Spiritual contamination

The Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians was primary focused on defending his position as a minister of the gospel. There was a faction in the congregation at Corinth who denied that Paul was truly an apostle of Jesus (Introduction to the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians). Paul asked the Corinthians, “Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). Paul argued that the proof of his apostleship was the result of his ministry. Paul had established the church in Corinth during his first stay there and was responsible for its early growth. Paul was offended that the Corinthians had doubted his apostleship and stated, “We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown and yet well known; as dying, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Corinthians 6:8-10).

Paul went on to explain that the Corinthians minds had been contaminated by their interaction with unbelievers. Paul cautioned the Corinthians against forming relationships that compromised their faith. Paul said:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
Therefore go out from their midst,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch no unclean thing;
    then I will welcome you,
and I will be a father to you,
    and you shall be sons and daughters to me,
says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:14-18)

Paul used the term unequally yoked to describe relationships between believers and unbelievers. This might have been Paul’s way of saying that the Corinthians were getting involved in illegal activities, but more than likely the point Paul was trying to make was that there would be diminished productivity if believers worked with unbelievers. The term unequally yoked means that two different kinds of animals are being forced to work together to pull a load (G2086). The stronger animal is hindered by the weaker animal and the difference in strength creates friction between them.

Paul used several words in his argument against being unequally yoked that were connected with the early church’s growth and development. Paul asked the Corinthians, “what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). The words partnership, fellowship, accord, portion, and agreement all imply that a spiritual union of some type has taken place. A key word that was used by the first Christians to describe their association with each other was koinonia (koy-nohn-ee’-ah). The Greek word koinonia means “partnership, i.e. (literal) participation, or (social) intercourse” (G2842). Koinonia is derived from the word koinos which means common. Koinos was used figuratively by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians in reference to “those who eat meats offered to idols, partakers or companions either with God or with demons (1 Corinthians 10:18, 20)” (G2844). This relates back to the practices of the Israelites who were commanded to separate themselves from the people and things around them that would cause them to be unclean or spiritually contaminated.

Leviticus 11:1-3 states, “And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying to them, ‘Speak to the people of Israel, saying, These are the living things that you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof and is cloven-footed and chews the cud, among the animals, you may eat.'” The LORD went on to say that certain animals were from a ceremonial or moral sense considered to be contaminated and would defile a person if they were eaten (Leviticus 11:24). The key point in the concept of becoming defiled was physical contact. Leviticus 11:26 states, “Every animal that parts the hoof but is not cloven-footed or does not chew the cud is unclean to you. Everyone who touches them shall be unclean.” This was illustrated in the book of Genesis when Jacob’s daughter Dinah was raped by Shechem. It says in Genesis 34:2, “And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her” (KJV). God’s justification for keeping the Israelites uncontaminated was they were expected to be holy because he was holy. He said:

“Every swarming thing that swarms on the ground is detestable; it shall not be eaten. Whatever goes on its belly, and whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet, any swarming thing that swarms on the ground, you shall not eat, for they are detestable. You shall not make yourselves detestable with any swarming thing that swarms, and you shall not defile yourselves with them, and become unclean through them. For I am the Lord your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” (Leviticus 11:41-45)

The Hebrew word that is translated holy in Leviticus 11:44, qadowsh (kaw-doshe’) is “an adjective meaning sacred, holy. It is used to denote someone or something that is inherently sacred or has been designated as sacred by divine rite or cultic ceremony. It designates that which is the opposite of common or profane. It could be said that qadowsh is a positive term regarding the character of its referent, where common is a neutral term and profane a very negative term. This word is often used to refer to God as being inherently holy, sacred, and set apart (Psalm 22:3[4]; Isaiah 6:3; 57:15); and as being free from the attributes of fallen humanity (Hosea 11:9). As such, God instructed that humanity should be holy because He is holy (Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2)” (H6918).

Paul’s message to the Corinthians focused on the separation that was necessary for God’s people to achieve holiness. Quoting Isaiah 52:11, Paul stated, “Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18). The Greek word Paul used that is translated be separate has to do with physically separating yourself from someone (G873), but it could be that Paul was trying to convey the idea of being stand-offish or you might say emotionally distant in that you no longer consider yourself to be in a close relationship with that person. Paul told the Corinthians, “Since we have these promises, beloved. let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Defilement refers to pollution in a moral sense (G3436). In order to cleanse ourselves from moral pollution, we need salvation. We need the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7). It says in the book of Hebrews, “For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Hebrews 9:13-14).

Paul’s concern for the Corinthians’ moral purity was based on his conclusion that they were being taught incorrect doctrine. Paul told the Corinthians, “I wish you would bear with me in a little foolishness. Do bear with me! For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:1-3). Paul’s emphasis of the importance of our thought processes in keeping us devoted to Christ made it clear that spiritual warfare was a key factor in believers becoming spiritually contaminated. Paul indicated that our thoughts can lead us astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. The Greek word that is translated thoughts, noema (no’-ay-mah) means “a perception” (G3540). Paul used the word noema five times in his second letter to the Corinthians. The first time Paul mentioned noema was in 2 Corinthians 2:11 when he was talking about being outwitted by Satan and the need to forgive the sinner. Paul said, “I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan: for we are not ignorant of his designs” (emphasis mine). Satan’s designs could be mental tricks that he uses to get us to perceive things incorrectly so that God’s word doesn’t seem practical or necessary in our lives. Paul said that the minds of unbelievers are being blinded (2 Corinthians 3:14) by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and that we need to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, emphasis mine).

The Greek word that Paul used in 2 Corinthians 11:3 that is translated led astray, phtheiro (fthi’-ro) is translated corrupted in the King James Version of the Bible. Phtheiro has to do with the ruin that comes as a result of negative moral influences and generally means “to bring to a worse state.” It can also mean “to corrupt, with the meaning of to subvert or corrupt opinions” (H5351). With regard to corrupt opinions, Paul said, “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough” (2 Corinthians 11:4). What Paul meant by you put up with it was that the Corinthians were giving him the impression that they were fine with the false doctrines that had been infiltrating their church. Paul wanted the Corinthians to realize that they were to a certain extent being raped by these false teachers because their devotion to Christ was being questioned by other churches such as the Macedonians (2 Corinthians 8:24) and Paul himself was at risk of being humiliated by their behavior (2 Corinthians 9:4).

Paul understood that the real source of the Corinthians spiritual contamination was demonic forces and it was likely that they did not have the spiritual strength to defend themselves. Paul tried to expose the enemy’s activities in a way that would make the Corinthians more aware of the devil’s tactics. Paul said, “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:12-15). The Greek word that is translated disguising, metaschematizo (met-askh-ay-mat-id’-zo) means “to transform, change the outward form or appearance of something” (G3345). Paul used the word metaschematizo in his letter to the Philippians in connection with believers spiritual transformation after death. Paul said, “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:17-21, emphasis mine).

Satan’s ability to disguise or transform himself into an angel of light is the primary reason why it is so difficult for believers to recognize and to separate themselves from his activities. Paul contrasted his experiences as an apostle with those of the Corinthians in order to point out that our perception of what life is supposed to be like as a Christian is often skewed in the wrong direction. Paul declared:

Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Without us you have become kings! And would that you did reign, so that we might share the rule with you! For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, like men sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things.

Paul elaborated on his list of personal afflictions in his second letter to the Corinthians. Paul said, “Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying” (2 Corinthians 11:25-31).

Paul’s experience of being associated with Christ’s gospel is consistent with many of the Old Testament prophets that were faithful to God’s word. One of the difficulties that Christians face in their attempt to avoid spiritual contamination is that they will likely be mocked and mistreated by the people that are closest to them. Before David became king of Israel, he was hunted and nearly killed by King Saul on multiple occasions. His hopeless situation brought David to the brink of despair. When he ended up in the hands of a pagan king that had no regard for him or the God that he served (1 Samuel 21:10-13), David wrote Psalm 56, his personal testimony about God’s love and faithfulness to those who serve him. David prayed, “Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:1-4). King Saul’s hostility toward David was evidence of the spiritual conflict that was going on behind the scenes. David was able to transcend his circumstances and seemed to realize that his physical separation from Saul made it possible for him to be closer to God. David wrote:

You have kept count of my tossings;
    put my tears in your bottle.
    Are they not in your book?
Then my enemies will turn back
    in the day when I call.
    This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can man do to me?

I must perform my vows to you, O God;
    I will render thank offerings to you.
For you have delivered my soul from death,
    yes, my feet from falling,
that I may walk before God
    in the light of life. (Psalm 56:8-13)

David’s recognition that he must perform his vows to the LORD was a direct result of the spiritual union he had with his Savior. David knew that he didn’t have a chance of surviving when the Philistines seized him in Gath (1 Samuel 21:11). Therefore, he needed the LORD’s protection and had to make sure that his heart was right before God. The Hebrew word that is translated vows, neder (neh’-der) means “a promise (to God)” (H5088). David’s spiritual devotion may have been called into question when he fled Jerusalem and sought refuge in the land of Gath, but David made it clear that he hadn’t compromised his relationship with the LORD. David remained loyal to God’s calling and “departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam” (1 Samuel 22:1) in order to keep himself from being spiritually contaminated by living with the Philistines.

Regeneration

Jesus described a future state of his kingdom as the new world and told his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:28). Jesus’ comment about the first being last and the last first had to do with the amount of sacrifice one made in order to follow him. Jesus explained this further in his parable about laborers in a vineyard. He said:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and to them he said, ‘You go into the vineyard too, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. Going out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour, he did the same. And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing. And he said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’ And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.” (Matthew 20:1-16)

The laborers who grumbled about receiving the same wages as those who worked only one hour were concerned about the fairness of the master paying everyone the same amount. The Greek word that is translated equal, isos (ee’-sos) has to do with perception (G2470) and suggests that the laborers who were hired first thought they were superior or you might say had worked harder than their fellow laborers. The master of the house said he hadn’t done anything wrong because the laborers that were hired first thing in the morning agreed to be paid a denarius (Matthew 20:2).

The thing that distinguished the laborers was not how much they got paid, but when they got paid their wages. The owner of the vineyard told his foreman to call the laborers and pay them their wages and instructed him to do it, “beginning with the last, up to the first” (Matthew 8). One of the key characteristics of the new world that Jesus was explaining to his disciples seemed to be the importance of activity. The Greek word that is translated idle in Matthew 20:3 and 20:6 is argos (ar-gos’) which refers to inactivity in the sense of being unemployed (G692). When they were asked why they had been standing idle all day, the laborers that were hired at the eleventh hour replied “Because no one has hired us” (Matthew 20:7).

In this instance the word hired seems to refer to God’s divine election and appointment of duties in Christ’s kingdom. The Apostle Paul identified five occupations that believers can be appointed to. He said, “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift…And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:7, 11-12). Paul indicated that the work of the ministry is accomplished through grace which is a gift that is received as a result of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The owner of the vineyard admonished the laborers who complained about receiving the same wages as those who had worked only one hour. He said, “Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (Matthew 20:14-15).

The Greek word that is translated generosity in Matthew 20:15, agathos (ag-ath-os’) “describes that which, being ‘good’ in its character or constitution is beneficial in its effect…God is essentially, absolutely and consummately ‘good'” (G18). Titus, a gentile convert of Paul’s, wrote to believers about being ready for every good work. He said, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:3-5).

The Greek word that is translated regeneration in Titus 3:5, paliggenesia (pal-ing-ghen-es-ee’-ah) is the same word Jesus used in reference to “the new world” in Matthew 20:28. “Regeneration stresses the inception of a new state of things in contrast with the old. This word means ‘new birth’ (palin, ‘again,’ genesis, ‘birth’), and is used of ‘spiritual regeneration'” (G3824). Titus indicated that salvation involves two things, “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Regeneration (paliggenesia) and renewal (anakainos) work hand in hand to restore the believer to a healthy spiritual state. Anakainosis (an-ak-ah’-ee-no-sis) “is the result of paliggenesia. The paliggenesia “is that free act of God’s mercy and power by which He removes the sinner from the kingdom of darkness and places him in the kingdom of light; it is that act by which God brings him from death to life. In the act itself (rather than the preparation for it), the recipient is passive, just as a child has nothing to do with his own birth. Anakainos, by contrast, is the gradual conforming of the person to the new spiritual world in which he now lives, the restoration of the divine image. In this process the person is not passive but is a fellow worker with God” (G3824).

Jesus illustrated the transition from paliggenesia to anakainosis in his parable of the laborers in the vineyard by the master of the house going out and hiring laborers to work in his vineyard. The ones who were standing idle in the marketplace (Matthew 20:3) could be believers that had not yet experienced anakainosis. Their passive state signified a lack of what Titus referred to as “the renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). Even though the believer is in an active state when renewal takes place, it is the power of the Holy Spirit that makes renewal possible and it is a result of God’s grace rather than human effort. That’s why the rewards, or wages according to Jesus’ parable, were not based on anyone’s merit, but God’s goodness and loving kindness toward the workers of his kingdom.

Joseph’s transformation from a slave to the governor over the land of Egypt illustrates a type of regeneration in the life of an Old Testament believer. When Pharaoh sent for Joseph and he was brought out of the pit (Genesis 41:14), it was because he had a prophetic gift that Pharaoh wanted to make use of. “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer'” (Genesis 41:15-16). Joseph didn’t take credit for his ability to interpret dreams and later he told his brothers, “God sent me before you to preserve life” (Genesis 45:5). The Hebrew word that is translated sent, shalach (shaw-lakh’) “suggests the sending of someone or something as a messenger to a particular place” (H7971). After Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and gave him a plan for storing up grain as a reserve to be used during the seven years of famine that were ahead, Pharaoh asked his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” (Genesis 41:38).

Joseph seemed to understand that the suffering he experienced was a part of God’s plan to establish his kingdom on earth. Joseph explained to his brothers, “For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors” (Genesis 45:6-7). The Hebrew word that is translated preserve, siym (seem) “means to put or place someone somewhere” and refers to appointing or assigning a task (H7760). Jesus informed his disciples about the task that God had assigned him. He told them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day” (Matthew 20:18-19).

Jesus linked his crucifixion with his resurrection in order to show that regeneration was not only about the institution of something new, but also the destruction of something that was old. “Regeneration stresses the inception of a new state of things in contrast with the old” (G3824). There is a connection between the old and the new that makes them both relevant in the context of eternal life. Jesus pointed this out when the mother of the sons of Zebedee asked “‘that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.'” (Matthew 20:21-23).

The Greek word that is translated prepared in Matthew 20:23, hetoimazo (het-oy-mad’-zo) means to make ready (G2090) and refers to fitness or laying the foundation for a particular objective to be accomplished (G2092). Jesus talked about his disciples preparation for leadership by stating, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28). The Greek term that is translated slave, doulos (doo’-los) refers to “one who was in a permanent relation of servitude to another one whose will was completely subject to the will of another…The focus is on the relationship, not the service” (G1401). In that sense, Jesus was talking about having a relationship with Christ and being dedicated to doing the will of God on a continuous basis.

The Apostle Paul often referred to himself as a servant of Jesus Christ and explained in his letter to the Ephesians that believers need “to put off the old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). The Greek word that is translated renewed is ananeoo (an-an-neh-o’-o). “The renewal here mentioned is not that of the mind itself in its natural powers of memory, judgment and perception, but ‘the spirit of the mind’; which, under the controlling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, directs its bent and energies God-ward in the enjoyment of fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ, and of the fulfillment of the will of God” (G365).

When Paul said we are to put off our old self (Ephesians 4:22), he was most likely referring to changing our outward appearance so that we don’t resemble the kind of person we were before we came to know Christ e.g. drug addict, prostitute, or thief. After Joseph was brought out of the pit, he prepared for his meeting with Pharaoh by shaving himself and changing his clothes (Genesis 41:14). Joseph’s brothers didn’t even recognize him when they came to buy food in Egypt because he looked like an Egyptian. When Joseph finally revealed his identity to them, “his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence” (Genesis 45:3). Joseph told his brothers, “So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt'” (Genesis 45:8-9).

The Hebrew word siym (seem) which is translated made in Genesis 45:8-9 “signifies the creation of the thing (fixing its nature) and its use (its disposition)” (H7760). In that sense, Joseph was regenerated, there was an inception of a new state in contrast with the old (G3824). Jesus’ reference to “the new world” that will exist when he sits on his glorious throne (Matthew 19:28) suggests that things as well as people can undergo spiritual renovation. Paul talked about the renovation of the earth in the context of a future glory that has yet to be revealed. He said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:18-24).

Transformation

One of the most clear indicators that God is involved in a situation is that the timing is perfect. That’s why it seems strange that Joseph remained in prison for two whole years (Genesis 41:1) after he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief baker and cupbearer. Genesis 40:23 states that the chief cupbearer “did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.” Joseph’s interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream didn’t seem to have any impact on him. Even though Joseph predicted the exact day (Genesis 40:13) that the chief cupbearer would be released from prison, the cupbearer ignored Joseph’s desperate plea for help (Genesis 40:14).

It seems likely that the two years Joseph remained in prison after he had interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s officers was a period of time that God used to transform his inner character. Genesis 41:1 indicates that two whole years passed before anything else happened in Joseph’s life. The Hebrew word that is translated whole, yowm (yome) usually refers to complete cycles or measured periods of time like 24 hours (1 day) or 365 days (1 year) (H3117). The first biblical occurrences of yowm are found in Genesis 1:15-31 which indicates that God completed his cycles of creation in six 24 hour time periods. Genesis 1:15 states, “and the evening and the morning were the first day” .

The reason why two whole years passed after Joseph interpreted the chief baker and cupbearer’s dreams may have been because that was how long it took God to transform Joseph into a new person. The Apostle Paul described the process of transformation that occurs in believers as the renewing of the mind. Paul said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2).

The Greek word Paul used that is translated transformed, metamorphoo (met-am-or-fo’-o) means to change into another form, to undergo a complete change and the present continuous tense of this verb indicates a process” (G3339). Metamorphoo is used in Matthew 17:2 to refer to Jesus’ transfiguration. It says, “And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light” (Matthew 17:1-2). The transformation of Jesus’ outward appearance may have been intended to show his disciples that his glorified state wasn’t the result of being crucified and resurrected.

Unlike human transformation, Jesus’ transfiguration was not a process that had to be completed. John’s gospel indicates that Jesus was in a glorified state before the world existed (John 17:5). Apparently, what happened when Jesus was transfigured was that his glorified state was manifested or you might say revealed to his disciples Peter, James, and John. The physical change in Jesus’ appearance was likely just an outward expression of an internal adjustment that caused his deity to temporarily eclipse the physical constraints of his body. One way of describing what happened might be that Jesus’ glorified state burst through the physical constraint of his body and was able to be detected by the visual perception of his three disciples.

Jesus referred to his transfiguration as a vision and commanded his disciples to “tell no one the vision until the Son of Man is raised from the dead” (Matthew 17:9). The Greek word horama (hor’-am’ah) means “something gazed at” (G3705) and is comparable to the word optomai (op’-tom-ahee) which means “to gaze (i.e. with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable)” (G3700). Dreams and visions such as the one that Jesus’ disciples had of his transfiguration may be related to one another in that they both tap into the spiritual realm where the past, present, and future seem to coexist. The dreams that Joseph had at the age of 17 connected him to a future that was very different from his current reality, but they instilled in him a belief that the events of his dream would one day take place.

Joseph had been a slave in Egypt for approximately eleven years and likely a prisoner in the king’s prison for much of that time when two men in his custody each had a dream the same night that caused them to be stirred up inside (Genesis 40:5-6). God may have used the dreams of Pharaoh’s officers to remind Joseph of his own dreams and to focus his attention on what what going on in the world outside his prison. After the chief baker and cupbearer were taken from the prison, Joseph was left to contemplate his own future for two whole years.

The human mind is intended to make meaning of things and when left to its own devices can be a very powerful weapon in Satan’s hands. During the two years that Joseph remained in prison, he may have experienced doubt and confusion and wondered why God had allowed him to suffer for so long. Joseph told the chief cupbearer, “I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit” (Genesis 40:15). The pit where Joseph was imprisoned was a dungeon, a large hole in the ground that was probably used for storing water before it became a prison. The Hebrew word that is translated pit in Genesis 40:15, bor (bore) is also used in Genesis 37:20 to describe the pit that Joseph’s brothers cast him into before they sold him into slavery. The similarity between these two places where Joseph lost his freedom may have caused him to think of both his imprisonment and being sold into slavery as one long, continuous cycle of unpleasant change.

The thing that Joseph never seemed to lose sight of that likely led to the transformation of his inner being, was the knowledge that God was in control of his circumstances. The Apostle Paul identified the source of personal transformation as renewing the mind. The Greek word anakainosis (an-ak-ah’-ee-no-sis) refers to “the adjustment of the moral and spiritual vision and thinking to the mind of God, which is designed to have a transforming effect upon the life; and stresses the willing response on the part of the believer” (G342). Joseph demonstrated an adjustment to the mind of God by being loyal to Potipher and refusing to sleep with his master’s wife (Genesis 39:8-9). Joseph was concerned about the well-being of Pharaoh’s officers (Genesis 40:7) and asked the cupbearer to be merciful to him after he was freed from prison (Genesis 40:14) rather than demanding that he be repaid for interpreting the chief cupbearer’s dream. Perhaps, the greatest testimony to Joseph’s willingness to do things God’s way was his hard work and responsible behavior in spite of being a slave in Egypt.

Genesis 41:1-8 indicates that after two whole years had passed, Pharaoh had two dreams that troubled him and his magicians and wise men were unable to interpret the dreams. “Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, ‘I remember my offenses today. When Pharaoh was angry with his servants and put me and the chief baker in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, we dreamed on the same night, he and I, each having a dream with its own interpretation. A young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. When we told him, he interpreted our dreams to us, giving an interpretation to each man according to his dream. And as he interpreted to us, so it came about. I was restored to my office, and the baker was hanged.’ Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit” (Genesis 41:9-13).

Psalm 40:1-3 may reflect what was going through Joseph’s mind when he was released from prison. It states:

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.

The phrase waited patiently “stresses the straining of the mind in a certain direction with an expectant attitude…a forward look with assurance” (H6960). Waiting patiently for God to do something usually involves the discipline of silence and a restraint from activity. It seems that Joseph’s transformation was a direct result of him doing nothing other than continuing to expect that God would one day deliver him from prison.

The Apostle Paul described the process of spiritual transformation as putting off your old self and putting on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Similar to changing the clothes that we wear, spiritual transformation or what Paul referred to as sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30), is an intentional effort to change the way we appear to others. The old self which is characterized by dulled spiritual perception (G4457) has to be replaced by a new self that is under the controlling power of the indwelling Holy Spirit who directs its bent and energies Godward in the enjoyment of fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ (G365).

When Jesus was transfigured, a bright cloud overshadowed his disciples, “and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him'” (Matthew 17:5). God’s reference to Jesus as his beloved Son was meant to convey the special relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father. It could be that Jesus’ transfiguration had something to do with the close connection he had established with God through intimate prayer. God said that he was “well pleased” with Jesus even before he had completed his assignment of dying on the cross for the sins of the world. The Greek word that is translated well pleased, eudokeo (yoo-dok-eh’) stresses “the willingness and freedom of an intention or resolve regarding what is good” (G2106).

One way of looking at eudokeo is to see it as a commitment that cannot not be broken. God being well pleased with Jesus meant that he would not change his opinion of his beloved Son regardless of the circumstances that might effect his viewpoint. Jesus’ assignment of bearing the burden of sin changed the way he appeared to his Father, but God was just as well pleased with Jesus after he was scarred and broken by the weight of sin and human depravity as he was before. Jesus’ transfiguration was evidence that his eternal state and status with God had already been secured before he died on the cross and was resurrected.

God instructed Jesus’ disciples to “listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). The Greek words akouo (ak-oo’-o) and autos (ow-tos’) mean more than just tuning into what someone is saying. It implies that there is a spiritual aspect to what is being said and a need for spiritual discernment to make sense of the message. Many of the things Jesus told his disciples didn’t make sense to them at first. It wasn’t until after he was resurrected that the disciples realized Jesus was going to establish his kingdom on earth by means of the Holy Spirit working in the hearts of believers, revealing and confirming the truths of God’s word (Matthew 16:18). Paul described this capability as “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened” (Ephesians 1:18).

Joseph demonstrated spiritual enlightenment when he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh’s chief baker and cupbearer (Genesis 40:12-13, 18-19). As a result of his correct interpretation of the cupbearer’s dream, Joseph was brought before Pharaoh and asked to interpret two dreams that caused him to be troubled in his spirit (Genesis 41:8). Pharaoh’s astrologers and wise men were unable to interpret his dreams because of their unregenerate condition. The only way the dreams’ meaning could be deciphered was to open them up or you might say to unlock the truth that was contained within them.

Joseph’s preparation for the task of interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams was likely the long period of silence he endured after successfully interpreting the dreams of the chief baker and cupbearer. Two whole years of nothing happening while Joseph waited patiently for the LORD to deliver him from the pit may have been a type of spiritual exercise that strengthened Joseph’s faith and helped him to understand things from God’s perspective. Psalm 40:4-5 states, “Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie!” The Hebrew word that is translated makes, siym (seem) has to do with the act of placing something in a permanent or secure location. In the context of making the LORD our trust, siym means to invite the Lord into our heart or to be saved.

Joseph’s inner transformation was followed by an external transformation that began when he was summoned from his prison to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams. Genesis 41:14 states, “Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh.” “Egyptians were normally smooth-shaven, while Palestinians wore beards” (note on Genesis 41:14, KJSB). This seems to suggest that Joseph was required to conform to Egyptian customs in order to speak to the king of Egypt, but it could be that Joseph voluntarily changed his appearance so that he wouldn’t offend Pharaoh out of respect for his position.

Pharaoh greeted Joseph with the statement, “‘I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it” (Genesis 41:15). Joseph could have taken credit for his interpretation of the cupbearer and baker’s dreams, but instead he let Pharaoh know that God was communicating with him. Joseph said, “God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer” (Genesis 41:16). The Hebrew term that is translated favorable, shalom (shaw-lome’) means peace and “signifies a state in which one can feel at ease, comfortable with someone. The relationship is one of harmony and wholeness, which is the opposite of the state of strife and war” (H7965). Joseph spoke these words before he had even heard Pharaoh’s dream, suggesting that God had already been talking to Joseph about the message he was going to relay to Pharaoh.

After Pharaoh told him his two dreams, Joseph said, “The dreams of Pharaoh are one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do” (Genesis 41:25). Pharaoh’s dreams contained information about the future, but he wasn’t able to utilize the information because of his unregenerate state. Paul described this condition as the futility of the mind (Ephesians 4:17). The Greek word mataios (mat’-ah-yos) “denotes communication that is devoid of force, truth, success, result; it is useless, of no purpose” (G3152). Nous (nooce), which is translated mind in Ephesians 4:17, means the seat of reflective consciousness, comprising the faculties of perception and understanding, and those of feeling, judging and determining” (G3563). Contrasted with Pharaoh’s dulled spiritual perception, Joseph’s ability to accurately interpret the dreams and provide guidance about how to utilize the information (Genesis 41:28-36) made him an extremely valuable resource to the king of Egypt.

Joseph’s plan to store up grain during seven years of abundant crops and then, distribute the grain during the seven years of famine that would follow may sound like he was just using common sense, but Pharaoh’s response showed that he could never have devised such a plan on his own. “Pharaoh said to his servants, ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God'” (Genesis 41:38). Pharaoh’s reference to God’s Spirit being in Joseph was a unique distinction. Before Jesus was born, the Holy Spirit didn’t dwell inside believers. Essentially, what Pharaoh was saying was that Joseph’s knowledge and understanding of God was so close to his actual character that what he was saying sounded like it was coming directly from the mouth of God. In other words, during the thirteen years Joseph had suffered as a slave, he had been transformed into the image of God.

Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the thrown will I be greater than you.” And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand, and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain about his neck. And he made him ride in his second chariot. And they called out before him, “Bow the knee!” This he set him over all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:39-43)

Joseph’s mental acuity was recognized by Pharaoh as a divine gift from God. The fact that Pharaoh made him second in command, showed that Joseph was not only discerning and wise, but also a loyal servant that could be trusted with a great deal of responsibility.

Paradise

The first Hebrew word that appears in the Bible, re’shiyth (ray-sheeth’) is translated “in the beginning” (Genesis 1:1), but it’s literal meaning is “the first, in place, time, order or rank” (H7225). Re’shiyth corresponds to the temporal aspect of starting something new or expressing oneself through a willful act. It says in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” What this means is that at some specific point in time, when time actually first started to exist, the first thing God ever did was to create the visible sky and the air we breathe, as well as, the invisible heaven where he lives and a planet that he named Earth (Genesis 1:10). The Hebrew word translated created in Genesis 1:1, bara’ (baw-raw’) can only be associated with God because “Only God can ‘create’ in the sense implied by bara’. The verb expresses creation out of nothing, an idea seen clearly in the passages having to do with creation on a cosmic scale” (H1254).

Genesis 1:2 records the state of Earth when it was first created. It says, “The earth was without form, and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” The Hebrew terms that are translated “without form,” (H8414) “void,” (H922) and “darkness” (H2822) all suggest that Earth was in a negative state before God caused life to exist. It could be that the natural state of the universe is desolation and waste unless or until God intervenes. It says in Genesis 1:2 that “the Spirit of God” was hovering over the waters that covered the entire planet. The Hebrew word translated hovering, rachaph (raw-khaf’) means “to brood” (H7363), inferring that God wasn’t happy with the situation on Earth and was contemplating what to do about it before he took action.

The first six days of recorded history depict what took place when God transformed the Earth into a paradise where mankind could enjoy the fruits of his labor. It is important to note that the things that took place in the first six days, which are recorded in Genesis 1:3-27, don’t have anything to do with the creation of Earth, but only what God did to cause life to exist on our planet. The difference between what happened when God created the universe and what he did to cause life to exist afterward is that we don’t know how God created the universe out of nothing, but we do know that life came into existence by way of God’s spoken words. Genesis 1:3 states, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

The unusual thing about the light that God caused to exist on day one was that it didn’t come from the sun, moon, or stars. These things weren’t brought into existence until day four (Genesis 1:14-19). The initial source of light in the universe was God himself. Revelation 21:23 indicates there will come a time in the future when the sun and moon will no longer be needed on Earth “for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” God’s glory is associated with his attributes and power as revealed through creation (G1391). God’s superior power and position is attested to in Psalm 148 which illustrates the grandeur of God’s creative work and shows us that the purpose of everything that exists is to glorify God. It says, “Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away” (Psalm 148:5-6).

The Hebrew word that is translated established in Psalm 148:6, ‘amad (aw-mad’) refers to something or someone that is meant to worship God. The changeless and immovable nature of things that ‘amad alludes to is associated with “the changelessness of ever-existing being, a quality that only God has in himself” (H5975). One way to look at ‘amad’s connection with creation would be to see that God’s eternal existence requires that other things also exist eternally. God’s original plan was to create an eternal paradise that would accommodate his own and mankind’s need for a place to live forever (Ephesians 1:9). The heavens and the earth were designed by God to be eternal dwelling places or houses where he and man would always co-exist (Ephesians 1:14).

The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Ephesians began with a description of the spiritual blessings that every believer in Jesus Christ receives. Paul stated, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:3-6). Paul indicated that God selected everyone that would receive his gift of salvation or eternal life through Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world. In other words, God’s plan of salvation was set in motion before there was ever a need for it from a human perspective. God’s primary objective was to have a family that would exist eternally.

Adam and Eve could have fulfilled God’s objective of having an eternal family if they had never sinned. Genesis 2:15-17 states, “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'” God’s original commandment to man was meant to protect him from the effects of sin; separation from God and spiritual as well as physical death. The reason why the consequences of the original sin were so severe was probably because God allowed Adam to exercise his free will and therefore, to disassociate or essentially to disconnect himself spiritually from his creator. God told Adam that he would die if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17) and it was his responsibility to share that information with Eve. It’s possible that Adam didn’t tell Eve exactly what God said or that she didn’t fully comprehend what death meant, but she was still accountable to God for her sin.

Psalm 148:11-13 indicates that everyone is expected to honor God and to submit themselves to his will. The psalmist stated, “Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth! Young men and maidens together, old men and children! Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above the earth and heaven.” The Hebrew word translated majesty in this passage, howd (hode) refers to the superior power and position of kings. In every use of the word howd “the one so described evokes a sense of amazement and satisfaction in the mind of the beholder” (H1935).

Genesis 1:26 indicates that man was made in God’s image. It states, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let him have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” The Hebrew word translated likeness, demuwth (dem-ooth’) “signifies the original after which a thing is patterned” (H1823). Adam was not a clone of God, but his physical appearance may have resembled Jesus’ who was the exact representation of God in the form of a man. The Hebrew word translated image in Genesis 1:26, tselem (tseh’-lem) signifies a replica or statue (H6754). What this might suggest is that when God formed Adam out of the dust, he was in a sense making an image of himself, somewhat like a self-portrait that captures the essential physical characteristics that make identification possible.

The glory of God was not transferred to Adam, but it is implied through his action of creating man in his own image that God wanted to share his power and position with mankind. God said that Adam was to have dominion over every living thing (Genesis 1:28). The Hebrew word translated dominion, radah (raw-daw’) means to tread down or subjugate (H7287). One of the things that differentiated Adam from the rest of God’s creation was that he was given a free will, meaning he could decide for himself what he wanted to do. The only restriction God placed on Adam was that he could not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). Adam was forbidden to eat from this particular tree because eating its fruit would give him the experience of evil, and therefore, the knowledge of both good and evil (H3045).

The Hebrew word translated evil in Genesis 2:9, ra’ “combines together in one the wicked deed and its consequences. It generally indicates the rough exterior of wrongdoing as the a breach of harmony, and a breaking up what is good and desirable in man and in society. While the prominent characteristic of the godly is lovingkindness (H2617), one of the most marked features of the ungodly man is that his course is an injury both to himself and to everyone around him” (H7451). God’s plan of salvation was put in place before the foundation of the world to counterbalance the effects of humans’ sinful nature. Paul told the Ephesians that God in his insight and wisdom knew that mankind would fail and made a way for everyone to be redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:7-8). According to this plan, God intends to unite all things in heaven and things on earth to Christ at the end of time (Ephesians 1:10).

According to the Apostle Paul, God’s provision of salvation was set forth “according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8). God’s grace is his unmerited favor that manifests itself as “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life” (G5485). Although grace is related to sins and is the attribute of God that they evoke, “God’s eleos (H1656), the free gift for the forgiveness of sins, is related to the misery that sin brings. God’s tender sense of our misery displays itself in his efforts to lessen and entirely remove it — efforts that are hindered and defeated only by man’s continued perverseness.” Grace is activated in an individual’s life through belief. Paul said of Jesus, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14).

It is possible that if Adam had been left alone in the garden of Eden, sin would not have entered into the paradise that God created on Earth, but God said that it wasn’t good for Adam to be alone, so he created “him a helper fit for him” (Genesis 1:18). Adam and Eve were created by God as distinctly different individuals with the intention that they would be joined together into a single entity that he referred to as the flesh. In order for them to accurately represent God, there needed to be “a loving unity of more than one person” (H6754). The way this unity was to take place was through a process of leaving and cleaving. It says in Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” Jesus reiterated the importance of leaving and cleaving in his teaching about divorce and added, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).

The Greek word translated joined together is derived from the words zeugos (dzyoo’-gos) which means a couple or a pair of anything (G2201) and sun (soon) which denotes union by association or companionship (G4682). Adam and Eve were created by God to be constant companions that were inseparable for life. It says in Genesis 2:25 that “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” Perhaps the most important aspect of the paradise that God created for mankind was that there wasn’t supposed to be any shame or feelings of worthlessness in it. Nudity was the natural state of man and was probably meant to reveal the beauty of the human body as a tribute to God’s masterful creation, somewhat like how the Mona Lisa reflects Leonardo De Vinci’s remarkable talent.

The fact that Earth existed as a desolate, barren planet before it was transformed into a magnificent world where beauty and life were possible suggests that God always meant to transform lives rather than make them perfect to start out with. We know that God planned in advance to save mankind (Ephesians 1:4) and expected to recreate the world that he initially established (Revelation 21:1). What this means for us is that we have to accept that we need God’s help to make things right. Paul prayed for the Ephesians “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17). Paul’s prayer alludes to the fact that Jesus made it possible for Christians to have the knowledge of good and evil without the punishment that goes along with it.

Paul’s prayer identified God as the source of enlightenment. Paul prayed that the Ephesians would have the eyes of their hearts enlightened and would know the hope to which God had called them” (Ephesians 1:18). The Greek word translated enlightened, photizo (fo-tid’-zo) means to shed rays, i.e. to shine or to brighten up (G5461). Photizo is also translated as give light and bring to light. Having our hearts enlightened means that we are able to understand God’s word and can apply it to our own individual circumstances. Paul’s statement about knowing the hope to which God has called us is most likely a reference to accepting God’s gift of salvation, indicating that Paul wanted the Ephesians to become believers.

Paul was convinced that God was able to and would save anyone that wanted to have a relationship with him. Paul’s reference to “the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Ephesians 1:19) emphasized that God has no limitations when it comes to saving people. Paul said, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13) and also indicated that Jesus was given “all rule and authority and power and dominion” (Ephesians 1:21). Paul described Jesus as “the last Adam” and said that he “was made a quickening spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). What Paul probably meant by that was that Jesus was able to undo the effects of the original sin. As a result of being born again, anyone who wants to can go to heaven and have fellowship with God. Paul stated, “As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:48-49).

If you would like to have a relationship with God, you can do so by simply praying this prayer and meaning it in your heart:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for your forgiveness. I believe you died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite you to come into my heart and life. I want to trust you and follow you as my Lord and Savior.

If you prayed this prayer, please take a moment to write to me at calleen0381@gmail.com and let me know about your decision.

God bless you!

Transformation

Paul talked about the death of believers’ physical bodies in the context of moving to a new home. He said, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1, ESV). Paul continued his discussion of the believers’ transformation by explaining to the Corinthians how the transformation process takes place. Paul described life after death as being clothed with immortality and said, “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: if so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked” (2 Corinthians 5:2-3). Paul’s idea that we will put on our eternal bodies like a new set of clothes may have come from his understanding of spiritual transformation. The Greek word Paul used that is translated clothed, enduo comes from the two words en which has to do with a fixed position (G1722) and dumi which means “to sink into” and is used of the “setting” of the sun. In Paul’s time, “the sun, moon and stars were conceived as sinking into the sea when they set” (G1416). Paul might have been thinking about the fact that when the sun sets, we can’t see it, but it still physically exists and will return at an appointed time.

Paul made it clear that our heavenly bodies are not the same as our earthly bodies. He said, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Paul’s comparison of old things and new things was probably meant to explain the change in material structure that would be necessary for a human body to go from a temporal to an eternal existence. Paul went on to say, “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, NKJV). The Greek word translated reconciliation, katallage (kat-al-lag-ay’) means to exchange (G2643). What I believe Paul was talking about here was the exchange of our old bodies for one like Christ’s. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul talked about the church collectively as the body of Christ and indicated we are all members or particular parts of Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:12). When believers get to heaven, it appears that all the parts get put together so that a single unit exists instead of the individual pieces our human bodies now represent.

One of the keys to understanding the transformation that takes place when a believer’s body and spirit are separated from each other at death is the process God uses to reconcile us to himself. The Greek word translated reconciling and reconciled in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 is katallasso which means “to change mutually” (G2644). What Paul was saying was that the sum total of the propitiation of everyone’s sins to Christ’s account of righteousness will result in a balanced account. In other words, there will be no discrepancies when we all get put together, somewhat like a completed puzzle that has no missing pieces. On the day we received salvation, Paul said we were given the Holy Spirit as an earnest or down payment on the heavenly bodies we receive when we die (2 Corinthians 5:5). At the time of our death, a transaction takes place that Paul described as being absent from the body and present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). What I believe happens is that we leave our physical bodies behind and take on a new appearance that reflects our place in the body of Christ; one that is completely suited to the work we have been designed for in God’s eternal kingdom and one that fits perfectly with the spiritual schema that was developed during our lifetime on earth.

The rapture

Paul’s first letter to the church at Thessalonica included a detailed account of an event commonly referred to as the rapture. Paul said, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Paul included additional detail about this event in his first letter to the Corinthians where he stated, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).

Looking at Paul’s two descriptions of the rapture, it appears that the purpose of this event is to transform believers into a similar state/form as Jesus Christ. Although there are only a few references to Jesus’ resurrected body, it was clearly different than the one he had before he was crucified. Luke’s gospel indicated that Jesus was able to disguise his identity (Luke 24:16) and vanish into thin air (Luke 24:31). John reported that Jesus’ body still had the marks of his crucifixion on it (John 20:20, 27), but he was able to function normally (John 21:15). The Greek word translated changed, allassō means to make different (G236). Allasso is derived from the word allos which “expresses a numerical difference and denotes ‘another of the same sort'” (G243). The best way to interpret allasso in the context of Paul’s explanation of the rapture might be to say that you’ll receive a duplicate body or you could say that your body will be instantaneously changed into a carbon copy of the one you were born with.

Paul indicated that after the rapture, believers would be united with Christ throughout eternity (1 Thessalonians 4:17) and said, “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him” (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). Paul’s emphasis of unbroken fellowship with the Lord may have been intended to encourage believers to not fear death. The word Paul used that is translated live, zao (dzah’-o) literally means to live or always be alive. Even though, our current physical bodies may cease to exist, our souls and spirits will not. Jesus told his disciples, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3).

A united front

Saul’s dramatic transformation was evidenced by his immediate preaching of the gospel in Damascus where he had previously planned to arrest Christians and “bring them bound unto Jerusalem” (Acts 9:2). Luke said, “And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:20-22).

Saul’s conversion had two profound effects on the spread of the gospel. First, Luke said Paul’s transformation “confounded the Jews” (Acts 9:22). The Greek word translated confounded, sugcheo (soong-kheh´-o) means to commingle promiscuously (G4797). The phrase we might use today would be “sleeping with the enemy.” In a figurative sense, sugcheo can mean to throw an assembly into disorder or to perplex the mind. You might say the Jews were caught off guard;  they were unable to process the news that Saul had gone over to the other side. The second effect of Saul’s conversion was that he was able to convince people that God was really at work. Luke said Saul was “proving that this is very Christ” (Acts 9:22). In other words, people couldn’t dispute the fact that Saul had changed dramatically.

The Greek words Luke used that are translated confounded and proving are derived from the same root word, sun (soon) which denotes union; with or together, “i.e. by association, companionship, process, resemblance, possession, instrumentality, addition” (4862). What was happening was that the gaps were being filled in and the gospel was no longer able to be disputed. It was evident from the miracles that were taking place and the dramatic changes people were witnessing that Jesus’ gospel message really was true.

Saul’s conversion was a significant turning point in the spread of the gospel because he was viewed as a respectable Jewish citizen. His collaboration with the Jewish council to stamp out Christianity made Saul a serious threat once he switched sides and began preaching the gospel. It says in Acts 9:23-25, “And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him. But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.” The threat on Saul’s life made his conversion even more believable. As a result of the danger he faced, Saul was accepted into a close inner circle of persecuted believers. A man named Barnabas vouched for his credibility and was able to introduce Saul to Jesus’ twelve apostles in Jerusalem.

The bond that formed between Saul and Jesus’ apostles was a testament to the power of the Holy Spirit to bring unity among believers. Although the apostles were suspicious of Saul and may have resented his miraculous transformation, they didn’t question his loyalty because he was willing to risk his life in order to preach the gospel. When Barnabas took Saul into his confidence, it was just as much an act of faith for him as it was when he sold his property and gave all the proceeds to the church in Jerusalem (Acts 4:36). As a result of Saul being joined together with the apostles, Luke said, “Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied” (Acts 9:31).

A different form

Perhaps, the most remarkable thing that happened during Jesus’ three-year ministry was his transfiguration. Only three of Jesus’ disciples were allowed to witness this amazing event. Following his disclosure to his disciples that he would suffer many things and be killed and on the third day be raised from the dead (Matthew 16:21), Matthew tells us Jesus took Peter, James and John “and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart” (Matthew 17:1). The private place he took these men to may have been somewhere Jesus went to on a regular basis. After Jesus had fed the five thousand and sent his disciples away in a ship, Matthew tells us, “And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was alone there” (Matthew 14:23). It could be that on this particular occasion Jesus didn’t want to leave Peter, James and John alone. They were most likely disheartened by the reminder that Jesus would soon be killed and needed this beneficial experience of seeing the end result of Jesus’ death and resurrection to get them over their discouragement.

Matthew’s description of his transfiguration indicated that Jesus became like a shining star, “his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (Matthew 17:2). Since Matthew wasn’t present at the time, it is likely his description of the transfiguration was based on his interpretation of what he heard Jesus looked like. Luke said of Jesus’ transfiguration that “the fashion of his countenance was altered” (Luke 9:29), meaning literally, Jesus became a different person. A deeper understanding of the words used by Matthew and Luke to describe what happened to Jesus show that the change that took place was an inward and real change of Jesus’ character and likely had nothing to do with his physical appearance. The root word morphe (mor-fay’) has to do with the nature or essence of a person, “not in the abstract, but as actually subsisting in the individual, and retained as long as the individual itself exists (3444). From this standpoint, it appears that when Jesus was transfigured, he took on or was given a different identity.

An interesting aspect of Jesus’ transfiguration is recorded in Matthew 17:5 where it says, “a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” As if there might have been some confusion as to who he was at this point, his Father made it clear that Jesus was still the same person he was when he was baptized (Matthew 3:17), the Son of God. In other words, Jesus didn’t or wouldn’t become God at some point in time. Jesus was and always would be God’s son. From this standpoint, you could say that when Jesus was transfigured, he took on or was given a different nature, not identity, meaning he changed from who he was in the form of a man into who he was in the form of God. An example of this is water turning into steam or ice. It still has the same chemical makeup, but looks completely different. Another way of looking at it would be a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. They are one and the same creature, but look nothing like each other.

Walking on water (part 2)

Mark’s account of Jesus walking on water showed that he did not intend for his disciples to know what he was doing. Mark said, “about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them” (Mark 6:48). It appears that Jesus’ intention was only to get to the other side of the sea ahead of his disciples. “But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: for they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid” (Mark 6:49-50). Apparently, Jesus had transformed himself into a form that may have been somewhat ghostlike or transparent. A clue as to what this form was like can be found in John 6:19 where it states the disciples saw Jesus “walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.” The Greek term translated drawing, ginomai (ghin’-om-ahee) means “to cause to be (generate) that is (reflexively) to become (come into being)” (1096). What may have happened was that Jesus transformed himself back into a physical state because his disciples were fearful he was dead when they saw him walking across the sea as a spirit.

Whether or not Jesus walked across the sea of Galilee in a spiritual or physical state is not completely clear, but it is evident that at the time when Jesus arrived at the boat in which his disciples were traveling, he appeared to be normal as he stood upon the water talking to them. His salutation, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid” (Mark 6:50) suggested that Jesus was calming the disciples and making them aware that everything was fine. It was at this point that Peter spoke up and said, “If it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Essentially, Peter’s remark was a confession of faith. Another way of stating what Peter said would be, “because it is you, bid me come unto thee on the water.” In other words, Peter wanted to do what he saw Jesus was able to. Perhaps, Peter thought it would be cool to walk on the water, or he may have been trying to impress Jesus with his exuberant act of faith, but Matthew said, when Peter “saw the wind boysterous, he was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). The difference between Jesus walking on water and Peter walking on water was that Peter didn’t have authority over the wind as Jesus did. Peter’s disadvantage was that he couldn’t keep the wind from knocking him around; and he was most likely fearful because once he was out of the boat, he realized the wind’s powerful force could cause him to crash into the water like a tomato on a hardwood floor. Matthew tells us that Peter began to sink and cried out to Jesus, saying, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30), meaning, he acknowledged Jesus’ deity and his ability to do more than Peter was able to.

Expectations

In a series of ten promises, God revealed his intent to restore Jerusalem to its former state of glory. Referring to the capital of Israel as if it were his wife, God said, “I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury” (Zechariah 8:2). The name Zion is associated with the Messiah’s kingdom on earth. It is mentioned 37 times in the Psalms, primarily by King David, who said, “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad” (Psalm 14:7). In another psalm written for the Levitical choir, it says, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King” (Psalm 48:1-2). The mention of the great King in this psalm is a reference to the Messiah, Jesus Christ who is expected to one day rule the world from this centralized location known as Zion.

Even though the remnant of people that returned to Jerusalem were living in harsh conditions, God expected them to believe things would change radically after their Messiah was born. The LORD depicted a scene quite different from anything his people had experienced while they were living in captivity. He said, “There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (Zechariah 8:4-5). What might seem like ordinary life, was probably beyond the imagination of those living in the rubble of the once great city of Jerusalem. Zechariah proclaimed, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in my eyes? saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 8:6). In other words, God wanted his people to expect a miraculous transformation of their city because he was the one that had created the earth and everything in it.

Rather than keeping the Ten Commandments and observing all the statutes and ordinances that he had laid out for them when they were delivered from bondage in Egypt, God had a short list of expectations for the remnant of people that returned to Jerusalem. He said, “These are the things that ye shall do; speak ye every man truth to his neighbor; execute judgment of truth and peace in your gates: and let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD” (Zechariah 8:16-17). God expected his people to be different than the rest of the world. One of the reasons God chose the descendants of Abraham to be his people was because he wanted the world to see the positive difference he made in their lives. After concluding his ten promises, God let his people know that they should expect to be recognized as his children. Speaking of the time period known as the millennial reign of Christ, God said, “In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).