Richard Ritenbaugh, focusing on Paul's declaration that he would become all things to all men, suggests that Paul had the capability of seeing the truths of the Bible from several different cultural paradigms, namely an honor-shame continuum and a power-fear continuum, familiar to Hebrew and Middle-Eastern cultures, and an innocence-guilt continuum, familiar to those of us in the Western world, influenced by an admixture of Judeo-Christian ethic, Roman law, and Greek philosophy. Without a working knowledge of all three cultural paradigms, we have major blind-spots in interpreting and understanding the scriptures, culturally insulated like a fish out of water. Those of us in the Western world, steeped in the guilt-innocent paradigm, have a keen focus on right and wrong and tend to be highly individualistic, abhorring group-think and collectivist behavior. The language of this paradigm includes justice, pardon, works, wrath, mercy, right actions, doing what is right as measured against an abstract law. Those at home with the honor and shame paradigm define right and wrong in terms of group relationships. Whatever behavior brings shame on the group is to be shunned, as exampled by the shame the older brother felt as a result of the actions of "the prodigal son." In this parable, Christ enlightens us about the paradox that suffering shame for the sake of righteousness is in honor. A profoundly ingrained "pecking order" characterizes a power-fear culture, which is by definition fiercely hierarchical, with a strong man at the top. Each person below must either cower or put himself under the power of a protector. The language of Ephesians 1:15-23, combat language describing Satan as the adversary and Christ putting everything under His feet, resonates with individuals living in a power-fear culture. As we read the Bible, we find that God employs a blend of all three cultural paradigms, encouraging us to free ourselves from the bondage of cultural myopia and ethnocentrism in order to get more out the scriptures.
Martin Collins, maintaining that there never has been , and never will be, another death like Jesus Christ's, reminds us that Our Omniscient God, who cannot sin, knew that we would sin and, therefore, pre-ordained a sacrifice that would satisfy all legal requirements, but would also motivate us to repent of sin and pursue righteousness, building character, living by faith, and exercising moral responsibility. The result? We grow into sharing the exact character of our Savior. The sacrifice of Jesus constitutes the death of an innocent, sinless, worthy victim for the entire human race. When Adam and Eve sinned, their overwhelming guilt and shame forced them to hide, dreading the consequences of their sin. God dealt with the transgression directly, covering their nakedness with the skins of animals—the first-time death literally appeared in Eden. These clothes of animal skins reminded them of the reality of death and symbolized how their redemption would ultimately come, namely through the sacrifice of an innocent victim at Golgotha, satisfying the wrath of God toward sin through propitiation and reconciliation, repairing the broken relationship between all of mankind and the Creator. While Passover is personal in nature, the sacrifice symbolized by the Day of Atonement is universal, pointing to God's reconciliation of the entire world, as Satan is punished by separation. Redemption refers to buying back something that was lost. The necessity for Christ's death stems from God's holiness and absolute intolerance of sin and His obligation to judge righteously. A substitutionary sacrifice is required to propitiate for God's wrath against the sins of mankind. His death brought to a climax a plethora of Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. Christ took on our poverty and lowliness so that we might become His co-heirs as God's children. Like Paul and Peter, we have been called for a pre-ordained purpose, and are obligated to follow His example, looking forward to His coming both as a Savior and a Judge.
Gary Garrett, focusing on the mystery of the marriage covenant in Ephesians 5:32 and Genesis 2:20-25, maintains that Adam and Eve originally had a most enviable relationship with the Creator, as well as access to the Tree of Life, if they had chosen it, but distanced themselves from their Creator by yielding to sin. In their original marriage relationship, they would have had access to agape, philia and erotic love simultaneously, but because they sinned, the agape variety of love became attenuated and ultimately dissolved, while the marriage covenant became more of a chore rather than a blessing. In a sense, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Holy of Holies, into the outside court reserved for the Gentiles. The distancing of the relationship with Almighty God continues to the present, but God has called out individuals to re-enter the Holy of Holies by eating the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Christ has modeled the sanctity of the marriage covenant by sacrificing Himself for His Bride. By partaking of God's Holy Spirit, we can have access to agape love in our relationships, restoring what Adam and Eve lost.
John Ritenbaugh, asserting that God is a Creator who enjoys work and places a high value on it, urges us, those created in God's image, to embrace the work ethic and to diligently inculcate it into our children. God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it. God the Father and Jesus Christ have been working continually (having never gone on a vacation) and desire that the energetic, conscientious, focused pursuit of working and creating become a part of our character and the character of our offspring. Training a child to be industrious helps him to be successful, which in turn promotes a stable family, community, and nation and will transfer eternally into God's Kingdom, netting vast rewards as taught by the Parable of the Talents. Neglecting to train our children to be diligent promotes chaos, disorder, and chronic instability. Our industriousness, and that of our children, should be directed outwardly for the good of others and not turned in selfishly on ourselves.
Gary Garrett, reflecting that Adam and Eve had a direct fellowship with God at the beginning of man’s history, asserts that fellowship and fellowshipping are important to God. After Adam and Eve’s removal from the Garden of Eden, the sacrificial system was the only way to maintain contact with God. Adam and Eve were progenitors of an Edenic culture that had a fellowship based on the presence of the Lord, whereas Cain established a culture in Nod, based purely on human reason independent of God. Both Cain and Abel brought offerings to the Lord, but only Abel followed the instructions outlined by God, which required an animal sacrifice, prefiguring Christ’s sacrifice. Cain’s sacrifice, a grain or cereal offering, was intended to symbolize love for brethren, which was demonstrated to be false by his intense jealousy and murder of Abel. Cain aligned himself with the wicked way of Satan and ignored God’s counsel for him to repent. If we lack love for our brethren who live in the presence of God, we are emulating Cain. It is God’s desire that we stay in the fellowship. Cain denied the importance of the Edenic fellowship, causing him to be separated from God, as well as his fellow men. Today the church is our Edenic fellowship; we must cling to each other as we continue our spiritual pilgrimage.
John Ritenbaugh, emphasizing that God continually uses perennial types, patterns, and examples, indicates that humankind, nature, and Satan (including his demonic legions) have been mortally impacted by sin, and that the entirety of nature awaits redemption through the appearance of God's offspring. Nature has become a slave of death and decay after the sin of Adam and Eve, whose offspring have been forced to share a prison cell with demonic forces, subject to a death penalty imposed as a consequence of sin. Neither Satan nor his demons cause us to sin; we chose to sin, and we die as the result of our own sins. We were created upright, but bring on judgments by ourselves; the judgments reveal we are still accountable. The same Creator God who placed judgment on Adam and Eve is still on His throne. Thankfully, as offspring of Adam and Eve, we reap the benefit of the curse placed on the serpent, but we must also endure hardship of pain and suffering in our sanctification process. We learn that as we sin, we impact all people; sin is never committed in a vacuum. Thankfully, God has given us gifts, skills, and abilities to enable us to accomplish our responsibilities. Ironically, the original sin revolved around food; all of the Holy Days focus on food, including the Day of Atonement where fasting automatically carries our minds to food. We live in our ancestors, in the sense that Levi paid tithes through Abraham while still in his loins.. We are all subject to the consequences of sin brought about by our first parents. The Edenic covenant was a radiant picture of joy and hope; we are all subject to the consequences of the failure of our parents to keep their part of the agreement. Like Adam and Eve, we are responsible for our part of the covenant. Everything, including ourselves, wears down by God's design, but those whom God has called out have been given a glimpse and hope of a glorious pain-free future.
John Ritenbaugh, cuing in on the words of the covenant which the Lord made with Israel, recorded in Deuteronomy 29, maintains that this covenant still applies to the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16) even though the vast majority of modern Israel have rejected this covenant and, consequently, can no longer claim to be God's "chosen people." We dare not go down the same path as our fellow Americans or our fellow descendants of Jacob have followed, remembering the absolute uniqueness of the Church (or Israel of God.) If we follow the dictates of our heart, as has physical Israel, we will not acquire peace, but will instead share in their curses. As long as we mirror God's characteristics, we are the Israel of God. We have been called to qualify to provide leadership under Jesus Christ, leadership which will be tested throughout a lifetime of testing and trial. We learn from our original parents that as soon as we sin, a stark change occurs throughout our nervous system, subjecting us to shame and fear. As part of God's judgment on Satan, a marvelous piece of workmanship who manifested himself in a heretofore beautiful creature, enmity was created between Adam and Eve's offspring and the serpent, a living organism forced to crawl on its belly rather than ambulate on its feet. Universal repulsiveness instantly replaced admiration. Sin turns all beauty into ugliness. Likewise, the creatures of nature expressed wariness of human beings, the same kind of wariness we should have for the fallen archangel, the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of this world. As Adam's offspring, we are forced to contend with a demonic presence in our worldview throughout our entire lives. Thankfully, the prophecy that Adam and Eve's offspring (Jesus Christ) will crush the head of the serpent advances the distinct likelihood that God intends to annihilate defective spirit beings permanently, including Satan and his entire demonic entourage, a prospect which fills them with terror and rage as the end of this age approaches.
John Ritenbaugh begins by reiterating the six principle points of the universal Edenic Covenant: (1) establishing God as Creator, (2) presenting awesome gifts (such as our planet earth and our lives, (3) presenting us with our task of taking care of the earth, (4) establishing the marriage relationships through our original parents, (5) establishing the definition of sin and warning of its ultimate results, and (6) sanctifying the seventh day as the Sabbath for special instruction from God. He then delves into the horrendous consequences of sin, through the literal and figurative application of the term "nakedness," implying loss of innocence as well as the condition of shame and guilt. All figurative references to uncovering nakedness connect to idolatrous adultery or impurity of sins and transgression, including that of Adam and Eve, who fell from a state of intimate contact with God to profound estrangement between themselves, their Creator and virtually all of creation. The mark of sin, impossible to conceal, acquired by Adam and Eve, is a mark also borne by all their progeny, generating guilt and fear part of our mental repertoire, making us fearful of being exposed for what we really are. It is impossible to escape God's scrutiny. All of the sufferings of the present time had their origin in the Garden of Eden when our parents, greatly gifted by God in that they had a personal relationship with the Creator, sinned, seemingly in secret. But, their sin did not take place in a vacuum, no more than our sins do. They radiate out as ripples on water or spores of yeast in the leavening process. All Eve did was to take a bite of food, but the world has never been the same since that event. No one gets away with sin; the consequences reverberate endlessly. All of us will eventually be compelled to give an account of our behavior to our Creator. We will be able to blame only ourselves for our sins. We will not be able to blame our genetic make-up or our environment or Satan for our mistakes.
David Grabbe, suggesting that the Spirit of Babylon actually predates the Babylonian civilization, and was actually the spirit the Serpent foisted upon Mother Eve, convincing her to assert her will over her Creator. The Spirit of Babylon is couched in brazen outlook of the goddess Inanna/Ishtar, the femme fatale who dared to assert her free will, building and destroying, crushing the influence of Eden, destroying the 'hated' Patriarchal system, turning males into females and females into males, as depicted in Inanna's devoted disciples, Madonna and Lady Gaga. The spirit of Inanna/ Ishtar/ the Queen of Heaven is very old, and has permeated the world's culture from the dawn of civilization. Our forebears, because they flirted with the spirit of Babylon, found themselves literally in captivity by the Babylonian system. We as God's called-out ones cannot afford to be mesmerized by this Babylonian desire for self-aggrandizement in defiance of God's sovereignty.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating the warning of the apostle Paul that evil company corrupts good habits, warns us that the desire to sin is highly contagious and is a deadly, communicable disease. Because the world we inhabit swims in sin, we have the obligation to become a thinking people, voluntarily choosing God's purpose for ourselves rather than Satan's shameless appeal to self-centeredness, as demonstrated with Satan's enticement of mother Eve. Like mother Eve, we also contend against spiritual principalities for which we need the whole armor of guard and to be guided by God's Holy Spirit to defeat our deadly, carnal nature. The best defense a newborn, minimally contaminated by Satanic nature, has against the influence of sin are parents who ardently love God and His commandments. Solomon had to learn that wisdom, in its purest human form, does not give us complete understanding into the ultimate purposes of God, but wisdom, accompanied with unconditional faith in God, will actually brighten an individual's countenance, as was seen in the example of Daniel and his friends; godly wisdom has the power to change a person's appearance and brings about personal transformation. In a difficult situation, especially when dealing with tyrannical human governments, trusting God is the ultimate wisdom.
Kim Myers, reminding us that we are in a lifelong battle with Satan every second of each day, cautions that all enticements to sin start in man's mind, beginning with attitudes. This battle commences at our baptism and does not cease until we are resurrected as Spirit being—or until we give up and yield to our carnal nature, marinated in Satan's foul attitudes. The process of being taken over by sin usually takes place over a lengthy period of time as we allow Satan's deceptive words to corrode our attitudes, permanently warping our character. Satan, in the first rebellion, took his time, probably persuading one angel at a time until he had a cadre of like-minds, poisoned with Satan's pride and discontent. As Satan corrupted other angels with words (all of the company of demons were at one time pure angelic beings), Satan also attempts to corrupt God's called-out ones with persuasive words. Satan corrupted our original parents with words; Satan may have fostered the final effect over a long period of time, but when doubt, lust, and pride were activated in Eve, her resistance became attenuated until it broke apart. As the Second Adam, our Elder Brother Jesus Christ, resisted the persuasive words of Satan with the words of Holy Scriptures, we must employ scripture in the same way, counteracting the lust of the flesh and the pride of life. As we approach the end times, we must continually guard against deception, especially since some of Satan's ministers are able to convincingly perform miracles. We are warned to cling to the faith once delivered, guarding against destructive heresies. We are in this work together, surrounded by both wheat and tares. Because Satan will attack us when and where we are the most vulnerable, we need to know God's words inside and out, being instant in prayer, continually "cracking the Book" for wisdom, counsel and godly insight, as well as to gain ammunition against the deadly spiritual forces around us, realizing the times will be much tougher as we approach the end of the age.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting that socialism has gained incremental control in the United States since the New Deal, in the decades following the Great Depression, states that it is now spiraling out of control during the current administration, and it is blight on our people, taking this nation into more horrendous debt than all previous administrations put together. Socialism, an economic system based on 'progressive' humanistic principles, is based on theft of God-given private property. God owns all property and has given it to His people as an inheritance, as He gave it to our original parents, provided that they tend and keep it. God parceled out land to the ancient Israelites, instituting laws for periodic redemption through the years of release and Jubilee. The Scripture contains examples of individuals stealing property and governments stealing property, as in the incident of Ahab stealing Naboth's vineyard. Today, the 'progressive' humanistic, anti-God Federal government, through eminent domain, regularly steals large parcels of land from ranchers in order to pay off debt to China, which our government has foolishly incurred through refusing to control spending. Socialism is enforced slavery to government, founded on no religious principle, but on the poisonous fruits of 'progressive' humanism. God has never endorsed collective socialism (massive theft of private resources as practiced by the likes of Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse Tung) as a legitimate economic system, nor has God allowed private ownership of land without the responsibility of tending and keeping it, as well as generously sharing the produce with others.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting that Satan's power of persuasion and deception has gone undetected throughout most of human history, largely because God has allowed Satan free access to those not yet called, and a hedge of protection around those whom He has called, cautions that the natural carnal human mind is already halfway on Satan's side, compliant with his mindset—enmity against God . It seems that the means of persuasion are currently tilted toward Satan's side. The deck is stacked against mankind, and in favor of our enemy. Nevertheless, we must work within the parameters with which God has set for us. The carnal mind can be easily manipulated to sin. Even though Adam and Eve had a relationship with God, the first time the serpent appeared, sin seemed inevitable. Through our parents, Adam and Eve, all of mankind sinned at the very first attack of the enemy. Satan's conquest was as easy as apple pie. As a little leaven leavens the whole lump, as Adam and Eve's children emulated their parents' example, sin spread throughout the entire human race. Throughout the past 200 years, Satan has raised up a series of charismatic leaders, secular "Nephilim" in education— philosophers or religious leaders. Satan will place their disciples into education, politics, economics, and religion. Those leaders will spearhead the anti-God , secular, humanistic philosophies of the "Nephilim," adapting those teachings to their field of expertise, spreading the leavening everywhere.
Richard Ritenbaugh, cuing in on Exodus 12:1-2, heralding the beginning of the sacred year in the springtime, when the foliage is sprouting and budding, points out that this season corresponds to one of the sacred appointed times of the year, the Days of Unleavened Bread. The Hebrew word used to mark these appointed times, regalim (or feet), connotes walking or a pilgrimage. The Hebrew year contained five paces, steps, or seasons, all corresponding to God's holy times. Patterns of five, grasped conveniently by the five digits of each hand, suggest grace or providence. Groupings of five arrange the seasons, the Torah (Pentateuch), the Megillot (Festival Scrolls), the Five Books of Psalms, and the summary Psalms. These recurring sets of five have common themes and patterns. The Song of Songs takes place in the springtime, awakening romance and love between the Shulamite and her Beloved, parallel to the romance between Christ and the Church. Genesis consists of a book of stories, accounts of the beginning of things, showing the consequences of wise and foolish choices. The Psalms in Book One of the Psalms deal with the Passover and the Days of Unleavened Bread, uttered by David, but lived by Jesus Christ. The themes consist of trust in God, suffering, facing opposition, and persecution, the Messianic themes of redemption, salvation, and kingship, leadership, and rulership, distinctions between the righteous and the wicked, two separate paths with two separate ends, tests and trials leading to hope, growth, and fruit. Psalm 1 is an instructional psalm, delineating two distinctive paths with positive consequences (derived from meditating the things of God) and paths with negative consequences (as a result of rejecting God and His instructions). Jesus Christ is the personification of all that instruction. When God calls us out the world, He transplants us next to His stream of living water, enabling us to bear spiritual fruit and attain eternal life.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the life of Ryan Leif, an athlete who had all the advantages, suggested that his stupidity ended up mitigating his advantages and achievements. As he started his rookie year, he fumbled and made many errors, destroying his reputation as a sterling quarterback. His subsequent life went downhill, as he succumbed to controlled substances, leading to burglary and other crimes. He sits in a jail cell in Montana, deemed a failure, down in the gutter. If we do not establish a relationship with God, we will also be failures. Thankfully, in the Great White Throne Judgment, these failures will be turned into successes if those God resurrects establish a relationship with God. Access to God is made possible only through His calling. Everyone alive has sinned; without God's Spirit, it is impossible to access God. The world will be in a debased state until the time of Christ's return, when God's Spirit will be generally available, poured out on all flesh. The Great White Throne judgment will feature a mass physical resurrection, beginning with the House of Israel followed by the rest of humanity. God will convert all of humanity from all time since the Garden of Eden. Psalms 105 and 106, considered teaching Psalms, set the ambience for this time period, expressing the yearning desire to be included in His Kingdom, and declaring God's praises to everyone, exhorting everyone to seek the Lord. We are encouraged to see God at our side through our spiritual wilderness journey, a parallel to the wandering of our forebears on the Sinai. Those in the Great White Throne Judgment will undergo the same process, but will not have Satan and a corrupt world to contend with. They will have to contend with carnal nature. Priests and Levites will be reprogrammed to do their jobs right, distinguishing between the sacred and the profane. God has always been faithful with His part of the Covenant; sometimes our forebears totally forgot His faithful providence. Psalm 106 indicates that Israel's sins eroded th
David Grabbe, reminding us that the majority of nominal Christianity has bought into Satan's lie to Eve that she would not die, perpetuating this systematized delusion through the doctrines of the immortal soul, with its eventual departure to Heaven, an ever-burning hell, purgatory, or limbo. Man does not have a soul; he is a soul, subject to permanent oblivion unless rescued by Jesus Christ. The wages of sin is death, not life in ever-burning hell, or a stroll through the Pearly Gates. For those who have submitted their lives to God, turning their lives around in repentance, and sealed with God's Holy Spirit, there is no fear of the Second Death. They will be resurrected when Christ returns. Death has both a physical application (which all of us will experience) and a spiritual application (meted out on those who absolutely will not yield to Almighty God under any circumstances, having committed the unpardonable sin, any sin harbored in perpetuity and not repented of). With Adam and Eve's sin, the union between God and man was severed. Through Jesus Christ, the second Adam, access to the God the Father has been restored, and Eternal Life has been granted as a precious gift to those who submit and yield to God, having their characters shaped and molded into His image.
John Ritenbaugh, reiterating that the entire world is under the sway of Satan the devil (I John 5:19, Revelation 12:9, Ephesians 2:1-3), warns us to analyze and evaluate everything that enters our minds from the contaminated, mendacious media sources, media sources primarily promoting a leftist, secular humanist agenda, bent on pumping a deluge of lies into our helpless nervous systems, impacting our belief system, throwing us into a state of utter confusion. Recently, the impact of worldwide media has painted the rocket-firing Hamas as helpless victims and the Israeli's as Nazi exterminators. Ironically, both the Arabs and Jews are Semite peoples, but the collective leftist media wants to foment anti-Semitism in Western Israelitish nations. Satan hates God's chosen people and will do everything he can to destroy both Israel and the Israel of God. In a hateful world, thoroughly dominated with Satan's mindset, where the United Nations (in a vote of 33 to 1) condemned Zionism as equivalent to Nazism, God's called ones have a responsibility to analyze and evaluate everything through the sieve of God's Holy Scriptures, which the world we currently live in abhors with vehemence. We accept most of our opinions, prejudices, and beliefs unconsciously just as we acquire our dialects; we must scrutinize our own beliefs through the standards and principles of God's Holy Scriptures, making sure they are not contaminated and marinated with Satan's diabolical deception. God's people will be known for their fear of lying motivated by their fear of God.
Richard Ritenbaugh, referring to himself as an armchair conservationist, maintains that conservationists and environmentalists do not have the same goals or objectives. Conservationists want to manage the environment for people; environmentalists want to maintain the environment at the expense of people, looking at humans as the "enemy" of the earth. We have been commissioned by Almighty God to tend and keep the environment. Mankind has severely damaged the earth through industrial pollution, wrong methods of agriculture, genetic modification, and poisonous chemicals. Tending our garden is fraught with complications and difficulties. The Dust Bowl of the 1930's was caused by irresponsible farming methods, tearing up virgin prairie soil, formerly verdant with buffalo grass covering the High Plains. This mismanagement caused much of the topsoil to blow across the nation into the Atlantic Ocean. Farmers had to be retrained to think of their land as part of a greater whole, requiring rotation, land Sabbaths, and natural symbiosis of nature's components. God does things in a sequential order, establishing a hierarchy of order in the family, the church, the entirety of nature, as well as the entire universe. Men and women (converted husbands and wives) are in this symbiotic process together as parts of an interdependent single entity working toward the same goals. If we make the same mistakes as our original parents, trusting our own senses, blaming others, and glomming onto Satan's deception, we will reap similar consequences. Adam sinned willfully, having abdicated his leadership position. Sin is failure to do what God has commanded us. Because of this sin, posterity has been cursed with overwhelming toil just to stay ahead, paradoxically for our ultimate benefit. We are perfected in trials, suffering, privations, hardship, and hard work, all of which we can consider a blessing and gift from God.
Richard Ritenbaugh, describing the development of the Feminist movement from its beginning in England, France, and later in the United States, suggests that the strident demands for abortion and in-your-face demands for 'equality' have led to high degree of social chaos. Some of the grievances feminists have expressed were legitimate, but the support of mass murder (abortion) as a "woman's right over her body" has side-tracked and obscured the legitimate concerns. Spiritually, male and female have equal potential and should have equal rights under the Law. But rights and legalities are far less important than spiritual development, subject to God-ordained gender roles. Together, men and women are made in the image of God; God was the template for all humanity, producing clay models which would serve as prototypes for permanent, spiritual beings. God gave humankind His attributes and abilities, having dominion over the earth, but not over other people. God made humanity in two flavors, but they are both in His image, dividing His traits equally between them. Men and women mutually excel each other in their God-ordained roles. Each gender complements the other as one flesh —one whole unit unified by marriage, an institution hated by radical feminists and homosexuals alike. Marriage is a God-plane relationship, prefiguring God's family (a reproducing of the God-kind), made possible by being fruitful and multiplying—the ultimate human good. Adam and Eve's sin complicated, but did not stop, God's ultimate plan for mankind. Sin destroyed our first parents' innocence, making them susceptible to shame and guilt, separating themselves from each other, fracturing (but not destroying) the one-flesh principle, sowing the seeds for a perennial battle of the sexes, bringing about drudgery and hard labor for both women and men. If women put down their desire to control their spouses and men really love their spouses, it will begin to reverse the consequences of the judgment oracles (stated in Genesis 3:16-
Richard Ritenbaugh suggests that reading holds a child's attention because of the gripping stories with riveting plots. Some educators maintain that morals are shaped more by stories than by any other factor. Stories enable them to grasp the essential moral, filing it away in the mental storage cabinet, accessible for the rest of their lives. Stories ignite the imaginations of children, allowing them to think about people, places, and situations they have never experienced before, learning the rudiments of how to handle themselves. Good stories should contain positive moral lessons. The story children learn the best is the one we parents act out in our daily lives. God uses many stories in His written Word, teaching us deep spiritual lessons. Jesus Christ taught using parables, stoking the minds of the listener with sharp and vivid images. The temptation of Adam and Eve by Satan and their subsequent transgression led to three prophecies or judgments, a kind of protevangelium or "first gospel," a glimpse of God's plan to remedy this grim situation. The conflict ends with the protagonist, Christ (the Seed of the woman), destroying the antagonist, Satan. The redemption of man involves a new nature, given through God's grace and totally at enmity with Satan's nature. The process of redemption will involve the gathering of a small elect group in perpetual conflict with the seed of the serpent. Here is the true beginning of the gospel.
Richard Ritenbaugh describes the function, placement, and characteristics of the 206 bones in the adult human body. Bones have excellent elasticity, good compressive strength, but poor tensile strength. God made bones to perform multiple purposes such as to provide structure for our bodies, protect our vital organs, store our bodies' minerals, regulate the levels of metals, and buffer the blood pH levels. One primary function is the production of red and yellow marrow, which contains three types of stem cells, making blood, bone, fat, and blood vessels. Because of their pluri-potent capabilities, these stem cells may have been the key explaining how a suitable mate could be built for Adam. As God carefully selected a companion for Adam, He will also carefully provide a mate for those who prepare themselves to be suitable companions. God used a deep sleep to perform a surgical procedure by taking Adam's rib to make Eve. Dr. Elton Stubblefield suggests that the rib contains all the necessary components (DNA and stem cells) to replicate an entire human being. Although authority over the family unit was given to the husband, man and woman were created to be complementary and supplementary to one another. Adam evidently was overwhelmed with gratitude when God presented Eve to him, realizing that God had successfully "hit the mark." The intimate relationship we share with our spouse symbolizes the kind of relationship Christ's bride should have with Him. Though men and women have delightful differences, they have more commonalities than differences, and are designed to cleave to one another and become perfectly compatible.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on Jeffrey Archer's book, Paths of Glory, about the life of George Mallory and his life-long passion for climbing mountains, draws some conclusions about the suitability of companions in accomplishing complex tasks. Evidence shows the possibility that Mallory was first to climb to the top of Mount Everest back in 1924, but perished on the way down. His body was discovered 75 years later. Mallory had the ability to envision a route in advance and then successfully execute the climb. Mallory recognized former rival George Finch as a suitable companion to climb Mount Everest. God's selection of Eve as a companion to Adam took into account the necessity of a helper as a counterpart—one like himself, but standing opposite as complementary and compatible. God intended a woman to not only complement a man, but also to supplement him. A prudent spouse is a special blessing from the Lord, more valuable than gemstones. The term "helper" does not connote inferiority, but rather supplying strength where it is lacking, such as God helping us. God made Adam's task of naming the animals easier by having him name only the genus rather than the species and the families, a task which would have taken just one day. This inductive task made Adam realize that none of the animals he named had the complex characteristics of a human being. As Eve was custom-made for Adam, Christ's Bride is being custom-made for Him.
Richard Ritenbaugh, focusing on mankind's most fearful enemy, death—the cessation of all life processes, examines various definitions of death. Senescence, disease, malnutrition, accidents, suicide, and murder are all contributory causes of death. The Bible defines or describes death as the cessation of respiration. The context of the "day" you eat of it, you shall die, suggests a span of time one lives, or it could refer to the judgment of death (pronouncement of the death sentence) which happens immediately as one commits the act. The death penalty over our forebears on Sinai took place over many years. In Genesis 2, we learn that God created all forms of life and created the institution of marriage. This chapter describes God's role in establishing the covenant with man, revealing Himself to mankind, that He is a God of law, order, love, providence, thoughtfulness, relationships, growth, and creativity. These attributes are apparent even if one does not have access to His Holy Spirit. The statement, "it is not good for man to be alone" is the first declaration that something was not good. Being alone denotes separateness. Man was created individually, but designed to need companionship or relationship with other people. When we have companionship with others, we are able to develop other-centeredness or the way of outgoing concern, looking out for the needs of others, developing the mind of Christ. Man has been designed by God to be a social creature, intended to interact with other people. We are designed to need God the Father just as Christ needed God the Father. Furthermore, we were born to procreate, with the ultimate end of reproducing the God-kind.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on his high school English class, where he learned the parts of speech, diagramming, and other aspects of grammar, warns that the imperfect conjugation of Hebrew grammar provides special problems. The imperfect conjugation focuses not so much on time of action, but aspect (or kind) such as modal or volitional aspects, involving choice or will, especially concerned with actions commanded or forbidden—as is seen in the particle "lo" + verb meaning "not." The lo + verb construction implies "Don't EVER do that." The command to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is universal, applying to each and every one of us. God intended Adam and Eve to work in an ideal environment, a condition of perpetual nuach rest, tending and keeping the garden, making it increasingly better. Our perverse human nature wants to rebel against the thing we have been warned to avoid. We look for loopholes and justifications. The mind of Adam, originally innocent, pure and undefiled, did not originally have this proclivity until the serpent had planted doubts. Even today, Protestant theologians and scholars cannot conceive of God's laws as liberating, but as stultifying and confining. God's law serves as a protective fence, enabling us to use the entire venue within the boundaries to freely roam without fear or harm. Knowing good (and its attending fruits) will enable us to shun evil. The command in Genesis 2:16-17 still applies to us as a timeless mandate. Are we following the example of the First or Second Adam? We are admonished to pursue life-sustaining wisdom (of all aspects of life), keeping us from sampling bitter evil fruit leading to death. We dare not mix the fruits of good and evil and reap the bitter consequences. God would have given us the "knowledge" of evil without experiencing the consequences of evil.
Richard Ritenbaugh, continuing his series on imagining in the Garden of Eden, reminds us that gardens provide enclaves of rest. God placed Adam and Eve in a garden to provide them food and shelter, as well as work and pleasure. Aesthetic delights are suggested by Song of Songs, in which the Shulamite is likened to a garden of delight and the venue of the courtship between the Shulamite and the Beloved consists of a merger of gardens. Similarly, Christ and His Church will be sharing their wedded bliss in a garden. Jesus Christ earlier had used the Garden of Gethsemane as a venue of teaching and edification. The Beloved's garden shelters sheep, anticipating Christ as the Good Shepherd. The Shulamite calls for the wind (symbolic of God's Holy Spirit) to blow upon her garden, enabling her to produce sweet fruit to please her lover. The Shulamite has not only been called, but she has been set apart to develop holy, righteous character. The Garden of Eden, God's garden, was the perfect place for mankind to get its start, a place where Adam and Eve could become acquainted with God, a place they could have developed godly character, providing a home for the God family. The Garden of Eden symbolizes God's rest. The nuach rest is only possible in the presence of God. The Second Adam had this nuach rest as an inherent part of His Nature, having God's Holy Spirit without measure. Jesus responded to this power by obedience, unlike our original parents. Through the New Covenant, when God's Law will be placed in our hearts, and we respond to it, we will attain this nuach rest, a state which we partially experience in properly observing God's Sabbath. We have to respond to this current obligation to tend and keep, or laboring in service, in order to attain the full measure of this Godly nuach rest later. Tending and guarding, or feeding and tending, in the physical dimension anticipates love and leadership in the spiritual dimension.
Richard Ritenbaugh, focusing on the subject of agricultural cultivation, including tilling land, sowing seeds, and cultivating crops, indicated that God had created everything good. Genetically modified seeds as produced by Monsanto seem to place mankind into the position of usurping God's prerogatives. Improving upon God's creation (something very good) seems to be absolutely presumptuous. Secular historians, unwisely influenced by the theory of evolution, have given fuzzy and unreliable explanations for the origins of agriculture, believing that farming had simultaneous origins around the globe. The only authorized origin of agriculture appears in Genesis 2:15-19, when the Lord God instructs Adam to dress and keep the Garden of Eden, having provided an example of how it was to be done. God's intent from the very beginning was that mankind should dwell in a state of repose for all time (a kind of rest while creating) and permanent state of security, only possible in God's presence. Both Shabbat rest (ceasing from activity) and nuach rest (pleasantly creating) are necessary for the proper keeping of the Sabbath. Both nuach and Shabbat denote a state of permanent stability, securely settled in peace, blessing and delight—- true bliss. God promises to live His life among us, recreating the ambience and conditions of the Garden of Eden. The Sabbath Day depicts a time God wants us to dwell with Him forever in Paradise, experiencing both nuach (active and creative) and Shabbat (passive, quiet, and tranquil) rest. We need to take the peace of God with us during the other six days. We are God's workmanship, designed to tend and keep His Creation. We are commanded to abide in Our Creator in order to bear fruit and attain His rest.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting that we have been blessed by rivers and streams in North America, reminds us that ancient Israel was a land of few rivers, and those rivers would often become wadis or secos in the dry season. Consequently, the inhabitants of this land are totally dependent upon God Almighty for rainfall. We learn in Psalm 1 that this rain is causally connected with obedience and in Jeremiah 17:5 that aridity is connected with disobedience. Rivers have often designated borders of nations, even though Israel's borders were never totally realized in the past, and may have to wait until the Millennium for the fulfillment of this ancient promise. The passing of authority from Elijah to Elisha was signaled by a river as a boundary. Daniel's vision and prophecy occurred on the side of a great river. God's proclamation of His son occurred by the River Jordan. Returning to imaging in the Garden of Eden, we are advised that God creates trees for both beauty and functionality (or providence). God provides our aesthetic and functional needs. Interestingly, both the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good of Evil appealed to the aesthetic part of human nature. The fact that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden made eating it sin. The sin changed the perspective of Eve. The rivers identified in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:8-14) were given in the context of pre-flood geography, making the use of modern topographical maps irrelevant. Pishon means full flowing; Gihon means bursting forth; Tigris means darting and swift; Euphrates means sweet. All of these names symbolize aspects of God's Holy Spirit. In the Millennial Temple ( Ezekiel 47:1, Psalms 46:4, Revelation 22:1-2), a river again will again flow eastward healing the waters through which it flows, making the waters and banks fertile and full of life.
Richard Ritenbaugh maintains that God created the Garden of Eden after He had created Adam in order to provide Adam a pattern of industry and work ethic. Adam would have had the ability to reason and calculate, obviously an ability independent from the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God imparted to Adam the spirit in man and a brilliant intellect. The tree of the knowledge of evil added only the knowledge of sin and its consequences, leading to a loss of innocence and the new sensations of shame and fear, the consequences of a carnal mind. Eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil opened the minds of our first parents to evil, the experiential knowledge that comes from sin. All of Adam and Eve's descendents have access to this knowledge of being cut off from God. Without being moored to God, we are left with designing our own systems of morality. The Garden of Eden was on the east side of Eden (a pre-flood piece of geography). Because the landscape of the earth had drastically changed during the flood, speculations about pre-flood geography are largely unreliable. However, the location of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, coupled with the location of Jesus Christ's sacrifice, give us a possible location for God's dwelling on the earth. God dwells in the midst of the people of Israel in the Promised Land (where the Temple Mount is located) in the land allocated to Benjamin at Mount Zion near Gihon Spring, the source of the Pool of Siloam.
Richard Ritenbaugh, citing Cicero's dictum, "If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need," indicates that those two items provided contentment for the Roman leader. Indeed a garden can be a source of peace and calm, giving us a kind of therapy, providing us relaxation from the hectic pace of life. A garden or park, like the Garden of Eden, carries the connotation of paradise or enclave of peace. In the imagery of the Song of Solomon 4:12-15, Christ depicts the church as a peaceful, but stimulating garden—a kind of future Garden of Eden, where the tree of life will grow again surrounded by crystalline rivers and fountains, depicting God's rest. The Garden of Eden was a clear type of the Paradise for which we are preparing. Adam's entrance in Genesis 2:7 was accompanied with much shock and turbulence, certainly not an easy initiation process. The pathway to eternal life is a perpetual struggle. Moses wanted us to understand that Adam had more than animal life, that he was self- aware, sentient, with the capability of intelligence, capable of forming a relationship with God. Man was given dominion over the animal kingdom. Having received the spirit of man, mankind has a spiritual component to communicate with God, and eventually morph into a spiritual being having eternal life. The Garden of Eden was probably prepared or planted after Adam was created. Adam could have seen God at work, providing him an example of diligence and taking pleasure in work and all forms of creativity. We also need to emulate our Heavenly Father in His passion and love for work. Eternal life will not happen without work.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting that 6,000 years of accumulated knowledge cannot provide us a definition of life, suggests that the atheism of philosophers and scientists, with their ardent belief in evolution, is highly transparent. Biologists, expostulating a descriptive definition, define life as a trait of organisms having organization, metabolizing food, regulating themselves to remain in a steady state, grow, adapt, and reproduce. One writer described life as a self-sustained system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution. The scriptures reveal that the hands-on Creator was Jesus Christ (John 1:1-4). God the Father and Christ are the only beings capable of transmitting life. Life came from a Spirit being, God the Father and Jesus Christ, both of whom have lived from eternity. Whatever life is, it derives from a non-material, non-physical, imparted life-force having a spiritual source. God creates and sustains life, as well as terminates life. God breathed into dust the breath of life (Genesis 2:7) intricately fashioning and shaping a human being. The Psalmist David, who meditated extensively on this creative process, was awestruck with the complexity of his own human anatomy, clearly seeing God's handiwork. Man is earthy, composed of the earthly elements, derived from nature, made of dust (generally of inferior quality—a symbol of humility, humiliation, frustration, and death). Dust connotes humble beginnings, mortality, brevity, and temporariness. Apparently, death was part of the design, enabling us to qualify for immortal life or to expire without continuous misery and frustration. Adam's creation and our spiritual creation were accomplished through force and struggle. In our spiritual creation, we are forced to struggle against our deceptive and deadly human nature, calling forth the use of self-discipline and sophisticated spiritual weapons.
Richard Ritenbaugh, continuing on the topic of the creative imagination, reminds us that this capacity begins at age two, and allows children (of all ages) to transcend their current surroundings, enabling them to put themselves into other situations beyond normal reality. Dr. Jerome Singer suggests that children who use their creative minds actually become more empathetic to other human beings. Imagination enables us to become more inventive, solving complex problems. Imagination enables us to practice anticipating scenarios, smoothing out potential difficulties. The best use of imagination would be to assimilate events, principles, lessons, and doctrine from scripture, transforming us into the image and character of God. Nevertheless, we need to discipline our imagination to keep it within the constraints of God's truth. In the first chapters of Genesis, we see a progression from a cosmic universal heavenly power to a personal and intimate Being, near to His people when they were obedient. There has always been a correlation between God's nearness and obedience. At Jesus Christ's last Passover as a human being, He promised that a Comforter that would live right within us, as near a relationship as is possible to attain, a relationship that would last forever. The intimacy that He offered to Adam and Eve on the sixth day of creation (a time of dazzling pristine beauty) He also offers to us as the Israel of God, carving out Eretz Israel as our future home, restored to its virgin condition, a time before the rains or the meteorological cycles had begun before God's meticulous sculpting of mankind. God painstakingly made a self-portrait of Himself in the medium of clay.
Richard Ritenbaugh suggests that words can trigger a picture in our minds or excite our imagination. The imagination enables mankind to envision both beneficial and harmful purposes. Imagination is a gift from God. Only man has this capability, enabling him to create art, philosophy, or science, taking elementary concepts and developing increasingly more complex ideas. David meditated on God's law continually, mentally applying its multiple uses, imagining ways in which it could be applied in various situations. Meditation involves using the imagination, enabling planning, thinking through, and designing. Imagination is a neutral ability which can be used positively or negatively. In the book of Genesis, the law of first mention magnifies words such as work, blood, sacrifice, Satan's methods, Messiah, and the history of the heavens and the earth. Although secular critical scholars advance a documentary hypothesis, claiming that Genesis 2 contains a competing account of creation (a Yawist competing with an Eloist), there is neither internal nor external evidence that anyone aside from Moses wrote both accounts. The documentary hypothesis is full of holes; Jesus Christ quoted from both Genesis 1 and 2 in the same context, not in isolation. The two accounts are not contradictory, but complementary, magnifying and intensifying previous understanding. The doubling and quadrupling of accounts throughout the Bible were intended by Almighty God as a pedagogical device to fill in details and to reinforce a previous understanding, making it more recognizable. When Moses describes Elohim and Yahweh in chapters 1 and 2, he presents a composite picture of the Lord God, moving from the macro to micro view, from universal to intimate and personal.
What does Scripture say about free-moral agency? Do we have it, or are we human puppets on a string, dancing to the tune of someone else's will? ...
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting on Jesus Christ's prayer for unity in John 17, insists that unity with our brethren is impossible without unity with God first. Adam and Eve severed this unity by yielding to Satan's influence, stimulating their minds with a novel diversion. Sin automatically separates us from God. The key to overcoming rests exclusively in our relationship with God. We are placed in the Body of Christ at His discretion, and are obligated to subject ourselves to His workmanship, keeping Him continually in our thoughts, night and day. We do not produce any fruit unless we are attached to the vine. As members of Christ's body, we must function for the good of the whole body, not competing with other organs or limbs. We must continually see God and function as a son of God. As with our Elder Brother, if we do those things that please our Heavenly Father, He will be there for us. Not responding to God and treating our brethren shabbily, brings harsh judgment upon us. Unity in the Body is brought about by yielding to and using the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, enabling us to love our brother as God has loved us. The more we have in common, the greater will be unity and peace.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the Garden of Eden, the Tabernacle, the Temple, the Temple Mount, and Mount Moriah were all names of God's house on this earth. In the Holy of Holies, within the Ark of the Covenant, Aaron's almond rod that budded symbolizes God's power over the tribes and salvation by grace through the sacrifice of Christ. The golden lamp stand, a seven bowled menorah, symbolized an almond tree in full bloom. Jesus crucifixion took place outside the camp of Israel, just outside the border of the Garden of Eden, the general area where the Miphkad Altar stood, where He was evidently nailed to a cross piece on a living tree, a tree of light. Perhaps the Tree of Life located in the middle of the Garden of Eden was an almond tree. The golden pot containing manna in the ark symbolized Jesus as the Bread of Life. The tablets of stone are found right under the mercy seat of the ark, representing the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, perhaps symbolized by a fig tree, forming the basis from what we are judged. The law of God should be a perpetual source of delight for us. The testimony represents the entire Holy of Holies. The Miphkad Altar located outside of Jerusalem's east gate in the region of the Mount of Olives where Jesus had begun His triumphal march into Jerusalem and where he was arrested (in direct line of sight from the eastern side of the Temple), a place of public execution, where the red heifer was sacrificed, where Abraham intended to sacrifice Isaac, was the most probable location of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that the real cradle of civilization is not Mesopotamia, but Jerusalem, a venue where God started His physical creation and where He will bring it to spiritual fruition. The world's corrupt civilization did begin in Mesopotamia, between the rivers, but God called Abraham and his descendents out of this corruption back to the region of the promised land - probably within the geographical region of the Garden of Eden, the location of Abraham's abortive sacrifice of Isaac (renamed Yahweh Yirah) Mount Moriah - the site of Solomon's Temple, the Lord's Mount, and the most probable site of the Garden of Eden) in the current Jerusalem area - the Temple Mount, Mount Zion, and the Mount of Olives. Both Moses in his instructions for building of the tabernacle and David in his instructions for building the temple were obligated to follow the pattern that God explicitly gave them. Like the temple and tabernacle, the Garden of Eden was probably an enclosed place with a single entrance on the east side, all replicas of heavenly originals, designed specifically to give us understanding and faith. The sacrifice of the red heifer on the Miphkad Altar displayed many differences from the sacrifices on the Brazen Altar. The midst of the Garden of Eden and the Holy of Holies (typifying God's throne room in Heaven - surrounded by Cherubim) were evidently in the same location. When Cain sinned, God admonished him to provide a sacrifice on what would be the location of the Miphad Altar.
John Ritenbaugh, reflecting upon geography and place names of the Bible, asserts that God has often allowed different groups of people to use different names for the same geographical location (i.e. Mount Hermon and Mount Zion describe the same location). A major perennial theme throughout the Bible involves copies, shadows, symbols, and patterns, with the original pattern residing in the heavens and the copies made on the earth. The objects in the tabernacle derive their original form and pattern from God's pattern in Heaven. In the same respect, God is the original and we are copies. The river flowing eastward out of Eden (God's personal residence on this earth) and the river flowing from God's throne (Revelation 22:1) are both symbolic of God's Holy Spirit. Cain, the real progenitor of Babylon, wandered eastward, systematically away from God. Conversely, Abraham's descendents migrated west and northwest, eventually occupying the western-most countries. Jerusalem (the location of Mount Zion as well as the Gihon Water Course and underground spring - a virtual never-ending aquifer of water) occupying the centermost position among the nations becomes the likely location of the Garden of Eden and the likely location for the Heavenly Jerusalem. Mesopotamia is ruled out as the locale of the Garden of Eden.
With all the military metaphors in the Bible, there can be no doubt that God likens the Christian life to a fight, a war, against the evils and temptations we face daily. In this light, John Ritenbaugh begins to examine Hebrews 11, the Faith Chapter, showing that the patterns revealed in it provide deep instruction for us in our Christian fight.
When Satan confronted humanity's first parents, Adam and Eve, he fed them three heresies that he continues to promote to deceive the world today. David Grabbe expounds on these three lies, revealing how Gnosticism incorporated them into its parasitic philosophy and way of life.
Beginning with Acts 3:21, John Ritenbaugh speaks of a future time of refreshing and restitution after things get a whole lot worse, a time when the Beast would attempt to wear out the saints. The Day of Atonement pictures Satan being confined. God has a plan to recreate Himself, bringing mankind into at-one-ness with Him. Peter preached to the called out ones to repent and yield to God through His Holy Spirit. We need to be in awe of the cost of Christ's sacrifice for us, demonstrating reciprocity as we wholeheartedly yield to God. Mankind has separated itself from God, having followed the example of our parents, Adam and Eve. God's solution to mankind's separation was sending a second Adam, Jesus Christ to make reconciliation and justification possible. Believing Christ and His message has the effect of making a repentant person at one with God. Through sanctification, a person in Christ becomes a new creation. Fasting not only emphasizes that we can resist a powerful bodily drive, but shows us plainly our dependence upon God.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that when human beings are born, they are a blank slate with a slight inclination toward self-centeredness. But after living in this world, we become incrementally influenced by both evil spiritual influences and worldly influences. The Apostle Paul describes the gravity of these contrary pulls in Romans 7. Our carnal nature—-the sensual fleshly pulls—unfortunately will pursue us right to our very grave. God commands us to come out of Babylon, giving us spiritual tools and resources to do so, including faith, vision, hope, and love. The media through which these will be supplied are the relationships we have with the Father and the Son. Co-existence with sin is absolutely out of question in the life of a Christian; there is no middle ground. In regard to fornication with the world, God says, "save yourself for our marriage." Sin has an addictive quality incrementally hardening our hearts. Knowing God is the key to eternal life. As communication with God increases, communication with the world must decrease. We, like the Apostle Paul, must follow God's directions and do exactly what we are told, submitting and yielding totally to His will. The only thing that Babylon can communicate to us is sin; we must meticulously extricate ourselves from the world, and continue in the process of communicating with God until we are totally conformed to His image. Everything depends upon who we communicate with through prayer, Bible Study, and meditation.
Members of God's church usually come home from the Feast of Tabernacles with renewed spiritual vigor. Yet, we are painfully aware that some fall away each year. John Ritenbaugh shows that we must actively seek God and His righteousness to ensure that we will be around to enjoy next year's Feast.
John Ritenbaugh uses an impelling example of some Ukrainian Jews who applied foresight and sacrifice to escape from the impending onslaught of the Nazis, saving themselves from certain destruction. The sermon then focuses upon the dangers of sloth and procrastination, coupled with the effects of the second law of thermodynamics (the tendency of all physical matter to break down). If we as Christians fail to dress and keep, cultivating, embellishing, and improving what has been entrusted to us (including our bodies and health), we are equivalent to a destroyer. Fighting the forces of decay - a continuous struggle of overcoming planned for us by almighty God - requires constant, life-long work and vigilance. We should never delude ourselves that we are "innocent victims" of our own sins or destructive habits. We have a sobering responsibility to analyze our health needs, continually adjusting and changing as we learn, faithfully maintaining the temple of God's Spirit.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon the big lie ('you will not surely die'—Genesis 3:4) of inherent immortal life (an immortal soul). This dangerous false belief, held by the majority of Christian-professing denominations, has led to an acceleration of sin and the danger of eternal oblivion. Sin kills, and we are not immortal. Contrary to Socrates and Plato's misconceptions about inherent immortality, only God can give eternal life, and it has specific conditions (overcoming sin and growing spiritually). Death is not a friend or a liberator, but as Jesus understood at the time of his crucifixion, a bitter enemy, a tool of Satan, and a cruel instrument of separation. Only through God's divine act of resurrection can we hope to attain eternal life. We desperately need to do a thorough self-examination, properly discerning Christ's sacrifice, and strive mightily to overcome sin, the destroyer of life.
John Ritenbaugh maintains that the best matrix for salvation (or to come out of Babylon) is to diligently seek God, a connection lost in the Garden of Eden. Christians must rigorously practice their faith, having their senses trained, growing from immaturity to maturity. Sanctifying implies growing into perfection. We cannot seek God by standing still, but must continually pray, study, meditate, and fast, growing daily in grace and knowledge. Our biggest danger at this time is to be lured into spiritual drunkenness by the pagan Babylonian system. Our God is not what we say we worship but whom we serve. We dare not be at ease in Zion, settling on our lees- tolerant of sin and blind to our spiritual state- practical atheism or prudent agnosticism. God teaches us that the uncleanness from this world can be transferred from one person to another, but holiness cannot be transferred from one person to another.
The Bible uses agriculture to provide many lessons for us. Are we learning them—or are we repeating history as Israel did?
In this sermon, Charles Whitaker focuses on the marvelous opportunities for young people in God's church who find themselves on the threshold of God's Millennium, a time population growth will take place in abundant prosperity brought about by creative God-inspired technology, refashioning and terraforming the entire eco-system. In this Edenic setting, the family of God and the family of man will be collaborating on preparing the world for billions of additional human beings in the Great White Throne Period. Abundance, growth, and an expanding population of animals and people will characterize the New Eden, constructed out of the tohu and bohu or wreckage of the previous era. Young people need to prepare themselves now, envisioning themselves as architects, civil engineers, transportation engineers, explorers, teachers, replacing today's inefficient and misdirected technologies with God's perfect and efficient technology.
By this point, it should be clear that God is sovereign in everything! In this installment, John Ritenbaugh shows God's sovereignty in whom He calls to salvation.
God is working to build a relationship with us, dispensing gifts for overcoming and working out His greater purpose. God's Spirit is 1) an immaterial, invisible force which motivates, impels, and compels; 2) whenever referring to a person clearly identifies the Father and the Son; 3) when not referring to a person is the essence of God's mind; and 4) can be communicated to our minds. We receive more of this Spirit as we respond to His calling, drawing near to His presence and reversing Adam and Eve's fatal errors of 1) being convinced that their way was better than God's, 2) developing pride, and 3) trying to justify themselves. Reversing these three steps brings nearness to God and spiritual growth.
John Ritenbaugh explores the source or origin of sin. God gave us a nature oriented to the physical, having a heavy pull toward self-centeredness, totally ignorant of moral responsibility, but capable of being enlightened. Because of this blindness and ignorance, our human nature has a predisposition toward sin - leading to a continuous indwelling struggle, something God intended us to endure, enabling us to build character by resisting its powerful pull. Though influenced by Satan and the world, sin is still a personal choice rooted in pride and vanity (originated by Satan). Christ's sacrifice and God's Holy Spirit provide our only defense against its deadly pulls.
John Ritenbaugh focuses upon God's management of mankind. God has consistently moved His creation toward its ultimate purpose, setting the bounds of nations, motivating rulers (Proverbs 12:1) to pursue a certain course of action, sometimes against their will. It is God's will that we submit to governmental authority (legal or illegal), obeying God, of course, rather than men (Acts 5:29) to the end that by doing good, we provide a good example, silencing the foolish accusations of men. God has chosen a tiny fragment of weak individuals, rescuing them from Satan's rebellious mindset (Ephesians 2:1-3) to fashion into obedient and submissive vessels of glory.
John Ritenbaugh warns us that the Bible paradoxically is both simple and profound, understandable only to those who have been called, love the truth, and are given to careful scrutiny, enabling the searcher to describe every nuance of what it is they desire. The obsessiveness of both a lover and a sports-trivia enthusiast characterize the level of effort involved. The life sustaining manna of the Bible, while abundant and plentiful, is hidden'layered in types, symbols, and allegories. In the typology of the four Edenic rivers flowing from one source (Genesis 2:10) and the four living creatures (Revelation 4:6-8: lion, calf, man, and eagle) lies the foundation for understanding the gospels as four distinct representations of the same Life.
In this sermon on overcoming Satan, John Ritenbaugh reiterates that confusion or lack of peace is the clear fruit of Satan's involvement. It is nearly impossible for righteousness to be produced in an environment of instability and disharmony brought about by selfish ambition, competition, and bitter envy (James 3:16) In confronting our wily adversary (the source of all this confusion), we must maintain constant vigilance (James 4:7, I Peter 3:5-8), resisting unlawful desires, not allowing Satan to have a bridgehead in our emotions. Satan consistently works on our fear of being denied some form of pleasure.If we stay loyal to God, resisting Satan as Job did, Satan's power over us will be broken (I John 3:8, 5:18). Resistance must begin in the mind and thought processes (II Corinthians 10:3-5) where demonic influences try to persuade us to entertain ideas exalting ourselves over the truth or knowledge of God.
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that Satan and his demons regard us as invaders of their first estate, and have consequently have engaged us in a fierce spiritual battle to destroy our relationship with God and His purpose for us to be born into His Family. We fight our battle in the mind, in the subtle thought processes (II Corinthians 10:5). We need to be aware of Satan's modus operandi, including the stratagem of disinformation (subtle, plausible lies) spread through false ministers (wolves in sheep's clothing; Matthew 7:15), teaching the smooth, broad way to destruction, encouraging spiritual fornication and eventual enslavement to sin. The apostle John encourages us to test the spirits (I John 4:1-3), making sure that belief and practice are carefully aligned.
John Ritenbaugh asserts that the smallest unit of government is the individual; God is dealing with each of us on this most basic of all levels of government. It is under the New Covenant that individuals are immersed or installed into His church by the Spirit of God, given only to those who willingly consent to obey Him. In this special handpicked condition, God expects us to learn to govern ourselves. Because the church is a royal priesthood of believers with Christ as the High Priest, there is no religious hierarchy between God and us (Hebrews 10:21-22). In order for us to be transformed from the glory of man to the glory of God, we must have the same kind of access to the Father as Christ did, taking on the awesome responsibility of behaving like the sons of God.
Of all creation, man is the only creature made in God's image and given dominion over the rest of creation. When God breathed in the spirit of man (Genesis 2:7) to enable thinking, feeling, and creating, He imbued God-like characteristics, giving mankind the capability of subduing, controlling, and directing the rest of creation—a power not given to animals (Genesis 1:26, 28). With dominion comes responsibility to maintain (Genesis 2:15). The sad history of mankind shows that he has badly mismanaged his power, bringing about disease, war, and famine. Such people will be brought into account (Revelation 11:18). God's Spirit enables us to direct this power in a responsible, godly manner.
John Ritenbaugh acknowledges that most people have an ambivalent attitude toward government, on one hand fearing it as an evil instrument to deprive rights and on the other hand an instrument for social progress. God intended government to be a positive force of bringing order out of chaos, keeping on a straight course, educating, edifying, and to give laws which ensure an entity (family, organization, or country) does not become extinct. Governmental leaders from governor to judge to head of the family have the awesome responsibility to instill the proper fear of God and His commandments, giving instructions on the process of attaining abundant life (Deuteronomy 30:11-16).
You've probably heard that the Ten Commandments were done away. You've been taught that the Ten Commandments either are the same as, or a part of, the ritualistic Law of Moses, and that they didn't even exist until Moses, and that they lasted only until Christ! This is no mere, irrelevant theological or religious question. This is the very essence of your life!
The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment
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