Turning to Hesitations 14:37a...
"And it came to pass, verily,
that she seemeth amongst and in the midst,
that he sayeth unto her,
'Yea and wouldest thou that whatever he wilt
shall be done according to whowhatwhensoever
Ezracharophis, begotten of Zedopariah
from the land beyond Berithamah cometh?'
"Insomuch as the woman knew not the messenger
nor his wondrous companions
shining all about the company,
and yet he remaineth silent,
looking for the sign nor the seal betwixt the eyes.
And the whole of the congregation around the candlestick
riseth with loud praisulations
according to the prophetic word."
Now that really wasn't from the Bible, but sometimes we do come across a portion of Scripture that is just as difficult to truly understand. In Luke 16, Jesus tells a parable that has been described as "His most notorious". At first reading, it is quite difficult.
A steward was like a manager or overseer of a rich person's household. You may remember from our studies of the book of Genesis that that Joseph rose to this position in Potiphar's house. Joseph walked so closely to the Lord that the Lord blessed Potiphar's house. Genesis 39:6 says,
Gen. 39:6 So (Potiphar) left everything he owned in Joseph's charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate...
But the steward in Jesus' parable was not of the same character of Joseph. Instead of prospering his master, he squandered his possessions. His reputation got around, and it finally got back to the boss.
As Jesus is teaching this parable, it must be made clear that in no way did He commend or condone what this unrighteous steward did. The steward certainly had no right to reduce the debts, but sometimes God will use something bad like slavery or war to illustrate a righteous point to us. The only good that Jesus pointed out was the steward's shrewdness and resourcefulness. Very simply, he reduced the debtors' accounts so that when he lost his job and his place in the master's house, these other men would take him in. This was actually quite clever! He looked at his current situation, weighed his options for the future (saying, "I can't dig, and I won't beg), then acted on it to make sure that he had "all his ducks in a row".
He then said to the disciples,
Luke 16:8 "...The sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light."
Sons of light is a term used in the Bible for followers of Christ (Jn 12:36; 1Thes 5:5). The unrighteous steward knew he was about to be accountable for his stewardship. How much more should we as Christians be of that same thinking? This guy made sure that he would be taken care of in the next stage of his life - are we doing that? Jesus says that most of us aren't. Jesus is saying that people in the world are often more shrewd about their temporal affairs than Christians are in their eternal affairs. Then He gives His disciples an even stranger instruction:
Luke 16:9 "And I say to you, make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness; that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings."
What is "the mammon of unrighteousness"? Mammon is the Aramaic word for money. Now, people often say that "money is the root of all evil." Actually, the Bible says,
1Tim. 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.
Jesus said, "make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness". What does that mean? To interpret it, we need to put ourselves back into the parable. We are stewards of the money that God has entrusted to us. When the time comes for us to be dismissed, that is, to die, we will have to give account for our stewardship - what have we done with it? Have we laid up for ourselves treasures in heaven? Have we used that stewardship to our future, eternal advantage? He is telling us, "Look, your stewardship over my money isn't a permanent deal - you'd better use that money to make sure that your eternal future is taken care of, just like this unrighteous steward did for his temporal future." So, although the "mammon" could be used unrighteously, it can also be used to
Luke 16:9 "...make friends for yourselves...; that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings."
Notice that He says "when it fails", not "if it fails". That is a guarantee. The Bible says that
1Tim. 6:7 ...we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
If you're concentrating on what money can do for you now, then you don't have the right perspective. Look to the future - concentrate on what money can do for you eternally.
How do you know if you're using money or serving money? How can you tell if money is a god to you? Easy - people have always sacrificed to false gods. Do you sacrifice for money? Maybe your family relationships, your weekends, your values? If you're sacrificing for money, it is a god to you. And no one can serve more than one god.
Now everywhere in the New Testament that Jesus tells us about "treasure in heaven", it is connected with the idea of giving our wealth away, not hoarding it or sacrificing for it. He also said repeatedly, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." What are you investing in today? Is it temporal or eternal? Don't allow yourself to serve money - make money serve you. How? Jesus taught,
Matt. 6:1-4 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you."
Invest that money in an eternal account - God our Father will repay you, for He is a debtor to no man.
The Pharisees obviously didn't take kindly to this teaching - they loved money! Many times, people discount and degrade the directives of God when they stand opposite to them. Since they were scoffing at Him, He took the opportunity to point out their hypocrisy, and its blatancy before God.
We've talked before that to be justified means it is "just as if I'd" never done anything wrong. The Pharisees were masters at hiding their sins behind righteous, religious fronts. Jesus told them in Matthew 23,
Matt. 23:28 "Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."
And you know what? I can be fooled by a religious outward appearance. I can be fooled by someone who says all the right things - I've certainly been taken by Christian-talking con men in the past. But not the Lord. There is no hypocrisy or religious front that'll fool Him. Hebrews 4 says,
Hebr. 4:13 ...There is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
Job 11 says,
Job 11:11 ...He knows false men, and He sees iniquity without investigating.
And the Lord proclaims in Jeremiah 17,
Jer. 17:10 "I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds."
The Pharisees also thought they had the exclusive on God. But Jesus tells them plainly, "Now that the gospel is being preached, the kingdom is open to everyone who will live righteously before God, instead of hypocritically before men".Divorce
Jesus also nailed them on their cavalier attitude towards the true Law of God. Many of the Pharisees taught that you could write a certificate of divorcement for anything your wife did that you didn't like. If she burned the breakfast, she was gone. If you found a "better" woman, your old wife was gone. This was clearly against the Law of God, for Malachi 2 says,
Mal. 2:16 "I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel...
They lived by making loopholes in the Law of God
Then Jesus puts things into an unmistakable picture for the Pharisees: "you might have a great life here, but you'll end up in hell if you don't repent." The cults who don't believe in a literal hell will tell you that this is a parable. My refutation to that is that first, neither Jesus in His teaching nor Luke in his writing give any indication that it is a parable. And second, if it is, it is the only parable to mention a man's name. This was no parable - it was an event that had happened, which Jesus saw personally.
Much of what we know about Hades we find out from this teaching. This also ties closely into our study of the three days between Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, for many things changed after that.
Before Jesus' death, no one had ever had their sin erased - it had only been covered. Even the faithful people of the Bible could not be admitted into the presence of God - for He is righteous and holy, and man is corrupt. But because they were faithful - trusting in God, and looking forward to their redeeming Messiah - as Hebrews states,
Hebr. 11:13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
These faithful had a special place - a place called Paradise, or Abraham's Bosom. It was in Hades (Sheol in Hebrew), the abode of the dead, but was not in the fire that we think of when we think of Hades. We read in verse 22 that the faithful were carried there by angels and comforted.
There was a great chasm that separated Paradise from the other side of Hades, which was a place of fire and torment. The people on each side could communicate back and forth, but there was no way to get from one side to the other. How could you be sure to get to the Paradise portion of Hades instead of the other side of fire and torment? Verse 29 tells us, by hearing Moses and the Prophets.
By studying the Bible carefully, we find out that things are not laid out this way anymore. Remember, that while Jesus was on the cross, He promised one of the thieves,
Luke 23:43 And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise."
When Jesus was dead, His body was laid in the tomb. But we read in Romans 10:7 and Eph 4:9 that He descended into the Abyss, the bottomless pit that led to Hades.
In Hades, death could not hold Him in its power, for He was sinless - and death is the wages of sin (Rom 6:23). So He was not abandoned to Hades, and His body experienced no decay during the three day stay in the tomb. (Acts 2:24-31; Psalm 16:10)
While Jesus was down there, He went to the side of torment to take the keys of the place away from Satan and his cohorts. In Revelation 1:18, He comforts the apostle John by saying,
Rev. 1:17-18 ..."Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades."
Col. 2:15 When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.
The public display was in front of those who were in Paradise, Abraham's Bosom. Now, armed with the keys of death and Hades, Jesus leads "captivity captive" (Eph 4:8-9, Ps 68:18) - all of the faithful ones who had died; from Adam to the thief on the cross. While their sins had formerly been covered by the blood of bulls and goats, the sinless Lamb of God - Jesus Christ - had been slaughtered once for all. Their sins are now completely erased, and these faithful saints now enjoy the eternal presence of God.
So, is Paradise down there empty today? No, it's been relocated. In 2Corinthians 12:4, Paul tells us that it is located above in heaven. In it is the Tree of Life, as Jesus tells the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2,
Rev. 2:7 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God."
John 12:10 But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also
Miracles do not believers make. There is only one thing that brings faith -
Rom. 10:17 ...Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.