I write today on one of most significant and historic days for this nation and the British Isles – yes including Ireland, whose future is also tangled up in the web of Europe and Brexit. How should we as Christians respond? Continue reading
I write today on one of most significant and historic days for this nation and the British Isles – yes including Ireland, whose future is also tangled up in the web of Europe and Brexit. How should we as Christians respond? Continue reading
This uplifting praise was delivered by Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, and the song was posted to Youtube in 2009. It was sung, I believe, in a prison. I am posting it because I needed it today, God led me to this song, and I wanted also to share it with you all. The words are here: Continue reading
A new year has arrived, and as we look around an increasingly ungodly, violent and troubled world we are grateful more and more for the steadfast love of the Lord. His love is foundational to everything that he is, and to our faith in him. Continue reading
Matthew 8:22: But Jesus said to him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.
We are born dead! (Eph. 2:1). The apostle Paul says “sin came into the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
Yet, pinches self, we are not physically dead (yet). Which part of us is dead then? Continue reading
I don’t know about you, but I now have “Christmas-fatigue”. The relentless Christmas advertising, the supermarket jingles, the pressure to buy more, eat more, drink more, and to ignore the Jesus that people are supposed to be celebrating – it grates on my nerves.
I find the whole Christmas thing more stressful and less meaningful year by year. After we pass the marker of Bonfire Night (or I suppose it would be Thanksgiving in America) the shops are full of decorations and the TV is full of adverts, until the entire subject of Christmas is a turnoff, for me at least.
If ever there was a connection to Jesus Christ it’s now become overwhelmed by expensive purchases, feasting and partying. The Church tries valiantly to beef up the biblical connections, but fewer people show an interest, so children are raised thinking it’s all about Santa Claus and presents.
Most of all I object to the oft-repeated phrase, the “magic” of Christmas. Am I a Grinch, or do I have a point? To me as a Christian, magic is totally contrary to what I believe. You can call the solstice magical, or celebrate the ‘magic of Beltane’ if you are so minded, but don’t drag Christmas into it.
But then, I haven’t truly celebrated this festival for years, because early on in my Christian life I did a lot of research and found out the basis of most of the Christmas traditions are far from biblical. Indeed, I then wrote a pamphlet about it, that was ultimately transcribed for my website. It’s called “Somebody Cooked Your Goose!” and you can still find it today HERE.
Before I get into the subject matter of this post (Hanukkah as the real birthday of Jesus Christ) – and it’s not what you think, so keep reading – I want to comment on something that caught my attention just as I was writing this.
The Daily Mail (who else?) reported today on outrage in Lincolnshire after some schoolchildren were told that Jesus was the reason for Christmas, not Santa, and afterwards a few of the children were invited to smash chocolate Santas (then allowed to take the chocolate home afterwards).
One parent said that “I was really annoyed because Christmas is a magical time for my kids”. Needless to say, the message that Jesus is real while Santa is not fell upon deaf ears.
One lady in her later years commented on the news story that she was a Christian and thus did believe Jesus was real, but has “carried Santa in my heart” all her life, and because Jesus is about love, she rejects most of the bible while fully endorsing the Yuletide myths.
I would suggest that, if you feel the need to tell the children anything, read them the North Pole/Santa saga merely as a fairy story in the same category as elves and goblins and they will get the enjoyment without the lie. After all, if you took the kids to Disneyworld and they met Mickey Mouse, you would discourage them from believing he was real.
The date we on which we now celebrate the birth of Jesus was adopted by the Christian Church as late as the fourth century and his birthday is not mentioned in scripture at all.
This date was first observed in 336 AD, some 24 years after the Roman emperor Constantine established Christianity as the state religion. Apparently, Pope Julius I chose to replace the pagan winter solstice feast in honor of Mithra, the “Unconquered Sun,” that had been officially recognized by the emperor Aurelian in 274 AD. From Rome, the new feast celebrating the birthday of the “Sun of Righteousness” (Malachi 4:2) spread to all other churches (except the Armenian church) over the following century.
As many Christians are aware, the modern Christmas celebration combines many strands of tradition including the ancient Roman pagan festival of Saturnalia (merrymaking, exchange of presents), the old Germanic midwinter customs (Yule log, decorating evergreen trees), the tradition of Francis of Assisi (displaying the crib, or crèche of Jesus), the medieval feast of St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas in Dutch, hence “Santa Claus”), and the British sending of greeting cards (1840s). The Puritan pilgrims did not celebrate Christmas because of its many unbiblical associations. The holiday was officially recognized in the United States in 1870. [Source]
Another similar quote:
“Did the Romans Invent Christmas?”
Saturnalia – the pagan Roman winter solstice festival – was a public holiday celebrated around December 25th in the family home. A time for feasting, goodwill, generosity to the poor, the exchange of gifts and the decoration of trees.
The poet Lucian of Samosata (AD 120-180) has the god Cronos (Saturn) say in his poem, Saturnalia:
‘During my week the serious is barred: no business allowed. Drinking and being drunk, noise and games of dice, appointing of kings and feasting of slaves, singing naked, clapping … an occasional ducking of corked faces in icy water – such are the functions over which I preside.’
By the time Lucian described the festivities, it was a seven-day event. Changes to the Roman calendar moved the climax of Saturnalia to December 25th, around the time of the date of the winter solstice.
The poet Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius in his work dated to between AD 383 and 430 describes a Saturnalia alive and well under Christian emperors.
The Christian calendar of Polemius Silvus, written around AD 449, mentions Saturnalia, recording that ‘it used to honour the god Saturn’. This suggests it had by then become just another popular carnival. [Source]
However, I don’t want to cover old ground and write about the pagan winter festival. You are probably familiar with all that anyway.
I’m writing because I was pondering how the Middle Eastern mindset is different from ours, so that celebrating a birthday for them is not about the baby being born, but being conceived.
I am told that in the Jewish culture of Jesus’s day, the day you were conceived was actually considered your birthday.
Most of us know that Jesus could not have been born “in the bleak midwinter” because the sheep were still out in the pastures, but perhaps he was conceived at that time?
I was thinking along those lines, and saying to myself that the date of 25th December is just a throwback to the Solstice festivals and Saturnalia.
Then I thought, surely a more reasonable date for the conception of Jesus would have been Hannukah, a celebration of dedication and victory, when miraculous light fills the temple!
The Maccabean Revolt was a Jewish rebellion, lasting from 167 to 160 BC, led by the Maccabees against the Seleucid Empire and the Hellenistic influence on Jewish life.
According to the Talmud, a late text, the defiled Temple was purified and the wicks of the menorah miraculously burned there for eight days, even though there was only enough sacred oil for one day’s lighting.
This event is now celebrate as Hanukkah which is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar. It may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.
The name “Hanukkah” derives from the Hebrew verb “to dedicate“. But it has also been rendered as “[they] rested [on the] twenty-fifth”, referring to the fact that the Jews ceased fighting on the 25th day of Kislev, the day on which the holiday begins. [Source]
As I considered the possibility that Jesus might have been conceived at that time, I suddenly remembered today’s date and that my thoughts had come during – guess what – the very same festival of Hanukkah 2018, which began on 2nd December and runs to 10th December!
Is it merely a coincidence that the first day of Hanukkah for Israel IS in fact the 25th – 25 Kislev! Maybe something unique has been lost over the ages?
Can the idea of Jesus’ conception on 25th Kislev be supported by scripture? Yes. The bible also leads us to another conclusion, that the actual birth of Jesus into this world happened during the Feast of Tabernacles in September – a time of rejoicing to celebrate “God With Us”.
A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week (Luke 1:8-13, 24). Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14). Six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33); therefore Jesus would have been conceived six months after Sivan 30 in the month of Kislev—Hanukkah. Was the “light of the world,” conceived on the Festival of Lights [Hanukkah]? Starting at Hanukkah, which begins on Kislev 25 and continues for eight days, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles. [Source]
These facts would be much more in keeping with the prophecies of the birth of the Messiah, certainly much more relevant than the old pagan winter festivals of Rome.
Naturally, there is much discussion and debate about the exact facts, with some disputing the Hanukkah conception, and some disputing the timing. But overall there is consensus among scholars about the scriptures.
Respected theologian Matthew Henry states:
“It is supposed by many that our blessed Saviour was born much about the time of this holiday; then He left his mansions of light above to tabernacle among us (John 1:14), and he dwelt in booths. And the worship of God under the New Testament is prophesied of under the notion of keeping the Feast of Tabernacles (Zec.14: 16).”
The most sure way of discovering the truth is by using (as above) the birth of John the Baptist as a time-marker.
When Zechariah was ministering in the temple, he received an announcement from God of a coming son. The eighth course of Abia, when Zechariah was ministering, was the week of Sivan 12 to 18 (Killian n.d.).
Adding forty weeks for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14).
Six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33). Therefore, Jesus would have been conceived six months later in the month of Kislev.
Kislev 25 is Hanukkah. From this date, counting the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles (the early fall of the year).
During the Feast of Tabernacles, God required all male Jews to come to Jerusalem. The many pilgrims coming to Jerusalem for the festivals would spill over to the surrounding towns (Bethlehem is about five miles from Jerusalem). Joseph and Mary were unable to find a room at the inn because of the influx of so many pilgrims. “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn (Luke 2:7).”
They may have been given shelter in a Sukkah, which is built during a seven-day period each year accompanying the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Due to the difficulties during travel, it was common for the officials to declare tax time during a temple feast (Luke 2:1).
The fields would have been dotted with Sukkoths during this harvest time to temporary shelter animals. The Hebrew word “stable” is called a Sukkoth (Gen. 33:17).
From Kehila News – Richard Honorof – Dec 21, 2016
[Kehila News is a community news site of the Messianic community in Israel.]
There is so much biblical evidence proving that Yeshua was born on Succoth. I have written two books on this subject of Yeshua’s birthday being on Succoth. One is called,‘Yeshua’s True Birthday, the Feast of Succoth!’ And the other book is called ‘Yeshua’s True Birthday: 20 Points of Evidence for Succoth.’
Both of these books are free to download from my website.
[NOTE: I haven’t personally read these books nor do I know the author, so download at your own risk.]
Was Yeshua’s conception prophesied in the Scriptures? Was this around what we now call the Hanukkah? For the human life of the Son of God began at His conception! Yes! It is found in the book of Haggai (about 520 B.C.):
“Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, (the Hebrew ninth month is the month of Kislev), even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’s Temple was laid, consider it … from this day I will bless you.” [Haggai 2:18,19]
I believe this is the day of our Lord’s conception! The 24th of the ninth month is the 24th of Kislev. The feast of Hanukkah (164 B.C.) begins the 25th of Kislev, and lasts for eight days. [Source]
Dates of Hanukkah [the 24th of Kislev] recently and upcoming:
So, to conclude, perhaps there really is a “reason for the season” and we CAN celebrate the birth of Jesus (his conception that is) if we remember that it’s Hanukkah not the artificial festival today known as Christmas that is a REAL reason for our hope and joy.
And, in fixing upon that date instead of 25th December in the world, we can maybe avoid the worst of the paganism and excesses that the world has recreated around its modern-day Saturnalia.
Indeed, I feel more inclined to emulate the early joy of Hanukkah as described by The Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus in his book, Jewish Antiquities XII, where he tells how the victorious Judas Maccabeus ordered lavish yearly eight-day festivities after rededicating the Temple in Jerusalem that had been profaned by Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Josephus does not say the festival was called Hanukkah but rather the “Festival of Lights”:
“Now Judas celebrated the festival of the restoration of the sacrifices of the temple for eight days, and omitted no sort of pleasures thereon; but he feasted them upon very rich and splendid sacrifices; and he honored God, and delighted them by hymns and psalms. Nay, they were so very glad at the revival of their customs, when, after a long time of intermission, they unexpectedly had regained the freedom of their worship, that they made it a law for their posterity, that they should keep a festival, on account of the restoration of their temple worship, for eight days. And from that time to this we celebrate this festival, and call it Lights. I suppose the reason was because this liberty beyond our hopes appeared to us; and that thence was the name given to that festival. Judas also rebuilt the walls round about the city, and reared towers of great height against the incursions of enemies, and set guards therein. He also fortified the city Bethsura, that it might serve as a citadel against any distresses that might come from our enemies.”[http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=J.+AJ+12.287, Jewish Antiquities xii. 7, § 7, #323]
This is for everyone who saw the bible text above, thought “I know that one” but has never asked: what does that actually mean?
Let’s read on: “He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life”. 1 John 5:12
When I was a young churchgoer, that verse had me stumped. I knew that –
BUT, when a friend showed me that verse, I realised I had NO comprehension of what it meant, in real terms, to “have the Son“. It worried me a lot that not having the Son meant that I didn’t “have life”. Would I therefore NOT go to Heaven when I died?
On that same day my friend explained that I could meet and RECEIVE the Lord Jesus, and thus HAVE the Son instead of just knowing about him. That was news to me!
I had an external relationship with God, like the people of earth before Jesus died. I knew OF him but I didn’t KNOW him. He was WITH me, but not IN me.
On leaving his disciples, Jesus explained why he must go. It was in order to give them an even greater knowledge and experience of himself by the omnipresent Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Father and the Son.
There was a reason for that: By leaving them he was actually improving their relationship with him, providing a much more intimate and powerful experience of himself than before.
It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper [the Holy Spirit] will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.
And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, ***for He abides with you and will be in you***
Now you see that in my own life I was a bit like the disciples, knowing about Jesus but not being ONE with him. I knew about the Son but I did not HAVE the Son. I believed IN the Son but not ON the Son!
Somebody said, the difference is this: you might believe IN a train leaving your local station because you read the timetable, but until you go to the station, buy the ticket and commit to the journey you are not believing ON the train.
So I came to see that I needed to receive the Lord in Spirit, to move from the experience the disciples had on earth in the Gospels, to their experience in the book of Acts. ***for He abides WITH you and will be IN you***
When Jesus knew he was about to die and leave behind his disciples who depended on him, he did something strange. He took the cup of wine on the Passover table and said “Drink from it, all of you. This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” [Matt 26:27-28]
Of course every Jew knew that the blood of the ritual sacrifices purged them of sins, temporarily at least. However, they never DRANK that blood! It was an external cleansing only.
The blood was sprinkled, as in Exodus 24:8 So Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
But with both the wine and the bread used at the last supper, the Lord directed them to Drink, Eat!
The sacrifice of the NEW Covenant was not applied just to the outside but to the inside, to the heart, soul and spirit of man.
It was a sharing in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, a communion, a participation, a making-one in UNION with the Godly Sacrifice, so that it cleansed not just the outward appearance but the inward heart.
1 Cor 10:16
Is not the cup of blessing that we bless a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?
The disciples as they drank and ate were therefore knowingly participating IN the Son of God and WITH the Son of God. They were receiving the Son, being incorporated into him (IN-CORPorated means made into one body) and thus were also dying with the Lord and rising again to new life in him.
Earlier, Jesus had given the same message, but because his followers failed to understand it, many turned away on that day. Nonetheless we now see:
I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
Let me quote from another website:
The people came looking for another miracle of bread. But Jesus offered them the kind of bread they were not looking for.
Then he said, “And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh” (John 6:51).
This sounded like cannibalism. His listeners balked. He pressed it even further:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:53–55)
The “Jesus for King” campaign evaporated. The people walked away, shaking their heads. The crazy man wants us to eat his flesh! They completely misunderstood what Jesus was saying. [Source]
Jesus explained that: “the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world”. John 6:33 and “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”. John 6:35
I don’t want to get distracted into an argument about Holy Communion, so I will simply say that I’m not talking about real blood or real flesh here, and nor was Jesus at the Last Supper!
My point is this: unless we have entered into ‘communion’ with the Lord, that is, a sharing or participation with him in Spirit, then we do NOT “have eternal life”, for the life, as we see, is IN THE SON.
I do NOT mean attending a service of Holy Communion regularly!! I mean that we must receive the Lord in spirit as the disciples did at Pentecost, in order to HAVE the Son.
When we read the words “eternal life” in the bible, do we think of it in terms of heaven? Or of going to be with the Lord? Or surviving the death experience so as to be “ever with the Lord”? These things are true, but it’s not what is intended by the eternal life that we receive when we have the Son.
We read that “As the Father has life in himself; so has he given to the Son to have life in himself.” [John 5:26]
Clearly this does not just refer to human life, nor to life in Heaven because Jesus was on earth at the time. And, what does it mean that the Son can GIVE this life to those who believe in him?
Nicodemus [John 3:1-17] also did not understand. He said to Jesus, how is it possible to go back into your mother’s womb and be born again so as to have this spiritual life you speak of? For Jesus had told him that without being born again, being born a second time “in spirit”, a person could not see the Kingdom of God.
He said, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” [John 3:5-6]
So Jesus was offering to provide a NEW kind of life, a spirit-born life, which the bible calls “eternal life”.
There are actually three words for ‘life’ in the Greek New Testament. [See Here]
1. Bios, in Luke 8:14: “…anxieties and riches and pleasures of this life.” This Greek word refers to the life of the physical body and is where we get the word biology.
2. Psuche, in Matt. 16:25: “For whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it.” The Greek word here refers to the psychological life of the human soul, that is, the mind, emotion, and will. It is where we get the word psychology.
3. Zoe, in John 1:4: “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Here the Greek word refers to the uncreated, eternal life of God, the divine life uniquely possessed by God.
This word “life” in the bible is translated as ZOE.
The tree of life in the Garden of Eden signifies the divine, uncreated, incorruptible, indestructible, eternal life of God—the zoe life. And in the Garden, God gave this tree of life to Adam as food. This was before Adam fell and sin entered the picture.
Although Adam was sinless, he possessed only the human life; he did not have the life of God. God’s intention was not just for Adam to be sinless, but even more, for Adam, representing all mankind, to take in and share His eternal life. [Source]
So you see, although we are alive in a human sense, we are all DEAD because Adam robbed us of the ZOE life of God which is eternal, everlasting, powerful, healing, cleansing – and all things necessary to know and love God.
Then Jesus the Son of God, possessing this ZOE life within himself, called us to SHARE it (for he is the Tree of Life), to feed of him, partake of him, to be incorporated into him – in another similar metaphor – to become a branch that is part of the VINE of God. And dying, he enabled us to receive his ZOE life within ourselves just as he himself had life within himself.
The Vine and the Branches
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”
A vine is not separated into a trunk and individual branches. The vine IS the branches!
We are not joined into Christ like individual pieces stuck onto a stem, but we are PART of the living vine, we ARE the vine, just as we ARE the Body of Christ – living members.
Thus, Jesus is saying that by becoming part of himself and sharing the same sap, the lifegiving ZOE eternal life that is flowing constantly through him, we also have that same ‘sap’ flowing through ourselves – thus inevitably producing fruit.
Those who appear to be branches but in truth have no divine life in themselves, who HAVE NOT THE SON are dead branches, not genuinely part of the Vine. They do not bear fruit, but become lifeless and barren.
They may even appear to be good church-going, God-believing people who read the bible, but as Jesus warned:
“You pore over the Scriptures because you presume that by them you possess eternal life. These are the very words that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life.” [John 5:39-40]
Without the ZOE eternal life of God within us, we are dead while we still live! Death produces nothing but rotten fruit. Whereas the life of the Spirit of Jesus – when allowed to flow unhindered – produces good fruit in abundance, such as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control [Galatians 5:22-23]
This is a natural process, just as fruit WILL appear on a healthy branch of any fruit tree.
(Just how much energy, sweat and toil did that apple go through to appear on your tree? None! It appeared as a natural product of the sap flowing through the apple tree!)
So to anyone who is struggling, to anyone who doesn’t KNOW the Lord Jesus in truth, to anyone who desires to have the Son so as to have eternal life: Look up, believe, ask for the “promise of the father” [Acts 1:4-5] and RECEIVE him in fullness and in reality, because this is the promise of NEW LIFE and LIFE IN ABUNDANCE without which nobody can truly know victory and blessing.
Romans 8 Life Through the Spirit
Therefore, there is now **no condemnation** for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. …
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.
***And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ***. [read that one more time!!]
But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness.
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your MORTAL bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you….
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
[and] The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
We already know that one of the signs of the approaching ‘End of Days’ is the increase of all kinds of lawlessness. Have you wondered how that might come about, what is the cause? Also, why does it happen – what is God’s longterm plan in allowing sin to increase so drastically. Continue reading