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Bible verses about Spiritual Realities
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Ecclesiastes 1:8-11

Solomon continues with a similar theme of profitlessness except that he draws his illustrations from human examples. None of this means that mankind is not moving about. Earth is witness to a great deal of activity, but it is essentially purposeless, a great deal of sound and fury but with no advancement in quality of life or purposeful direction. Solomon's word-pictures show mankind striving to see and hear new things, but the reality is more repetition of the same old things. He pictures mankind as little more than a milling mass.

A partial reason for this is that mankind seems to be cursed with a short memory while at the same time having an insatiable thirst for novelty. In Acts 17:19-21, Luke describes the apostle Paul's experience in Athens:

And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, "May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean." For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

Understanding this desire, entrepreneurs take advantage of it to make money. So, there must be new, better, bigger, redesigned, more serviceable, more attractive, faster, safer, and more economical models each year. The entertainment industry thrives on this desire by trying to fill people's need for emotional satisfaction by devising new angles to tell the same old stories.

However, what this need really exposes is that our present life, combined with what we are looking forward to in the future, is not fulfilling enough to satisfy us. A vital element is missing from life: the overall perspective regarding life itself combined with the lack of a relationship with God.

Solomon does not mean that there are no new technologies or inventions. By saying "there is nothing new under the sun," he is attempting to stimulate the reader to consider what might effectively improve the quality of his life. The bulk of mankind lives by the same basic patterns as Adam and Eve did after God kicked them out of the Garden. Solomon is searching for a hopeful way of life, one that will fill a person with joy and his mind with pure, godly inspiration and character.

He then states, "All things are wearisome" (Ecclesiastes 1:8, margin). Do we agree with his assessment to this point? Is he right in his litany of mankind's purposeless, hamster-like, monotonous life that leads nowhere? If so, Solomon has achieved his purpose of making us understand that he is making sense—that "vanity of vanities" is the only honest assessment of life on earth as long as people are doggedly, but without a large measure of truth, seeking purpose and profit only "under the sun."

What Solomon has shown to this point is not the full story. In fact, he has just begun! Using generalities, he has exposed only the broad extent of the problem. Specifics will be added later.

Nevertheless, he has already revealed the key to changing our approach to life: It lies in taking on a different perspective. "Under the sun" is equivalent to drawing a horizontal line between earthly and heavenly realities but focusing entirely or almost entirely on the earthly ones. If a person does this, then we must accept the fruit, as described by Solomon, to be inevitable because that is all that carnality can produce. However, a higher reality exists, and it is what Solomon urges his readers to change to. It is the spiritual reality we have been created to participate in.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part One)


 

Amos 8:11-14

The New Testament contains echoes of the curse found in Amos 8—a famine, not of the word, but of hearing it. Romans 1:18-32 tells of unrighteous men who suppress the truth. Because they are not thankful for what the creation reveals of the Creator, their foolish hearts become darkened. They lose what light, what truth, they have.

God's response to this is similar to His response to Israel. He does not contend with them or force His truth on them. Instead, Paul writes, God gave them up to uncleanness. He gave them up to vile passions. He gave them over to a debased mind. It is as if God gives them exactly what they seek, and they do not realize that it is a curse.

A second example of this principle appears in II Thessalonians 2:9-12, where Paul warns of a future Man of Sin who deceives the spiritually weak:

The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Those who perish do so because they do not receive—in the sense of "welcome"—the love of the truth. Because they do not, God will send them strong delusion, so that they will believe the lie and be condemned. In reality, God is just giving them what they desire anyway. They prefer carnal delusion to spiritual reality, so God obliges them. The unrighteous in Romans 1 desire a worldview without a Creator so they can be sexually liberated. God gives them over to it and lets them reap the awful consequences. The Israelites in the time of Amos did not value God's truth, so He removed it, letting them experience how miserably they fare without it. If they were anything like modern Israelites, they thought of themselves as enlightened and progressive even as their blindness became more complete.

David C. Grabbe
A Subtle Yet Devastating Curse


 

2 Corinthians 13:5

This verse applies at all times, not just during the spring festival season. Here, "faith" is used in the sense of the truth. Those who are in the truth live by faith. They live according to their beliefs in God. The truth is the center of their lives, and by it they direct and choose the course of their lives. The Feast of Tabernacles involves seeing if we are living by faith or sight. It shows whether we are led by God's Spirit or carnality. It reveals whether we can separate temporal vanity from spiritual reality.

God is very concerned, not only with what we do, but also why we do it. This makes fearing God vitally important. Doing everything in relation to Him and His purpose converts ordinary, mundane acts to ones of spiritual significance. If we have a deep and abiding respect for Him and His Word—arising from an awareness that He personally is a part of our lives and has great, awe-inspiring plans for us—we have a powerful motivation to make choices based on faith in Him.

We can easily make the acceptance of Christian faith a substitute for living it. Jesus says, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). Each person must do his own examination. One may hear a sermon that affects him and be shown where he is wrong, but true conviction of wrong is not reached until one sees his sin and condemns himself. The fear of God works this in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast


 

Ephesians 3:14-21

In a succinct form, this passage contains God's spiritual purpose. He is working toward sharing the riches of His glory with His entire Family. His primary purpose is to prepare His people for living in the inheritance—eternally. To this end, Paul prays that we might utilize our spiritual privileges to the full and be strengthened in the inner man. He asks that "Christ may dwell in our hearts through faith" and that we be "rooted and grounded in love."

God is concerned about the inner man. That is the part in us by which we are able to recognize and grasp spiritual realities. By it, we make the choices that will lead to the fulfillment of God's purpose for us. It is this part of us that walks by faith. God will "exceedingly abundantly" provide for us within the context of His purpose (verse 20), even as He did for Israel in the wilderness. They appeared so vulnerable, weak, and exposed while living in the open in booths, but they had everything they needed. He promises to "provide all [our] need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

John W. Ritenbaugh
Preparing for the Feast


 

Colossians 2:16-17

An alternate translation may help us to understand what Paul is getting at here: "These are a shadow of future things, but the reality [what is real or firm] belongs to Christ."

Old Testament activities or types point to spiritual realities under the New Covenant. He is not saying that Old Covenant activities no longer have to be observed, but rather that they need to be raised—elevated—to be understood and applied in their God-intended, spiritual sense.

Protestant scholars understand this fact, and they will even remark on it in their commentaries. Notice Conybeare and Howson's The Life and Epistles of St. Paul, page 346: "The festivals observed by the apostolic church were at the first the same with those of the Jews; and the observation of these was continued, especially by the Christians of Jewish birth, for a considerable time."

On page 574, they write: "Nay, more. He himself [Paul] observed the Jewish festivals." This clarifies that Colossians 2:16-17 is not telling us that the festivals—those so-called "Old Testament laws"—are done away. Rather, he is saying that they are to be raised, elevated, understood in a spiritual sense, rather than something that is merely material and physical.

Conybeare and Howson's conclusion is that, contrary to the common misunderstanding of these verses, the Bible and history show that the apostolic church kept God's holy days. Congregations dominated by Gentiles were the first to break away from them, as being too "Jewish," and begin to keep festivals like Christmas and Easter.

However, did keeping pagan festivals show forth the praises of God? The apostles clearly did not think so, or they would have kept them. It begins to become clear that Old Testament activities contain valuable instruction for the new covenant church.

John W. Ritenbaugh
New Covenant Priesthood (Part 1)


 

 




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