This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
Last time, we reached Chapter 12 verse 37. Here, Jesus said: "By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." We have to be very careful what we say when we judge, evaluate or condemn others. We had better be very careful, indeed, and watch our words. We must be careful not to condemn a true servant of God, because our condemnation is going to come back on us if we do.
Greetings, friends around the world!
This is Roderick C. Meredith, speaking for the Living Church of God. I am bringing you this series on the book of Matthew. We have been going through the book of Matthew almost verse by verse, giving you the highlights and trying to give you a deeper understanding than you have ever had of this tremendous book.
Last time, we reached Chapter 12 verse 37. Here, Jesus said: "By your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." We have to be very careful what we say when we judge, evaluate or condemn others. We had better be very careful, indeed, and watch our words. We must be careful not to condemn a true servant of God because our condemnation is going to come back on us if we do.
Follow me in your Bibles, if you can, and you will get a lot more out of this. Check up on me. See how I explain the nuances of these verses, and you will get a lot more out of it.
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You."
The Pharisees were always looking for a "sign"—some outward manifestation.
But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights [not parts of three days—three days and three nights] in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
Jesus was crucified on Wednesday morning and was dead by Wednesday evening. An annual Holy Day—a high day—began on Wednesday evening at sunset and ran through sunset Thursday. Jesus rested in the grave on that day. He rested all Friday, He rested all day on the Sabbath—Friday evening to Saturday evening sunset. Then He was resurrected— not Sunday morning, but Saturday evening. That is when Jesus was resurrected! When they came to look for Him early Sunday morning, while it was yet dark, He was gone! He had already been resurrected because He was in the grave THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS!
The Good Friday and Easter Sunday morning tradition, frankly, denies the true Messiah. It denies the very sign Jesus gave that He was the Son of God—that He was the Messiah. That is a terrible thing. Yet that is what this world does—it hooks up the resurrection of Christ with Easter. Yet Easter is the name of a pagan goddess of sex and fertility who was worshipped for hundreds of years; using the same symbols of bunny rabbits and other sex symbols as they now do for Easter. The name Easter, as a matter of fact, was spelled Ishtar but is pronounced Easter. The Egyptians, and some of the Middle Easterners, called this false goddess Isis. These are goddesses of fertility cults. Yet today many call this spring fertility worship a "Christian" festival! The Bible never speaks of Easter being observed. It should not be observed by true Christians. It denies the sign of Christ that He was THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS in the heart of the earth.
"The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment…"
Ancient Nineveh was a pagan city. Its people did not know God; they had pagan idols. I spoke, a couple of programs ago, about the coming day of judgment; we call it the White Throne Judgment. It is a time when all human beings who have ever lived will be given a genuine opportunity to be saved—not a "second chance." Most of humanity has never heard of God, has never heard of the God of the Bible and has certainly never heard of the Christ of the Bible. These people are going to be resurrected and given such an opportunity, which they never had before. They will rise up in that judgment. "Judgment" does not mean condemnation; it can have the meaning of a trial—a test, or going through a series of tests. The men of Nineveh are going to be rising up, back to physical life. They will be given a chance—a test—but will they do what God says? Will they follow God's way when they have an opportunity?
"…[they] will rise up in the judgment with this generation [the generation of these Pharisees and Sadducees, who were very self-righteous] and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah [The ancient prophet Jonah went to that city and they repented! That is the only example in the Bible of a city that ever repented before God.]; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. [Christ was there, the Son of God was right there among them.] The queen of the South [the Queen of Sheba] will rise up in the judgment [she will come up] with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here."
Think about this coming day of judgment—when every human being will be given a genuine opportunity. People often wonder: "What will happen to Genghis Khan? What will happen to men like Napoleon and Hitler and other men who did just awful things, and never heard or understood the Truth?" What is going to happen to those past generations of Jews and Gentiles who never understood, or were unconverted?
We have a booklet on that subject, titled Is This the Only Day of Salvation? This booklet gives the real truth—the real meaning—of this subject in a way that you have probably never heard before. Practically no one on earth understands this biblical truth—but you can! This wonderful booklet will be sent to you absolutely free upon your request. You will be amazed at the truth! It is VERY PLAIN, with scripture after scripture showing what God's plan is—and you may even say "I did not know those scriptures were in the Bible!" But those scriptures have been there all the time! So contact us and ask for that booklet. It will really open your mind to understanding.
"When an unclean spirit goes out of a man [Jesus continued], he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order."
The evil spirit was put out, but God's Spirit was not put in! So it is kind of like a power vacuum. When you have a power vacuum, somebody is going to move in and take charge. What normally happens is this…
"Then he says, 'I will return to my house from which I came.' And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. [So, the man is even more under the power of Satan the Devil. If a demon is cast out and you don't have the Truth of God put in, that is what happens.] So shall it also be with this wicked generation."
They had had some of the wrong attitudes at least condemned and some of them cast out by John the Baptist. But when Christ came, what did they do? We saw in the last program that they accused Christ of doing these works by the Devil. And they did not repent, so they were going to come right back under the power of Satan the Devil because of that. "So shall it also be with this wicked generation."
While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him.
Here were His mother and His physical brothers. This is a very important point, because the largest single, professing Christian denomination talks about the "virgin Mary" as though she were always a virgin! She was not!
My mother was named Mildred, a very wonderful mother to me and my sisters. But we don't call her "the virgin Mildred." I know she was a virgin when she married, but she went ahead like any normal married woman and had children.
So did Mary! Mary is not "the virgin Mary." She was a virgin when Christ was conceived, but after that, she and Joseph had normal married relations—and had at least four sons and two daughters. The Bible names four of Joseph's sons elsewhere, as we will see, and indicates two daughters—it has to be at least two because Scripture says "His sisters"—plural. So Mary had at least two daughters. Jesus had more than one sister. At least two; we don't know how many daughters were born, maybe several—five or six. And Mary was not to be worshipped. You can see that as you read this scripture:
Then one said to Him, "Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You."
Did Jesus say: "Oh, the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, is outside and I have to go outside and prostrate myself before her, at least talk to her, right away."? No! What did Jesus do?
But He answered and said to the one who told Him, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?"
They were just normal human beings. Jesus honored His mother many times, but here He was in the middle of teaching the Truth! You get the feeling that sometimes His mother did not fully understand His office—indeed I am sure she didn't because the Holy Spirit was not yet given. Mary was not yet converted, and certainly, Jesus' brothers were not converted, because the Holy Spirit had not been given to any of them except Jesus alone.
And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, "Here are My mother and My brothers!"]
What an absolutely colossal insult this would have been to the "Virgin Mary"—if she were, in fact, supposed to be honored as the mother of God. But, she was not, as the entire New Testament makes very plain!
"Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother."
Jesus made it very clear that all Christians are, in a sense, like His mother or like His brothers if they walk with God—if they obey God. As we will see a little later in this very book (Matt. 19:17) Jesus said to the young man who came to ask the way to eternal life, "But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." Keep God's Commandments—walk that way of life, serve God in that way—then you can have eternal life. Anyone who did that would be Jesus' brother, or His mother or His sister.
On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat [So that He would not be swamped by them.]; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" [Jesus said.]
The disciples did not really understand. The Holy Spirit had not yet been given.
And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?
He answered and said to them, Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven…"
The disciples were given to understand, but God was not trying to call the general population. They did not understand; their minds were not yet opened and Christ was not trying to convert them!
In the Sunday school I grew up in, my Sunday school teacher said "Well, children, Jesus taught about the shepherds and about the goats and the sheep and things like that, because they were farmer folk back then and they could understand what He was saying. He was trying to make the meaning very clear by using those symbols."
But that is not true at all! Jesus was not trying to make the meaning plain to the people as a whole. He spoke in parables so they could not understand!
"Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: 'Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.'"
These verses explain that they were blinded. Isaiah had prophesied that they would be blinded, and Jesus acknowledged, "Yes, they are blinded and I am using these parables to help with that process. I am not trying to call them—yet." God is not going to call them until that great White Throne Judgment, which we talk about in our booklet: Is This the Only Day of Salvation?
"But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; [Jesus said] for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."
Men through the ages sought the Truth, but could not understand. Jesus said, "No man can come to me unless the Spirit of the Father draw him." That is mentioned in John 6:44, 65. "No man can come" unless God grants him understanding—unless God's Spirit draws him. We need to understand that God is not trying to save everyone now. If He were, he would be losing the battle because most human beings who have ever lived and died are not Christians, have never been Christians and never will be true Christians until Christ returns. Most who call themselves Christians don't even begin to follow the things Jesus taught. They profess Christianity, but they don't understand because they are blinded.
We will continue next time to make this book very, very plain. I hope you will follow along in your Bible. Check up on us, and go over these things later. Study and prove all things to yourself—and hold fast to that which is good.
This is Roderick Meredith, for the Living Church of God.