Enoch in the Bible

Enoch

Perhaps there is no more enigmatic a figure in the Bible than Enoch. We know very little about him, other than he was a descendant of Adam. He appears in Genesis, very briefly, and is gone.

The Bible says he was “taken up” to heaven and did not experience death, which brings us to an interesting piece of speculation. Does Enoch have a job to do for God?

Enoch in Revelation?

Some have speculated that the two men in the Bible that did not experience death, but were taken up into heaven, Elijah and Enoch, are the two prophets mentioned in Revelation 11. They testify and are immediately killed.

Their bodies are left out for public display and scorn. For three and a half days they lay there in the street, but God breathed life into them and they got up. The onlookers are terrified when they see this sight. God calls out, “Come up here,” and the two are taken into heaven.

We do not know this to be fact, but logic informs us that God always has a purpose for everything He does, so the two men might be God’s instruments during the tribulation to make a display of His power.

The important thing to say about Enoch, and there is not a lot said at all about him in Genesis 4, is that he walked in FAITH with God. He was the son of Cain, who built a city and named it after Enoch. He was the father of another famous, but mysterious Biblical character, the priest Methuselah, who lived to be the oldest person ever at 969 years.

Enoch was also the great grandfather of Noah. He lived 365 years.

God ALWAYS has a purpose

God never does anything by accident, or without purpose. This is sometimes difficult to understand, but it certainly applies to Enoch. Little is said about him, little is known, yet after a brief mention in Genesis, he is mentioned in Hebrews. Why?

He also is mentioned in Luke, but only as it relates to lineage. In Jude he is mentioned as a prophet. In Hebrews, however, he is referenced because of his FAITH. Therein lies the heart of the matter. Enoch is mentioned not so much by what he did himself, but because he had FAITH.

Only a short sentence, “Enoch walked faithfully with God,” in Genesis 5:22 and repeated in Genesis 5:24 reveals why he was so special to his Creator. In this wicked period before the Flood, most men did not walk faithfully with God. They walked their own path, the crooked way of sin.

Enoch did not keep silent about the sin around him. Jude says Enoch prophesied about those evil people:

“See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all of them of all the ungodly acts they have committed in their ungodliness, and of all the defiant words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”(Jude 1:14-15, NIV)

According to Genesis 5:23, Enoch’s life-span was 365 years. Throughout those years, he walked in faith, and that made all the difference. No matter what happened, he trusted God. He obeyed God. God loved Enoch so much he spared him the experience of death.

Hebrews 11, that great Faith Hall of Fame passage, says Enoch’s faith pleased God:

For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6, NIV)

What happened to Enoch? The Bible gives few details, other than to say:

“…then he was no more, because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24, NIV)

Such terminology is not typical of the Bible and implies that Enoch did not die a natural, physical death. He was taken up by God so that he was no longer present on earth. Only one other person in Scripture was honored this way: the prophet Elijah. God took that faithful servant to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11).

Elijah in the Bible

Elijah

The accounts of the prophet Elijah in the Bible begin in 1 Kings 17. After claiming the promised land, the people of Israel turned from God and began to intermarry with nonbelievers. God had warned against this. As time went on, the Israelites would turn from their faith and become secular, or worse yet, began to worship false gods.

Their kingdom had already been divided and soon there would be no kingdom at all, as Israel would be taken over by the Babylonians. Elijah was called to proclaim God once again to a people who had forgotten their heritage and what God had done for them.

The prophet Elijah called to proclaim God

Elijah’s ministry is recorded in Chapters 17-19. He was succeeded by Elisha at the beginning of 2 Kings. His name means “Yahweh is my God,” or “the Lord is my God.”

When God gave His law to Moses, one of the 10 Commandments was “You shall have no other gods before me.” Elijah was called to proclaim that Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was the one true God.

His name gives insight into his calling, as God directed him to oppose those who followed Baal, a false god. In a rather dramatic and confrontational encounter with the prophets of Baal, Elijah made a public demonstration to denounce Baal and turn the people to the one, true God.

Elijah in Bible Follows God

Elijah told the prophets to prepare a bull for sacrifice and place it on the alter for a burnt offering, but not to light the wood. Instead, the prophets were to call on Baal to light the fire, and they did so.

They called to Baal, shouted to him and danced around the alter they had built. There was no response. Then Elijah walked over to an old alter to God, long destroyed. He took 12 stones, one for each of the tribes of Israel, and rebuilt the alter. They also dug a trench around the alter.

Elijah in the Bible ordered the people to take four large jars and fill them with water. He then told them to pour the water on the offering and the wood. He ordered it to be repeated and repeated a third time. The water ran down and filled the trench.

Elijah prayed, “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

The Lord sent fire from above and lit the alter, consuming the sacrifice, the wood and the water. The people looked in amazement and they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”

Interesting facts about Elijah in the Bible

Elijah is one of two Old Testament prophets who also appears in the New Testament. Both Matthew and Mark describe how Jesus led his disciples up a mountainside and met with both Elijah and Moses.

Elijah mentored another prophet, Elisha. Elijah would pass the ministry on to Elisha in 2 Kings.

Elijah, like Enoch, did not experienced death, but was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, right in front of Elisha. Elisha had asked Elijah to give him a double portion of his spirit before he departed. Elijah told Elisha that if you see me when I am taken away, then the blessing shall be yours.

God sent a chariot of fire to get Elijah and take him up into heaven. Elisha witnessed this extraordinary event. Elisha, empowered by the Spirit, took on the responsibilities that Elijah had taken on.

David in the Bible

David in the Bible

David: God’s Choice for King of Israel

When someone is chosen for a job, or for an honor, or perhaps as a potential wife or husband, people might ask what do others see in them? That is true of David in the Bible, the first God-chosen king of Israel. Read about him in both of Samuel’s books. He is a direct blood relative of Jesus, and the eternal king of Israel through the virgin Mary.

He is important because David was hand-picked by God to lead Israel. The people were crying out for a king, even though God had appointed judges to rule over Israel. God gave in to their desires. Not so much because they wore Him out, but he allowed people to make the decision that would make it apparent they would chose the wrong one.

The people chose, Saul, a strapping military man. It was a beauty contest, that is he was chosen for his looks and personality, not his qualifications or suitability. Saul looked the part, but he would soon prove unworthy of the position.

Saul had moments when he honored God, but those were few and soon God rejected him. God directed to prophet Samuel to find the next king. He went to Bethlehem and the house of Jesse to take a look at his sons. God’s first choice for king over Israel came from Bethlehem, so would God’s eternal king over Israel, Jesus.

David Chosen By God

The older boys were all passed by, but Samuel asked if there was another son. Jesse’s youngest was out tending the sheep. Nobody would have given him a look. But God looks at the heart not the physical prowess and Samuel chose David. He was just a boy.

David was a most unlikely successor to the throne of Israel. We first see him as a shepherd boy, the youngest son of Jesse, who played the harp. He comes of age when facing the Philistine giant Goliath, defeating the brute with one master sling of a small stone between the eyes.

The King of Israel, Saul takes him in to his court, but will become weary and jealous of the young man and tries to have him killed. David was best friends with Saul’s son Jonathan, who would protect David from harm.

David Doesn’t Kill Saul

At one point in the story David had a chance to kill Saul, who had been trying to kill him. But David did not do this, acknowledging that Saul was on the throne of Israel because God had put him there. He would never do harm to Saul. After Saul’s death, David became king.

King of Israel Points To a Messiah

From this point forward, the succession of the kings of Israel would point to the Messiah. The bloodlines of Mary and Joseph tell the true story of the succession of Kings of Israel.

Matthew wrote down the bloodline leading to Joseph, the husband of Mary. On the way to Joseph, was Jeconiah, who would be the last king of Judah, and because of his disobedience to God, as it was written by the prophet Jeremiah, the final consequence of all their was disqualification from the throne.

Jeremiah 22:30 – “Thus says the Lord: ‘Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days; for none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah’.”

Jesus’ Linage Comes Through David and Adam

The throne of Israel would come through David, only not through Jeconiah bloodline, which leads to Joseph. Interestingly, Matthew identifies Joseph as “the husband of Mary” and Mary as the mother of Jesus who is called Messiah.

Matthew does not call Joseph the father of Jesus. Luke outlines the bloodline from David to Mary. Matthew starts with Abraham, while Luke traces it back to Adam, which illustrates Jesus’ relationship to all of humanity.

The genealogies are very similar until they get to David. Then there is a difference. Matthew traces the genealogy through Joseph, who was the legal father of Jesus, but not his biological father. Luke traces this through the bloodline leading to Mary, the mother of Jesus.

In verse 23, Luke, talking about Joseph being the father, writes, “so it was thought.” This is logical, because a virgin birth is a biological miracle, and it would have been much easier for people to see Joseph as the boy’s father. Luke’s account also accentuates the importance of Mary, the virgin mother of the Messiah.

Samuel Led By God To Choose David As King

Samuel, acting on God’s directives, traveled to Bethlehem to find a king of God’s choosing. There he visited with Jesse to look over his sons. David was the youngest and was not there. Instead he was out tending the sheep. The older brothers were bigger and stronger, but God looked at David’s heart and picked him.

David was by no means a perfect king. He made mistakes, sinned against God, but unlike Saul, David would repent. That is, he would admit his error and go in another direction.

Many of the Psalms Written By David

David might be best known for writing many of the Psalms. When he committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah one of David’s trusted military leaders, David poured out his heart to God in Psalm 51. His 23red Psalm is probably the most popular and well known of all.

A Psalm of David

1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Psalm 23

David’s reign as king was tumultuous. There were enemies everywhere, even his own sons. One of them, Absalon, tried to have him killed, just to get the throne. David raised money for the building of the temple in Jerusalem, but God stopped him from doing it, giving that task to David’s son Solomon, who succeeded him on the throne.

John’s Revelation on Patmos

Revelation
John’s Revelation on Patmos

What Happened

During Nero’s reign (54-68 AD), Christians were under heavy persecution, as Nero demanded worship for himself. His successors, Vespasian (69-79 AD) and Domitian (81-96 AD) were equally as hostel to Christians.

The Apostle John was exiled to the Island of Patmos and is widely credited with authorship of the last book in the Bible, Revelation.

This final book of the Bible was probably written around 95 AD. John sees a vision and writes down what he saw and heard.

The writer tells of the triumphant return of Jesus and shares Jesus’ moral admonitions for the seven churches in Asia minor. As much as the letters to these churches deal with events to come, they also deal with the state of faith among the believers there at the time, as well as the state of believers around the world today.

At the time, the Romans were persecuting the church and, as a result, many would turn away from the faith. But the book chronicles the victory of God over Satan and the Antichrist.

The end of time, as we know it, will come, as God establishes His Kingdom, with Jesus on the throne.

Why it matters

Revelation is a conclusion to the story that God wanted to share. Christians are encouraged to keep the faith, and in doing so, reap the benefits of eternity in God’s house.

We are given the promise of closure, the ultimate victory of good over sin and evil.

Bible Verse

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.

18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. 19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.

Revelation 1:17-19

Why it matters to you

God does not waste words. He shares insights into events that will occur in the future, not to fill the pages or confuse the reader, but to objectively warn us about the pitfalls of life, things to avoid and give us encouragement to put our trust and faith in His plan.

We are given a glimpse of Jesus, not as Lamb of God, a gentle Rabbi, but as the King of kings and Lord of lords, in His full glory.

Description

John most likely understood very little of what he was seeing. Like the prophets before him, John was inspirited to write down the account of what he saw, making no attempt to interpret.

Inspired by God, John transcribed what Jesus said about the churches.

What you may not know

Revelation is a classic example of apocalyptic writing. It is highly symbolic and the book can be very difficult to interpret or understand. It is the final piece in a truly remarkable book, not only signifies the end of time, but the beginning of eternity.

From the beginning, to the promise of a Messiah, to the prophecies about Jesus, to His birth, life, crucifixion to His resurrection, the Bible maps out a pathway to God.

Of the Apostles, John was the only one who died of old age, as the rest were executed. Of the original 12, John was the last one left.

Paul Writes to the Romans

Paul writes to the Romans

What Happened

Paul wrote his letter the church in Rome likely during his third missionary journey, probably around 57 AD. Paul explains God’s grace and fleshes out the reality of God’s wrath towards both Jews and Gentiles.

Paul draws on Old Testament scriptures to remind us that the righteous live by faith, and further explains that we live by faith so that we can’t boast of being righteous in our own strength. He was writing to a small community of believers both Jews and Gentiles. There were also other Jews in Rome, but not necessarily believers in Jesus.

He talks about the new Israel, with both Jews and Gentiles brought together by a common faith. Jesus’ statement that he had come to fulfill the law and the prophets comes to life in this letter, as the new nation of Israel is a nation of Christ followers, not necessarily a land.

Why it matters

Ever since Moses was given the law and the Jewish faith was established in the centuries after, people tried to live by the law, but failed to uphold all of the righteous requirements. They tried to follow the law, and in so many cases thought they had, only they hadn’t.

They offered sacrifices, but God wanted their hearts not so much their willingness to make sacrifices. Paul gives us a different way of looking at the law—it is intended to point us to the Messiah, the one who fulfilled the law.

Romans can either be a liberating force, or if Christ is rejected, an illustration of man’s failure to follow God’s law.

Bible Verse

21 But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—

26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Romans 3:21-26

Why it matters to you

Paul explains the difference between a personal relationship with God and religion. Religion is about what man can do to be acceptable to God. The personal relationship centers on what God did to make man acceptable to Him.

By recognizing our own shortcomings and insufficiency, we turn to God, put our trust and faith in His gift to us, the Lord Jesus Christ, and live by faith. Romans offers freedom of the soul.

Description

Paul covers a lot of ground in this letter, and discusses the spiritual condition of people everywhere. Paul does not separate Jews and Gentiles, but explains that both are sinners and in need of salvation through Christ.

There had been previous discussions about living under the law, as the Apostles still held to their Jewish traditions. Paul writes about living in the Spirit, because the flesh cannot withstand the temptations of sin. He further explains that what the law was incapable of doing, God did through Christ.

What you may not know

This letter may well be Paul’s crowning theological achievement, as he explains the Gospel and God’s grace completely and effectively.

He was writing to the church in Rome in anticipation of his planned visit, which he made in 59 AD. Romans is an excellent guide of what Christians need to know.

Paul’s First Missionary Journey

Paul's first missionary journey

What Happened

Paul and his associate, Barnabas, set out on their first missionary journey to reach the Gentile world. They traveled from town to town and preached the good news to the people. They went into synagogues to speak to the Jewish people as well.

Paul and Barnabas were a good team, but had disagreements. Barnabas wanted to have John Mark join the team, but Paul disagreed.

Barnabas would then take his young protege with him, and Paul selected Silas to continue his missions. Later a young man named Timothy joined Paul.

Paul’s first missionary journey began in 46 AD and ended in 48 AD (Acts 13). His second trip was from 49AD to 52 AD (Acts 16) and the third was from 53 AD to 57 AD (Acts 18). He went to Rome, his final journey, in 59 AD where he stayed until his execution in 60 AD.

First Trip: 46-48 AD

Paul, Barnabas and John Mark traveled to Cyprus to visit synagogues. They encountered a false prophet named Bar-Jesus who worked for the proconsul (Roman overseer). Paul rebuked the false teacher.

The proconsul ordered that Paul and Barnabas be brought to him so that he would hear more about Jesus. There the false prophet tried to turn the proconsul away.

Paul was filled with the Spirit and Bar-Jesus was blinded. This caused the proconsul to see the power of God. He converted to Christianity.

Then they went to Perga in Pamphylia. John Mark decided to go back to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas went from there to Pisidian Antioch. The Jewish authorities were not amused and out of jealousy removed them from the city.

They moved on to other cities, starting churches. Paul healed a crippled man while in Galatia and some people thought the two missionaries were gods. The two proclaimed Jesus Christ to correct the wrong statements.

Second Trip: 49-52 AD

Paul and Barnabas had planted churches during their first missionary journey. Upon his return there were men preaching that Gentiles must first be circumcised in order to serve with church leaders. Paul and Barnabas traveled back to Jerusalem, first, to get this matter settled.

Paul’s troubles were not over, as he and Barnabas had a disagreement over whether or not to have John Mark accompany them on the trip.

John Mark was with them on the first tour, but left them and Paul was not happy about it. It was decided that Barnabas would take John Mark on their own trip, and so Paul invited Silas to go with him.

The purpose of this trip was to follow up on these new churches and support the ministries of the leaders.

The churches in Galatia, Corinth, Phillipi, Thessalonica and Ephasis, would be the inspiration of support letters that would later be included in the New Testament.

Third Trip: 53-57 AD

By the time Paul set out on his third missionary journey, he had already established many churches. His purpose was to shore up these churches and encourage the members. Much of his time was in Ephesus.

He had visited Antioch, so Paul went through Galatia and Phrygia, with the intent of strengthening his brothers and sisters in Christ. His third missionary journey lasted from 53 to 57 A.D. and is found in Acts chapters 18:23-21:14.

Why it matters

Paul was inspirited and was guided by God to preach to the Gentile world. Everywhere Paul went he established churches. He would stay for a while, preach the Gospel and teach the faith.

He would follow-up with leaders of the churches by sending letters. These letters would be copied, read aloud in the churches, and given to others.

These letters, called the epistles, make up much of what would later become the New Testament and are still used to teach, encourage and bring people closer to God.

Paul’s missionary trips are reported in the Bible in the book of Acts, and are important because they bridge the movement from a small, Jewish community of believers, to the hugely expanded Gentile Christian church.

Bible Verse

For this is what the Lord has commanded us:

“I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
    that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Acts 13:47

“Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

Acts 28:28

Why it matters to you

Paul, the once murderous Pharisee, who wanted to arrest and kill every Christian, was now the most influential voice in the movement, bringing the message of salvation to the Gentiles.

He spoke with kings, the intellectual elites and the general public. His teachings have been influential in every culture and every time period since they were first written.

Description

Paul did not immediately set out for other countries to preach the Gospel. Rather he took time to study and learn, preparing himself for what would be a difficult challenge.

After preparing himself, he then set off to reach others. Like Jesus, Paul and Barnabas were a threat to the Jewish leaders, as the news of Jesus of Nazareth was very upsetting to the religious elites.

What you may not know

Unlike the other Apostles, Paul was a Roman citizen. Because of that he could not be abused or summarily jailed without a proper trial.

He was given the opportunity to reach out to not only the Jewish authorities, but the secular authorities as well.

Because he was a scholar, Paul was able to converse with the intellectuals in each place. He understood their religions and their beliefs. He had the good sense not to challenge those beliefs, but to share his own. He was a master communicator.

The John Mark mentioned in their first trip and was the author of the Gospel of Mark.

Peter Preaches to the Gentiles

Peter preaches to the gentiles
Peter Preaches to the Gentiles

What Happened

Prior to Paul’s conversion the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem. Jesus had told them to go out and proclaim the Gospel, the Good News, to every nation.

But the Apostles went nowhere. Paul, then called Saul, assisted as religious Jews murdered a young man named Stephen for boldly speaking out against the actions of the Jewish authorities.

That event led to the Apostles leaving town and spreading out. God gave Peter a vision that essentially tore down any division between Jews and Gentiles.

Emboldened by the Holy Spirit, Peter spoke publicly and stood up to the authorities. Not fearing prison, or execution, Peter went out and spread the news of Jesus, the Messiah.

Why it matters

Jesus did not come to put up barriers between people, but to unify and build a community. Jews and Gentiles did not associate with each other. Jews had strict laws about what foods to eat and how to live.

God showed Peter that all of that was no longer necessary. The vast majority of the world was Gentile, so to do the work that Jesus called him to do, Peter had to associate with the gentiles and accept them as brothers and sisters. In Christ there is no jew or gentile, only believers.

Bible Verse

34 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.

36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached

38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

Acts 10:34-38

Why it matters to you

People are reluctant to talk about matters of faith, for fear that they will be rejected, or worse yet, laughed at. Peter was too afraid to speak out, and too immersed in his Jewish heritage to fully understand what Jesus wanted him to do.

We all have doubts.

Jesus broke down the barriers for Peter and gave him freedom to speak out. The man who denied Jesus three times would become a bold and powerful Apostle. This same man was transformed into a powerful force for Jesus and the Kingdom.

He would not longer fear the Romans, the Jewish authorities and like Jesus, would give up his life for the Kingdom.

Description

Peter had denied Jesus three times after He was arrested and bound over for trial. Fearing for his life, he denied being a disciple, or even knowing Jesus.

With the city in an uproar over the rial and crucifixion, and fearing Roman reprisals for any public display of faith, Peter and the rest of the disciples hid away.

But after receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter was no longer afraid and spoke boldly to Jews and gentiles alike about Jesus and the kingdom of God.

What you may not know

Jesus said that he would build his church upon this rock, referring to Peter. Actually, Peter more correctly translated, means pebble.

Three hundred years later, when the Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, the headquarters of the church was moved to Rome, and thus the Roman Catholic Church was established.

Centuries later it was decided that Peter was the first pope, even though there was no formal church when he lived. As time went on after Jesus left the earth, the church would slowly form and traditions and practices would come about.

Peter did not say mass, or go to catechism. Also interestingly, Peter was Jewish not Roman.

Saul’s Conversion

Saul's conversion

What Happened

Saul of Tarsus was a prominent pharisee who took it upon himself to stop the Apostles from spreading the Gospel of the Lord Jesus to the community, outlying areas and the rest of the nation.

Saul believed that the message of Jesus was heresy and that this new movement had to be obliterated to ensure the continuation of the Jewish tradition.

He went to the Jewish authorities to ask their cooperation in allowing him to travel north to Damascus to deliver letters to the synagogues in an effort to uncover anyone there who might be followers of “The Way,” as they were called. Saul would take them prisoner and return to Jerusalem for trial.

On his way to Damascus a light from heaven flashed around him and he fell to the ground. Saul heard a voice “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Saul asked who it was. “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,” the voice replied.

Saul was taken to Damascus and cared for by a man named Ananias, whom had been told by God to attend to the pharisee.

God changed his name to Paul and he became a devoted follower of Jesus for the rest of his very difficult life. He is one of the most influential voices in all of Christianity even to this day.

Why it matters

It is one thing to change a man’s mind by force, or get him to bend to the will of another. But it is very different to change a man’s heart.

Saul had murdered and persecuted followers of Jesus, but on his way to Damascus, to do even more evil, God not only stopped him from doing what he had set out to do, God changed his heart and molded him into a great Apostle of Christ and a prolific writer.

Bible Verse

9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.

3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Acts 9:1-4

Why it matters to you

If God can take a murderer and turn him into a loving, gentle spokesman for the Kingdom, then God can take anybody to do His will and make them effective. Not everybody is going to be a priest, or pastor, or an elder, a deacon or a chaplain, but God uses everyone to be a part of His Kingdom.

God calls everyone to become a member of His family, even murderers and thieves. God is the one who administers justice and only God can take an evil man and convert him into one of His most powerful evangelists.

Paul wrote two thirds of the New Testament, and the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles were largely influenced by Paul’s working relationship with Luke.

Paul would bring out the heart of the Gospel, emphasizing that man is saved by the grace of God, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and not by man’s own actions.

The salvation of man is to the glory of God. Man cannot boast of his accomplishment. Paul learned the hard way, that it is all God.

Description

The incident on the road to Damascus was witnessed by Saul’s companions. They heard the entire conversation, but saw nothing, other than Saul on the ground.

Saul was blinded by the light, so the men took him by the hand and led him to Damascus. There he went to a house and was greeted my a disciple named Ananias.

It was not surprise that Ananias was not thrilled with the idea of dealing with Saul, as he told the Lord that he had heard of all the evil things the man had done. But God told him to go and help Saul, because God had chosen Saul to preach to the gentiles and to their kings and before the people of Israel.

God took the most dangerous enemy of new faith and turned him into its chief advocate. God would change his name to Paul and send him out to minister to the very people he set out to murder.

What you may not know

Saul described himself as a “pharisee.” He was well versed in the law, the writings and the prophets, but had seen this through the eyes of the Jewish authority. God would illuminate the Hebrew scriptures to his new Apostle, making him a very powerful voice for the Kingdom.

As an intellectual, Paul could converse with scholars and philosophers. He was able to make strong connections to the learned men wherever he went, because he understood their religions, their values and their culture.

His intellectual approach to the faith came through in the letters he wrote and to this day are studied by theologians and scholars.

Birth of Jesus

Birth of Jesus

What Happened

For centuries the prophets of Israel had predicted the birth of the Messiah, the Anointed One. Jesus would be a first born, male and without flaw. He was carried by a virgin girl, but not conceived in the regular manner, as His mother Mary, was never touched by Joseph. Rather, God Himself, created her baby.

Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem for the census. That is where she delivered Jesus. There was no place for them to stay, so they took refuge in a stable. In those times, it was common for animals to be kept in a stable, which was the ground level of a house. Living quarters would have been on the second level.

The Messiah, Jesus, has now been born and all of human civilization will never be the same. And as John so eloquently wrote:

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Why it matters

The Biblical story moves into the critical final events with the birth of Jesus. All the previous events of the Bible including: the Law, the Prophets and the Writings, lead up to the coming of the Messiah. Jesus is the focal point of the Bible, as everything is about Him, everything is written for Him and everything centers around Him.

Without Jesus, the promise of the Messiah remains unfulfilled, man’s chance to be reconciled to God is ripped apart and there is no promise of eternal life. Without the birth of Jesus, the Bible is just another religious text, but not the transformation of the entire human race.

Because of Jesus’ birth and eventual resurrection, the Bible becomes the most important book in all of human existence.

Bible Verse

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.

Luke 2:8-11

Description

The Angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her that God had chosen her to carry His son. Mary was engaged to Joseph and was a virgin. Knowing that Joseph would probably not understand, God came to him in a dream and explained what had happened.

Joseph, by law, could have called everything off, but he didn’t. The two lived in Nazareth, and like most small towns, word would have gotten around quickly that something was not right. Joseph and Mary had to suffer through that difficult humiliation.

Then, the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus decreed that a census was to be taken, so everyone had to return to their town of origin to be counted. Joseph took Mary to Bethlehem, his birthplace. It was there that she delivered the child that they called Jesus just as God had instructed.

God, as promised, delivered His only son Jesus, to be with us. Jesus was both man and God, and throughout His life offers us a path away from our sin and destruction toward salvation.

Why it matters to you

The coming of the Messiah marks the final chapter in God’s plan of salvation for man. Since the Garden of Eden, God had made covenants with man and had guided man through periods of prosperity, followed by periods of separation.

Man cannot save himself. Only God can save us.

The Holy One of Israel will not allow imperfection into His Kingdom, and man, by his very nature, is imperfect and has turned away from God in one way or another.

The Holy and Almighty God, will never and cannot ever go back on His word. Therefore, sin must be punished. Rather than destroying all of mankind, which He nearly did with the flood, God chose to allow His own son to take the punishment.

Jesus led a perfect life, a sinless life in obedience and service to His father. Led to the slaughter, as Isaiah wrote, Jesus was the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. Only Jesus, fully man and fully God, could have offered this sacrifice.

His laying down of His own life, by choice, was his gift to man. Jesus said, “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

What you may not know

Jesus was not born on December 25, but most likely during the lambing season (December-January) in Israel, as the shepherds described in the Gospels.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus but likely is not exactly on His birthday. Conversely, Easter is celebrated during the Jewish celebration of Passover, and does represent the exact date that Jesus was crucified and resurrected.

Jesus fulfills more than 400 prophecies

The question of how many prophecies Jesus fulfilled is difficult to answer exactly. But what is clear, is that much of what Jesus did and said and what happened to Him

while He was living as a man in Israel, fulfilled exactly what had been predicted in the Bible since Genesis.

Joseph could not be the father of Jesus

We also learn that Joseph could not be the father of Jesus, because Jesus would be the one to take the throne of David and rule eternally. A king in Joseph’s bloodline, Jeconiah, turned from God. Because of his transgression, God cursed his bloodline and that demonstrates that Jesus was not in that bloodline.

Matthew’s gospel shows the bloodline to Joseph, while Luke’s gospel shows the bloodline to Mary. The line of succession to the throne from David to Jesus, goes through David’s first son, Nathan down to Mary. Joseph’s line comes from Solomon. Interestingly, God makes sure we know this.

Daniel Survives the Lions’ Den

Daniel survives the lions' den

What Happened

Israel is exiled from their promised land to Babylon (modern day Iraq), the major civilization of that time. Israel lost their land because they constantly disobeyed God. Daniel was different and totally honored God in everything he did.

The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, asked all of Israel to renounce God and worship him, Daniel refused. The king wanted to kill Daniel for his disobedience, but God intervened and Daniel survived being thrown in the loins’ den.

Daniel then tells the king that God told him the Babylonian empire is about to fall. Daniel is right in everything he predicts, because his prophesy comes from God.

Why it matters

The story of Daniel shows us that in all things and in all situations, God is in control. The theme of Daniel’s prophesy centers on the sovereignty of God. Daniel interprets dreams for the king and in every case, those dreams signal the absolute authority of God.

Daniel’s “interpretations” are what he was shown by God, so it is God using those dreams to predict future events. Nebuchadnezzar was deeply moved by God through Daniel’s explanations and made a remarkable turnaround. When his son turned away from God, the empire was doomed.

Bible Verse

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[a] coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Daniel 7:13-14

Description

Israel was taken captive by the Babylonians and Daniel was living in Babylon in service to its king Nebuchadnezzar. When Daniel and his friends refused to bow down and worship the king, there was a death penalty. His three friends were thrown into a furnace to perish in the flames, but even though they were tied up and helpless, the flames never touched them.

The king watched in astonishment as the three men, plus another man, walked about unharmed. Even guards outside the furnace were killed by the intense heat. Who was that fourth man? Later, in an effort to have Daniel killed, the king’s men trumped up charges against him and Daniel was thrown to the lions’ den. However, the lions left Daniel alone and he survived.

Nebuchadnezzar had a bad dream and sent for Daniel to interpret them. Daniel told of the kingdoms of the world, represented by a giant statue in the king’s dream. He told of how each would fall. When the king’s son saw” the handwriting on the wall” that said both he and his kingdom were finished, Daniel was predicting the downfall of Babylon.

Why it matters to you

Throughout history, God has laid down a track record for man to follow, to determine whether or not the truth is being told and what a reasonable expectation of events might be ascertained. Can you trust God to be in control regardless of your circumstances? Does God abandon people when the going gets rough?

What you may not know

The Book of Daniel is studied side-by-side with the Book of Revelation in seminary classes, as the events and descriptions line up with amazing consistency. The book contains writings in both Hebrew and Aramaic and was likely finished about 530 BC.