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. 

The Identity Of Unclean Spirits

The Identity Of Unclean Spirits

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

The TL;DR (too long; didn’t read) version of this discussion is that when angels mated with human women, they produced abominable offspring whose spirits God refused to admit into the realm of the dead after He destroyed them in the Flood. The wandering spirits eventually possessed some people in the first century whom Jesus and the apostles were able to exorcise. These were the unclean spirits. Because of the power of Christ’s Gospel, they no longer have the ability to hijack our bodies today. If they are still present, they can only help to facilitate situations of temptation. But they cannot touch us or make us sin.  

For those willing to understand how I arrived at the above summary, please keep reading. 

Allow me to begin by indulging in a little inside baseball. In that case, I’ll start by highlighting one of the differences between my brother’s and my time at Faulkner University: two different godly men led the V.P. Black School of Biblical Studies. My brother had the opportunity to sit at the feet of the late Wendell Winkler, whose background was in preaching schools. Meanwhile, when I graduated, the late Kenneth Randolph was the dean. Brother Randolph decided he wanted students to build their libraries and encouraged instructors to assign textbooks to our classes whenever possible. 

I studied hermeneutics under the late Martel Pace. When is an Example Binding? by Thomas B. Warren was the actual text. However, brother Pace insisted on us purchasing Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart’s How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. When the class began, brother Pace directed us to a sentence in Fee and Stuart’s book. That sentence stated that novel interpretations are incorrect. It is erroneous if no one has ever interpreted Scripture in a given way in over two thousand years of church history. With that clarification, brother Pace told us we could throw the book away as he didn’t want us to learn how to interpret the Bible from Fee and Stuart’s liberal hermeneutic. 

Although I felt cheated at the time for wasting money on a book I wouldn’t use, brother Pace’s point has stuck with me. When I approach a Scripture or text and want to understand what it means, I first consult other Scriptures. Then, when I finally turn to human scholarship, I always look for the oldest interpretation of the Scripture. With this method, it is surprising how much of the doctrine taught in contemporary Christendom dates back less than 200 years. Other false doctrines may have origins in the 1500s, during the Protestant Reformation. Others emerged before 1000, eventually leading to the establishment of the first apostate church. 

Despite being accurate regarding salvation, we sometimes see deviations from original thought in issues of Christian judgment. For example, I’ve been thinking about angels and demons. I’ve often said that much of what people believe they know about the subject finds basis in Milton rather than Scripture (e.g., the war in heaven). The Bible is silent on angels, including their orders and responsibilities. When asked who the archangels are, you will hear names other than Gabriel and Michael (i.e., Raphael and Uriel). According to some, an archangel by the name of Lucifer fell. From whence does this extra information come? The accepted canon of Scripture does not include it. 

On the other hand, the apocryphal Book of Enoch is one source having a lot to say about angels. The Book of Watchers refers to the first thirty-six chapters of the Book of Enoch. The author of Watchers claims to explain things like how angels fell. Given that Jude quotes from the Book of Enoch, this source is more interesting than you might think. Jude quotes the apocryphal book in verses 14-15. This inclusion by the Holy Spirit does not imply that the Book of Enoch is anything other than apocryphal, but rather that this widely read book from before the first century AD still got a few things correct, precisely what Jude quotes. Although it is not a direct quotation, Jude verse six parallels ideas found in the Book of Watchers, namely that the “angels who did not keep their own domain but abandoned their proper abode” (NASB1995) refers to angels who chose to leave heaven to intermarry with human women. 

It took a long time for me to accept this. I was of the school of thought that interpreted Genesis 6’s “sons of God” as the descendants of Seth, who began calling on the Lord’s name (Genesis 4.26). That was a more recent interpretation contradicting the phrase “sons of God,” which almost always referred to angels. Even so, I would never teach what I am about to discuss as doctrine because it may confuse some. However, if one considers the context of Jude, one will notice that the sin of verse six is akin to that of Sodom and Gomorrah (Jude 1.7). In other words, it was a matter of immoral sexual behavior. It was never in God’s plan for angels to have companions. They are presumably “complete,” lacking nothing in their distinct being. In response to the Sadducees, this is why Jesus stated, “…in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (emphasis mine—Matthew 22.30 NASB1995). 

I’ve heard it preached that Jesus said angels can’t get married, but He said they don’t get married in heaven. It is not a giant leap to conclude that if angels took on a form with a digestive system (cf. Genesis 18.5ff), being able to eat, they could also take on a reproductive system commensurate with the masculine forms assumed in their interactions with humanity. Furthermore, Paul warns us that the devil can disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11.14). So, it appears God endowed angels with such abilities implied by taking on an assumed form. 

But how does this relate to unclean spirits? What does this even have to do with Faulkner University and hermeneutics? Following the Scriptures, I will consult other scholarship sources; the earlier, the better. So, I went back and read what early Christian writers like Justin Martyr and Origen had to say about the subject. Justin, in particular, confirmed Jude’s message that the angels’ transgression was sexual. According to Justin, angels fell in love with human women and decided to copulate with them, the latter giving birth to the “mighty men of old, men of renown” (Genesis 6.4). These deviations resulted in conditions that caused God to regret creating man. One of the things that the Book of Watchers says that Justin seems to accept is that these fallen angels taught men how to make weapons of war and fight one another. Have you ever thought about Genesis 6.13? God saw the earth filled with violence. That is an intriguing coincidence. 

As a result, God destroyed all except Noah, Noah’s family, and the animals aboard the ark with a Flood. But what became of those who died in the Flood? Would Ecclesiastes 12.7 not be applicable? Their “dust” was returned to the earth, while God received their spirits. But what if among the dead were spirits inhabiting bodies that God did not sanction, a cross between fallen angels and humans? Would He let those spirits into Sheol or Hades? Wouldn’t they be punished like the fallen angels for whom God created hell itself (2 Peter 2.4-10)? 

It appears unlikely that the “unclean spirits” mentioned in the Gospels and the book of Acts are the spirits of evil, departed men. A teacher once told me that Legion hung out in the cemetery (Mark 5.1ff) to linger near their former bodies. In other words, whoever the Legion demons were, they were all former humans doomed to spend eternity in hell. But why would God choose to isolate the miraculous period of the first century to allow some evil deceased spirits to remain and not send them immediately into the realm of the dead, as Ecclesiastes 12.7 suggests? Of course, God could direct every such person into the path of Jesus or the apostles for exorcism, but it seems strange to defy nature just to read about a few exorcisms in the Gospels and Acts. Indeed, the ability to raise the dead alone could serve as the ultimate form of confirmation of the Gospel. Moreover, since the power of sin is death, raising the dead would still prove our Lord’s power of the kingdom of darkness (1 Corinthians 15.51-57).  

Examine how Jesus interacts with these unclean spirits (aka demons). In Matthew’s account of Legion, another demon-possessed man accompanies Legion (Matthew 8.28). Both possessed men were violent and would not let anyone pass. The ones inside these men recognized Jesus as the Son of God and wondered if He had come to torment them ahead of time(Matthew 8.29). They asked Jesus to send them into an adjacent herd of swine if He was going to cast them out of those men (Matthew 8.31). When Jesus granted their request, the demons caused the herd of pigs to jump into the sea and drown (Matthew 8.32). Why not send them to Hades if these were the departed spirits of evil men? Why put them in pigs? 

These unclean spirits knew God would destroy them, but they thought the time was too soon. Of course, we know that those in Tartarus, the place of torment within Hades, like the rich man, immediately knew their eternal fate, but how else would these possessing living men in the first century know such things? They had probably never experienced Tartarus’ torment because they were free to roam (cf. Matthew 12.43-45; Luke 11.24-26). Again, it would appear to be inconsistent with what we know about our existence following death. It makes more sense, however, if there have been spirits of grotesque angel-human hybrids roaming the earth since the Flood. 

Let us look at some examples of demon exorcism in Acts to illustrate these fascinating phenomena further. First, Paul cast out an unclean spirit from a young woman who had been following him around Philippi, proclaiming him to be a servant of the Most High God and preaching the way of salvation (Acts 16.16-21). Paul became irritated with her and rebuked the spirit in Jesus’ name, causing the demon to flee. The event that led to Paul and Silas’ imprisonment in Philippi was this exorcism. When Paul expelled the evil spirit, he took away her divining ability that her owners exploited to make money. Then, in Ephesus, Paul exorcised demons without even being in their presence. People took handkerchiefs that Paul had touched, which were enough to heal and drive away the evil spirits (Acts 19.12).  

This display of Jesus’ power prompted some of Paul’s opponents to try to imitate him. Finally, Acts 19.13-16 contains a humorous account of a failed exorcism. Sceva’s seven sons took it upon themselves to exorcise an evil spirit in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches. The demon said it recognized Jesus and Paul but wanted to know who these men were. The possessed man then leaped on them and thrashed them mercilessly. It caused quite a stir in Ephesus and inspired both Jews and Gentiles to exalt Jesus’ name (Acts 19.17). 

There are no further references to unclean spirits after Ephesus. We know Paul told the Corinthians that the miraculous age would end when the perfect (i.e., complete) arrived (1 Corinthians 13.8-12). By the end of the first century, God had completed His revelation to mankind. And then there was the New Testament. But what about the spirits? Origen, a Christian who lived near the end of the second century, observed that the demons vanished along with the ending of the spiritual gifts bestowed by the apostles through the laying on of hands (cf. Acts 8.14-17).  

In other words, Jesus Christ’s power defeated the kingdom of darkness. Those spirits, if still present, could no longer possess people or cause mischief as they did during the brief period described in the New Testament. This statement does not imply that Origen did not have some ideas. He did. Since, as James stated, our lusts entice us, allow our desires to conceive, and give birth to sin (James 1.14-15), the remaining unclean spirits serve as “midwives,” facilitating our sin. This truth does not absolve us of our guilt, but it may point to perpetrators in the unseen realm who are more than willing to assist us. 

2 Peter (Part 4)

2 Peter (Part 4)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard III

I’ll be repeating the book of II Peter 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. 

The End Is Coming

Family, this is the second time I’ve had to remind you about this. You have the right motives, but you need to remember what the prophets said in the past. Your master and rescuer gave this same message through us, too. The message is this: at the end of everything, arrogant skeptics will make their way into the church. They’ll give in to every impulse they have. They’ll say stuff like, “Didn’t he say he was coming back?” and, “Nothing’s really changed since our ancestors died, we’re all still here.” They forget that God built the sky and planet with some words. He built everything out of water and used water to destroy the earth during the flood. Right now, he’s preserving the planet with a special fate in mind. At the end, the planet we’re on right now will be burned with fire. That’s when morally corrupt people will be judged and destroyed. You cannot forget that God doesn’t experience time the same way we do. He isn’t dragging his feet, like some are claiming. He’s holding off because he really doesn’t want anyone to die lost. He wants every person to be saved! 

2 Peter (Part 3)

2 Peter (Part 3)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of II Peter 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.

The Liars

There have always been liars who claim to be speaking on God’s behalf, so you’ll encounter them, too. They’ll secretly teach things that will wreck your faith. They’ll even disown the one who saved them, but they’ll be destroyed soon. They don’t have moral restraint, so a lot of people will follow them. This will make the world think of us as hypocrites. They don’t even have your best interests in mind! They’ll take advantage of you and lie to you. They will face inescapable consequences. God didn’t even give angels a free pass when they sinned. He sent them to a dark place where they’ll stay until judgment. God didn’t give the ancient world a free pass. In fact, only Noah and his family survived the flood that destroyed everything else. God didn’t give Sodom and Gomorrah a free pass, either. He completely destroyed them as a warning to everyone who might be interested in living like they did. Lot was a good man and he was extremely upset by how everyone in his city was living. God rescued him from the bad conditions he had to live through, so he knows how to rescue us from temptation. He also knows how to take care of godless people who do whatever they want and reject authority. They’ll have to answer to him. These people don’t even get nervous when they insult angelic beings! Even though angels are considerably more powerful than humans, they wouldn’t ask God to condemn those liars with that kind of animosity! These liars are just like dumb animals. They act on every impulse, they insult in ignorance, and they will be destroyed. They’ll gratify their passions in broad daylight. They drag you down with them, and they’re excited about that! They’re a cancer. They are obsessed with gratifying their impulses and they won’t stop. They drag down people who aren’t strong in their faith. They only care about themselves and they’ve abandoned the right path. Remember Balaam? He enjoyed living by his own rules, too. He was reprimanded by a donkey, of all things, so that he’d get a grip on himself. Donkeys aren’t even supposed to talk, but God did whatever it took to make sure he’d get back under control. These liars are like wells that don’t have water. They’re like rain that gets blown around by the wind. They’re destined to spend forever in the darkest place. They lie with confidence and bring down people who have a hard enough time staying pure as it is. They promise freedom, even though they’re slaves. After all, we’re slaves to whatever controls us. This is really bad for them. If you learn about God and escape the influence of worldliness, but fall right back into your old ways, you’re much worse off. It’s better to not know God at all than to know him and then reject him. You’ve heard the old saying, “Dogs eat their own puke,” and, “Pigs get right back into the mud after they’ve had a bath.” That’s what these liars have done. 

1 Peter–Part VIII

1 Peter–Part VIII

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter 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. 

I Peter – Part VIII

Our lifestyles were hostile to God, but he died for us anyway! Moral perfection died to save morally imperfect people. He wanted to bring us to God! He was killed physically, but his spirit was brought back to life. This is the form he had back in Noah’s day. Even then he wanted to save people who were about to face total destruction! God waited patiently for them to change, giving them chance after chance while Noah was building the ark. They died; in fact, only eight people survived that flood. 

Water saved Noah and his family from those evil people, and water saves us from evil, too. We don’t bury ourselves in water to take a bath. We bury ourselves in water to ask God for a clean slate. We can only do that because Jesus was brought back to life, sat next to God, and was given total control of every supernatural force. 

Mentally prepare yourself to suffer. Jesus suffered while he was human! When we suffer physically, it’s because we stopped doing bad things. As long as we’re alive, we’re not chasing the unhealthy passions humans have. We do what God wants. You used to chase those unhealthy passions! You craved all things bad, got drunk, partied without restraint, and practiced horrible things while worshipping fake gods. 

Since you used to do this, your old friends are shocked that you don’t anymore. They hate you and mistreat you now, but they’ll have to answer to God. He’s going to judge everyone who’s ever lived. Remember, the hope for rescue that Jesus gave us was offered to people who aren’t alive anymore. Since everyone’s going to face God, everyone is given the chance to live like God wants. 

via Flickr (Scott1346)
The Location Of Salvation

The Location Of Salvation

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Most people can think of a specific location that brings them joy. It could be a vacation destination, a certain getaway spot, or a favorite city or park. It’s a location that is filled with memories and good times. We find ourselves dreaming about those places when we are loaded down with life. What we wouldn’t give to be relaxing on that beach, away from all the work and responsibilities. What is it about these places that causes us to long to be there? It’s the thought of being somewhere that’s free of care and worry. 
In scripture, salvation is often described as being found in a very specific location. The Bible records numerous examples of when God saved His people in a specific location. The Passover in Exodus 12 is an example of this. If the people wanted to keep their firstborn children, they were to spread blood on the doorposts of their homes. By doing this, the death angel would pass over the houses with blood on them. There are several other examples of salvation being in a specific location such as Noah’s ark in Genesis 6-9 and Rahab’s home in Joshua 2.
If salvation was found on the ark and in Rahab’s home, where is it now? Scripture teaches us that the church Christ died to establish is the place of safety today. 

The plan: a new covenant (Mark 14:24)
–The purpose: save the souls that are added to the body (Rom. 8:1-3) 
–The promise: eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11) 

The Old Testament examples mentioned all contained specific instructions: Build the ark out of gopher wood, pick a certain amount of animals, and tie a scarlet rope to the window. These specific locations brought salvation but only through obedience to God and His plan. 
What specific instructions do we have today? The contents of the New Testament explain in perfect detail how we can be added to God’s location of salvation. The ark saved Noah and His family from destruction, the scarlet rope tied to the window of Rahab’s home saved her and her family, and baptism (Acts 2:38; 1 Pt. 3:21) will save anyone and everyone that wishes to be added to the church. 

Why The Wine?

Why The Wine?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

Noah plants a grape vineyard (Gen. 9). 

He makes wine. 

He gets drunk. 

When did he plant the vineyard? 

It wasn’t before the destruction of the world. There’s no time for vineyard planting when you’re focused on the end. 

He didn’t get drunk while on board the ark, either. There’s no time to get drunk when you’re well aware that God is literally keeping you afloat! He could hear God’s power in the storm and see it all around him in the form of water when he peers out of the window of the ark. 

He planted the vineyard after the rain stopped, the water levels lowered, and when there was dry ground to plant on. 

Why the wine? 

While scripture doesn’t give us an exact reason we can use some reasoning. Maybe he drank his fill in order to forget or deal with the traumatic event that he just survived. Maybe the reality of the situation finally set in and the ordeal had finally caught up with him. 

Perhaps he drank the wine to simply distract himself. It could be that in his mind he had fulfilled his purpose and accomplished his mission. What else was there to do? Lastly, maybe he became drunk to celebrate the fact that he and his family survived what nobody else did. All of these reasons are possible and even understandable. But none of these excuses were acceptable or pleasing to his Savior. 

Trouble seems to come knocking when we lose our sense of purpose and mission. I think Noah would agree that we’re more easily distractible when we believe we have the time to be distracted. Noah’s real purpose in life was not to build an ark. It was to live righteously, as he was doing just that before God even approached him. A righteous man listens to God and speaks on behalf of God as Noah did when he built the ark and preached to the world around him. His mission wasn’t over when the ark landed in the mountains. According to Genesis 9.28, Noah had 350 years of life remaining after the flood. His celebration and relief, like ours, is promised to be waiting for us after our lives on earth are completed. Noah still had a mission and purpose, but he had just forgotten what that was. Let’s learn from him and be mindful of why we’re here— to live within the grace of God (Gen. 6.8). 

Christ’s Focus On Getting Rid Of Sin

Christ’s Focus On Getting Rid Of Sin

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

 

 

 

Gary Pollard

This week we will do a brief study of I Peter 3.17-22. 

In verse 17, the emphasis in the original text is “doing good.” If it is God’s desire (this is emphasized) that we suffer, it is better (stronger, more prominent, more advantageous) that we suffer for doing good works than evil works. How much more powerful a message do we send when we come under fire for doing something that benefits others? If we suffer for doing something bad, we’re just another criminal. But to suffer in the act of doing something good – in context – is a far more powerful evangelistic tool. 

In the following verses, Peter gives a powerful example of Christ’s focus on getting rid of sin. He put everything into saving mankind – including giving His own life – so that we could all have the opportunity to come to God. Even before the destruction of the world through the flood He made sure everything had the opportunity to hear about their spiritual state. Whether this was done through Noah and his sons or whether He had a more direct hand in this is immaterial. The point of the text is that the message got out to those who are “now in prison.” His goal was to bring others to God, even when it caused Him suffering. 

Only those who did listen and obey – eight people – were rescued from evil by the waters of the flood. Notice that the Spirit does not record Noah’s ark as being what saved them! They were saved in the important sense by the destruction of evil. Our focus is not earthly. 

Just as water saved Noah and his family from evil, water saves us from spiritual death. Being immersed in water is how we make a formal appeal to God for a clear conscience! Some translations render this, “A promise to God from a good conscience,” as if baptism is some kind of outward sign of an inward faith. This is not reflected in Greek; it is a conscience cleared by an appeal to God, because of the resurrection of Jesus. He has all power, so He can clear our record when we submit to Him. 

Having all of this as a background, we have some motivation to keep our actions pure, suffer for doing good things, and understand that God’s power is what saves us. Peter gives many other phenomenal motivators for living a pure life, which we will look at in detail in the coming weeks. 

Mbah Gotho, Methusaleh, And Mortality

Mbah Gotho, Methusaleh, And Mortality

Screen Shot 2019-09-30 at 11.21.58 AM
Neal Pollard

Incredibly, his residency card and his nation’s official documents, state his birthday as December 31, 1870 (The Guardian). For clarification, that was almost three weeks before Germany became an official nation, only five years after the end of the Civil War (reconstruction was just underway and Ulysses Grant was president), 28 years before the Spanish-American war, 33 years before the airplane was invented, 44 years before the start of World War I, and America was less than 100 years old. Mbah Gotho died in 2017, making him 146 years old at the time. The only reason it is questioned is because his native Indonesia did not begin recording births until 1900. Officials stand firm that it is accurate. Can you imagine? What was it like to live almost a century and a half? To see almost all of 15 decades? 

To put it in perspective, the ancient Methuselah lived almost seven times longer than Mbah. He died at almost 1,000 years old.  Genesis 5:27 faithfully records, “So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.” Methuselah was contemporary with Adam and Shem, a gap of over 1,600 years. In a day of pristine gene pools and a water canopy-covered atmosphere, everyone and every thing lived much longer. But God determined a general rule of thumb to which humanity has almost universally submitted, saying, “Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years” (Gen. 6:3). Thus, an Mbah Gotho is an almost singular oddity. The official oldest age in modern times was reached by Jeanne Calment, who was 122 when she succumbed in 1997. 

Average life expectancy throughout much of recorded time falls more closely in line with what Moses states, in Psalm 90:10, somewhere between 70-80 years of age. War, disease, famine, poverty, and the like sometimes curtail those numbers, but what is true of those who die at birth or who make it 122, 146, or even 969 years is that they do die. Hebrews 9:27 affirms the inevitability of it barring only the second coming of Christ in one’s lifetime (1 Cor. 15:52).

Most people make decisions as though they will live forever. People who know better put off obedience to the gospel, put other things before Christ in their priorities, serve sin, and neglect their reason for existence. While too many do this in ignorance, how tragic for the untold number who know how they ought to spend their lives but either deny or delay doing it. The moment of surrender will come. The body and spirit separate (Jas. 2:26). The body returns to dust and the spirit returns to God (Ecc. 12:7). At death, one’s eternal existence begins (Mat. 25:46). God gives one only the moments between birth and death to prepare for that existence, but He does not tell any of us how long that is. He simply tells us to be ready (Mat. 24:42,44). May we all get ready and stay ready for that day!

A LINK TO HISTORY

A LINK TO HISTORY

Neal Pollard

He was named after a World War I general, born in Los Angeles in 1918 just after the American doughboys went “over there.”  There are four men who played Major League Baseball older than Robert Pershing (“Bobby”) Doerr (Mike Sandlock in 99, Eddie Carnett and Alex Monchak are 98, and Carl Miles in 16 days older than Bobby), but his Major League debut was the earliest.  Unlike anybody else among the top 15 oldest living baseball players, Doerr was an everyday player who achieved some notoriety. He’s the oldest living player who is in the Hall of Fame.  But, making his debut in 1937, Doerr is a part of these interesting facts.  He played against Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mel Ott, Hank Greenburg, Schoolboy Rowe, Lloyd and Paul Waner, and Pie Traynor, as well as many other all-time greats.  Jimmy Foxx and Lefty Grove were teammates. Lefty pitched to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker. In 1925, his rookie season, Grove sat across the dugout from Jimmy Austin (age 46), Oscar Stanage (age 42) and Chief Bender (age 41). Sitting in his dugout, though, was Jack Quinn (age 42), who was a teammate of Austin’s on the 1909 New York Highlanders, a team that also included Willie Keeler and Jack Chesbro. We could keep going, but we’ll stop there. Doerr, a man still in his right mind, could tell you all about Lefty Grove and heard who knows how many stories Grove told about players who played in the 1800s, connections to the earliest days of baseball.  Doerr is a link to history (info via baseball-reference.com).

How many have pointed out the interesting facts from the Genesis genealogies, where it is possible that Noah’s grandfather, Methusaleh, may have known Adam?  They were most certainly contemporaries, and that covers a span of 1656 years (https://answersingenesis.org/bible-timeline/timeline-for-the-flood/).  Noah and Seth, Adam’s third son, would have been alive together for 34 years before Seth’s death. To appreciate how incredible that is, consider that 1656 years ago was the year 359 A.D., 4 years before Constantine’s grandson, Julian the Apostate, becomes Roman emperor (http://www.fsmitha.com/time/ce04.htm).

It would not take a lot of digging around in our congregations to find individuals who provide us a link to church history.  Consider Bear Valley for a moment. Johnson Kell had Hugo McCord stay in his home one summer several decades ago, the two even going on a long run together.  Converted as a soldier during World War II, Johnson would have been in the church when great preachers like Marshall Keeble, N.B. Hardeman, and others were helping the church grow so much.  Harry Denewiler grew up in the church, and at nearly 90, could have been in the assemblies when great preachers of the 1920s were filling the pulpits of the midwest.  Two of our members, Jean Wilmington and Maurya Fulkerson, were baptized by Rue Porter when they were school-age girls. No doubt others have recollections of the church that reach back to the 1920s and 1930s, like Neva Morgan, Carolyn Barber, the Brennans, and others. Many conversations I had some years ago with Rooksby and Bea Stigers centered around their recollections of those who spoke of the establishment of the church in the Denver area.

As a lover of history, I am thrilled in my soul to think that we are linked to great men and women of God who helped start and build up the Lord’s church.  When I was seven years old, my family and I visited in the home of Zana Michael, a then 100-year-old sister in Christ who was a member where dad was preaching in Barrackville, West Virginia.  She was four years old when the church there was established. Some of the great preachers of the 19th Century traversed the bergs and valleys around Barrackville and sister Michael heard several of them. We got to hear her, regaled by her clear recollections, and linked through her to such wonderful history.

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Zana Michael is the lady in the middle

Isn’t it thrilling to think of ourselves as being surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (Heb. 12:1), sometimes getting to hear from those who heard from those who take us further back in time toward the beginning of the church?  This afternoon, as Carl and I sit and watch the Rockies and Cardinals lock horns on the baseball diamond, we’ll get another chance to join the historical continuum of a grand old game. Every Lord’s Day, as we engage together in worship to God, we join in the grandest historical continuum of all, linked ultimately to Peter, Paul, John, and the rest. Until we exult in heaven some day, what could exceed that thrill?