprosy, the most dreaded disease of Bible times. Leprosy meant isolation from loved ones and a slow, wretched death. A Hebrew slave girl who worked in Naaman’s house said that if her master would only go to the prophet Elisha in Israel, he would heal Naaman of his leprosy. Willing to grasp at any thread of hope, Naaman made the long trip to Israel. With him was a small band of personal bodyguards and a king’s ransom to pay for this miracle of healing. When Naaman finally stood before the humble house of the prophet, Elisha would not come out. Instead, he sent his servant with these simple instructions: ”Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.“ 2 Kings 5:10. The prophet’s command to wash implied that Naaman was dirty! Being told to wash seven times—and in a muddy river, no less—was too much for the proud Syrian general. In a rage, Naaman spun his horse around and began riding home. But in order to reach Damascus, Naaman had to ride by the Jordan River. As he passed by, Naaman’s servants urged him to try the prophet’s advice. So he stopped his horse, slid down, and laid aside the armor that covered the awful evidence of his leprosy. Naaman slowly stepped down into the waters of the Jordan. Six times he plunged under the water with no results, but when he came up the seventh time, the leprosy was gone! His skin was as pure and healthy as a baby’s. Just as Naaman experienced restoration, you too can have a healing new-birth experience!

The Model Baptism

 Jesus was not baptized because He needed cleansing from sin, for He was sinless (1 Peter 2:22). This is why John the Baptist was so perplexed when Jesus came to the Jordan River, asking to be baptized by him. John said, “I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?” Matthew 3:14.

So why was Jesus baptized? There are three main reasons. First, He was baptized in behalf of those who cannot be baptized themselves. Sometimes when people accept the Lord in prison or in a hospital, circumstances do not allow them to be baptized. Jesus gives them credit for His baptism. The thief on the cross was one example (Luke 23:43). Second, Jesus was baptized as an example, that we should follow in His steps (1 Peter 2:21). And third, Jesus was baptized so we can, by studying His experience, know what to expect by faith.

To illustrate, let’s take the following verses word by word and see what we can expect from our baptism. Matthew 3:16 and 17 reads: “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” 

“The heavens were opened” = We receive access to God.

“He saw” = Our spiritual eyes are now opened, giving us new understanding and perception.

“The Spirit of God” = We recognize His leading.

“Descending like a dove” = Peace gently enters our hearts.

 “A voice from heaven” = We will begin to hear that still, small voice.

My beloved son” = We are adopted into His royal family and become citizens of a different country.

“I am well pleased” = God gives us complete acceptance and forgiveness.

B O W I N G  T O  T H E  B E A S T

Daniel 3:1-30

 King Nebuchadnezzar gave the signal, and as the music from a thousand instruments began to swell, the curtain fell, exposing a dazzling, 90-foot image of gold glimmering in the sunlight. Then, according to King’s command, all the officials who had gathered on the plain of Dura fell prostrate to the ground in devout worship. All bowed down except three young Hebrew men, who were servants of a greater King. Nebuchadnezzar was beaming with pride and satisfaction—until it was reported that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had refused to bow and worship his image. Astonished that anyone would dare to disobey, Nebuchadnezzar assumed these young advisers must have misunderstood his decree. So he offered them one more chance to bow down—but they refused! Now the king’s expression turned to rage. He ordered his soldiers to heat the nearby furnace seven times hotter than normal. As fuel was piled onto the fire, the three men were firmly tied with ropes. The resulting heat was so intense that it killed the soldiers who threw them into the blazing inferno. As the king peered into the roaring furnace, his mouth suddenly fell open. With a trembling voice he asked, “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” His counselors agreed that they had. Then the king said, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” Daniel 3:25. God delivered those brave young men in the fiery furnace because they stood up for His truth. In the last days, God’s people will have to face a similar test.

 In Revelation 13:1-10, 15-18, God gives 10 clues to help us identify the beast. He gives us a long list of characteristics so that we can be absolutely certain of the beast’s identity.

 Point 1 - Rises up out of the sea (verse 1)

Point 2 - Receives its power, seat, and authority from the dragon (verse 2)

Point 3 - Becomes a worldwide power (verses 3, 7)

Point 4 - Is guilty of blasphemy (verses 1, 5, 6)

 Point 5 - Rules for 42 prophetic months (verse 5)

Point 6 - Receives a deadly wound that heals (verse 3)

Point 7 - Is a religious power that receives worship (verses 4, 8)

Point 8 - Persecutes God’s saints (verse 7)

Point 9 - Has the mysterious number 666 (verse 18)

Point 10 - Is led by one supreme man (verse 18)

Only one power fits all 10 of these identifying marks—the papacy.

M A R K E D  F O R  D E A T H

 Genesis 4:1-15

Adam and Eve’s first two sons differed vastly in their personalities and behavior. Cain longed to farm and build, while Abel loved to roam the hills and meadows with his flocks. After sin entered this new world because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, God established a sacrificial system and explained that without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness for sin (Hebrews 9:22). He told them that these sacrifices pointed forward to the time when Jesus would become a man and die as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world. Abel faithfully brought a young lamb as a sacrifice for his sins, but Cain thought it was unnecessary to obey God’s command so precisely. He considered the sacrificial system to be messy and reasoned that as long as he brought an offering and worshiped God, the details wouldn’t matter. So he brought an offering of his own works—some produce from the field. Cain watched with jealous anger as fire came down from heaven and consumed Abel’s sacrifice but left his own offering untouched. The Lord lovingly urged Cain to humble himself and obey, but Cain stubbornly persisted in his rebellion. Abel also tried to gently reason with his older brother, but Cain flew into a rage. By the time he regained his senses, Abel’s bloody body lay still at his feet. God pronounced a curse upon Cain, and when Cain complained about his sentence, the Lord placed a mark upon him lest future generations take revenge for this first homicide. The book of Revelation tells us that, in the last days, there will again be a battle between Christians regarding how and when to worship. Soon everyone will be identified either by the seal of God or the mark of the beast.

What Important Question Does the Papacy Ask Protestants?

Protestants have repeatedly asked the papacy, “How could you dare to change God’s law?” But the question posed to Protestants by the Catholic Church is even more penetrating. Here it is officially: “You will tell me that Saturday was the Jewish Sabbath, but that the Christian Sabbath has been changed to Sunday. Changed! but by whom? Who has authority to change an express commandment of Almighty God? When God has spoken and said, Thou shalt keep holy the seventh day, who shall dare to say, Nay, thou mayest work and do all manner of worldly business on the seventh day; but thou shalt keep holy the first day in its stead? This is a most important question, which I know not how you can answer. You are a Protestant, and you profess to go by the Bible and the Bible only; and yet in so important a matter as the observance of one day in seven as a holy day, you go against the plain letter of the Bible, and put another day in the place of that day which the Bible has commanded. The command to keep holy the seventh day is one of the ten commandments; you believe that the other nine are still binding; who gave you authority to tamper with the fourth? If you are consistent with your own principles, if you really follow the Bible and the Bible only, you ought to be able to produce some portion of the New Testament in which this fourth commandment is expressly altered.

T H E  W O M A N  O F  T R U T H

1 Kings 3:16-28

 Ahush fell over the royal judgment hall, and all eyes were fixed on King Solomon. His servants wondered how the young monarch would resolve this perplexing case. Two single mothers were sharing a room, and each gave birth to a baby boy at about the same time. During the night, one of the mothers had accidentally turned over and smothered her son. When she awoke early and saw her child was cold and still, the distraught woman took her roommate’s sleeping baby to herself and laid her dead baby in its place. Later the other mother awoke, saw the dead baby, and began to wail with grief. But after examining the infant, she quickly realized that it was not her child. Across the room, she could see her roommate tightly clutching her baby. Now both women stood before the king, tugging for possession of the living infant. “This child is mine!” one shouted. “No, the dead baby was yours!” the other countered. How would the king determine which was the true mother? Solomon interrupted their debate and told a guard to take a sword and divide the living infant in two. At first the soldier thought the king was jesting, but Solomon began to glare at the guard’s hesitation. Slowly he drew his sharp, gleaming sword and made his way toward the woman holding the baby. Suddenly the true mother threw herself at the king’s feet and pleaded, “Let her have the child, but please do not slay it!” But the other woman said, “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it.” Now Solomon knew without a doubt who was the true mother. In prophecy, a woman is a symbol of a church (Jeremiah 6:2). With so many churches in the last days, how can we distinguish the true, last-day church that has the living Son from the counterfeits? Like Solomon, we must use the sword of God’s Word (Hebrews 4:12)!

Years of Persecution

The 1,260 years of tribulation is repeatedly mentioned in the Bible, because historically it was the worst ever to face God’s people (Matthew 24:21). It is referred to as 1,260 days, 42 months, and three and one-half times, or years (Revelation 12:6, 14; 13:5; Daniel 7:25). Using the Jewish calendar, which had 360 days in a year, all three add up to the same amount of time—1,260 years. One prophetic day equals one literal year (Ezekiel 4:6; Numbers 14:34).

History clearly shows that the papacy was the power which persecuted for 1,260 years. The period began in A.D. 538, when papal power became supreme in Christendom according to the decree of Roman Emperor Justinian. In it, he acknowledged the bishop of Rome as the head of all churches. This letter became a part of Justinian’s Code, the fundamental law of the empire. The period ended in 1798 when Napoleon’s general, Alexander Berthier, took the pope captive. At least 50 million Christians died for their faith during this period of persecution.

Three Crucial Points

Three facts of utmost importance to God’s people are established in Revelation 12:10-12. These facts are:

 1. Jesus defeated Satan, the accuser of the brethren, at the cross.

 2. All of us can overcome him through the blood of Jesus and by sharing our testimonies.

 3. The devil is infuriated because he knows that his time is short. We cannot expect him to behave like a gentleman. He is our bitterest enemy. 

The message is that Jesus, who has defeated Satan, offers His matchless power to us as a free gift. With Jesus’ power in our lives, we cannot fail. Satan’s fury need not affect us. He is a defeated foe. He was defeated in the war in heaven and cast out. He was defeated by Jesus at the cross and lost his dominion. He will be defeated legally in his case in the judgment, and he will again be defeated when he attacks God’s holy city. Finally, he will suffer the defeat of being blotted from the face of the earth in the lake of fire. And, most wonderful of all, Jesus promises that he will be defeated in his bitter fight to destroy you and me. What a tremendous message of hope from Jesus!


Mark 6:17-29

King Herod’s wife, Herodias, hated John the Baptist. The desert dwelling prophet had dared to call her an adulteress for leaving her husband Philip to marry his evil but wealthier brother. Now the wicked queen determined to use her influence over Herod to get even with John. First, she persuaded him to have John imprisoned. Then she asked to have John executed, but Herod refused. He knew that John was a true prophet and feared political backlash from the people. Finally, Herodias developed a fool-proof scheme. She threw a party for Herod’s birthday and invited all his friends and the nobles from his realm, then she arranged for her beautiful daughter Salome to dance in a seductive, captivating style. Herodias hoped that after Herod had a few glasses of wine, he would ask Salome what reward she wanted for her enchanting dance. Her sinister plan worked. After Salome’s dance, Herod made a pompous oath: “Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom.” Mark 6:23. As the inebriated guests were applauding the king’s generosity, the girl stood ready with her reply. Then she shocked everyone by asking for the head of John the Baptist on a platter! Herod was stunned by the gruesome request, but all of his shocked friends were watching for his response. Afraid that he would appear weak if he refused, the proud king reluctantly gave the order. That very day the mighty prophet John was beheaded alone in prison. This was not the first time that a mother and daughter team used the government to persecute God’s people.

NOTE: Papal Rome fits every description. Its headquarters is in Rome—“the city of seven hills.” Scarlet is the color of cardinals’ robes, and the pope often wears the royal color of purple at important functions. The Roman Catholic Church freely admits that during the Middle Ages, she persecuted the saints and ruled over the kings of the earth. (For evidence that the papacy is guilty of blasphemy, review Lesson 13.) God’s symbolism fits perfectly— a fallen mother church whose fallen daughters protested and thus began to be called Protestants. Notice this quote from Father James A. O’Brien: “That observance [of Sunday instead of Saturday] remains as a reminder of the Mother Church from which the non Catholic sects broke away.”

How Powerful Are the USA and Rome?

Revelation chapter 13 points out that in the end-time, the papacy and the United States will team up to influence the entire world to worship the beast. Are these entities powerful enough to accomplish this?

The papacy is by far the strongest religio-political power in the world. Nearly every leading country has an official ambassador or state representative at the Vatican. The pope is revered and welcomed by virtually all countries. Former U.S.S.R. leader Mikhail Gorbachev said, “Everything which took place in Eastern Europe in recent years would have been impossible without the Pope’s efforts and the enormous role, including the political role, which he played in the world arena.”1 The pope has made more than 50 world trips to achieve his goal of unifying the religious world under the papacy’s leadership by the end of this century.

America is now looked upon as the number one military power and center of influence. “[America is] the planet’s sole remaining superpower.”2 “America’s power will now determine all major global events.”3 Bible prophecy predicts with clarity that the United States of America and the papacy will join hands, and world events clearly show that the coalition is being formed.
B A B Y L O N ’ S  B U F F E T

Daniel 1:1-21

When King Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city of Jerusalem, thousands of Jews were taken away captive to Babylon. The king instructed his servant, Ashpenaz, to select gifted young men from among the Jewish captives who would come to the palace for three years to learn the language and wisdom of Babylon so they could serve the king.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah caught the attention of Ashpenaz and were taken to the king’s palace. But there was a problem. The menu of rich meat and wine appointed for the young men contained many items forbidden by God’s Word.

Without wanting to appear ungrateful, Daniel asked if he and his three friends could be given a vegetarian diet to eat and water to drink. At first the king’s servant resisted their request. “You can’t stay healthy by eating like that!” he exclaimed. “You’d get sick, and then the king would have my head.” But Daniel gently persisted, suggesting a trial period of 10 days, after which their visible health could be compared with the young men who ate from the royal cafeteria.

 This plan was agreed upon, and for 10 days the four young Hebrews drank water and ate a simple vegetarian diet. At the end of the trial period, Daniel and his three friends “appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.” Daniel 1:15.

Three years later, these four young men were tested by King Nebuchadnezzar, and it was declared they were 10 times brighter then all the wise men in Babylon. The Bible tells us that Daniel lived to be approximately 100 years old. What helped give Daniel and his friends such profound wisdom, health, and long life?

Understanding Peter’s Vision

Many have tried to use Peter’s vision of the great sheet (Acts 10:9-28) to justify eating unclean animals. They say it proves that Jesus taught His disciples it was acceptable to eat any living creature.

However, each time the sheet came down and Peter was asked to kill and eat the unclean animals, he responded, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean.” Acts 10:14. Notice that even after three and a half years of listening to Jesus’ teaching, Peter had not received the slightest hint or impression that eating unclean food was permissible. It is also interesting to note that in his vision, Peter never took anything to eat from the sheet.

Peter’s vision of the sheet was never intended to sanctify the eating of unclean animals. Peter himself explains the meaning of the vision in verse 28: “God hath showed me that I should not call any man common or unclean.” Again in verse 34, Peter summarized the point of the vision when he said, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” God’s message to Peter had to do with cleansing people, not animals. This vision was given to impress the Jewish disciples that they should not call the Gentiles unclean, and that the gospel was to be freely proclaimed to all peoples of the world.

Does Prayer Purify Food?

The warning in 1 Timothy 4:1-5 against a latter-day apostasy involves a number of heresies—following devils, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from certain foods. Perhaps the greatest misunderstanding has arisen over verse 4, where it is stated that “every creature of God is good.” This verse means that every created thing has been made for a purpose. But some suppose it means that every animal is fit to be eaten if it is earnestly prayed over and blessed by the prayer of thanksgiving. This would mean that praying over a buzzard, cockroach, mole, or bat would make it good for food. Such an interpretation would be absurd and dangerous. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Galatians 6:7.

To prevent us from drawing any wrong conclusions, Paul hastened to add: “For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.” Verse 5. So the Word of God must first approve it, and then the prayer of thanksgiving will sanctify it to be eaten.

 It is helpful to note that the word “meats” in the original language is not limited to flesh foods. The Greek word “broma” simply means “food.” We can know that Paul’s discussion does not involve biblically unclean animals, because the meats that some had forbidden were foods “which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” Verse 3.

It is easy to find in the Scriptures a description of the food God created to be received with thanksgiving (Genesis 1:29; 3:18; Leviticus 11:1-22). This passage was written to those who “believe and know the truth.” God’s Word is the truth. Only those who “believe and know” His Word will be led to those things that are “sanctified” and created to “be received with thanksgiving.” Those who “sanctify themselves” while continuing to eat unclean meats will be destroyed at Christ’s second coming (Isaiah 66:15-17).

T H E  K I N G ’ S  A M B A S S A D O R

 Matthew 3:1-12

J esus said, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” Matthew 11:11. What do we know about this solitary man whom Jesus called the greatest of the prophets?

When John began preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, people came from miles around to hear this powerful, fearless, and humble messenger. In glaring contrast to the religious leaders of the day, his life was marked with holiness and simplicity. While the priests wore luxurious clothing, John wore a modest garment of camel hair with a leather belt. While they were feasting, John was fasting or eating locusts (carob pods) and wild honey. He refused to drink any wine or strong drink, that he might be filled with the Spirit of God (Luke 1:15). Rather than ornate synagogues, John chose the rivers and rocky valleys as his cathedral for preaching. Soon people were asking, “Could this man be Elijah?”

John did dress like the Old Testament prophet, but he was not Elijah reincarnated. The angel Gabriel had explained to John’s parents before his birth that he would go “in the spirit and power of Elias [the Greek word for “Elijah”] … to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:17.

 The key to John’s ministry was that he would have the same power of the Holy Spirit as did Elijah to cause a revival among God’s people. His special work was to preach repentance for sin and prepare people for Jesus’ first coming.

 The Bible says there will be an entire army of Elijahs and John the Baptists in the last days to do a similar work in preparing the world for Jesus’ second coming. “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.” Malachi 4:5. (See also Joel 2:28-31.)

Ambassadors for Christ

 When a person becomes a Christian, he or she is enlisted as an ambassador from a better kingdom. The Bible says, “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ.” 2 Corinthians 5:20.

The dictionary defines an ambassador as “a diplomatic official of the highest rank appointed and accredited as representative in residence by one government or sovereign to another, usually for a limited length of time.”

Ambassadors are just as important in the spiritual realm as they are in the political realm. Citizens of the kingdom of heaven are not like the citizens of this world. We have been sent into the world to demonstrate who Jesus is and what He is like. Through the Holy Spirit, we become His representatives—to reflect His image in everything from the way we talk and work to the way we eat and dress. In other words, when we become part of God’s spiritual kingdom, we should be living demonstrations of the government we represent. In 2 Corinthians 3:18, the Scriptures say that “we all … are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

” We, the Church, are the hands and feet, the eyes and mouth, and yes, even the ears of Jesus in the world today. We are the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22, 23; 5:29, 30; Colossians 1:18). Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus told us, “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” John 20:21.

Every facet of our lives should be a reflection of the life and person of Jesus. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

'uid' is an unexpected token. Expecting white space. Line 1, position 110.
T H E  G O A L  O F  T H E  G O D LY

Matthew 26:31-75

Peter loved Jesus, but he also loved the approval of the crowd. During the last supper when Jesus warned the apostles that they would all forsake Him, Peter jumped to his feet and brashly vowed that even if all others would be offended, he would never forsake Him. Jesus replied, “This night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.” Verse 34.

Peter meant well, but he did not recognize the pride in his own heart. Later that night when the mob came to arrest Jesus and all were watching, Peter pulled out a sword to defend His Master. But just a few hours later at His trial, as Peter was being mocked by the enemies of Jesus, he denied three times that he even knew Him. Each time Peter became more bold, until he finally denied Him with swearing and cursing (Verse 74).

Then the rooster crowed. At that very moment, Jesus was in the judgment hall, being beaten by the guards. Peter saw Jesus turn and look at him with love and compassion, and it broke his heart. “And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:61, 62.

From that day forward, Peter was a different man. He no longer lived to please the crowd, but was determined to please only God. After his conversion, when brought before the Jewish council and threatened with beating if he continued preaching about Jesus, Peter fearlessly answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29.

Peter forever proved his loyalty and love for Jesus when he chose to be crucified upside down by the Roman Emperor Nero rather than to deny his Lord again.

Your Response

 The truth will never be popular in this sinful world, and the crowd will almost always take the easy road. But Jesus has shown His incredible love for you by giving His life to pay the price for all your sins. The Lord has a great plan for your life. This is why He has revealed His truth to you. Will you now return that love by giving Him all your heart, by choosing to accept Him as your Lord, and by following where He leads?

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