body of water between green leaf trees

Ecclesiastes 2: Happiness & the Work-Life Balance

The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance Pastor's Corner

This study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 discusses the topics of happiness, fulfillment in work, and living a vibrant life
  1. The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance
  2. Finding Meaning in Life: Study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 1
  3. The Fall and Rise of Man
  4. The Millennium Bible Study #1
  5. The Geopolitics of Good Friday

Today I’d like to continue our study of the Book of Ecclesiastes. If you haven’t listened to the first part, Finding Meaning in Life, make time do so as it will lay a solid basis for where I’d like to go in this podcast.

Ecclesiastes is written to give us a very sobering reality check, one that we need if we want to live a good life. Today I’d like to focus on the following three questions:

  • Should my job determine how happy I am (or am not)?
  • What does the Bible say about keeping a work-life balance?
  • And, while we expect Christ’s return at any moment, should we consider the fact that we may die before He comes?

A man of extremes

As I said before, I believe King Solomon is the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes and God gave him extreme wealth, power, and influence to prove that all these things that we so often long for are meaningless. None of us will ever have the natural success that Solomon enjoyed, and that’s okay. God gave it to him—and ensured that we had record of it—to prove to us the foolishness of prioritizing things in this world. We can learn from Solomon’s example. To him was given extreme wisdom, what we now call spiritual discernment, and yet he also made critical mistakes that would cost his son a kingdom (see 1 Kings 12). Let’s learn the answers to our own big questions as we look at the Bible.

Ecclesiastes 2 starts off with Solomon purposing to discover what we humans should do with our lives. He goes on to detail how he invested himself in building projects, business, and entertainment—all of which are familiar to us. How often has the message that productivity leads to a fulfilled life been presented to us? Many times we Christians are tempted to lose ourselves in the projects we undertake—maybe our jobs, our family, or the blizzard of entertainment options that now exist.

And yet, nothing satisfies.

Solomon shows us in verse 11 that the very things he had spent years building up now became a source of frustration.

Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and behold, all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:11

We know that money doesn’t bring happiness, but why do we then spend so much time trying to gain the next dollar? Paul told us to live simply. In 1 Timothy 6:8-10 he writes,

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

1 Timothy 6:8-10

The drive to earn money is at the heart of the most sinful and pervasive parts of our global culture. A 2019 market analysis on PR Newswire  put the pornography industry revenue in the U.S. at 35 billion dollars. Globally, some estimates put it at almost $100 billion annually.

In a 2019 study by the RAND Corporation, the illegal drug industry averages around $150 billion in the U.S. alone each year.

Now, if you’re listening to this podcast, the studies referenced are hyperlinked in the actual article at thelwbc.com.

I don’t need to talk about the harmful effects of both the porn drug and the literal drugs—we know both are addictive, shatter lives, and ruin self-respect. My focus today is on what God expects from you and me.

While the world clearly will go to any lengths to make money, God has clear boundaries about how much of a role work and the pursuit of money should play in the lives of His children. I want to identify two boundaries as we answer our first two questions.

Again, those questions are: Should my job determine how happy I am (or am not)? What does the Bible say about keeping a work-life balance?

First boundary:

The work you do should be meaningful but not give you a sense of meaning. Also, you should enjoy your work but not be made happy by it.

Let me explain what I mean.

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment[c] in his toil. “ (Ecclesiastes 2:25 NKJV).

Your job should be something you enjoy doing—not just something you do to pay the bills. Now, I realize this isn’t always possible and I’m not saying you’re sinning if you don’t like your job—believe me, I’ve been there too! But, no matter how long it takes, try to get yourself in a job that you enjoy because this is part of the blessing that God has for you in this world. It may also lengthen your life and your health by minimizing the negative effects of stress that you’ll otherwise face.

Solomon warns us against keeping a job you don’t enjoy or that is high-pressure when he says, “For all his days are full of sorrow, and his work is a vexation. Even in the night his heart does not rest. This also is vanity. (verse 23)”

Ever lose a night’s sleep because of your job? As a teacher, I have many times. But that’s not God’s plan. Neither is remaining in a toxic work environment.

Think about it: how many times do you complain about your job? Does it make you feel happy or emotionally refreshed to gripe about your supervisors or the demanding hours?

 Probably not.

 As the Bible shows us in Philippians 4:8, we Christians are called to keep our minds on things that are good and not meditate upon things that frustrate us. If we don’t, we’ll constantly have our spirit in turmoil which works against our health.

God’s Work-Life Balance

The work-life balance that God calls for requires us to leave our job at our job. When the people we work with, their personal problems, or the work itself continuously drains you (and I mean in a negative way emotionally or spiritually), it’s time to stop and ask God to either change the circumstance or make a way for you to leave. God’s plan for work is a job that we enjoy and work that allows us to rest easy at night with a clear conscience.

We can see this from the work environment that God provided for Adam. I have a hard time imagining Adam complaining to Eve at night about the stresses of gardening, especially when weeds and miniature terrorists called bugs didn’t exist—at least, not as we know now! Even in a perfect world, where Adam “worked from home,” everything all stopped at night when it was time to worship God, spend time with his family, and rest easy.

Now, let’s look back at the Ecclesiastes 2. I’m going to repeat that earlier verse but also read the following.

24 There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment[c] in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, 25 for apart from him[d] who can eat or who can have enjoyment?”

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25

Now, I mentioned that your work should be meaningful…but it should not give you meaning. I want to repeat that so you’ll be sure to get the difference. Your work should be meaningful but it should not give you meaning.

This is a big subject, that I’m going to slant toward the men in the audience for a moment, because, generally speaking, we tend to judge our self-worth by our accomplishments (which are often job related) more than women do.

Brothers, God expects us to do our best at our jobs but don’t let the drive to provide for yourself or your family consume you. Keep everything in balance.

Let me share a personal story. Like most of you know, in 2016 I left my job because of my Christian principals. As painful as it was to separate from students I genuinely cared about, the hardest part was dealing with the fact that I had no idea what to do next. Without realizing it, I was equating my own self-worth with being a teacher. When that was taken from me, I floundered in depression for several years. Somewhere in the chaos of my churning emotions, our gracious Lord opened my eyes to understand where I had been erring.

You see, like many others, I depended on my job to give a sense of meaning to my life. Teaching. Coaching. Encouraging. Correcting. It’s all part of my nature. But, while those are natural human tendencies that God placed within me for His purpose, God calls us to draw every scrap of our sense of meaning from Him alone. And, through this experience, He showed me that I subconsciously gave to my work what belonged to Him.  

 Remember, the very God-given aspects of your character can work against you if you don’t constantly keep an eye on them. For example, a caring, open-hearted person can be drawn into a wrong relationship if he/she doesn’t keep that part of his/herself under control.

Now let me swing this thought over to my sisters.

Women often draw their sense of meaning from their relationships (romantic or otherwise). But what if all that was unexpectedly stripped away from you? What if you lost every person you ever cared about or your friends and family decided to shun you? Would you still feel that your life mattered?

It would. It does.

Sometimes the service that is done to others is what fuels a woman’s sense of meaningfulness, giving her a sense of value because she feels needed. But, remember Sister, your true value lies in simply who you are—not what you do. As a daughter of the King, who is living a surrendered life to your Heavenly Father, your true value comes from being His light in this dark world. Think of Martha who found meaning in serving others while Mary found meaning in her spiritual relationship to Christ.  Both were good women but one, Mary, had truly grasped the understanding of a valuable life.

Which woman are you?

Please understand that it is right and good to serve others, and it is totally normal for that spark good feelings within us as Christians, but again that isn’t the source of our life’s value—it is an expression of it.

Men and women, if the day comes that you can’t work because of a disability or serve because the relationships in your life no longer exist , you can still have a meaningful life if you draw meaning only from God.

You see, as long as we draw meaning from anything else but Christ Himself, we Christians are vulnerable. Our enemy will have the power to disrupt our minds and our lives until we accept that our life is meaningful because Christ is revealing Himself to us and through us.

Remember the Scripture, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33).

 As long as we have Christ… everything else will be alright.

The last thing I want to point out from this beautiful chapter is Solomon’s reminder that our work and efforts are all temporal.

You may remember King Henry 8th of England, the Tudor monarch who married 6 times and had some of his wives beheaded in his relentless pursuit of a legitimate male heir. After endless intrigue, assassinations, family divisions and war, this family line died out when Henry’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth refused to marry. Perhaps that’s not too surprising, given that her father executed her mother!

The point is, all his efforts to build a kingdom fell due to the choices of someone who lived after him. How many thousands died in war and civil strife to preserve a kingdom that would would only last about 120 years?

It was temporal.

The same can be said of our work, be it government, healthcare, business etc. You can devote 30 years of your life to an organization and they may never promote you. Or, if you’re a manager or VP the day will come where you’ll have to retire and someone else will simply take your place. So how much does that contribute to a good life in the end?

Because of this inability to control what happens after we leave our jobs or even this world, Solomon realized that life is meaningless if we define it by our work. As he writes in verse 18-20:

“Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me.

19 And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity.

20 Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:18-20

When we live with this reality constantly in our thoughts, it will make us cut back on those late hours at the job and devote more time to aspects of life that really matter. Instead of getting more things off our to-do lists, we’ll think more about what we put on our lists.

Instead of fitting God into our schedule, we’ll give Him more of our attention. Instead of surrounding ourselves with people who carry toxic atmospheres, we will replace them with people who will reinforce our faith and deepen our fellowship with each other OR use our time with them to point them to the better life Christ offers.

Finally, Solomon reminds us that life is brief. Now, as Christians who live in the shadows of the Coming of Christ, we believe that He will come before our life is over. But that is not guaranteed.

Many sometimes feel that it is a lack of faith to have things such as life insurance or a Will, but that is not written in Scripture and therefore should not be taught. If you have been born again, your soul is immortal (for God’s life dwells within it) but your body is not. Ecclesiastes 2:14 and many other scriptures tells us that all die:

14 The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness: and I myself perceived also that one event happeneth to them all.

Ecclesiastes 2:14

Therefore, outside of a Simeon-like experience—with God promising you that you will not die until Christ returns—keep in mind that you can leave this world at any time and make appropriate preparations both spiritually and naturally.

The Bible keeps repeating this theme of a temporal life. I believe God knows our nature as humans—without constant reminders we become oblivious to our reality and will treat life as though we are immortal. Even with tombstones all around us, and terrorism claiming lives each day, billions still live without thinking about their coming appointment with a furious God.

But if you remember that life is temporal, you can make the choice to live for Him and also to make each moment of your natural life as full and vibrant as possible.

 Do you have a dream you’ve been putting off? Why not start the journey? An activity that you’ve been wanting to do? Get going!

 We weren’t just born to pay bills and die. Making each moment vibrant, as God’s Word allows, is all part of having a good life.

Next time we want to delve into Ecclesiastes 3. Why does life have phases? How do those phases affect us and how can we Christians navigate them while living in an ungodly world?

Until then, live simply, live well, and may God bless you.

Ecclesiastes 1: Finding meaning in life

The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance Pastor's Corner

This study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 discusses the topics of happiness, fulfillment in work, and living a vibrant life
  1. The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance
  2. Finding Meaning in Life: Study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 1
  3. The Fall and Rise of Man
  4. The Millennium Bible Study #1
  5. The Geopolitics of Good Friday

I’d like to begin a short series on the Book of Ecclesiastes that I trust will help us live victorious lives. First, let’s get a bit of background.

About Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes is considered one of the three main Wisdom Books of the Bible. The other two are Job and Proverbs. Some people include Psalms and Song of Solomon into the category of Wisdom Books because they also deal with important daily aspects of human life. While all of God’s Word is full of wisdom, these books together give us divine insight into some of life’s toughest questions.

I am one of those who believe Solomon wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes for a number of reasons. He must have written this book in his middle or later years of life given the reflective tone and amount of work that he had completed prior to being inspired to pen these words.

Ecclesiastes is a powerful book that doesn’t shy away from the darker parts of the road of life. It is not intended to be one of those books that make you shout the victory per se like Ephesians or Psalms might. It is intended to change our thinking from ordinary human perspectives of life to God’s divine perspective. It’s intended give you a very blunt and practical picture of your relationship to God.

While some might consider Ecclesiastes depressing, if you look at it as part of God’s inspired Word that has been preserved for your welfare, you will discover practical truth that will help you live a good life. When I say a good life, I don’t mean a trouble-free life. I mean a God-honoring life that you can feel has been well-spent at the end of it all.

As we explore these sacred pages chapter by chapter, may the Spirit of God help you apply these truths to your own circumstances.

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

Most people have trouble defining life. What is life? Cells? An ongoing search for purpose that lasts until death?

God answers that question in one word: meaningless.

Now, at first glance, that might sound rather depressing. Life is meaningless? Not exactly. You see, life is God’s greatest gift. But it is how we spend our lives that is often meaningless. Everything we do—our daily tasks, our jobs, our pursuit of relationships—in the grand scheme of eternity, is all temporal and will pass away.

For example, let me ask you a question: who was the wife of the Roman Emperor Augustus? Unless you are a lover of history, you probably don’t know he was married to Empress Livia and two other women. Augustus once ruled the civilized world. He was one of the most important men in world history and his wife (Livia) was a powerful force in her time. But today, they are unknown to most of the global population.

The point is, it doesn’t matter how much you achieve in this life for death swallows up even the memory of the powerful. If the world were to last 100 more years, Jeff Bezos will be nothing more than a dim memory. Today, many may envy his success. But tomorrow? He may be a statue in a museum, lost among many others.

It is all meaningless and God wants you to know that. Why? So you don’t fall into the Laodicean trap of focusing on how many things you can acquire or how many hours you can put into the job.

A good life isn’t defined by the number of your natural “accomplishments”— it is defined by the depth of your spiritual walk with Christ.

How beautifully this coincides with the Lord Jesus’s words:

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28-29).

Let’s look deeper.

Meaningful meaninglessness

The popular notion is that you are successful if you clock in 50+ hours at the job each week—while juggling a few side-gigs and kids. If you’re really successful, you get to add the pressures of a social position on top of that. And if you’re absolutely heroic, you can add on a few houses that you’ll stuff with things you will only use a few times in your life.

You know that’s true. Now, I’m not preaching minimalism although I am, to a some extent, a minimalist at heart. I am stating that our idea of “a good life” is totally contrary to what God intended and science is coming around to realizing what the Bible has been saying for more than 3,000 years.

In May 2021, the World Health Organization released an article which stated that,

Long working hours led to 745 000 deaths from stroke and ischemic heart disease in 2016, a 29 per cent increase since 2000…

World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization

Clearly, man’s idea of productivity is not God’s idea of a good life.

Knowing this age would come, He teaches us from the very first words of this chapter are here to turn our eyes away from this near-sighted view of incessant productivity.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t do your best at your job or have high aspirations for your life—you should!

But, to lead a good life, you must keep everything in balance and always remember that whatever you’re striving for will ultimately no longer make you happy.

What is happiness?

God designs life in a way that happiness would be elusive. He made contentment something you must learn so that His children will continue to seek Him. God knows that, if work , relationships or the things of this world were all satisfying then we would never come to Him.

Think about it: what drove you to Christ in the first place? Wasn’t it a dissatisfaction with what you had? We all came from different places and have had different journeys to the Cross. But none of us were happy with the kind of lives we were leading or else we would have remained in that condition. As Paul said in his letter to the Hebrews:

 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Hebrews 11:14-16

By God’s order, we who are pilgrims turn our attention away from the meaningless attractions of the modern world in order to find true satisfaction in Him.

The thread of imperfection

The Persians were (and still are) known for their gorgeous rugs. But the weavers would deliberately make a mistake or weave in a thread that was out of place because they believed that only God could be perfect. As such, nothing man creates should be perfect.

I believe God Himself applies this principle to our lives, creating scenarios that leave us a little empty or dissatisfied. Sometimes this is with our family, our children, or with events in our life that we couldn’t control.

We sometimes think that we’d be happy if we could only achieve a certain milestone. But, after you achieve it, you realize that after a while that you need something more.

So, God teaches us that in order to have a good life, we must first realize that the things we fight so hard to gain are simply meaningless.

When you come to terms with this reality then you’re in a position to really understand the true, meaningful beauty that life offers.

An age of contradictions

The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

Here the Scripture shows us that, not only are we temporary but so is our impact on the world around us. Nature runs in a circuit with no permanent resting place. In like manner, none of us can have any truly change the world on a permanent basis. This is why we continue to have global crises in, what I call, an Age of Contradictions.

Think about it:

We live in a world where technology allows us to connect with ease yet people have never been so disconnected and without empathy. Everywhere, people talk about love yet our streets and grocery stores are filled with senseless acts of violence. Mass production and technology allows much of the Western world to live in comfort yet so many in America are homeless, and are without to running water. Obesity is a disease in North America while around the world billions live in starvation. Americans have tech-saturated classrooms yet 21 percent of Americans cannot read.

These problems and more persist despite the efforts of global organizations, church groups, aid societies and countless hours of volunteering.

All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

Nothing we do is truly lasting or can satisfy. But does that mean we should we stop our efforts to do good in the world?

Absolutely not. We should brighten the corner where we are and do all we can with what we have.

Let us realize that while we cannot permanently affect society as a whole, we can make a lasting impact on the lives of other temporary mortals around us. A good life draws meaning from serving others in Christ’s stead.This is what gives meaning to an otherwise meaningless life.

Mental refresher

Let’s pause for a moment and recap what we’ve touched on in this chapter before moving forward. So far we’ve learned:

  • Our actions in daily life are meaningless
  • True meaning comes from focusing on the spiritual instead of the natural
  • God uses dissatisfaction to make us seek Him more
  • We cannot permanently alter the world but we can deeply impact others for good or evil

Why does the world have so many problems?

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

10 Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

11 There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

I’d like to touch on three things in this segment: brevity, the heart of man, and the coming Kingdom of Christ.

First: God shows us that we are only here for a brief moment. Our lives are, as David said, “a handbreadth” (Ps. 39:5). We must therefore give urgent heed to God’s call for our life and not delay to fulfill whatever He has commissioned us to do.

A good life revolves around the understanding that we only have this moment and are not guaranteed the next. How you spend that moment will depend upon the condition of your heart. Which brings me to my next point: the heart of man.

Second: the heart of man. People often wonder why there are still so many problems in the world. The answer is simply that humanity has never changed its collective heart. We still have the same core issues as our ancestors did since the Fall. Our languages and cultures may be different than that of the early peoples but we still have hate, lust, greed and slander. In short, “there is nothing new under the sun” because we keep repeating a vicious cycle of destruction, renewal, corruption and destruction— a cycle that is propelled by the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10).

On a global scale, the hardness of the human heart led to the Great Flood (see Romans 1:18-32). He is the One that brought the world from chaos and can send it back to chaos anytime He chooses.

Spiritually, remember that just as it took a Creator to set these laws of sun, wind and water in motion, so will it take a Creator to bring order to a chaotic world. This is why the world is descending more into chaos—since the Flood, humanity has run back toward a world that refuses to let Christ (the Creator of Order) have any control. Which brings me to my final point: the coming Kingdom.

Third: the Kingdom of Christ. The Bible tells us that the disorder of this world must happen to allow for the perfect rule of Jesus Christ. Now, think for a moment how many times humanity has gone through this cycle of rebirth and destruction as I outlined it above. City after city and empire after empire have followed this pattern. As Hebrews 13:14 testifies, “For here we have no abiding city, but we seek that which is to come.”

We are so privileged to be living at the end of the world because the final change of rulership, from Man’s Day to God’s Day, is about to take place. This will end the cycle and bring about something that is new—Christ dwelling in flesh among all His redeemed children.

Final thoughts

Let’s wrap up our study today with Solomon’s efforts to discover the meaning of life. Remember, these men of the Bible went through these profound—and often traumatic situations—for your benefit.

12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.

13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

I want you to realize that when Solomon was given the “spirit of wisdom,” he was actually given what we call prophetic discernment. Like the Lord Jesus (who he foreshadowed), Solomon told the people the secrets of their hearts. For example, when the Queen of Sheba came to him, the Queen didn’t need to ask Solomon her questions—he told her what she came to ask him.

And Solomon told her all her questions: there was not any thing hid from the king, which he told her not.

1 Kings 10:3

This shouldn’t be surprising. We who believe this End-Time Message know that God did the same through Brother Branham about 50 years ago. God is simply showing us time and again that He doesn’t change and He, the Word, is still a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” In 1 Corinthians 12:8, Paul also referred to this gift as wisdom and knowledge.

So, Solomon, this man with such a tremendous gift led Israel to a time of prosperity and dominion like they had never known before. It is therefore no exaggeration to say that he saw “everything that was done under the sun. ” So, what can we draw from these verses?

15 That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting (or lacking) cannot be numbered.

Right away we see the need for the new birth. We were all born fallen, or crooked, and can therefore cannot lead a “good life” without God setting us straight no matter how hard we try. Since we were born crooked, we cannot be made straight. Reformation and rehab can only go so far. Since we were born lacking godliness or any good virtue, we cannot therefore count anything good from our lives—unless we are reborn.

In Solomon’s time the New Birth was not a reality so the poor prophet could only have “vexation of spirit” as he looked across humanity. What a blessing it is to know that now God has a way of dealing with the situation. He doesn’t straighten out the crooked nature—He destroys it altogether and gives us a divine nature called the Holy Ghost that leads us straight to Heaven.

But that blessed outpouring would only strike the Earth about 1,000 years after Solomon’s death. So he tried to find meaningful living in the same futile manner that many do today—by doing whatever makes them happy.

16 I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.

17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

With all respect to which he is due, Solomon became what we would call an epicurean—someone who tries to find meaning in life by indulging in whatever he or she wants. The sad reality is, he never found it and neither will you.

Imagine you’re King Solomon for a year. In one year, the Bible tells us, Solomon received 666 talents of gold (1 Kings 10:14) besides what the craftsmen and traders brought in. Most biblical scholars place a talent as weighing between 75-100 pounds by our modern weight. To be conservative, let’s go with 75 pounds. If you are King Solomon, each year you would receive 49,950 pounds of gold besides what the businessmen paid in tribute. At the time I am writing this article, the price of gold is $1,877.64 (US) per troy ounce. Assuming the rate remained constant, if you were King Solomon, your revenue from gold investment would be almost 94 million USD per year. With an estimated net worth of $2 trillion, Solomon was in a great position to be happy—or so we would think. By contrast Bill Gates in 2021 would be a pauper with a net worth of 126.8 billion USD at the time of this writing.

There’s a popular myth that makes people think that getting whatever you want makes you feel good. No, that only makes you more dissatisfied.

Now, remember, God let this man follow this road to nowhere so that you would not do the same. Christ’s whole intention is to stamp out all humanistic thinking from our lives by the power of His Word so that we might find true, lasting satisfaction in Him.

To live a good life, you must get used to not giving yourself what you want when you want. Frankly, Jesus commands us to live a life of self-denial if we want to be His disciples (Luke 9:23).

Solomon showed us that meaning doesn’t come from gaining or enjoying this world’s goods. He taught us that it is all a meaningless illusion that only one thing can fix—a deep abiding relationship with Christ in which He opens more of Himself to you each and every day.

We talked about a lot of things in this first chapter, so let’s recap. And I encourage you to go through this again and read the scriptures that I’ve referenced while considering how you can apply them to your own life.

Mental recap #2

  • We are only here for a moment but our influence can impact others for their lifetime and hopefully beyond.
  • Because the heart of humanity doesn’t change neither will our core problems
  • We are blessed to live when the Kingdom of Christ is about to come into existence. He will bring something new to this fallen world.
  • The New Birth is the only way of straightening out a crooked creation. Reformation will only go so far.
  • Solomon was in a position to have whatever he wanted, yet he still was plagued by dissatisfaction.
  • Getting what we want doesn’t lead to a good life. Deepening our relationship with Christ will lead to a good life.

Next week we want to look at Ecclesiastes chapter 2 while focusing on the following questions: What does the Bible teach about the work-life balance? Should we, the Bride, consider the fact that we may have to face death? Should my job define my life or my level of happiness?

God bless you.

The Fall & Rise of Man

The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance Pastor's Corner

This study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 discusses the topics of happiness, fulfillment in work, and living a vibrant life
  1. The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance
  2. Finding Meaning in Life: Study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 1
  3. The Fall and Rise of Man
  4. The Millennium Bible Study #1
  5. The Geopolitics of Good Friday

I could spend the rest of my ministry just on the Fall and never touch on all aspects of this pivotal moment in human history. Today I’d like to reinforce some of the things that I have taught the church with the goal of deepening your appreciation for what lies ahead for the Bride.

Those of you who have been under my ministry for some time know that I believe the Fall was the result of Eve’s misinterpretation of God’s Word. His command to “multiply and replenish”, given while they were in a spirit body, still hung over humanity without being fulfilled. The serpent, who was a beast of the field according to Genesis 3:1 and not the devil, came to Eve and enticed her into a sexual relationship which resulted in the birth of Cain.

When confronted with this harsh reality of an unfaithful wife (who the Bible teaches was already pregnant) Adam had to make a fateful decision. Should he save his wife and condemn humanity or should he abandon his wife and save himself?

Now Eve should have been burned along with the serpent for their awful deed. But Adam intervened, taking her quickly to himself so that she was saved.

Church Age Book, Thyatarian Church Age, Rev. William Branham.

You and I might say, “Well, the lesser of two evils is to save humanity and let Eve be condemned.” But remember such thinking is carnal as Caiaphas showed us when he said the same thing (John 11:50). We must realize that God’s nature is to protect and defend ALL of His children.

He is the Chief Shepherd and to lose one of His flock is unthinkable (see John 17:12). This trait of God (protective instinct) is hardwired in God’s sons. Allow me to digress just for a moment to say that the modern concept of women not wanting a man’s protection goes against the very programming of God. Adam, who was made in the nature of God, loved his wife and didn’t want to see her lost. So, in that moment, he made a decision to lose everything in order to save everything.

Adam’s faith

Adam knew that he was God’s child—and if God condemned Eve He would have to condemn him too. So he risked it all, as we would say, counting on the fact that God would somehow save them all.

And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

1 Timothy 2:14

God did intervene. But, like any good parent, He had stern consequences in store. As I mentioned this morning, when man sinned, a great blackness struck the Earth and all creation just as the universe itself suffered when Lucifer fell from heaven. Even the very structure of humanity became deformed. As God pronounced the curse in Genesis 3, changes took place in Adam and Eve’s bodies—just as they did the serpent and the Earth.

Let’s look at the penalty of sin.

First, God took the serpent’s legs (Gen. 3:14). From being an intelligent beast that could communicate he was condemned to be a slithering reptile. From being the “second-in-command” after Adam, he became so low that even a bird can look down on him. This condition carries over through the Millennium where the Bible tells us that “dust shall be the serpent’s meat” (Isaiah 65:25).

I don’t think we realize how seriously God takes sin. God said nothing about removing the serpent’s ability to think or reason—but his ability to express his thoughts was eliminated. Imagine if that were you? If you, and your descendants, were still able to think but couldn’t speak. This condition lasts throughout the end of time. One act done by one serpent condemned all future generations.

So, when you’re tempted to do wrong, consider how seriously God takes sin and how harshly He punishes iniquity.

Humankind’s fallen body

Second: man’s body changed. I mentioned once that Adam and Eve didn’t need a sewage system as their body didn’t produce any waste from what they ate in the Garden of Eden. I know this might have surprised you, and I understand, but I’d like to give you some scripture to think about in hopes that it will get you even more excited about the world to which we are going.

Adam himself could not be cursed, because he was God’s child even if he was in rebellion. So God cursed the ground for Adam’s sake. However, Adam’s body would be subject to time, gravity and other natural forces, and the elimination of waste products.

Before the fall, man didn’t sweat. Sweat is a direct response to the fallen condition—”In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread… (Gen. 3:19). Science tells us that sweat contains trace amounts of ammonia (a leftover product from broken down proteins). Everything Adam ate before sin hit the planet was perfect so there could be no elimination of waste.

No toilet paper hoarding there!

Our ability to bring genetically perfect offspring, our hormonal makeup…almost everything that we consider normal wasn’t what Adam and Eve knew before they sinned.

But Jesus changed everything

Jesus had to be born of a virgin because He is the antidote and sin started in the human race through adultery. His whole life was designed to fix the problems of humanity.

The holy God became flesh and had to humble himself to our fallen condition. The Second Adam has to deal with having his diaper changed as a Baby, the hormone changes of puberty, and all the other aspects of our life. Yet He is the bridge between God and man so He can command the winds and the waves to obey Him.

I like to think of Jesus as the world’s greatest undercover operative. He has to gain access to hell so he can liberate the souls in paradise, take the keys from the devil, and invade Satan’s stronghold. But how can He, a righteous man, end up in Hell? At the same time, how can God rip the law of sin from mankind that we inherit through our birth?

When Christ died, it was with the sins of all humanity upon Him—a fate that God Himself decreed. And when God saw the ugliness of every curse word, every rape, every murder, every single scrap of evil upon His Son, He turned His face away from the hideousness of what Jesus had become. Christ was to be the sponge that soaked up all the scum of humanity and He did the job so well that God condemned Him to hell without any hesitation (Ps. 16:10).

The rise of man

That day on Calvary set in motion a chain of events that no force could stop. God’s law decreed that Jesus (who hung on a tree) go to hell. Once in the devil’s kingdom, Jesus shifted from being a suffering servant to a conqueror who scattered demons with every step. The end result was Christ’s resurrection and the resurrection of all who are in Him.

The Bride is not so much going to rise as she is already risen with him (Colossians 3:1). But you remember I said these bodies were physically altered in the fall? Those aspects of a fallen man and woman will be changed to bring you back to exactly what God foreknew before Lucifer even had that first wicked thought!

Now we battle our nerves, but we won’t there because our bodies won’t come from the mortal reproduction of our parents with “short-wired circuits” and all kinds of random genetic variation. They will be the result of the glorified word of God that will make the laws of nature bow to your word.

Closing thoughts

Just as the product of an illicit union in Eden birthed death to the human race, so did a holy union between God overshadowing a consecrated womb produce Life that cannot be stopped.

That holy life now moves through us by the baptism of the Holy Ghost which teaches us more of Himself as we near that great Capstone. This is the season of the Third Pull—where you are brought back to everything that God envisioned. We can’t do it in this world so our loving heavenly Father is preparing to pull us out in a sudden, secret Rapture.

Make sure you are ready to leave.

The Millennium Post #1

The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance Pastor's Corner

This study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 discusses the topics of happiness, fulfillment in work, and living a vibrant life
  1. The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance
  2. Finding Meaning in Life: Study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 1
  3. The Fall and Rise of Man
  4. The Millennium Bible Study #1
  5. The Geopolitics of Good Friday

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Revelation 20:4-6

Our next few studies will center around the Battle of Armageddon and the Great Millennium that is to come. Today, I want to address three questions:

  1. What is the Millennium?
  2. How will we live in the Millennium?
  3. What kind of people will be in the Millennium?

    First, let’s recap the basics.

What is the Millennium?

The word “millennium” means 1,000 years and the biblical Millennium is a 1,000 year period promised to the Elected who were faithful to the Word in their generation. This takes place after the Rapture of the Saints and the battle of Armageddon (which we’ll cover in another lesson) .

The Millennium is a honeymoon period—a sacred time where Jesus Christ, His Bride, and the 144,000 Jews who have received the Holy Spirit live and worship together. It is a time of peace that was typified by the reign of King Solomon in the Old Testament.

Notice that Solomon was the son of David. When he took the throne, Israel knew a time of prosperity unlike any other. His reign was a time of justice and peace for all because of the great gift of discernment (wisdom) that God gave him. So Christ—who is called the Son of David during this Millennium (see 2 Tim. 2:8, Rev. 5:5)—will take His place as King over Israel. This is the time that the disciples were longing to see when they asked if He would “restore the kingdom unto Israel” (Acts 1:6). You see, Israel means a “prince with God.” The name itself promises rulership over the nations yet, since the fall of Israel after Solomon’s time, Israel has never again known the glory that God promised.

But the wonderful God knew that the people that would rule with Him during the Millennium would not only be natural Israelites but an elected people made up of Jews and Gentiles. As I said this morning, He has been hand-selecting that Bride in the 2,000 years since He went away, pulling them to Himself for the great Age that is to come. When the last Bride-member comes in, and the 144,000 members of the Jewish remnant (see Romans 11 and Rev. 14) have received the Holy Ghost, God’s predestinated starter-seed for the new world will be complete.

Now, He can restore the kingdom to Israel. So, in the Millennium Jesus, the Son of David, will rule as head over Israel and as the Bridegroom to the Gentile church. To the Jew, Christ is the Root and Offspring of David. In other words, He was before David (the Root of the royal vine), in David, and after David (the Offspring). But to us Gentiles, He is the Divine Lover shown in Song of Solomon who has finally received a faithful Bride.

How will we live in the Millennium?

Now that we’ve got the basis established, let’s look at what happens to the Bride for and during the Millennium. Now take your time and study the Scriptures I’ll share with you. Pause, pray, think and come back whenever you want to so you can really soak in the Word and, I trust, love Christ more as a result of your study.

First, the redeemed upon this earth will live in a glorified body that is just like the body that Jesus Christ will have.

Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Philippians 3: 21

All of our loved ones that died in Christ are in a theophany (2 Cor. 5:1) that does not age, thirst, sleep or get hungry. Therefore, as the Lord Jesus said, there are no human associated relationships in that body. You remember Christ was asked the question about the woman who had married 7 brothers (Mark 12:18-27)? He showed us that there is no marriage in that estate (called the resurrection).

Not exactly with flesh and blood like it will be in its glorified stage, but it is of a form of a human body that doesn’t eat, neither does it drink, but it’s—it’s a body, a body that’s waiting for us as soon as we leave this one. Now, in there, we enter into that body. And that’s the kind of body that God was, for He said, “Let us make man in our own image and in our likeness.”

  57-0828 – Hebrews, Chapter Two #3
    Rev. William Marrion Branham

If you recall Brother Branham’s experience beyond the Curtain of Time, you see this same truth born out. They all called him “our precious brother” including his first wife that had passed on. That body is waiting for the resurrection of their flesh which our text calls the “First Resurrection.”

But when Jesus Christ returns to start the Millennium and His saints with Him (see Zechariah 14:5, Matt. 16: 27, Psalm 96:13, Is. 66:15) the saints will no longer keep a theophany. Instead, the dust, minerals and whatever else that makes up your body will combine with that theophany to produce a perfect body that is ready to live and reign for 1,000 years and into eternity.

Brother Branham says this, speaking of the resurrection and the Second Coming of the Lord.

332 And now when that tabernacle…they left there in that body, they come back to the earth, and that type of a body they had took on immortality. The—the dust of the earth gathered into that theophany of somehow and they become human again, had to eat like they did in the garden of Eden. See? “But if this earthly tabernacle be dissolved, we have one already waiting.”

61-0112 – Questions And Answers

Now there are so many things we don’t understand about how this body will work, as the Bible tells us that it is not fully revealed to us what kind of a body we will have, but we can look back at the pattern of God to get a good idea of what things will be like in the Millennium.

Notice how God brought man from a thought (attribute)–> theophany–> flesh man (glorified). If you can see my diagram it might make a little more sense.

God thought of Adam then He created Adam as a theophany (Gen. 1:28) and then He put Adam in flesh (Gen. 2:7). So we see the same pattern repeating again. From thoughts in God’s mind, we were put into flesh but that flesh was fallen because of sin. Christ’s blood brought us back into God’s order and so we enter into a theophany after this life is over. But the journey isn’t over yet!

And, then, when this robe of flesh is dropped, there is a natural body, theophany, a body not made with hands, neither born of a woman, that we go to.

Then that body returns back and picks up the glorified body.
 

65-0221E – Who Is This Melchisedec?
    Rev. William Marrion Branham

At the coming of Christ, we return to a glorified body just as Adam and Eve were given. Now notice how human desires were granted to them in their glorified state. They got hungry. Tired. They loved. And yet they were divine beings. We see the same pattern in Jesus Christ.

After His resurrection He had to follow a specific order until He ascended to His Father (John 20:17). He did not eat or drink contrary to what He told Jairus to do when He raised up the little girl from the dead. Why? His body was not ready for that yet. But once He ascended and then returned to His disciples, He came with a glorified body that could eat, drink, and be touched. Do you remember what He said to Thomas (John 20:27). Something had changed for, instead of not being touched and eating or drinking, He asked them for food (which He had always loved) to prove that He wasn’t a theophany or a vision!

Now in the Millennium we will have a restoration of all that makes us human. We will eat. Drink. And love.

Micah the prophet predicted this Millennium about five hundred years before Jesus Christ came the first time.

But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it.

Micah 4:5

Isaiah also prophesies of this great, agricultural society that lives in the blessed presence of the Son of God.

And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. 22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the LORD, and their offspring with them.

Isaiah 65:21-23

In that world, all wrongs will be made right. Those without the correct spouse here will find that God brings them to the correct mate so they can live in happiness and peace.

What people will inhabit that world?

Now, here we’re going to venture into some deep water so get your Bibles and stay with me. The Millennium is only for the Bride and tribes of Israel that stayed true to God. However, the earth will be well-populated.

Notice that all the Elect (those whose names are on the Lamb’s Book of Life) from Adam on to the last one that comes in before the Rapture will be there. But God brings in the twelve tribes of Israel with Dan and Ephraim (who were not among the 144,000 group according to Rev. 7) into the picture. There they establish the temple worship with the nations flowing to the House of the Lord according to Micah 4:1-3.

Let’s read.

But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it.And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.

Micah 4:1-3

Here we see the Gentiles (many nations) being a part of the plan of God. We will all go to worship the Lord in Jerusalem during this time. Whereas these nations (Gentiles) once fought against each other, now they use weapons as agricultural tools for the world has been reset and we turn back to an agricultural society instead of the high-tech, high pressure world that we now know.

Ezekiel chapters 40-48 spell out in detail the order of worship that Israel is to follow and show us that there will be weights, currency, and measurements in this new world–much like there is now. We often think of it as a sort of mystical, dream world but it will be extremely tangible with work and trade being a part of it.

Some have wondered at my repeated statements that there will be children born in the Millennium but let me share just one scriptural promise regarding this matter. It is a beautiful scripture found in the book of Ezekiel chapter 47. Here God is ordering the layout of the tribes of Israel during this Millennium and He says,

And it shall come to pass, that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among you: and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children of Israel; they shall have inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.

Ezekiel 47:22

You see, a glorified body doesn’t mean that we cease being human. Frankly, Eve conceived although she was in a glorified body, did she not? I’ll let you think on that awhile.

Our human talents and skills remain with us. We will use them to glorify the Lord who will be in our midst. Think of what it will be as we worship for a thousand years with singers like David and Sankey, as we hear testimonies by Paul, Peter Cartwright and Bro. Branham. Truly, I wonder how we’ll find time to sleep with so much excitement going on!

And through it all is the blessed presence of the Lord Jesus incarnate among us.

But, at the end of this Millennial period, some incredible things take place—the anointing of the New Jerusalem, the resurrection of those who have never heard the Gospel, and the general resurrection. How do these events affect the world? How do they fit into Bible prophesy? How does Isaiah’s statement that a child shall die at an hundred years fit into the great picture? Lord willing, we’ll look at this next time.

What does a global economic meltdown have to do with the crucifixion?

The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance Pastor's Corner

This study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 discusses the topics of happiness, fulfillment in work, and living a vibrant life
  1. The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance
  2. Finding Meaning in Life: Study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 1
  3. The Fall and Rise of Man
  4. The Millennium Bible Study #1
  5. The Geopolitics of Good Friday

The geopolitics of Good Friday

Today, I started my Good Friday by listening to Luke 23 which covers the trial and subsequent crucifixion of Jesus on the Bible app. It struck me how adamant Pilate was at first to spare Christ’s life but, when faced with mounting political pressure… he gave in. Why?

As a Christian, I believe this moment was firmly orchestrated by God for the purpose of humanity’s redemption. But we must realize that God works His divine will through the choices that we make based on our perception of reality. Pilate had no idea that he was an instrument in the hand of God. But he did understand the natural forces of politics, rebellion, and conspiracy that led up to this moment.

As a historian and minister, I love to dig into the background of major moments in world history. Let’s take a quick look at what geopolitical forces conspired to bring about Good Friday.

What happens when the financial system collapses?

In AD 33 the Roman empire was confronted with a financial crisis that would have a global impact. A shortage of cash—largely triggered by political infighting in the Roman Senate, an outbreak of plague, and a strained financial market—resulted in an economic meltdown that is called the Financial Panic of AD 33.

Emperor Tiberius responded with a bailout—some 100 million sesterces lent at 0% interest to business owners and banks. This stimulus was injected into the market, primarily benefitting the elite but ultimately stabilizing the economy.

Sound familiar? Truly, history repeats itself.

But, while the world was grappling with a financial crisis, another event was mark AD 33 as a year unlike any other. On a hill outside Jerusalem, a Man hung suspended between heaven and earth, making a bridge between God and humanity with His body and blood.

These two events may well have been connected.

Why did Pontius Pilate condemn Jesus?

Roman bust

As financial panic spread throughout the Roman empire, Pilate himself faced an unprecedented challenge. He had been appointed by Sejanus, a man who effectively ruled the empire while the emperor Tiberius spent his days in a sort of voluntary exile in the gorgeous island of Capri.

Unfortunately, having power makes you want more power. Sejanus, who had 9,000 members of the Praetorian Guard at his disposal in Rome, was accused of planning a coup against the emperor and was executed before it could be carried out.

What followed was a persecution of Sejanus loyalists. So when a riot ensued in Jerusalem and the Jewish leaders threatened Pilate with an accusation of disloyalty, he had every reason to be concerned.

What does John 19:12 mean?

And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him: but the Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.

John 19:12

It’s doubtful that Pilate had a direct relationship with Caesar Tiberius so the Jewish leaders weren’t talking about personal friendship. To not be a friend of Caeaser, non amicus Caesaris, was to lose a position of trust normally held by administrative leadership. Pilate’s loyalty was being called into question–and he couldn’t afford to have that happen. Not when he had been appointed by a a man who Caesar had recently executed. Regardless of how Pilate took it, the implications were clear—and so was the decision he had to make.

What does this all mean for us today?

I believe that God orders all things now as He did then. When we read the news online or see it on TV, we often wonder how things are all coming together. As our hearts break with those who’ve lost loved ones in mass shootings, or those who are victims of the ongoing pandemic, let us remember that everything—and I mean everything—plays some part in bringing about God’s perfect kingdom.

Without all the drama in Roman Senate perhaps the crucifixion would never have take place. Without all the drama in our halls of Congress, perhaps the pieces that are necessary for Christ’s return would never happen. But everything is working together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

American flag at half-mast

History and prophecy

One final thought: let those who believe the Gospel remember that we are not here to save this world but to look for the world that is to come. While we may not understand all that’s happening, the wheels of history show us that our decisions result in biblical prophesy coming to pass.

So let us true believers draw comfort from God’s promises and lift up our heads, as we remember the sacrifice of the Son, for our future is bright.

The Messiah (Holy Week Post #1)

Scripture reading: Mark 11:11-33

The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance Pastor's Corner

This study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 2 discusses the topics of happiness, fulfillment in work, and living a vibrant life
  1. The Good Life: Happiness and the Work-Life Balance
  2. Finding Meaning in Life: Study on Ecclesiastes Chapter 1
  3. The Fall and Rise of Man
  4. The Millennium Bible Study #1
  5. The Geopolitics of Good Friday

This week we’re going to try to look at the incredible events that characterized the Lord Jesus’ final week of ministry in “real-time.” In this post, I’m touching on events that happened on the Monday and Tuesday after His triumphal descent on the Mount of Olives. The goal of this week’s posts is to spark a fresh love for our Messiah.

Mark 11:11-33 show us both the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ. He was God yet he was human and we see Him busily fulfilling prophecies with each beat of His glorious heart. Let’s zero in on this.

Monday Morning

First, we see that Jesus is a planner. He’s not the kind of guy who just jumps at things impetuously. Instead, He surveys the situation and takes the appropriate action. Mark 11:11 shows us that He came into Jerusalem and “looked round about upon all things.” Then He turns around and leaves. In many ways, Christ here acts like Nehemiah who just surveyed everything before starting his work or rebuilding Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2:11-15). This is good practice for all of us in our natural and spiritual lives. As Christians, we shouldn’t just jump at new things or be “trigger happy” in responding to situations. We should prayerfully sit back and look at what we see from a Word-standpoint and not an emotional one.

Christ was about to take dramatic action–and fulfill prophesy–but first He stops and assesses the situation. We don’t know what He saw but, whatever it was, it didn’t discourage Him from the work that He had to do. Neither should we let what we see around us breed doubt or fear in our life. Instead, let us align the realities of our world with the Word of God and go forward to fulfill what God has called us to do in Christ’s name.

On the road to Jerusalem

Second, Jesus wasn’t just an observer. He was on a mission to redeem you from the power of the grave and the next morning (our Monday) He makes His way to Jerusalem from Bethany. This is a trip of about 2 miles but on this short trip we see a powerful reminder of the character of our Leader. Let’s join the disciples as they’re following him. There had to be a sense of anticipation, and probably fear. No one knew exactly what was going to happen when Jesus got to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples are thinking Christ is definitely going to proclaim Himself King. After the triumphal entry, how could He not? Others are wondering how the priests and religious leaders will react. But Jesus has something else on His mind.

He stops abruptly near a leafy fig tree and starts to look for food.

Now, I want you just to consider this for a moment. Jesus is about to claim His throne–or so everyone thinks. In a time like this, why focus on food? I don’t know about you but, if I was about to take over the world, looking for figs would be the last thing on my mind. Even worse, this isn’t fig season! Fig trees in Israel typically start bearing fruit in late April but here we are, probably in two week before that time.

But we see the Master has a purpose for everything that He does. Not only do we see how human He was—getting hungry and hoping (not operating by a vision) to find some food on the way—but we also see Him for what He is—the wisest Teacher that ever lived. Jesus curses the fig tree. Through this experience, He’s about to radically alter His disciples perception of their relationship to God.

In the temple

Let’s imagine we’re standing with the disciples as Jesus enters Jerusalem. We see Him just ahead of us, flanked by Peter, James and John. He goes straight to the temple and we know that the tension which has been brewing between our Leader and the Sanhedrin is about to spill over. The armed temple guards and Jesus stare at each other across the courtyard on the outer part of the temple. Peter’s right hand drops to the hilt of his sword. Around us are the money changers and the sellers of lambs and doves and crowds of worshippers give our group stream by as they go toward the inner court.

And then it happens.

For many people, this is probably the hardest part of Jesus’s ministry to accept. Christ—the Lord of love—violently takes over the temple. This isn’t a quick emotional flareup; Christ’s anger lasts long enough for Him to braid a rope together and beat them out of the temple. Again, I want you to remember that this is the same God that thundered on Mount Sinai but He is veiled behind human flesh. This is the same God whose wrath drowned the world in Noah’s day. This is the same God that is coming soon to cleanse, not only the temple, but the whole world!

Jesus was angry, yes. But His anger was fueled by His desire to see God’s word accomplished. Here, even in His anger, He was fulfilling prophesy (see Psalm 69:9). Now here’s my challenge to you.

Even when you’re angry, make sure your anger submits itself to the will of God. Let your emotions and actions be subject to “thus saith the Lord” at all times. Christians should not curse or be crude in their anger. Jesus did none of these things yet He was really upset because He was upholding the family honor. His Father’s house was being violated. His Father’s Name was being disgraced by those who claimed to worship Him. And He, as the Son of God, was on the scene to set things straight.

Today, we are God’s representatives. We are here to set the record straight. We don’t need the tables of the moneychangers or the dove sellers to be overthrown but we do need the idols of unbelief, hypocrisy, and “churchianity” to be demolished. Paul told us that we are here to cast down spiritual enemy strongholds (2 Corinthians 10:3-5). As Sons and Daughters of the Father, it is our responsibility to tear down every attempt Satan makes to pervert true worship in our lives. The Father’s Name and Honor is at stake and the enemy is hard at work.

Let us be busy.

I’d like to point out that Jesus dominated the floor at this stage. The Bible said that he “would not allow any man to carry any vessel through the temple” (verse 16). He was clearly in control of the situation. He was the judge, the Lord, determining what would and would not get through. All pretended reiligious authority had to bow to the authority of this “Carpenter from Galilee” for in Him, the God-Man, lay true authority.

And, if He’s in us, that puts us in control of the situation today. Under His authority, you—not society, not the church, not the devil—decide what comes in and out of your life. Let us break the power of the enemy by refusing him to push anything through in our life.

Let’s keep this temple clean.

Tuesday morning

Jesus did not often stay in cities. Frankly, I can’t think of a time the Bible tells that He ever spent the night in Jerusalem beside (presumably) from when He was left there by Mary and Joseph at age 12. So after cleansing the temple, He again leaves Jerusalem. He’s an early riser so we see Him on the move again toward Jerusalem in the morning the next day.

We’re right behind Peter when we pass the fig tree that Jesus cursed just yesterday.

“Master!” Peter shouts. “Look at this! The fig tree you cursed is dead!” We all turn to stare at the fig tree, our minds struggling to absorb the reality of this latest miracle. For it is indeed a miracle. Trees don’t just die and decay overnight. And this tree was healthy enough to bear fruit 24 hours ago. Something has clearly happened.

Now I want you to notice something you may have overlooked. Jesus knows what this week holds. THe masses that throng Him now will turn against Him in just a few days. He will be betrayed. Arrested. Verbally and physically abused. He will be shamed, stripped naked and murdered in one of the cruelest ways possible.

So, with all that on His mind, why teach this lesson now?

Because the power of our relationship to God is the most important lesson we can learn.

In verses 22-26, The Messiah shows us that He is here to restore all the power and benefits that were lost after the Fall. He taught us that faith is based on forgiveness. That restoration of our relationship to God allows us to have a restored relationship with our fellow man. Essentially, His entire ministry is summed up in these verses.

Fellow Christians, God makes no mistakes. Jesus taught by example not just words. Here He showed us that the same power and life that flowed in Him is more than able to change circumstances (move mountains) in our own lives if we approach Him on the basis of undiluted faith. It took time for Jesus’s Word to come to pass (within 24 hours) but it happened. And we ought to be so encouraged right here.

If He had the Spirit without measure and it took time for His word to materialize, we shouldn’t be discouraged when our confession of His Word in faith takes time to materialize for we have just a portion of His spirit. Believe! His Word cannot fail.

Nothing… “Therefore, if you say to this mountain ‘Be moved,’ and don’t doubt in your heart.” Because (what?) you are Deity speaking. You believe it? Bible said so. And whatever you say shall come to pass if you’ll not doubt, if you can get all of the—the world bred out of you, let the Holy Spirit make you a full son or daughter of God: no world, no condemnation, no doubt. What is it, then? It’s no more you, it’s God in you. Then you take His Word, It’s a promise, and say, “Father, it’s Your promise.” 

60-1207 – The Pergamean Church Age | Rev. William Marrion Branham

The final authority

Satan always likes to challenge authority and he was busy doing just that through the religious leaders in Christ’s day. Clearly, nothing has changed in 2,000 years. But despite the fallibilities of the clergy, Christ showed that the Word is the ultimate authority in verses 27-33 and when It speaks nothing can confound it. Identify with that Word and you will never be ashamed.

The Hour of Deliverance

Listen to this blog post.

Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

Ephesians 4:8 ESV

This afternoon I’d like to do a study on the Old Testament saints that were contained in Paradise. Last Sunday, I drew some parallels between the atmosphere they maintained while waiting for Christ the Deliverer and the Bride today who is waiting on Her hour of deliverance (1 Thess. 4:16). Today, I’d like to dig deeper into what exactly happened in Paradise and what the Bible tells us is waiting for us right around the corner.

Reason to rejoice

First, let me start by saying that we, the universal Bride of Christ, have every reason to be excited about what’s going on in the world. Every sign, every prophecy shows us that the Coming of the Lord is at hand–and that everything the saints have cried out for throughout the millennia is about to be realized. Be excited! Rejoice and don’t let the negativity of this world sap your enthusiasm for the one that’s about to shatter the gloom.

Waiting saints

Prior to Christ’s death on the cross, those who died in faith (Heb. 11) could not enter the presence of God. Because the blood of a perfect lamb had not been shed upon the earth to redeem them, they still suffered some of the effects of the curse and had to remain outside the direct presence of God. They did not deserve to go to hell because they couldn’t help that they came to earth before the Messiah was born and they all died in faith. So God sent them instead to Paradise which, according to Christ’s parable of the unjust ruler, was separated from Hell by a great divide (Luke 16:23-26).

So, whereas Abel, for example, died believing in the coming of the Lamb of God, he still could not enter the presence of God until that Lamb came to earth and paid the ultimate price for his sin. We see right away how seriously God takes sin and how grateful we should be for the perfect Atonement that has been offered for us through Jesus Christ.

Now, because this atonement hadn’t been offered, those who died still wore the form/body that they held when they died. A classic example of this is Samuel. The witch of Endor pulled up his spirit from Paradise (1 Samuel 28). When Samuel’s spirit stood before Saul it looked just like it did when he was on Earth. Samuel was an old man and he still had the robe that was associated with him in this life. That physical robe may have been rotting away in a grave but it also existed with Samuel in Paradise. It goes to show that our actions, our clothing, and our very words live on after we leave this world.

So, sisters, when God says to dress modestly you see how important it is! I wonder how many women are associated with bikinis and other immoral dressing in God’s sight? It never leaves you and will meet you again at the judgment.

How did this witch bring Samuel up? Let me break this down a little by God’s grace. Paradise lay next to Hell or the prison house of the lost. Using her gift, the witch could break into that dimension of Paradise because it was the dimension right below the dimension we all inhabit now. We may think that’s incredible but the reality is it’s very simple. Whenever we believers break into the atmosphere of the Holy Ghost we are also crossing dimensions but toward Heaven instead of Hell.

Some of us are gifted to break into the realm of tongues, prophesy, etc. It just depends on which way your soul is aligned and what abilities God has placed within you (Romans 11:29). But note this: whatever body a person died in, that body would be the the one in which he would be judged before God (2 Cor. 5:10). So all the souls that didn’t repent in the days of Noah etc. were awaiting judgment in the form that they died in when Jesus came and preached to them (1 Peter 3:19-20). Let me share a quote from Brother Branham here that might make this a little clearer.

There is a great mass of souls, lost and screaming. And beautiful girls and wrinkled hags and everything else, crying. Oh, my. If they only had a chance. The heavens has done said He was the Son of God.

   54-1204 – God Perfecting His Church
   Rev. William Marrion Branham

Another example is on Mt. Transfiguration where Peter, James, and John all recognized Moses and Elijah in a moment. While this also shows us that, in the Rapture we will know each other instantly, the truth is that these men looked like they did while they were here in flesh and the disciples were able to know who they were.

So what happened in Paradise?

While the saints were no doubt grateful to be in Paradise, it wasn’t the end product. It wasn’t what they had fought for, believed for, and died for while they were in the flesh. As beautiful as it may have been, a prison covered in gold is still…well… a prison. So all they could do was look forward to the day when the Woman’s Seed would come and set them free. I imagine they had some very powerful testimony meetings in that place as they shared stories about their experiences in this life. Still, they were prisoners.

But Jesus was about to change everything.

Every demon in hell knew the Lion of Judah was on the prowl. There was no corner dark enough for them to hide. No evil spell that could bind the conquering Son of God who had come to rescue that group of His Bride from the hands of His enemy. Jesus came like a whirlwind, shattering every wall that death, hell, and the grave had erected. The Bible says He grabbed the keys from Satan (Rev. 1:8). And then, when His enemy cowed in the dust, He turned His eyes toward that great gulf that separated His children from the children of Hell.

Remember that God still sets a gulf between the sinner and the saint. We are to be different, to walk differently, to live in a different atmosphere even though we’re in the same physical location as the sinner. Let us keep our atmosphere a heavenly one that shows we are “set apart (Eph. 4:1-6).”

Then when Jesus came to Paradise, all the saints that waited in expectation were thrilled beyond measure to see the answer to their prayers. The hour of deliverance had finally come! Adam took Eve’s hand. Eve took Abel’s. Then Seth. One by one the great family of God linked hands and followed their conquering Lord, their Deliverer, out from their prison house.

Jesus left Paradise as a heap of rubble. Frankly He destroyed it. The hour of deliverance had come and He led capitivity captive.

Leaving Paradise was only the beginning

Let’s zero in here on a few things that I trust will do you a lot of good. It’s important to note that, as the saints left Paradise, their bodies changed. It became like Christ’s body. No longer old. No longer wrinkled. Now it became a glorified body that reflected His own great glory. The blood price had been paid and they no longer had to endure the shame of grey hair and wrinkles. Adam could look into Eve’s eyes again and see the original sparkle they once had in the Garden before sin ever dulled their shine.

How do we know this? Because of what happened next.

The Bible says that when Christ arose, many of the overcoming saints rose with Him (Matt 27:52). But not only did they arise–they APPEARED to many other elected Bride members. Listen to me church. This was a family reunion of both Old and New Testament saints. Have you ever realized how much detail Peter and the others went into about Abraham’s life? Did you ever consider the fact that they sat down and had conversations with Enoch and the others? The Bible said they did. “They appeared unto many” for 40 days before they took the flight home with Jesus.

Now here’s where it gets really good to me. Brother Branham shares how Abraham wanted to see the city of Jerusalem. While he and Sarah were exploring prior to the Ascension, a little something happened that tells us quite a lot.

Caiaphas said, “Who is that couple there? Seemed like I seen them somewhere.” Abraham said, “Sarah, Sarah. We’re being recognized.”

They had a body like Jesus’ body. They could disappear like He did through the walls. Just disappeared out of their sight. And Caiaphas said, “You know? Something’s going wrong around here. I don’t know what’s happening.” Oh, my.

  54-1204 – God Perfecting His Church
   Rev. William Marrion Branham

Jesus’s glorified body allowed Him to fly. To appear and disappear. To change appearance so His friends didn’t recognize Him. And now Adam could once again do the things he once did prior to the fall. Now all the saints could act as Jesus did. The Hour of deliverance changed their bodies.

What does this mean for us?

The happenings of 2,000 years ago were a foreshadowing of what will happen–and is happening–to the Bride. Our bodies will be changed to be like His just as their bodies were changed so many years ago (Philippians 3:21). Whereas Abraham once ached and groaned, now he no longer has that problem. Whereas we groan, our day of deliverance is at hand.

Just like that early church, this end-time church will have a spiritual “Family reunion” and will gather in the skies.

In the days that are to come, the Bride will be translated or changed from this earthly house into a theophany (or spiritual body) according to 1 Corinthians 15. But that’s not the end. Lord willing we’ll drill down deeper into what happens in the Millennium and New Jerusalem next time.

What we learned:

  • Souls of the just were sent to Paradise before Christ’s atonement
  • Paradise was next to hell and was a prison/waiting house until the Redeemer came
  • The souls of those who die are in a body like the one they inhabited during this life
  • Christ shattered the power of hell and rescued that portion of His waiting Bride
  • The souls of those in Paradise came forth unto the earth and met with the New Testament saints
  • We, at this junction, will also have a family reunion with the saints at the time of the Rapture

This week, feed your soul on the message An Absolute and focus your reading on 1 Corinthians 15 (whole chapter) as well as Philippians 3 (whole chapter).

Raising the Standard

My heart has been deeply burdened these past few days and I took some time today to go before the Lord in prayer. Especially burdening my heart are the host of signs that all point to imminent persecution for the Bride and the Foolish Virgin group. The clampdown on free speech, the use of social media to hunt down participants in the recent riot in Washington, and the naked hostility of political parties to Christianity are all signs that we cannot ignore.

I only know one Place to go when I’m troubled and that’s to the Lord Jesus. Today in prayer, the Lord revealed something to me that I want to share with you. I hope it will comfort and encourage you as we face the future.

Let’s turn to the book of Isaiah.

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

Isaiah 59:19

God deals with us all differently. For me, deep consecrated prayer is a means of getting myself out of the way so I can hear from the Lord. Often, I will find my questions answered, or find direction as the Spirit prays through me (see Romans 8:26). This evening, as I was unburdening myself before the Lord, I was led back to this Scripture–the Standard.

I saw, as it were, a warrior—like a knight—in battle holding the Standard (or flag) of his nation. I wouldn’t call this a vision. It’s just something the Lord seems to use at various times (including while I’m preaching) to get me to understand something I need to know. This warrior in white was lifting up the standard as the enemy streamed in.

You may not know this but the standard has a reputation for being where the enemy strikes hardest. It’s the most visible target. The bravest of men are the ones who lift up the standard. And that’s what stunned me.

We know that the Bride is the Word-Standard of this hour.

Now, God’s church keeps moving up. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God raises a standard against it. That’s right.

58-0207 – Jesus Christ The Same Yesterday, Today, And Forever
Rev. William Marrion Branham

But I realized we’d only focused on half the picture.

The important thing is that Christ stands by His Standard when the enemy threatens.

The standard is important, yes. But what is the standard if there aren’t strong Hands to lift her up? Just as the standard bearer must be next to the standard in order to lift it up, so Christ will be with His Bride in this dark hour. The Bible says that the “Spirit of God” will lift up the Standard! Truly brother and sister, we see the enemy rising, roaring, and threatening. He will continue to do so. He will grow in power and will crush all opposition to fulfill the word of God spoken by John the Revelator. He will kill. Steal. Destroy.

But, in the midst of all of it, Jesus Christ will stand by His Bride. He will defend Her, protecting her as He uses her to achieve glory. He is the bravest of all. And, just as the standard bearer must stand next to the standard in order to lift it up, so will Christ stand next to His elected Bride, vindicating her in this great day of spiritual battle.

The Bible bears out this truth in many places. God has always stood by His people. In Joel, He promised, “…and my people shall never be ashamed.” Jesus Christ promised to be with us “until the end of the world.” It is in these times of great stress and persecution that the Bride of Christ (the true Church) truly experiences the power of God.

That was my answer. It had me sobbing before the Lord. His divine promise is all that I needed and I trust that this assurance will strengthen you for the days ahead.

Remember, it doesn’t matter what we see or what happens to us. All that matters is that the Word of God is fulfilled. They can take our homes. They can close our churches. They can shut down your internet accounts. They can stop you from streaming sermons. They can even take our lives. But they cannot take the Holy Ghost out of the heart of a born again son or daughter of God.

Just as the standard bearer must stand next to the standard in order to lift it up, so will Christ stand next to His elected Bride, vindicating her in this great day of spiritual battle.

I want to close with this quote and a scripture.

53 He said in Joel, “In that day I’ll pour out My Spirit upon all flesh; your young men shall see visions: upon My handmaids and maids will I pour out of My Spirit. I’ll show signs in the heaven above,” flying saucers and everything, all kinds of mystic signs in the heavens above. Signs on the earth below, there’ll be sea a roaring, tidal waves breaking along Chicago, and all down along the places, great sea a roaring. Men’s heart failing, perplex, the time distress between the nations. Oh, my.

And in that day the great anointed Church was to rise to Her power. Jesus Christ was to come in. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of God raises up a standard against It. And today when science is doing all their different things, then God sending down supernatural signs to show to His Church. Take your mind off the things of the world and look up. You’re in the ladder now, you’re anchored both in glory and heaven.

56-0404 – The Infallibility Of God’s Spoken Word
    Rev. William Marrion Branham

Following this time of prayer, I went back to the book of Jeremiah which I had been reading earlier. The Bible was still open from where I had been reading during the day but I hadn’t notice that there was a verse which went right in line with what I had received in prayer.

But the Lord is with me as a mighty terrible one: therefore my persecutors shall stumble, and they shall not prevail: they shall be greatly ashamed; for they shall not prosper: their everlasting confusion shall never be forgotten.

12 But, O Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them: for unto thee have I opened my cause.

13 Sing unto the Lord, praise ye the Lord: for he hath delivered the soul of the poor from the hand of evildoers.

Jeremiah 20:11-13

Like us, Jeremiah was living in a time where religious insincerity, political corruption, and the weakness of the pulpit had led to apostasy and the downfall of the nation. Like us, he (the true servant of God) was being persecuted by the government that had once been lifted up by God to serve His divine will.

And, while Jeremiah suffered, he saw God’s deliverance. That is what I want you to see. Jeremiah was the standard for his age and God stood beside him. And He will do the same again today.

Bro. Joseph Robinson