Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. For the Lord gave us this command when he said, ‘I have made You a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.'”
When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers.Acts 13:46-48
In this Gem I am continuing with the more traditional approach focusing on the word predestined. I told you also that I would share the insight I had regarding the 153 fish of John and why none were lost. It is clear from the translations and the meaning of [tetagmenoi] as the perfect participle of the verb [tasso] to be rightly appointed, rightly taking your place in God’s order of things that there is an element of pre-destination to the term. Which leads us to the dilemma of God “pre-destining” us and yet giving us free will. How can those two concepts fit together? Either we have free will or we don’t and therefore how can God say “to those who were pre-destined, destined, chosen or appointed” as the survey of the translations gave us. Perhaps it is as Stephenson and Tozer said, humans are drawn into the labyrinth of the mystery between the notions of Free Will and Pre-Destination. The mystery of election, predestination and divine sovereignty belong to the deep and mysterious Profound of God’s Omniscience.
I like that because there are things that belong to the deep things of God that I will never sort out this side of eternity. Like when a Muslim friend asked me to explain the Trinity and I used the examples of water existing in three states yet still water and the orange existing in three forms and yet still orange. Although they are good analogies they didn’t satisfy him. I asked the Lord for His wisdom at that moment and the thought came to mind, would I really want a God I can fully explain? Isn’t there a comfort in the fact that God’s thoughts are far above my thoughts? If I could fully explain all the deep things of God would they be worth having in the end. Don’t I want a God who is far above me and not one I can bring down to a human level? I told my Muslim friend that I was happy (and still am) with not being able to explain everything about the deep things of God. I am happy for there to be paradoxes which it leave room for mystery and profundity related to God.
But then again when it comes to the paradox of Free Will and us being destined or chosen or appointed to being the children of God isn’t there a simplicity to it as well? I love it that God can take profoundly deep things and make them simple and understandable at the same time. It strikes me that God can indeed both appoint us to eternal life and allow us free will at the same time. It is like I said three Gems ago that this passage seems to contain the idea that just as the Jews in this passage positioned or judged themselves to be rejected so too did the Gentiles position themselves to be chosen by accepting the offer of eternal life in Christ by trusting Him to work it out. There is a profound truth here to be explored.
I told you that this cannot mean that all mankind will ultimately be accepted. The universalists want John 1:9 to read “This true light gives light to every man coming into the world.” Therefore all men will be saved. You don’t have to do anything, God will accept everyone because He so loves the world. If that is the case then He didn’t need to give His One-of-a-kind Son. No our acceptance into the family of God is all about trusting Christ to save us and confessing that no effort on our part is going to accomplish it. We all know that deep down inside because we know when we try to balance the ledger and not sin we still do. Sin is deeply ingrained inside of us. Who will save us from this body of death? Praise God, Christ Jesus our LORD will. He will do it on the basis of us becoming believers – believers in the fact that only God can save us and we cannot save ourselves. When you set yourself on a course to save yourself you are doomed to failure. You really do need God to save you because you can’t.
All that said, by virtue of His omniscience, God knows what you will think and decide before you think it. It is still left to your freedom of choice to choose. He just happens to know what you will choose and when. There lies the element of being destined or appointed, it is on the basis or your acceptance or rejection of the Christ. You make the choice and in so doing position yourself to be accepted or rejected and God knows which way you will decide before you decide it. You see there is no way you can fool Him by thinking well I will say I will choose Christ just to cover the bases but then afterwards I will really decide for myself. As soon as you play mind games with God you lose. He knows your heart as well as your mind.
Now let me to put all of this in the context of the 153 fish:-
“So Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore. There were 153 large fish, and yet the net hadn’t torn.”John 21:11
Many have pondered over the meaning of the 153 fish for centuries. After a quick check on the internet some years ago here are some suggestions offering solutions to the mystery of 153 fish.
1) The numbering of the fish proves that John was an eyewitness
2) One refers to Shem’s race, three refers to Ham’s race, and five refers to Japheth’s race (Noah’s sons)
3) Jesus lived for 12,240 days which equals 80 x 153; Jesus ministered for 918 days which equals 6 x 153
4) If the 153 fish is to mean anything at all, it must be to do with mankind. It is here that I will tie in my opening discussion about Jesus being the 77th generation from Adam. We can rewrite these 77 generations as 76 + 1, meaning 76 generations, then 1 generation of which Jesus was a member. If we subtract 77 from 153 (fish) we find: 153 – 77 = 76. This number (153) can thus be interpreted to symbolise this: Jesus came following the first 76 generations of man and will return following the next 76 generations of man: at the 77th and 154th.
5) The 153 fish are described as large. This we can take to mean that they are fully-grown and that this implies that the rapture will not occur until the 153rd generation of the church is fully-grown or has reached adult-hood. This is why Jesus didn’t know when He would return. This is why nobody will know. Perhaps it means waiting until person number 106,241,205 has her 21st birthday.
6) The number 153 is the MASTER triangular number. What is a triangular number? Choose any whole number you wish, other than 1. The number can have as many digits as you wish. Then cube each digit separately and add the cubes together. Keep doing this to the resultant number, and you will find most of them eventually converging into one of three numbers. The numbers are 153, 370 and 371.
7) 153 was known in the time of Archimedes as “the measure of the fish” or the vesica pisces.
8) Jerome quoted Oppian saying that there are 153 species of fish in that region at that time. So does it refer to species? does it refer to the tribes? Well, in fact, Oppian said there were 157 species not 153. A lot of people today, I have seen it in all sorts of books, people preach about it, that these fish are symbolic of the races, the racial groups. O.K.
Was Jerome cooking the books or was he quoting somebody else? He said that there were 153. I don’t know. People often play with the numbers to make them fit their theory when it comes to these things. Whatever the case this is the origin of the concept that is symbolises the people groups.
9) Lt. Colonel Roberts noted that there were 153 people in Scripture who had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Has that got something significant to do with it?
You can see if gets a little fanciful at times as we try to delve into the deep things of God. I will never forget what Dr Basil Brown, my late-Greek Professor did in the last lecture we had with him. “Class, why does John refer to a 153 fish? What is the significance of 153 fish?” I can’t remember who said what, but we came up with responses that we thought might be the answer similar to those above. He just smiled and said “I challenge you class to find the significance behind it.” Then he picked up his books and walked out of the room. We didn’t see him again. I maintained contact with him. I was in email contact with him before he died and he used to get the Bible Gemz. He and I talked about what I had found concerning the 153 Fish. You can read the full version in Gem 121 to 125 but I will give you a summary of the high points here.
The sign of the fish was the standard symbol for Christians, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour”. Have you seen this sign before. I am sure you have. It is not a modern promotional gimmick. It has been around for centuries. How many of you have a fish bumper sticker on your car, or a sticker somewhere – on your Bible? Well, you have got a sticker that has the symbol for the fish and in it is written the Greek word Ichthus. Ichthus is the Greek word for fish. It was used as a symbol of the Christian. In the second and third centuries it was a secret sign for Christians. Those letters are the first letters of “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour”. It is like a mnemonic and behind it is this symbolism. It is being used through out Christendom today.
The interesting thing is that the Sons of God is a term that John uses for the people of God, not just sons, Ladies, but sons and daughters, the people of God. Who are these people and what makes them the sons of God? That of course is the theme of the book of John. What does it mean to believe? How do you believe and keep on believing in Jesus and become a child of God. The Son of God/Son of Man came to make the sons of man the sons of God. In Hebrew this term becomes Bene HaElohim or
Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek are all three Alpha-Numeric languages. Meaning these languages use the letters of the language to count. They do not have a separate set of symbols for numbers. Letters are used. That means that every letter has a numeric value in addition to its role as a letter. The following are the values for the letter of the construction Bene HaElohim, the sons of God.
When you add up those letters after giving them their numeric value, the Gematria of the “Sons of God” is 153. Well surprise, surprise. Is John saying something about the people of God?
Then note carefully what John is saying in these verses:
He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they rejected Him. But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.John 1:10-13
Now note the following related to the uniqueness of the number 153 as hinted at in 6) above.
I<——— 17 ————>l
You end up with an equilateral triangle 17 dots x 17 dots x 17 dots (see left, although mine is not equilateral but can’t for the sake of space). Where 17 is the combination of divine (7) and ordinal (10) perfection. The symbolism is that the final number of the redeemed will be both human and divine perfection. Those who have taken God at His word and have fulfilled their part in their salvation and He will do the rest and none will be lost.
I will leave it there for today. I am not sure what I will do to follow this. Move on to the next verses in Acts or expand this some more. I will be guided by your response.
Education is what you get when you read the fine print. Experience is what you get if you don’t.Ian Vail
Revelation is when God bypasses the limitations of your mind and shows you things you otherwise wouldn’t know.Ian Vail
Instead of finding a solution to life’s problems every now and then, you can walk each day in a “spirit of wisdom and of revelation”.Bob Gass
Aspire to Inspire Before You Expire.Ian Vail
The Providence of God is like Hebrew words – it can be read only backwards.Ian Vail
Light travels faster than sound – that’s why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.Anon