"He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remains to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time." (1 Corinthians 5-8).
Being raised in an evangelical church most of my life I would often hear Scripture taught as road blocks instead of life transforming.
Whenever my thoughts would want to press into God's "all" I would hear the subtle "yes, but" voice from someone in the Christian circle stifling any creativity of thought about how big God really was and what He could really do. Christians can often quote, "For with God nothing shall be impossible" (Luke 1:37). However, when pressed deeper with questions like:
"Can He raise dad from death so I can see him now?"
"If I ask for Jesus to come see me today will He?"
"If the Bible says that Jesus healed a blind man, will He give me my ability to have eyes to see if I'm blind?"
A child's faith gets responses from mature Christians with "yes, but…"
Deep inside, our heart desire is to believe, but when pressed with the question we find that our faith isn't as strong as we thought, and we settle with complacency of, "I believe, but I don't believe enough that those supernatural occurrences are for me." We settle as the Laodicea church in Revelation as the church that settles for doubts, insecurity, and fear of disappointment from God instead of stepping over the line to truly be All in for God today.
For me, it took a diagnosis of two separate cancers, chemo treatments, strep and staph infection to my heart, and then a total loss of iron in my blood that my body literally was bleeding out…all in a two-year period causing me to press into God and His promises in a way that the Truth would set me free.
Shortly after I had gone through the celebration of the Passover/Easter season for the 54th time I went on a mission trip for two weeks that unveiled atmospheric changes that were miraculous. An example was entering Death Valley at 120 degrees only for it to drop to 30 degrees and snowing for two days while our presence was in the place with the anointing of the Holy Spirit leading us. The ground should have been too hot for the snow to lay on the desert sand, yet it stayed and continued to fall while we were there. After two days, we drove further west out of the valley, the temperature went back to 120 degrees. For two weeks, every day we encountered this kind of sudden atmospheric changes take place – through Nevada, California, and Oregon. It changed our hearts to be as a child with anticipation of saying, "Papa, what are you going to do next."
Even though I have been intensely involved as a believer in Christ all my life and have a Ph.D. in Religious Philosophy, it was with that Passover, resurrection Life experience that gave me the insight to go through the valley of the shadow of death with cancer to find the child's wonder of what are you going to do next Papa?
Since I was in the middle of treatments for quite a while I had to simply put traveling and mission trips on hold. My days were focused on simply getting through the basics of life – and sleeping a lot wondering if my time was ending. I found myself asking God not to heal me, but allow me to finish the race He had for me. Was I saying the same thing? The following spring came around – Passover/Easter and now remembering where I was a year ago.
My conversation with God was asking Him if I would see Christmas, my children's birthday, my anniversary again? My heart was tired after this long journey, yet still in the Valley of the shadow of Death. My faith was challenged with the voice of Fear saying things like, "Do you really believe cancer is gone? Do you really believe those healing Scriptures? "I didn't get a response to any of those questions I was asking God, just that voice of the accuser hanging around me and testifying to the statistics of surviving from two cancers in your body at once.
Then I heard that still small voice of Papa say, "Count the Omer." I didn't have a clue of what that was all about. I was never taught anything about counting the omer. I asked Bible scholars and professors I had been mentored by about this. The only responses I received from other Ph.D.'s was it was a "Jewish thing of the Old Testament, but not for Christians today."
Of course, that answer wasn't satisfying to me because it was God who responded to my questions of my future by telling me to "count the omer."
I dug into the Old Testament to find out that it is NOT a Jewish thing, but a commandment of God. It doesn't get you to Heaven, but it does bring Heaven into your earth bringing the true rapture of God into your world. I found out that Counting the Omer was a privilege as a bride to prepare herself for her marriage to the Lamb. "Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7). I knew that the true church of the Lord Jesus Christ was the bride waiting for the marriage of the Lamb, but it was always taught to me as a future – someday event.
Now, this is where I bring in the "wow factor" of what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8. Paul is talking about the appearance of Jesus AFTER the Passover/Easter resurrection, but BEFORE the ascension. This was a forty-day period that Paul says Jesus appeared as the resurrection to over five-hundred brethren, the twelve Apostles, and the other apostles (maybe these were the women?). After He was raised from the dead Jesus appeared in the Galilee area to Peter and the others. He journey's back with the apostles to Jerusalem over a forty-day period going through the same wilderness that Jesus spent forty-days alone after He was baptized by John, then dealing with the temptations of the enemy of God.
Stay with me on this because it's getting good. Jesus is NOW the resurrected form that conquered death, hell, and the grace – and He's appearing WITH over five-hundred brethren as they journey to Jerusalem to fulfill the commandment of God to be there for Shavuot which we know as Christians as Pentecost.
Jesus is NOT appearing as a baby in a manger born from a virgin, or the man crucified on the cross. He's not even appearing as the carpenter from Nazareth, the miracle teaching Rabbi, or the one who raised Lazarus from the dead. He's appearing as THE RESURRECTION. "Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live" (John 11:25).
He was with all those men and women during those forty-days before He ascended, yet when we read in Acts chapter one we find that only a small percentage of people gathered together as He commanded in the upper room.
Where are all those people that were with Him in the wilderness journeying back to Jerusalem? Had Jesus appeared, but they didn't recognize Him because they were expecting the appearing of those other images of Jesus – the man on the cross, the baby in a manger, the carpenter's son? Were they expecting Him to have brown eyes and hair with the perfect masculine body? The RESURRECTION appeared, but it was none of those.
"Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again, Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 20:19-23).
These verses that John wrote are baffling to theologians because of the order things have been interpreted as a time line of occurrences. If this is read as an event right after the resurrection it causes conflict with Jesus saying He would see the disciples again in the Galilee (Matthew 28:7, 10). However, if it is read as the first day after the ascension, day forty-one of counting the omer, it makes more sense to what is going on with Jesus breathing on them to receive the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sin. Remember what the religious leaders accused Jesus of when He healed a lame man? "And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, who is this which speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?" (Luke 5:21).
The resurrected Jesus Christ had given the breath of God to forgive sin to those in the upper room after the forty-day ascension, but while waiting for the fiftieth day to arrive. Jesus appeared to many during those forty days, but not everyone received the breath of God to forgive sin by the Holy Spirit, only those in the upper room, the same place that Jesus shared the Passover meal before the cross.
So, what was the difference where Jesus Christ is in the presence of all those people as they were journeying to Jerusalem, yet they missed the grand event of the Pentecost moment that established the church, the body of Jesus Christ in the earth?
I believe many were journeying to Jerusalem as the traditions of men, commanded by the law to fulfill the giving of the Torah of Moses. They had not done much in counting the omer, or preparations for the first fruits season as the marriage of God to His people which is what Shavuot is all about.
The disciples in the upper room waiting became aware of the pattern of the Feast Days of the Lord unveiled during this season – Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruit, and counting the omer. Shavuot was almost upon them as a major event in the relationship with God and His people. Something BIG was going to happen! Bigger than Jesus born as a baby in a manger to a virgin. Bigger than Him raised from the dead. Jesus breathes on them with the ability to forgive sin! Only God can forgive sin? What does that mean? What does that look like? How can we forgive sin?
"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband" (Revelation 21:2).
Those days of counting the omer are the difference of Christians that are born again waiting for the coming of the Lord or dying to go to heaven, and those that are the bride of Christ preparing herself to rule and reign as the body of Christ in the earth AS the new Jerusalem today. Which are you?
"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, appears, then you also appear with him in glory" (Colossians 3:1-4).
If you're a believer in Jesus Christ, did you know that you have already died, and that Christ Jesus has been appearing in you every time you are led by the Holy Spirit? Did you know that Biblical death is not about the mortal flesh, but is connected to the words believers speak into the world? "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof" (Proverbs 18:21). What is the tree that produces the fruit of death? The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. What is the tree that produces the fruit of life? The Tree of Life.
What is in your garden with God?
If we died with Him and were buried with Him, we also have been raised with Him today as the RESURRECTION. It is in this form of Christ that anoints the bride of Christ, the body of Christ to BE the WORD made flesh and dwell among men (Joh 1:14). This is the coming of the bridegroom. The Feast of Shavuot – Pentecost was the celebration of the marriage of the Lamb with His bride – the church. He gave His bride His Divine (Holy) Spirit to BE the manifestation of Eternal Life Now in the earth to take dominion and authority over ALL that was not Christ.
"every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever" (Revelation 5:13).
As a believer that Jesus is the Son of God, did you know that you have already been raised from the dead, and already seated together with other believers in heavenly places where Jesus Christ is seated now at the right hand of the Father?
"Raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6).
Did you know that NOW you have access to ALL the wisdom of God from Heaven to be imparted through your mortal life upon the world? "That now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Ephesians 3:10). Yes, you will receive this when your mortal flesh deteriorates and you take your last breath, but you won't be able to share this good news of the Kingdom of God to those still in ignorance and darkness.
The Love of God is not about receiving, but giving away unconditionally. Therefore, the true bride/church should desire to "count the omer." It is a 49-day period of anticipation of the WORD of God unveiled as RESURRECTION LIFE one letter at a time – the beginning and the end – the Aleph and the Tov – the Alpha and the Omega – Christ All and in ALL. It is a season of how to carry one's cross daily, and how to forgive sin as God forgave each of us. It is a season of preparing for Jubilee. "Count off seven sabbath years—seven times seven years—so that the seven sabbath years amount to a period of forty-nine years" (Exodus 25:8). Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times" (Matthew 18:21-22). .
"Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, atheist, etc.): but Christ is all, and IN all" (Colossians 3:11).
"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:15-17).