When the Wolf and the Lamb Eat Together

When the Wolf and the Lamb Eat Together

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Isaiah 65.17-25 is interesting. Some have mistakenly concluded that it is a prophecy of Christ’s “millennial kingdom” because it resembles passages in John’s revelation. However, we might agree that it refers to the millennium only if others use that term to describe the entire period between Jesus Christ’s two advents. 

Contextually, this prophecy appears alongside others concerning the church or the kingdom. Paul summarizes the blessings God promised Isaiah in this passage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1.3 NASB1995). 

And we’ve been in these final days since Pentecost (Acts 2.16-21). As a result, we should not be surprised by its longevity (i.e., more than two millennia and counting) because God metaphorically predicted that its cohorts would live a long time (Isaiah 65.20). Furthermore, this extension is advantageous because it provides opportunities for those who need to repent (cf. 2 Peter 3.9). 

But what does Isaiah 65:25 mean by the wolf eating with the lamb? Because wolves and lambs are predators and prey, people assume it must refer to the millennial kingdom. Otherwise, the wolves would be the ones devouring the lambs. So, we can’t discuss anything current. Nonetheless, they fail to remember that there once existed a time when wolves and lambs ate together. They did so on the ark that God instructed Noah to build. The ark served as God’s refuge during His wrath. 

Today, the church serves as that refuge. Even when wolves are nearby, lambs will still be able to eat within that place of safety. Some people believe God’s providence protects His children, so they have no fear despite living in a wolf-infested world. Others argue that because God changes the obedient’s nature through the Gospel, the wolves and lambs can eat together within the church because their personalities have changed. They are brand-new creatures (2 Corinthians 5.17). All of these interpretations are correct, but there is an intriguing corollary. 

Who was the primary apostle to the Gentiles? Peter’s sermon converted the first Gentiles (Acts 10.34ff), but the Lord chose to send Paul to the Gentiles (Acts 26.17). Jesus tore down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2.13-15), allowing those like Paul to welcome the Gentiles into Zion (cf. Isaiah 62.1-3). However, what do we know about Paul’s history? Paul belonged to the Benjamite tribe. 

God allowed Israel to prophesy his sons’ futures as he lay dying (Genesis 49.1-27). According to Jacob, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he devours the prey, And in the evening he divides the spoil” (Genesis 49.27 NASB1995). Paul was thus a ravenous wolf whose conversion caused him to eat with the lambs (Acts 20.7). No longer a church persecutor content to put Christians to death for their crime of faith in Jesus, Paul became Christ’s ambassador to increase the flock of Christ. 

A true example of the wolf eating with the lamb is found only in God’s kingdom, the church. 

Is the Bible Homophobic?

Is the Bible Homophobic?

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Romans 1:27 says, “In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.” 

There is no denying the fact that scripture clearly states that it is a sin to commit shameful acts that go against what God intended. Since this is the case, many will take this verse and others and claim that the Bible (God) is homophobic. 

While the Bible does label it as a sin, it does not encourage Christians to hate homosexuals or anyone else! Homophobia is defined as “having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against gay people.” The Bible does not approve of this. 

Several things we need to consider: 

  • Sin is sin. There is no greater or lesser sin. 
  • Just because some can’t fathom it and feel tempted by it, doesn’t justify hating those who are. 
  • Cheating on a test is just as much a sin in God’s eyes as homosexuality, and both will separate man from God. 
  • Sin will always be found in mankind. 
  • Remember that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. 
  • Just because someone sins in a way that might be different doesn’t give us the right to hate and ridicule them.

Above all else, the Bible calls for us to love everyone. The second greatest command outside of loving God is to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31). 

We are called to love each person. Every sinner; even our enemies. Love the sinner, and hate the sin.

Great Audio Sources For Old Sermons

Great Audio Sources For Old Sermons

I don’t know how I’ve missed this resource, but what a great place to hear great gospel preachers from days gone by, men like Otis Gatewood, Raymond Kelcy, Frank Van Dyke, a young George Bailey, a young Hardeman Nichols and others. That can be found here:

Digital Commons

(This is not an endorsement of everything on this site)

Here is another outstanding source for great gospel preachers of an earlier era, published by my friend Scott Harp:

Restoration Movement

Don’t Hate (1 John: Part 8)

Don’t Hate (1 John: Part 8)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Don’t Hate

This is what you’ve heard from the beginning: you should love each other. Don’t be like Cain, he was evil. He slaughtered his own brother. Why would he do that? Because he did evil things, and his brother was morally pure. 

Don’t be surprised, family, if the world hates you. You know you’ve transferred from death to life when you love your Christian family. Those who don’t love their Christian family are still dead. 

Anyone who hates their Christian family is a murderer — and you know that no murderer lives forever. 

A Door In The Sky & The Trumpet Of His Voice 

A Door In The Sky & The Trumpet Of His Voice 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Revelation 1.3 

To prepare the mind for the door and the trumpet of chapter 4, let’s review the Revelator’s response. 

John Is Literally Paralyzed By Fear  

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”  1.17

The Trumpet Of His Voice 

On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet..” 1.10 

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 4.1 

Let’s take a second to appreciate this window into the heavenly realm. These precious details should make you hunger for more. 

Let’s Speculate For A Moment 

Roman cornu found at Pompeii, Public domain

While the “trumpet” is used metaphorically, there’s a particular kind of trumpet that John may have been thinking of. It’s called the Roman Cornu. 

This brass signal trumpet was around nine feet long, curved into a “G” shape, and supported by a crossbar. Recently, two of these horns were found by archeologists in the ruins of Pompeii. 

These trumpets were used to direct Roman troops on the Roman battlefield. One military strategist by the name Vegetius said, 

“The rules (given by blowing the horn) must be punctually observed in all exercises and reviews so that the soldiers may be ready to obey them in action without hesitation according to the general’s orders either to charge or halt, to pursue the enemy or to retire.”

A trumpet that could be heard over the din of battle? That had to be loud. 

Click hear to listen to a short example of a perfect replica of a Cornu horn being blown. It’s loud, exciting, and terrifying. 

That’ll raise the hair on your neck. 

Traveling Through The Door In The Sky 

The voice of the Lord was like that of trumpet, and it was calling John to come through a door in the sky (4.1). 

We read that John was in the Spirit in Revelation 1.10, but something else seems to be going on here. This is a new experience and even with the help of Inspiration, it’s difficult to describe in a  limited human language. 

Did John’s body travel through the door as well? That’s anybody’s guess and while on earth— a concrete answer is impossible to find. 

Paul hardly even tried to describe his journey into the spiritual world as descriptive terms don’t seem to do it justice (2 Cor. 12.1-4). 

The Meaning Of The Door 

Was it a portal? Did it have hinges and a knocker? Was it floating? 

Before the imagination runs wild, let’s look at a couple of the practical points. 

  1. The door, while both symbolic and physical in some respects, represents perspective. John is stranded on an island, but God gives him another vantage point. Seeing things from a spiritual high place can help reorient ourselves. How does God see our lives? What does the church look like from up there? That’s what Revelation 1-3 is all about. 
  2. There’s a plan being worked out behind the veil of eternity. Just like Job suffered without knowing the details (Job 1), we can take comfort in the fact that things down here always go according to His plan. 

While the details aren’t as colorful as we would like them to be, here’s 3 important facts He would want us to remember. 

  1. There’s definitely a way into heaven. 
  2. God’s the only one who can open that door. 
  3. We should focus on preparing our souls to step across that final threshold. 

If you couldn’t confidentially walk into His throne room right now, that should be your number one concern. 

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

Ephesians 3.12 

An Inspired Appeal To Assemble

An Inspired Appeal To Assemble

Neal Pollard

I’m writing this during one of the best gospel meetings I’ve ever attended. Robert Hatfield is doing an incredible job! He has a way of telling even challenging truths with kindness while reaching the heart and the mind. He has been prepared and has presented each sermon masterfully. I’m also grateful our elders had the wisdom to invite him to come.

Have you thought about why special events like gospel meetings, like our “regular services,” are so beneficial? Why should they draw our interest and be important to us? The writer of Hebrews gives us at least three reasons in an exhortation in Hebrews 10:24. He writes, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds…” The context of this passage is assembling together. He contrasts “neglecting to meet together” with “encouraging one another” in verse 25, but the why is in verse 24.

COOPERATION–“Let Us…One Another”

You will find the exhortation “let us” three consecutive times in Hebrews 10, in verses 22-24. The first is about our relationship with God (22), the second is about our relationship with the world (23), and the third is about our relationship with each other (24). The writer identifies it as “one another.” It requires each of us to do our part, to decide to act. The more who embrace this encouragement, the more effective we will be at obeying this command. “Us” can be a small number of people or a large number of people, but truly “the more, the merrier.” 

CONSIDERATION–“Consider”

This literally means “think carefully about.” It pictures sitting down and being intentional. Perhaps visualize specific faces of brothers and sisters, those who are friends, new Christians, visitors, newcomers, family members, and the like. Visualize that great High Priest who is also there (19-21). We will hop in our cars after a long day (or week) of work and school and rally together when we have taken the time to reflect on who we are going to meet with. 

CAUSATION–“Stimulate…To Love And Good Deeds”

It never fails! When you think about how the reason for assembling is to praise and glorify our Lord and Savior, there is already ample motivation. But then there is what our mutual presence and participation does for one another. It causes us to think and feel and to do right. We constantly need that prompting and urging. The world is all too ready to be unloving and to either do wrong or neglect right actions. Every opportunity to assemble holds stimulating possibilities.

There have been non-Christian visitors at each service of our gospel meeting. That’s exciting! But just as exciting, you and I get to be together in a time of worship and study. We’ll come with buckets emptied by the day and week, then leave with them filled to overflowing. God knew that’s how life is! It’s why he urges us, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” He gives us assembling together as a powerful outlet. “Let us” take advantage!  

WHY STAY MARRIED?

WHY STAY MARRIED?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Caitlin Flanagan wrote an article in TIME magazine entitled, “Why Marriage Matters.”  She begins by saying, “Buffeted by affairs and ennui, the intact, two-parent family is under assault. What America needs to get over its commitment issues. (Hint: it isn’t love)” (7/13/09, p. 45).  What was so fascinating about the article was that, whether sociologists, feminists, domestic policy-makers, or other experts, they all came to the groundbreaking conclusion that children are healthier, more successful, and more productive who come from intact, two-parent homes.  Flanagan kept returning to that conclusion, even as high profile cases of infidelity were offered to show how the guilty were selfishly putting their own ideals and needs about what their families truly needed.

While I believe that it is possible for a marriage to grow more romantic, satisfying, and enjoyable each and every day of one’s married life, such is a tangible benefit of the hard work and effort invested in marriage.  It is neither automatic nor an entitlement.  It is not to be “persevered” or patronized only so long as I am having a good time, get my way, or reap the “rewards” of it as I, subjectively, decide I should.  No doubt, God created marriage to provide companionship and suitable help (Gen. 2:18ff) and a legitimate sexual outlet (1 Cor. 7:1ff).  It is enriching and even thrilling to look back over years of partnership and see in one’s spouse the depth of intimacy built by shared time and experience.  God certainly depicts a loving, close relationship in marriage as the ideal toward which to be striven (Song of Solomon, Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).  However, first and last, marriage is a lifelong commitment, an ongoing fulfillment of a vow made to and before God Himself, and a relationship that can be severed with God’s approval only under extreme circumstances.

Flanagan had so much good to say about marital partners considering how vital their staying married means to raising well-adjusted, optimally-functioning children.  She hits the nail on the head regarding the deep-seated, lasting negative effects of divorce upon families and, ultimately, society.  Yet, while it may only be a matter of semantics, I disagree with her premise.  Staying married is about love.  It is about knowing how to love, God’s way, and intentionally, intensely, and indefinitely, nurturing and growing that love in the marriage.  Love involves duty, but it is so much more than that.  It is an act of the will more than a flutter of the heart. Yet, its payoff for marriage gives a man and a woman a lifelong glimmer of light that burns brighter even as the lights of our own lives gradually dim.  Let us love our spouses with biblical love and watch the seismic effects for good upon the home, the church, and the culture!

Swords Into Plowshares 

Swords Into Plowshares 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

“And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.” (Isaiah 2.4 NASB1995) 

Once upon a time, my family and I shared a condo in Hinesville, Georgia. It was 1989. Life in a condominium was…interesting. Aside from the paper-thin walls, strangers were coming and going at all hours. Unfortunately, some of those strangers were individuals proselytizing for their religious beliefs. One lazy Saturday, a couple knocked on my door and started talking to me, eventually directing my attention to Isaiah 2.4 and asking what I thought of it. 

I was only 14 then, and my knowledge of the Scriptures was still immature. However, a glance revealed it seemed too idyllic to be related to earth, so I responded with “heaven.” My visitors agreed that I was on the right track with my interpretation and explained how it referred to the Millennial Kingdom that Christ would establish on Earth one day. I politely listened but knew that their explanation, at the very least, did not match what my parents and teachers had shown me in the Bible. 

I’m an adult “of a certain age” in 2022, and I’ve had more time to study the Scriptures. Nonetheless, I wish I had known what I know now in 1989 so that I could have tried to persuade my solicitors where they went wrong in their understanding. My initial response had been partially incorrect. What God revealed to Isaiah was heavenly in origin but established on earth in the first century AD. Verse two gives an obvious hint by stating that the events of verse four will happen in the “last days.” 

The Holy Spirit descended on Peter and the other apostles on Pentecost, around 33 AD. They started preaching the first Gospel message. People wondered if Peter and his companions were inebriated, but Peter assured them that they had witnessed the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy about the end times (Acts 2.17-21; Joel 2.28-32). God was pouring out His Spirit on men, heralding the arrival of the end times, the final dispensation governed by Christ’s Covenant. 

On Pentecost, Peter used the keys entrusted to him by the Lord to unlock the kingdom God promised (Matthew 16.18-19; Daniel 2.44-45). The fact that it was the promised kingdom is also evident in Jesus’ statement in Mark 9.1. He stated that those to whom He spoke would be alive to witness the kingdom’s arrival with power (i.e., the Holy Spirit). Unless 2,000-year-olds are walking around, the kingdom has already arrived. 

However, take note of the end of Isaiah 2.2: “…all the nations will stream to it.” This statement refers to Abraham’s Messianic promise (Genesis 22.18). Through Abraham’s seed, God would bless the nations of the earth. So, we have Jacob or Israel through Abraham’s seed, and through Israel, we have Judah. David was born of Judah’s lineage, to whom God promised an heir to establish His kingdom, build a house for God’s name, and establish His throne forever (2 Samuel 7.12-13). 

God’s promise to Jehoiakim, a descendant of David, that none of his descendants would sit on David’s throne in perpetuity shows that this cannot refer to the same earthly throne on which David sat (Jeremiah 36.30-31). Indeed, no son of David would reign over Israel after their return from captivity. Descendants of Levi ruled the Hasmonean kingdom until the Romans conquered it about six decades before Christ’s birth. The Romans made Herod the Great, an Idumean who had married into the Hasmoneans, a vassal king over Judah. 

When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king. Jesus informed Pilate that He was, but that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18.36-37). Instead, Jesus declared Himself to be the ruler of a spiritual kingdom whose subjects heeded His voice of truth. Jesus’ answer prompted Pilate to ask the age-old question, “What is truth?” (John 18.38) Before ascending to the Father, Jesus told His apostles to preach the forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem, where they would wait until clothed with power from on high (Luke 24.44-49). Take note of the word “power” (24.49) and Jesus’ statement in Mark 9.1. 

So, the church is the kingdom. We could have determined this without reading these Scriptures by looking at Matthew 16.18-19, where Jesus uses the terms “church” and “kingdom” interchangeably. However, false beliefs about Christ’s kingdom and premillennialism seriously threaten generic Christendom. As we’ve seen, Jesus intended His followers to preach the Gospel to all nations, so He would also save Gentiles. In Acts 10, Peter converted a Gentile and his family. From that point forward, God’s kingdom included non-Jews.  

Previously, a barrier separated Jews and Gentiles. That wall was the Mosaic Law. In the second chapter of the epistle bearing their name, Paul explains to the Ephesian brethren that enmity existed while the wall stood. Jesus tore down that barrier, making Jews and Gentiles one in the body of Christ (Ephesians 2.11ff). Jesus brought peace through this act. Let us return to Isaiah 2.4. The prophecy’s poetic language points to a time when warring parties living under the auspices of one Judge would transform their weapons of war into peacetime tools. Despite being on Earth, it sounds like heaven because the church is a heavenly place (Ephesians 1.3). 

So, the church is this wondrous place where we turn swords into plowshares. The church has “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, male nor female” because we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3.28). As a result, rather than fighting one another, we must focus our efforts on our common foe, the devil (Ephesians 6.10ff). 

“Do This In Remembrance”

“Do This In Remembrance”

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

The Lord’s Supper comes once a week. Often I find myself wishing that we could spend more time dwelling on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But Sunday morning isn’t the only time that we can think about our Savior. In fact, if we spend more time throughout the week thinking about it, the time during the Lord’s Supper can mean so much more. 

In this article I want to encourage each Christian to start thinking about Christ and His sacrifice before Sunday comes this week. You’d be amazed at the difference it makes. These few verses and hymns are a beautiful reminder of what Christ went through on our behalf. Our sins are washed away through the powerful blood given by God’s Son!

Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces. he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” 

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Isaiah 53:4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That you, my God, would die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That you, my God, would die for me?

I pray that this weekend we all see the importance of having the right mindset going into worship on Sunday. I pray that as a church we recognize the unity and fellowship we have in Christ. May we never take the cross for granted! 

Moral Protection And Identification (1 John: Part 7)

Moral Protection And Identification (1 John: Part 7)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Moral Protection, Identification

Anyone who continuously, consciously sins is anti-law. Sin itself is anti-law. We’ve known that Jesus was revealed to everyoneso that he could lift away sin, and sin doesn’t exist for you when you’re partners with him. Everyone who sticks with him avoids sin – if you continuously sin, it means you’ve never seen or known him. 

Children, don’t let anyone fool you. If you continually2 practice moral excellence, you’re as pure as he is. If you continuously practice sin, you’re an ally of satan. He’s been a sinner since the very beginning. 

God’s son was sent here1 for a specific reason: to destroy satan’s work. Anyone who joins God’s family for real is able to avoid sin. How? His very essence lives in you, so you’re unable to commit sin because you came from God. 

This is how you can tell the difference between God’s family and satan’s family: if they aren’t practicing moral goodness, they aren’t God’s. If they don’t selflessly love their Christian family, they aren’t God’s. 

 1 ἐφανερώθη means, “to reveal, make visible, … expose publicly … with focus on sensory aspect rather than cognitive” (BDAG φανεροω). The idea seems to be that, unlike his other missions – which were invisible to the human eye (cf II Kgs 6.17ff, 19.35; I Chron 21.14f) – Jesus’s presence was visible to everyone. Since the word is aorist passive, “was sent,” and, “was revealed,” seemed appropriate. 

 2 Use of continuously and continually is not accidental. No one can continuously practice righteousness (cf I Jn 1.8). John posits sin as something we all have, but which is not held against us. Only when we sin so much that it defines our existence do we find ourselves in darkness. While “continuously” is not literally correct, it highlights the intention of the author more effectively. One who sins without ever coming up for air is different from one who struggles with sin (cf I Jn 1.7f; Rom 7.14-25).