Since the beginning the unchanging God (Mal. 3:6/ Heb. 13:8/ Jam. 1:17) has not altered His ultimate goal for all of mankind (Jn. 3:16,17). Nor have His rules (Law) for reaching that goal have not changed. Nor has His method of atoning for having failed tobey those rules. From the time of Adam’s sin to this moment He has required a blood payment for sin–the breaking of His Law (1 Jn. 3:4). Because Israel disobeyed Him the Lord forced them to offer the sacrifice of animal blood once each year to atone for their sins. The blood (life) of animals would cover their sins until the following year’ sacrifice. In the end Shiloh would come to offer His blood as a sacrifice for the sins of all of mankind. At the Last Supper Jesus of Nazareth announced that the promised change in the blood sacrifice would soon take place. His shed blood now provides the grace necessary for the forgiveness of all PAST sins, thereby justifying the cleansed one and rendering him righteous at the moment his sins are forgiven (Rom. 3:25). Being freed/delivered from sin (made righteous), the righteous one must then grow in righteousness (produce righteous fruit). By growing in faith and grace one attains holiness. If holiness is maintained to the end one receives eternal life (Rom. 6:22/ Mat. 10:22) upon Christ’s Second Advent.
As God’s holy people, the Israelites would serve as His light to the Gentile world, thereby offering them the opportunity to learn the ways of the only true God, follow them and reap the rewards for doing so. But the Israelites, like all other human beings, had the power of choice. As all Bible students know, they failed to fulfill their assigned mission. In the 7th chapter of the book of Romans we see the choices the Almighty presented to His chosen people. Those choices are symbolized by olive trees, one good, one bad. One tree produced life, the other produced death. One produced light, the other produced darkness. God’s chosen people chose Satan’s darkness (false religion–“wild olive tree”) over God’s light (true religion–“good olive tree”). The choice between the two “trees” was individually made based on the character of the one doing the choosing. The rules of engagement that were true in the beginning remain true to this day. Adam and Eve were given the choice of two trees that stood in the midst of the Garden of Eden. We are not told what the “tree of life” looked like, only that the first humans were free to partake of its fruit. However, we do know what the forbidden tree looked like: “And when the woman SAW that the tree was GOOD FOR FOOD, and that it was PLEASANT TO THE EYES, and a tree to MAKE ONE (SELF) WISE she took of the fruit and gave to her husband with her.” Sin always “tastes” good, “looks good” and makes one appear to be “wise” from the outside.
Holiness, on the other hand, is internal. It is an inner “knowing” that one is right with God. It does not always “taste” good and is sometimes “hard to swallow.” The internal sweetness of righteousness never “looks” good to those who are without it. Nor does its fruit make one look “wise” to them. The “light” of holiness burning within the true saint is viewed as foolishness at best and Satanic at worst to the saint’s religious counterparts. At present their hatred is being kept under control by the laws under which civilized people live. This will change. To see what the future will bring we need only recall the past. I bring to your memory the hardships thrust upon the heroes of Hebrews 11:35-40. I remind you that Jesus and 11 of the 12 disciples were martyred, that multitudes of Christians were fed to wild animals as entertainment for the Romans, and that millions of God’s saints were martyred by the Catholic Church during the Inquisition. The day will again come when those who kill God’s people will believe that they are doing Him a service (Jn. 16:2), which was true of the Jews, Romans and Catholics of old, and is true of modern Muslims.
The Israelites of old refused to obey God. As a result they eventually found themselves on the receiving end of His wrath which He expressed by having them suffer military defeat, slaughter, enslavement followed by the scattering of survivors throughout the world. He had prophesied this scenario in Jeremiah 9:16 and 49:36. Let us be reminded that mankind has the power of choice. Though the Biblical God issues no-option commands, He has given to all people the option of obedience or disobedience to those commands. His blessings and curses in this life depend on the choice each of us makes. Those who chose to obey Him become “branches” on His “good olive tree” which produce “good fruit.” His “tree” is the true Body of Christ which is called “the Church of God” nine times in the Scriptures. This body is not to be confused with the religious system that calls itself by that name. Because the Lord has had the same (and only) “tree” since the Garden of Eden, those who draw their spiritual nourishment from it are called “natural” branches which produce “good” fruit. Those who choose to obey Satan become part of his “wild olive tree”–his false branches who draw their spiritual nourishment from what is known as Catholicism/Protestantism. Both churches are presented as “olive trees” that look the same outwardly but whose fruit are as different as life and death. The two churches share several of the same characteristics. They both proclaim that the Bible is God’s Word. They both meet once each week, at which time they are taught from the same Bible. The difference between the two trees involves the trees’ creators, the nourishment (doctrine) they provide, the spiritual condition of their respective “branches” and the spiritual quality of the fruit they produce.
The above-stated characteristics of the two trees are discussed in chapter 11 of the letter the Apostle Paul sent to the church at Rome. Astute students of the Holy Scripture will note that much of what the apostles wrote to the New Testament Church came in the form of warnings. Paul wrote often about Satan’s counterfeit church, whose gospel is “a perversion of the true gospel” (Gal. 16-9). His prophets use just enough Scripture to deceive the Biblically ignorant into accepting them. Having gained their confidence, they then “deceive many” (Mat. 24:4,5). Note that Satan’s ministers proclaim that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Christ–a Biblical “headline.” Having convinced their listeners that they are messengers sent by God, they then deceive many who fail to read the Biblical “fine print”–the other 99% of God’s Word. GOD IS IN THE FINE PRINT.
The importance of studying the “fine print” in the Holy Bible was illustrated graphically to me when we lived in the Rio Grande Valley some years ago. “The Valley” is known for its beautiful orange groves. Valley oranges are among the best in the world. However, if an orange tree freezes, its fruit becomes bitter and impossible to eat. The problem lies in outward appearance. Good and bad oranges look exactly the same. The tree trunk, branches and leaves look the same. And so does the fruit. In order to tell the difference between good and bad oranges one must taste them–“read the fine print.” This is the lesson we must learn about God’s true church and Satan’s false church. They look the same externally. It is in their doctrines, beliefs and practices that we find the life and death difference between them. We must recognize those differences and embrace God’s Way even though it is despised and rejected by the whole of professing Christendom. Our eternal lives depend on it. L.J.