Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, December 12, 2021
A Conversation with Yeshua – When Will He Return? (Part 5) by Dr. Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: I continue Yeshua’s Olivet Discourse. In last Sunday’s RR, I discussed Yeshua’s warning that His followers would be hated, persecuted, and martyred for His name’s sake. In the same passage, He warned that His followers would fall away from faith (Matthew 24:10, 12-13): [Yeshua said] “And then many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one other. |…| Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” I offer the following comments about this portion of the Olivet Discourse:
APOSTASY AND APATHY (A&A): Yeshua described two features characterizing the Community of Believers (Church) in the last days– apostasy and apathy. In this RR, I will combine the two related conditions, apostasy and apathy, by the abbreviation A&A.
● Apostasy: “Apostasy” comes from the B’rit Chadashah Greek ἀποστασία (apostasia). Apostasy combines apo- (away from) and -stasia (to stand). Literally translated, apostasy is “a standing away [from faith],” “a movement away [from faith],” or “defection, revolt, renunciation, neglect, abandonment [of faith].”
● Apathy: Apathy is a closely related term. “Apathy” comes from the Greek ἀπαθεια (apatheia). Apathy combines a- (no) and -pathy (feeling). Apathy is literally translated “without suffering, feeling, or sensation.”
“IN GOD WE TRUST,” OR DO WE? The United States’ motto is: “In God We Trust.” Do Americans really place their trust in God? Americans are becoming increasingly secular, abandoning belief in God. This assertion is proven by multiple surveys and by observation of Americans’ behavior. These surveys show:
● Many Americans no longer accept Judeo-Christian faith as their personal faith.
● For those Americans who actually believe in eternal life, many believe they can achieve eternal salvation just by performing enough good works.
● Americans are likely to blend a variety of beliefs, selected from such contradictory sources as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and secularism. It is important to understand that a hybrid (mixed) religion will be the cornerstone of the False Prophet’s sham religion during the Tribulation.
● Americans spend little time reading the Bible and participating in activities that improve biblical literacy and understanding. Faith is determined through conversation, self-reflection, and observation, rather than through teaching. Feelings and emotions are more important than Bible study, preaching, and other Bible and faith instruction.
● Christian faith is increasingly defined by individualism, choosing what to accept or reject from the Bible. Many Americans serve as their own “theologians-in-chief,” forming contradictory and unpredictable belief systems.
● Ministers of the Gospel of Yeshua HaMashiach are resigning and leaving the ministry in record numbers, and many of those remaining are disheartened and wish they could do something else with their lives.
● Yeshua and some of His apostles prophesied these things would happen in the last days.
WORSHIP ATTITUDES: Consider the conflict with unrecognized idol worship. Read Matthew 6:24: [Yeshua said] “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick by one and look down on the other. You cannot serve God and money.” The Tree of Life Version translates this verse as choosing between God and money. The word in question (money), here, is μαμμωνᾷ (mammōna) from μαμωνᾶς (mamōnas). Of Aramaic origin, mammona is commonly understood to represent wealth or treasure. Some scholars link this word to Mammon, a Syrian-Chaldean god of wealth.
Is “money” (TLV translation) too restrictive? I believe Yeshua spoke of mammon as being anything a person may value more than God. Such “mammon,” then, becomes an idol. The second of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:3-6) warns against idol worship. Examples of mammon worship might include obsessive (excessive) activities, which take away from worshiping God and building a strong family life, such as:
● Desire to accumulate wealth (through investments, job, etc.);
● Watching/ participating in sports (football, golf, tennis, the gym, etc.);
● Devotion to social media (Facebook, or Meta, etc.);
● Electronic gadgetry/ technology (electronic games, cell ‘phone, etc.); and
● Anything else that majorly detracts from service to God, family, and neighbors.
People can worship idols other than seeking to accumulate wealth (money). Verses preceding the above warning about serving God or money (mammon) include Yeshua’s warning (Matthew 6:19-21) not to lay up treasures on Earth, which will be lost, but lay up treasures in Heaven, which will be eternal. Yeshua wisely explained that a person’s heart is where his/ her treasure is. The Apostle Paul told us to flee from all forms of idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14), which would include the idol of mammon.
PERSONAL EXAMPLE: Let me give a personal example. Distraction can come easily. Before my retirement, I thoroughly enjoyed most of the work of my practice of medicine. I enjoyed the challenge of the job and the company of excellent people with whom I worked. I am a Type A self-starter, and I was happy at work– and, the busier, the better. I could always find at least “one more thing” (usually, many more things) that needed to be completed before going home. I could have happily spent twenty-four hours of every day at work. I enjoyed the work, but, honestly, money (“mammon”) was not the slightest reason I worked. I could not have told anyone how much I earned the preceding month (income varied, according to the workload). I handed my monthly paycheck to my wife, who deposited it in the bank, and I was through with that chore for the month. In short, I have never been impressed with money.
In addition to my job, though, I also needed my family. (And, I hope they needed me, too.) So, I tried to go home at a reasonable time every day to be with family, promising myself to complete unfinished work “tomorrow.” At work, I busied myself trying to help people. Even so, I can appreciate that even “doing good for others” can morph into idolatrous activity. My medical practice inadvertently became my idol– my mammon– but, it had absolutely nothing to do with money. I had physician colleagues (commonly, surgeons) who virtually lived in the hospital, while becoming strangers to their families. When these surgeons reached old age, I would like to have asked each of them and his/ her family: Do you regret that so much time was spent in the hospital and not more time at home?
Hospice nurses and others who deal with dying persons have published deathbed statements. These statements, available online, are most interesting and revealing, but are too extensive to publish in this RR. (Since you have access to Internet search engines, you can find these reports.) Many people have deathbed regrets, but I do not remember anyone regretting that he/ she spent “too much time with family.” END personal example.
● Political activities: In and around 1776, thirteen small British colonies in North America dissolved their bonds with Great Britain to form the United States of America. This new nation, formed as a constitutional republic, was undeniably based on Judeo-Christian (Biblical) principles. While our new nation was founded to tolerate freely the practice of any religion– or, the practice of no religion at all– the government was intended to operate under Judeo-Christian precepts.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” This important amendment– the beginning of America’s Bill of Rights– guarantees:
… Citizens are free to worship– or not worship– as they wish;
… Congress (the Legislative Branch) cannot establish a national religion, or require a citizen to participate in a religion, or prohibit a citizen to practice any religion;
… Citizens are free to speak– to speak even unpopular speech, including speech against the government; and
… Citizens are free to assemble (gather together) peacefully.
Consider the clause about assembling. Citizens may assemble “peaceably,” as originally written. (We would more likely say “peacefully” today.) The adverb “peaceably” is a most important condition by which demonstrators may assemble.
We have witnessed recent demonstrations in which buildings are burned, stores are looted, bricks are hurled, and so forth. Do such demonstrations reflect peaceable political speech or violent mob rule? We may be sympathetic to the reason (cause) a demonstrator wishes to exert First Amendment rights, but the demonstrator must conduct activities in ways protected by this Amendment (peaceable assembly).
The framers of the Constitution feared a denominational theocracy (say, Roman Catholicism is designated by law to be the national religion of America). They even feared a doctrinal theocracy (say, the Judeo-Christian God is recognized as Sovereign). The government must remain neutral in matters of faith (except, of course, prohibiting extremes, such as child sacrifices). America’s religious freedoms, however, are being attacked by quirky court decisions, “hate speech” legislation, threat of denial of 501(c)(3) tax-exemption status, local zoning ordinances, and other governmental actions, often spurred on by the ACLU and similar organizations.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no “wall of separation of church and state” in the Constitution. This phrase, written in a private letter to Danbury, Connecticut Baptists on January 1, 1801, represented Thomas Jefferson’s opinion and preference, but was not quoted as a matter of law. The media and various enemies of the cross latch on to this non-existent legal phrase in an attempt to force their version of A&A and a godless society. Some in America wish to replace America’s laws (based on Judeo-Christian faith) with Sharia law (based on Islam) or United Nations’ law (based on atheism). Question: Speaking of atheism, when an atheist “worships no god,” is that in and of itself a religious practice? I have talked to a number of atheists who passionately discuss their atheistic views with a fervor that would be envied by most evangelists preaching a revival service.
Such godless desires and efforts are leading us into the one-world government and one-world religion which will characterize the Antichrist’s regime during the Tribulation. Such ecumenical movements as the World Council of Churches and Chrislam seek to compress individual churches and denominations into a single, watered-down (lukewarm) religious group.
The False Prophet will cobble together religious beliefs to form a religion working in support of Satan and the Antichrist (Revelation 13:11-18): Then I [John] saw another beast [the False Prophet] rising out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb and spoke like a dragon. He exercises all the authority of the first beast [the Antichrist] before him, and he makes the earth and all those who dwell in it worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. He performs great signs, even making fire come down from heaven in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth through the signs he is permitted to perform, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image in honor of the beast who has the sword wound yet lived. The second beast was permitted to give life to the image of the first beast, so that the image of the beast could even speak and cause all who would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He also causes all– the small and the great, the rich and the poor, the free and the slave– to receive a mark on their right hand or upon their forehead. And so no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark– either the name of the beast or the number of his name. Here is wisdom: let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is a number of a man, and his number is 666.
The Apostle Paul warned us of false religions in the last days (2 Timothy 3:5a): [In the last days… people will hold] … to an outward form of godliness but [deny] its power. The very first warning of Yeshua in the Olivet Discourse was that no one be deceived by persons falsely claiming religious authority (Matthew 24:4-5): Yeshua answered [the disciples], “Be careful that no one leads you astray! For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will lead many astray.”
Many churches today are already galloping ahead of the False Prophet. Service emphases are all about the music, social issues unrelated to the worship of God, good showmanship of the pastor, and various fun and games stuff, with virtually no mention of the Word of God or a person’s responsibility to God and his/ her neighbors. Poor execution of worship activities fosters A&A.
● Education: Many families believe a college education is the key to the financial success of their children. Subsequently, many young people enroll in colleges and universities, incurring major debt for themselves or their parents. Many professors in secular colleges and universities take great delight in instilling into the students sitting under them the seeds of ultra-liberalism, socialism/Marxism, and disdain for HaMashiach (and Believers in Him). Research organizations have shown that an alarming number of young people, who identify as Believers prior to entering the halls of higher learning, lose their faith in God/ Yeshua during this higher education experience.
Many secular institutions of higher learning have become indoctrination centers– hotbeds for anti-Christian and anti-Semitic/ pro-Palestinian professors. These professors, unable to spread their poisonous ideas to the general public, find gullible targets in students seeking to learn from them. Four years of diatribes against God the Father, Yeshua, Christianity, commonly held American beliefs, matters of faith and patriotism, and even classic identification of genders and reproduction may be hard to withstand at a relatively young, impressionable age. We permit certain professors to instill A&A beliefs in the next generation, often doing so while being paid by our taxes.
To show the fragility of faith in vulnerable young persons, I give, following, two examples of persons of faith in their youth (Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin), who abandoned faith to become horrible enemies of Jews and Believers/ Christians:
□ Example 1– From Roman Catholic monastery school to Der Führer of the Nazi Third Reich: Adolf Hitler received infant baptism into the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) in his native Austria. He attended a monastery school. Interestingly, an arch at this school bore a symbol in its coat of arms– a twisted cross– which Hitler would later adopt as the swastika of the Third Reich.
During childhood, Hitler was a communicant in the RCC. As a young man, he became a “Soldier of the Cross,” and desired to enter the priesthood. In his classic book outlining his twisted thoughts, Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote: “I had excellent opportunity to intoxicate myself with the solemn splendor of the brilliant church festivals. As was only natural, the abbot seemed to me, as the village priest had once seemed to my father, the highest and most desirable ideal.”
I believe this paragraph is correct. Hitler was born to an unmarried housemaid, Anna Maria Schicklgruber, who worked for a wealthy Jew. Hitler’s birth certificate does not name the father. It is suspected that Anna Maria’s employer (significantly, a Jew) impregnated her, and that Hitler loathed his Jewish ancestry. Hitler tried to exterminate European Jews (the Holocaust) because of his hatred of these people, whom he considered to be inferior to the Aryan people. Of course, it is likely that Hitler was half-Jew and half-Aryan. [Aryan = originally considered to be people of Indo-European origin; as used in the Nazi Third Reich, a master race of non-Jewish Caucasians, usually having Nordic features. Interestingly, Hitler did not have “Nordic features,” in my opinion. But, if you are Der Führer, I suppose you can decree yourself to have any features you want. Who would be brave enough to dispute Hitler’s decree?]
Not excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), Hitler adopted some teachings of the RCC into the Third Reich’s government. Although reared as a devout Catholic and possibly being half Jewish, Hitler’s diabolical, later-life actions were opposed to both Christianity and Judaism. Hitler was in large part responsible for World War II, in which tens of millions of persons died. He gleefully imposed “The Final Solution,” which resulted in the death of six-million European Jews before he died.
□ Example 2– From Russian Orthodox seminary to dictator of the USSR: Joseph Stalin was born in Georgia (not the American state, but a European country that became part of the USSR).
Stalin’s mother wished that Joseph would become a Russian Orthodox priest. A youthful Stalin divided his time between being a choirboy and a gang leader. He entered the Tiflis Theological Seminary in 1894. In seminary, he discovered the writings of Karl Marx. He, then, became a socialist revolutionary, intent upon toppling the monarchy of Tsar Nicholas II. Stalin, finding Communism to be far more appealing than Christianity, dropped out of his seminary studies a few months short of graduation. He became an evil butcher of millions (20-millions? more?) of his own people.
□ Eternal opportunities lost for worldly pursuits: Both Hitler and Stalin could have served God as His servants. Both could have enjoyed eternal life in Heaven. While pursuing education, both became apostate and rejected God. They rejected their religious upbringing– the desires of their parents– to follow the thinking of evil men and Satan. Both will now probably suffer eternal life in Hell. Yeshua asked questions which apply to both Hitler and Stalin (Matthew 16:26): [Yeshua asked] “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
● A&A due to entertainment: Entertainment– such as, music, television, and movies– can easily lead to A&A. Many people place undue and misguided emphasis on entertainers and follow their lead. Many Americans worship celebrities. Even worse is the immorality introduced by many entertainers into our society. Such entertainers coarsen our people, especially the youth, and often openly mock Believers. One should take care in choosing entertainment type, as entertainment may lead to A&A.
● Internet-caused A&A: The Internet has rapidly become an indispensable form of communication and news-gathering for many millions of Americans. There is a dark side to the Internet, though. I am amazed at what people, shrouded in the anonymity of an Internet nom de plume, will post for the world to read.
Many Websites– at least one-third of all Websites– are pornographic. (Statistics are fuzzy in this matter. Sadly, the majority of pornographic sites are created in the United States for worldwide consumption.) Even Websites that are not pornographic (legitimate news sites, for example) may permit readers to add comments. Many of these anonymous comments (some from “trolls”) expose the true vitriol of the readers. Terribly ugly comments are made about Believers/ Christians, Christianity, Yeshua, Jews, and other matters of faith. These comments promote A&A and may harm the faith of others. Good people are exposed to cyberbullies, who have even led some vulnerable persons (for example, teens) to commit suicide. Young girls/ women make “dates” with usually older men, posing as youths, who may abuse or kill them.
● Electronic gadgetry: Electronic gadgetry may be extremely dangerous for minors. (It can be dangerous for adults, also.) A parent needs to be “the bad guy” and monitor closely his/ her child’s Internet usage, including social media participation. Impressionable children may be lured to sex and other harm from evil adults; or, have their faith in God shattered; or, take a variety of harmful, even lethal drugs; and so forth. The Internet is a useful tool (as is an automobile), but used irresponsibly can cause great harm (as tens of thousands of persons who die and are injured from automobile crashes can attest). Just as an automobile must be used responsibly, so, too, must the Internet be used responsibly.
SIDELIGHT: Months ago, my wife and I ate supper at a local restaurant. Seated at the table next to ours were a father, mother, and two teenage children. All four members of this family did not speak to the others and did not look up from their electronic devices, as they rapidly clicked keys to “speak” to non-family friends. How sad! The mammon for each family member had become an electronic device, which links the user to non-family friends but not to their own family. We probably are all guilty of neglecting family to spend time with others. Will these family members ever regret having spent so little time with family?
There is a sound Scriptural basis for treating others, especially family members, with love and respect (Matthew 6:21): [Yeshua said] “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” If a person treats friends with more love, respect, and care than his/ her own family is treated, he/ she treasures the friends more dearly than family. When we– individually or nationally– neglect the family, we are lost as Believers and as Americans.
As long as we live, though, we can reform our behavior. A good start at reform is the dinner table. My family had a large round table at which we ate our meals, altogether and at the same time. My wife would not permit any distractions during the meal (no reading material, no television programs, etc.). If our children were going to eat at that mealtime, they had to eat what she cooked (no special orders), with the entire family, without distractions, and at the same time. Otherwise, she would excuse the child, and cheerfully invite him/ her to eat the next meal (breakfast) tomorrow morning. It works. “Breakfast? Tomorrow morning? Okay, I can eat something now, I guess.”
Do you need to gather with your children or grandchildren at least at mealtime to celebrate– gratefully and distraction-free– the Lord’s bounty and the fellowship of one another? Life is short. Gather bits of your life now to form later memories. END sidelight. Shalom and Maranatha.
Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Sun 12-Dec-2021 8th of Tevet, 5782
Ge 47:28-48:9 1 Sa 25 Ps 65 Mk 16 (2 Co 6)