Friday, November 20, 2015

                                                      By Pastor Max Solbrekken, D.D.
      In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus stated: "...But this is your hour, and the power of darkness." (Luke 22: 53)
     "And it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened, and the vail of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit: and having thus said, He gave up the ghost." (Luke 24: 44-46)
     For the mother of Jesus, His disciples and friends this must have been the darkest hour of their lives. What a MOMENT, when they saw their Lord breathe His last and die as a common criminal on the cross of shame upon Golgotha's Hill. 
     It was certainly a dark hour also for the chief priests, scribes and Pharisees to see the damaged temple and realize that the vail between the Holy of Holies and the Holy Place had been torn right down the middle, from top to bottom.
                                    NO-ONE DIED IN THE TEMPLE!
      What did that mean? Why had no one died, since the way into the Holy of Holies had been opened? If anyone entered there, except the High Priest on the Day of Atonement, he would immediately die! They didn't understand it, but the Presence of Almighty God had left the Temple.
     At the moment that He ripped open the vail in the Temple -which separated God from man - Earth's Great High Priest  placed His hands upon the head of Jesus of Nazareth and laid the sins of the entire world, past, present and future on His Only begotten Son and Paschal Lamb.
   The pure and perfect sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth had satisfied God the Father and the transaction had been made. The fountain of blood was already flowing. God had already deserted the Jewish Temple and all other rituals carried on at that place from that moment forward were no longer efficacious.
                                    JESUS IS OUR PROPITIATION!
   The blood of bulls, goats and lambs were no longer needed. Jesus Christ had become our PASSOVER. (1 Cor.5: 7). His blood had been poured out to atone for all sins for all time! He is our covering, our propitiation, satisfying the Demands of Divine Justice in the Courts of Heaven.  (Rom.3: 25; 1 John 2: 2)
   Immediately, a "fountain for sin and uncleanness" had been opened for sinners everywhere. (Zech.13:1). The very FIRST PERSON to be washed in His precious blood was the thief who hung on His right hand.
    He cried out, “Lord, remember me, when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise (Abraham's Bosom). He was already cleansed and made ready for Heaven!
     At the 9th hour (3:00 pm), the high priest climbed the steps to the altar in the temple and killed the paschal lamb. At that moment, Jesus cried out, “Father into Thy hands, I commend My spirit: and having said thus, He gave up the ghost.” (Luke 23; 46)
      The paschal lamb had been examined by the high priest for three days. Jesus the Lamb of God was examined for three years by His Heavenly Father, Who declared Him righteous, just and perfect. The high priest tied the paschal lamb to the altar at 9:00 am and at that moment, Jesus was nailed to the cross. Jesus, God's Lamb, and the high priest's paschal lamb both waited for death for six hours. They both died at the ninth hour (3:00 pm).
    St. John stated: "But if we walk in the Light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1: 7)
     "When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished and He bowed His head and gave up the ghost." (John 19:30)
    When Jesus cried "It is finished", He spoke in Greek. He uttered the word, tetelestai, which is taken from the Greek verb teleo. The verb teleo has three essential meanings: to finish something, to put an end to something; to fulfill something; to pay that which is owed!
     At that moment, our Lord Jesus Christ had finished His work of atonement. He had put an end to Satan's power over the human race. All who believed in His shed blood could be forgiven and liberated from the powers of darkness. He had fulfilled all the Old Testament Scriptures about the Coming Messiah. He had paid for all our sins, sicknesses and diseases!
    The Second Person to be washed in the precious BLOOD of Jesus Christ was the Centurion: 
    "And the vail of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and when the Centurion, which stood over against Him, saw that He so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this Man was the Son of God." (Mark 15: 38,39)
    The historical record calls him Centurion Longinus, possibly because he jammed his long spear into the side of Jesus, to confirm his death. When Joseph of Arimathaea begged from Pontius Pilate the body of Jesus, the Governor received personal confirmation of our Lord's death from the Centurion! (Mark 15: 43-45)
     There is much writing about Centurion Longinus becoming a powerful evangelist and finally a Martyr for his Lord. One has to wonder if he was the one who was responsible for so many being converted to Christ, before St. Paul made it to Rome!
                                         THE TRUE LIGHT SHINES!
    St. John stated: "Again, a new commandment write I unto you, which thing is true in Him and in you: because the DARKNESS is past, and the TRUE LIGHT now shineth." (1 John 2: 8)
    For three days the followers of Jesus sorrowed, doubted and waited in fear and trembling. No doubt, they wondered who would be next to suffer the fury of the chief priests. Then, the darkness disappeared and the fog of doubt lifted. Jesus Christ appeared before them alive!
    "And as they thus spake, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
      "And He said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself: handle Me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see Me have. And when He had thus spoken, He showed them His hands and feet." (Luke 24: 36-40)
    Earlier, He had promised to send the HOLY SPIRIT to empower them: “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me: or else believe Me for the very works sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall ye do also; and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto My Father.
     “And whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ASK anything in My name, I will do it. And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever: Even the Spirit of Truth; Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14: 14-18)
                                               THE CHURCH WAS BORN!
  Before our Lord ascended to His Father's Throne, He stated: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." (Acts 1: 8)
     Obeying Jesus' command, about 120 of His followers prayed in an upper room, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. Then, after 10 days of waiting and praying, it happened. The Holy Spirit came and filled them all.
      "And when the Day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from Heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
    "And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them and they were FILLED with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them." (Acts 2:1-4)
                                              CHRIST AND HIS CHURCH!
     Jesus issued His Great commission to the Church: “And He said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the GOSPEL unto every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these SIGNS shall follow them that BELIEVE.
     “In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues: These shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay their hands on the sick and they shall recover.” (Mark 16: 15-18)
     What was the outcome of the Church going out into all the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Did Jesus keep His promise? Will He keep His promise to us today? The Answer is ‘YES’ to both questions!
     “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, He was received up into Heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the Word with SIGNS following.” (Mark 16: 19, 20)
     The Book of Acts tells the story of the amazing power displayed by the Holy Spirit though the lives of the apostles, disciples and the Church in general after the Day of Pentecost, and many years following.
  The miracles began happening immediately after the initial outpouring of the Holy Spirit and continued right through the Book of Acts to Paul’s miraculous deliverance from the ship wreck and deadly snake bite, as well as miracles of healing upon the people of Malta.(Acts 28: 1-10)
   The supernatural sign of glossolalia (speaking in tongues) brought the multitudes together and after hearing Peter’s message about Jesus’ death and resurrection, three thousands souls were saved. A short while later, a crippled man was made well and five thousand more answered the salvation call.
    Peter was delivered from prison by an angel, people brought the sick and laid them on the street so that even the shadow of Peter might overshadow them, bringing healing in Jesus’ name! Through the ministry of two deacons, Stephen and Philip, great miracles occurred and multitudes turned to the Lord. The miraculous deliverance of Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus Road and his entire life as the Apostle to the Gentiles is so gripping one can hardly lay the New Testament down.
    The Church began during tough times and dark days and has not only survived but grown in power and strength. Today, almost two millennia later Christ's Church is still on the frontlines and I believe that as we enter even more difficult times, we will overcome in Jesus' name. Hallelujah!
    Recently, Billy Graham, the 97-year-old Gospel Crusader warned the American Church to prepare for persecution! God did not promise us a recreation ground but a battlefield.
                                              PERSECUTION IS NORMAL!
    JESUS said: “These things have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have PEACE. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). 
And St. Paul admonished: “Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Tim.3:2)
     In 197 A.D, Tertullian stated: “The blood of Martyrs became the seed of the Christians.” A mid-second century speech made to the pagan Diogneto of Rome by an unknown author, carried this warning:
     "Do you not see that (the Christians) thrown to the wild beasts - that they may recant the Lord - do not allow themselves to be beaten? Do you not see that the more they are punished, the more the others increase in numbers?"
    Concerning His own Death, our Lord Jesus Christ stated: Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (John 12: 24, 25)
    Personally, I believe that persecution is healthy for the Church. And at this very time, God is ready to pour out His Holy Spirit as never before and it is up to us to carry His Gospel everywhere possible, using every method possible, during all the time we have left to do so! Hallelujah.
     All glory to the Lamb that was slain for our sins, was buried and raised from the dead on the third day! He is alive and has all power in Heaven and in earth. And as He promised, He will return. Trust Him today, my friend! Amen.