Palm Sunday 3/3 – Jesus Declares His Kingship

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

You can listen to the audio here from Desiring God, John Piper.

Matthew 21:1-17

When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, „Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 „If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 „SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, „Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, „Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, „This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” 12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, „It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” 14 And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, „Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 16 and said to Him, „Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, „Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?” 17 And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

What I would like to do this morning is help you hear Jesus’ own declaration of his kingship. I want you to see from Matthew 21:1-17 how Jesus says, „I am your king.” And I would like to do it in a way that makes sure you see the nature of his kingship now and the different nature of his kingship when he comes a second time. And I want you to see and feel the difference because the nature of Jesus’ kingship now is creating a season of salvation in world history during which you can still switch sides and be saved from his wrath and judgment. There is still time – even now this morning – when you can accept the amnesty that King Jesus holds out to you, and renounce your allegiance to self and success and money and family and physical pleasure and security – and whatever else rules you more than Jesus. And you can bow and receive Christ as your King and swear allegiance to him, and be on his side with everlasting joy.

The Kingship of Jesus Will Look Different Than It Does Now

To help you feel the wonder of this brief season of salvation in world history – and yes I say brief, though it has lasted 2000 years; compared to how long we will exist in heaven or hell, it is very brief – to feel the wonder of this brief season of salvation in world history consider that the day is coming, and perhaps soon, when the kingship of Jesus will very different than it is now. Here is a description of that kingship, as John saw it in the last book of the Bible:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, „KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

When the kingship of Jesus appears in the skies like that, it will be too late to switch sides. „Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation'” (2 Corinthians 6:2). I believe that is what Matthew is trying to say to us this morning in the way Jesus proclaims his kingship in Matthew 21:1-17. What he wants us to hear – what Jesus wants us to see – is that, yes, he is king, yes his kingship is not provincial or tribal or national, but international and global and universal. But it is for now meek, lowly, welcoming, seeking, forgiving, patient. He will, in a matter of days, shed his own blood to save all who will accept his free gift of amnesty and come over to his side. And until he comes again this is the wonder of his kingship. It saves sinners.

So let’s watch him make this declaration. I just want you to see him. I want you to hear him. Rivet your attention on Jesus this morning. He will win you. He will heal you. He will save you.

There are four ways that Jesus declares his kingship in this triumphal entry. All of them are Jewish. He was a Jew, and he was fulfilling Jewish promises of a coming king and Messiah. But all them are bigger than Jewish. Remember this gospel is going to end in chapter 28 with the words, „All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). Jesus knows that he is the king over all nations, not just Israel.

So let’s listen and watch as he declares himself King of the Jews and King of the nations.

1. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Riding on a Donkey (Zech. 9:9)

First, notice Matthew 21:1-5. Jesus sends two of his disciples to get a donkey. Verse 2: „Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me.” Why? What is he doing? Why does he want a ride into Jerusalem on a donkey? Never before has he done such a thing. Matthew tells us why in verses 4-5, „This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to the daughter of Zion [that is, to Israel], „Behold your king is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”‘”

This is a quote from the prophet Zechariah (9:9). Jesus has chosen to act out the fulfillment of this prophecy and to declare his kingship in the action of riding on a donkey. This means, yes, I am king, for that’s what the prophet says it means: „Behold your king.” „But,” he is saying, „I am gentle and lowly. I am not, in my first coming, on a white war-horse with a sword and a rod of iron. I am not coming to slay you. I am coming to save you. This time. Today is the day of salvation.

But is he only coming for the „daughter of Zion,” Israel? Listen to the context in Zechariah 9:9-10 – and Jesus knew the context –

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion [his kingship] will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.

That’s declaration number one. Jesus very intentionally acts out the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 and declares his humble, gentile, saving, Jewish and global kingship. And invites you to receive it.

2. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Cleansing the Temple (Isa. 56:7)

Second, in verses 12-13 Jesus acts out another Old Testament text. It says he „entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” Don’t think that this meek, gentle, lowly Savior-King was without passion for his Father’s glory!

Then to explain what he is doing he quotes Isaiah 56:7. Verse 13: „And He said to them, ‘It is written, „My house shall be called a house of prayer;” but you are making it a robbers’ den.'” There are two things that make this action and this Old Testament quote so significant. One is that the context in Isaiah is about the coming kingdom of God, and so Jesus is putting himself in the position of the coming king. And the other is that the context is global, not just Jewish. Listen to Isaiah 56:6-8.

Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord. . . 7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. . . . For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” 8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, „Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”

So when Jesus chooses a prophetic word to interpret his action in the temple, he chooses one that underlines his coming on a donkey as king and the fact that his kingship is „for all the peoples.” It’s for you this morning. He is jealous to open his Father’s house to you for prayer.

3. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Healing (Isa. 35:4-6)

Third, in verse 14 it says, „And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” Imagine what an impact this must have had. We are talking about the most public place in the city – the temple. We are talking about blind people, and people who can’t walk – lame, paralyzed people. Not people with headaches and sore throats. This was a public demonstration of something. What?

We’ve already been told at least once. When John the Baptist was in jail he sent and asked Jesus, „Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” In other words, are you the coming king of Israel, the Messiah? And Jesus sent this word back to John in Matthew 11:4-5, „Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk.” In other words, „Yes. I am the coming king.”

Why? Why does the healing of the blind and the lame in the temple after coming into Jerusalem on a donkey mean: I am the coming king? Because in Isaiah 35 the prophet describes the coming kingship of the Messiah like this: ” Take courage, fear not. . . . The recompense of God will come, But He will save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened. And . . . Then the lame will leap like a deer” (35:4-6).

Jesus comes on a donkey, lowly and gentle and patient; he comes cleansing his Father’s house to make it a house of prayer for all the nations; he comes healing the blind and the lame – all to show what his kingship is now in part, and will be fully in the age to come. It is not just a kingship over other kings, but over disease and all nature. We will not just be safe and sick when he comes. We will be safe and whole – absolutely whole. Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. Trust him. Receive his amnesty. Become his subject.

4. Jesus Declares His Kingship by His Response to Children (Psa. 8)

Finally, Jesus declares his kingship by the way he responds to what the people and the children are doing and saying. In verse 8 the crowds are spreading their cloaks on the road in front of him. This is what they did when kings were crowned in the Old Testament (2 Kings 9:13). In verse 9 the crowds were shouting, „Hosanna [salvation!] to the Son of David [the hoped for king like David]; ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'” (These are words from Psalm 118:25-26.)

Then in verse 15 the children were shouting the same things: „Hosanna to the Son of David.” In other words, „The king is here, the king is here!” But the chief priests became angry. So they said in verse 16, „Do You hear what these children are saying?” Now I think they could just as easily have said, „Did you hear what those crowds said? Did you see what they were doing when they put their cloaks on the ground?” They can’t believe Jesus is letting all this stand unchallenged.

Jesus answers their question with one simple word. And then an absolutely astonishing quote from Psalm 8. They say, „Do you hear what these children are saying?” And he answers in verse 16b, „Yes.” „Yes, I do. I not only hear it. I planned it. And I receive it. I would gladly receive it from you. And he would gladly receive it from us!”

Then, he ends this section by quoting Psalm 8, „Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” What is so astonishing about this is that it refers to God. „O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength [or: praise] Because of Your adversaries.” Don’t miss this. Jesus receives the praises of little children and then explains it by quoting a psalm where children are praising God.

The King Has Come and Is Coming

So here is the concluding declaration and invitation: Jesus came the first time, and he is coming again, as the king over all kings. King of Israel, king of all the nations, king of nature and the universe. Until he comes again, there is a day of amnesty and forgiveness and patience. He still rides a donkey and not yet a white war-horse with a rod of iron. He is ready to save all who receive him as Savior and Treasure and King. Come to him. Know him. Receive him. Live your life in allegiance to him.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Reclame

Old Testament Prophecies Fulfilled by Christ

via Wilmington/Tyndale Guide to the Bible (P 350)

You can reverently see the mighty hand of God guiding men throughout thousands of years and inspiring them through His Holy Spirit as they lay ink to papyrus and lay down God’s Word in such a way as to see it come to pass in a (mind boggling) mathematically impossible improbability.

  1. Born of a virgin – Isaiah 7:14 Fulfilled in Matthew 1:22,23
  2. Given the throne of David – 2 Samuel 7:11-12; Psalm 132:11; Isaiah 9:6, 16:5,Jeremiah 23:5 Fulfilled in Luke 1:31-32
  3. This throne to be an eternal throne – Daniel 2:44, 7:14,27; Micah 4:7 Fulfilled in Luke 1:33
  4. To be called Emmanuel – Isaiah 7:14 Fulfilled in Matthew 1:23
  5. To have a forerunner – Isaiah 40:3-5; Maleachi 3:1 Fulfilled in Luke 1:76-78, 3:3-6; Matthew 3:1-3
  6. To be born in Bethlehem – Micah 5:2 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:5-6
  7. To be worshipped by wise men and be presented with Gifts – Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 60:3, 6, 9 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:11
  8. To be in Egypt for a season – Numbers 24:8, Hosea 11:1 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:15
  9. Birthplace to suffer a massacre of infants – Jeremiah 31:15 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:17-18
  10. To be called a Nazarene – Isaiah 11:1 Fulfilled in Matthew 2:23
  11. To be zealous for the Father – Psalm 69:9, 119:139 Fulfilled in John 2:16-17
  12. To be filled with God’s Spirit – Isaiah 11:2, 61:1-2; Psalm 45:7 Fulfilled in Luke 4:18-19
  13. To heal many – Isaiah 53:4 Fulfilled in Matthew 8:16-17
  14. To deal gently with the Gentiles – Isaiah 9:1-2, 42:1-3 Fulfilled in Matthew 12:17-21, 4:13-16
  15. To speak in parables – Isaiah 6:9-10 Fulfilled in Matthew 13:10-15
  16. To be rejected by His own – Isaiah 53:3, Psalm 69:8 Fulfilled in John 1:11, 7:5
  17. To make a triumphal entry into Jerusalem – Zechariah 9:9 Fulfilled in Matthew 21:4-5
  18. To be praised by little children – Zechariah 9:9 Fulfilled in Matthew 21:16
  19. To be the rejected cornerstone – Psalm 118:22-23 Fulfilled in Matthew 21:42
  20. That His miracles would not be believed – Isaiah 53:1 Fulfilled in John 12:37-38
  21. To be betrayed by His friend for 30 pieces of silver – Psalm 41:9, 55:12-14 Fulfilled in Matthew 26:14-16, 21-25
  22. To be a man of sorrows – Isaiah 53:3 Fulfilled in Matthew 26:37-38
  23. To be forsaken by His disciples – Zechariah 13:7 Fulfilled in Matthew 26:31, 56
  24. To be scourged and spat upon – Isaiah 50:6 Fulfilled in Matthew 26:67, 27:26
  25. His price money to be used to buy a potter’s field – Zechariah 11:12-13; Jeremiah 18:1-4, 19:1-4 Fulfilled in Matthew 27:9-10
  26. To be crucified between two thieves – Isaiah 53:12 Fulfilled in Matthew 27:38
  27. To be given vinegar to drink – Psalm 69:21 Fulfilled in Matthew 27:34, 48; John 19:36-40
  28. To suffer the piercing of hands and feet – Psalm 22:15; Zechariah 12:10 Fulfilled in Matthew 15:25; John 19:34,37, 20:25-27
  29. His garments to be parted and gambled for – Psalm 22:18 Fulfilled in Luke 23:34; John 19:23-24
  30. To be surrounded and ridiculed by His enemies – Psalm 22:7-8 Fulfilled in Matthew 27:39-44; Mark 15:29-32
  31. That He would thirst – Psalm 22:15 Fulfilled in John 19:28
  32. To commend His spirit to the Father – Psalm 31:5 Fulfilled in Luke 23:46
  33. No bones to be broken – Psalm 34:20; Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12 Fulfilled in John 19:33-36
  34. To be stared at in death – Zechariah 12:10 Fulfilled in John 19:37; Matthew 27:36
  35. To be buried with the rich – Isaiah 53:9 Fulfilled in Matthew 27:57-60
  36. To be raised from the dead – Psalm 16:10 Fulfilled in Matthew 28:2-8
  37. To ascend – Psalm 24:7-10; Isaiah 52:13 Fulfilled in Mark 16:19; Luke 24:51

Jesus: Who do you say that I am?

Once when Jesus was traveling with His disciples He asked them ‘Who do people say that I am?’ Wherever Jesus went, large crowds of people followed Him and they witnessed the miracles He performed and they observed the words He spoke in His sermons. Many of the people probably wondered who Jesus was.  But then in Luke 9:18-20 Jesus asks Peter, His disciple, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ and Peter answers ‘God’s Messiah’! Peter spoke with lots of conviction, yet his faith had a long way to go, there would even come a point in his life later where he would deny that he even knew Jesus. Peter and the disciples would become men of faith after they saw the resurrected Christ and it was then they could profess that Jesus was truly the Son of God.

In every age since the first followers of Jesus made their profession of faith in him, men and women of faith have had to come to terms with who Jesus is and what he means for them.As we go into the Christmas season, celebrating the birth of the Messiah, take a little time to reflect on these passages that the Scriptures heralds about the deity of the Messiah. Who is Jesus Christ to you?

(The following list is posted from Tyndale’s Wilmington guide to the Bible pp.346-348, 616-618)

The Deity of Jesus Christ the Savior of the world- 

  1. His deity was declared by angels

  • Gabriel to Mary (Luke 1:26-33)
  • by Gabriel to Joseph (Matthew 1:20-23)
  • by Gabriel (?) to some shepherds (Luke 2:8-11)
  • by Gabriel (?) to some women (Matthew 28:5-6)

2. His deity was declared by the Father

  • at his baptism (Matthew 3:16-17)
  • at his transfiguration (Matthew 17:5)
  • shortly before his passion (John 12:27-28)

3. His deity was declared by his mighty miracles (John 20:30,31: 21:25)

4. His deity was declared by his powerful sermons ((Luke 4:32; John 7:46)

5. His deity was declared by his accurate prophecies (Matthew 26:32)

6. His deity was declared by his sinless life

  • as attested by Pilate (John 19:4)
  • by Pilate’s wife (Matthew 27:19
  • by Judas (Matthew 27:4)
  • by the dying thief (Luke 23:41)
  • by the Roman centurion (Luke 23:47)

7. His deity was declared by demons

  • as he healed a maniac (Matthew 8:28-29)
  • as he healed a man in Capernaum (Luke 4:33-34)
  • as he healed many in Capernaum (Luke 4:41, Mark 3:11)

8. His deity was declared by those who worshipped him

  • the shepherds (Luke 2:15)
  • the wise men (Matthew 2:2,11)
  • a leper (Matthew 8:2)
  • a ruler (Matthew 9:18)
  • a Gentile mother (Matthew 15:25)
  • a Hebrew mother (Matthew 20:20)
  • a maniac (Mark 5:6)
  • a blind man (John 9:38)
  • an apostle (Thomas) (John 20:28)
  • all apostles (Matthew 14:38; 28:9)

9. His deity was declared by Satan (Matthew 4:3, 6)

10. His deity was declared by himself

  • He referred to himself as the Son of God (John 9:35; 10:36; 11:4)
  • He forgave sins (Mark 2:5, 10)
  • He is man’s judge (John 5:22, 27)
  • He is the author of life (John 5:24, 28, 29)
  • He is to be honored like the Father (John 5:23)
  • He alone can save (John 10:28; Luke 19:10; John 14:6

The Resurrection Appearances of Jesus

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian

Study By: Bob Deffinbaugh at http://www.bible.org. Our text deals with the first three of our Lord’s four post-resurrection appearances in the Gospel of John. The first appearance is to Mary Magdalene, and the next three are to the disciples. Jesus will appear to Mary Magdalene (20:10-18), then to the disciples, minus Thomas (20:19-23), then to the disciples, with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples, including Thomas, who were fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1ff.). There are some very important lessons to be learned here, so let us listen and learn, looking to the Spirit of God to interpret, apply, and implement these truths in our lives.

General Observations

It would serve us well to begin with several observations concerning our text and its relationship to the other Gospels.

We do not really know a great deal about the time between our Lord’s resurrection and His ascension. When you stop to think about it, a significant portion of each of the Gospels is taken up with the events of the last week of our Lord in Jerusalem. And yet, the 40 days following our Lord’s resurrection gets very little attention in comparison. The material we do have about this period is not meant to satisfy our curiosity about all that happened during this time, but is recorded to prove one important fact: Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father!

Of the details we do find regarding our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection, a number of them are recorded only in Acts and 1 Corinthians. Until now I did not realize how much of my understanding of our Lord’s ministry after His resurrection is based upon New Testament books other than the Gospels. Some of the most important details come from Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15:

1 I wrote the former account, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after he had given orders by the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. 3 After his suffering he had also presented himself alive to these apostles by many convincing proofs. He was seen by them over a forty-day period and spoke about matters concerning the kingdom of God. 4 While he was with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for “what my Father promised, which you heard about from me. 5 For John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” 6 So when they had gathered together, they began to ask him, “Lord, is this the time when you are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He told them, “You are not permitted to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the farthest parts of the earth.” 9 After he had said this, while they were watching, he was lifted up and a cloud took him away from their sight. 10 As they were staring into the sky while he was going, suddenly two men in white clothing stood near them 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up into the sky? This same Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still living, though some have died. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).

I am not sure why I had concluded that my understanding of the post-resurrection period was dependent solely upon the Gospels. It was probably due, in part, to my assumption that if one Gospel didn’t mention something I knew about this time period, it was because it was recorded in one of the other three Gospels. But this is not necessarily true. If it were not for Acts 1 and 1 Corinthians 15, we would not know nearly as much about the Lord’s ministry during the 40 days following His resurrection. From Acts 1:3 we learn that during this time, Jesus taught His disciples about the kingdom of God which was yet to come. While our Lord’s instruction to His disciples to wait for the coming of the Spirit can be found in Luke’s Gospel (24:49), we probably remember this command from Acts 1:4-5. Apart from 1 Corinthians 15:5, we would not know that Jesus appeared to over 500 people at one time after His resurrection. It is from Paul (1 Corinthians 15:5), as well as from Luke (24:34), that we know Jesus made a private appearance to Peter. We would certainly not expect the replacement for Judas to be Saul, to whom our Lord made another (albeit, a later) post-resurrection appearance (1 Corinthians 15:8). A good part of what little we know of this period in our Lord’s life and ministry comes from outside the Gospels.

Some of the details about events which occurred in this time period may appear to be contradictory. For example, in Mark we read that after the women saw and heard the angel at the tomb, “they went out and ran away from the tomb. They were in a state of trembling and amazement, and said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid” (Mark 16:8, emphasis mine). In Luke’s Gospel we read, “Then they remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest ” (Luke 24:8-9, emphasis mine). I believe the solution to this apparent contradiction is found in Matthew’s account: “So they left the tomb quickly, with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. But Jesus met them, saying, ‘Greetings!’ They came to him, held on to his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee. They will see me there’” (Matthew 28:8-10, emphasis mine).

By putting all these details in sequence, we get a pretty good idea of what happened from the time the women left the tomb till they spoke with all the disciples and others. The women saw and heard the angel, who instructed them to go tell the disciples that Jesus was alive and would meet them in Galilee. The women rush off toward the city, but they are in a virtual state of shock. They tell no one they encounter on their way what they have just seen and heard (this conforms with what Mark tells us). Then, as they are still on their way to the city, Jesus Himself appears to them. This is the first time they have actually seen Him. He tells the women to go and tell the others, and indeed they do. Thus, all statements (those of Mark, of Luke, and of Matthew) harmonize when viewed in terms of the entire event. I believe we must assume this to be the case in every instance where an apparent contradiction appears. The details that differ are not an occasion for wringing our hands, they are the opportunity for a fuller grasp of what happened. Let us keep that in mind as we approach our text.

We find that some of the Gospel accounts are particularly brief at this point. This is especially true of Matthew and Mark’s accounts. Matthew writes of one appearance of Jesus to the women (28:9-10) and of one appearance of Jesus to His disciples (28:16-20). Mark’s account is terse as well, depending to some degree upon where you think his account really ends. Mark does briefly mention the appearance of Jesus to the two men on the road to Emmaus (16:12-13; compare Luke 24:13-35). He also tells of the appearance of our Lord to the eleven disciples (Mark 16:13-18). Mark does not include an account of Jesus appearing to any of the women, but only of the angel speaking to them (16:1-8). Luke and John have the most lengthy accounts of the post-resurrection ministry of our Lord. Luke does not describe an appearance of Jesus to the women; he chooses instead to emphasize the appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus (24:13-35). He then writes of our Lord’s subsequent appearance to the disciples (24:36-39) and then of His ascension (24:50-53). John focuses on four of the Lord’s post-resurrection appearances: first to Mary Magdalene (20:11-18), then to the disciples minus Thomas (20:19-25), then the disciples with Thomas (20:26-29), and finally to the seven disciples as they are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias (21:1-25).

Finally, each Gospel has something unique to add to the story. Matthew informs us that the tomb was secured by a Roman seal and guards, provided at the request of the Jewish religious leaders who recalled Jesus’ promise that He would rise from the dead in three days, and who were afraid His disciples would steal His body. Matthew then follows up with an account of how the guards and the religious leaders fabricated a cover story to explain the missing body of our Lord. Mark’s account is indeed unique, causing much discussion as to where his Gospel should end. Luke provides us with a detailed account of the appearance of our Lord to the two men on the road to Emmaus. John’s account is almost entirely unique. He alone describes the investigation of the tomb by both Peter and John (Luke 24:12 tells us only that Peter went to see the tomb), of the appearance of Jesus to Mary, of three appearances of Jesus to His disciples—more than any other Gospel. His focus on Thomas’ reluctance to believe in our Lord’s resurrection is unique. The appearance of Jesus to the seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias is also unique, including our Lord’s three-fold question and exhortation to Peter. With this background information in mind, let us take a closer look at the first three post-resurrection appearances of our Lord, as described in John 20.

Jesus’ First Appearance: Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-18)

10 So the disciples went back to their homes. 11 But Mary stood outside the tomb and wept. While she was weeping, she bent over and looked into the tomb. 12 She saw two angels in white sitting where Jesus’ body had been lying, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary replied, “They have taken my Lord away, and I do not know where they have put him!” 14 When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?” Because she thought he was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus replied, “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended to my Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18 Mary Magdalene came and informed the disciples, “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them what Jesus had said to her.

It was Mary Magdalene who first arrived at the empty tomb in the early hours of the first day of the week. When she saw the stone had been removed, she seems to have jumped to a hasty conclusion—someone had taken the body. We do not know to whom the “they” (“They have taken the Lord from the tomb …”—verse 2) refers, and I doubt that Mary did either. I believe it is safe to say that it never occurred to her that any of the disciples took the body. She seems to have assumed it was either the Jews, or the Roman soldiers, or someone like “the gardener” (see 20:15). It never occurred to Mary that Jesus had been raised from the dead. She did not hope to see her risen Lord; she simply wished to locate His body and give it a proper burial.

A year or so ago a young woman’s body was stolen from its grave at Restland Cemetery, just a mile or so down the road from our church. It was a terrible thing to do, and the family was most eager to get the body back and see to it that it was buried properly, once for all. Someone had added insult to injury. Not only had this family lost a loved one, they suffered the agony of not knowing what had become of her body. Mary must have felt the same way this young woman’s family felt. She had devoted herself and her livelihood to following Jesus and supporting Him, along with some other women. She had watched helplessly as Jesus was tried, convicted, and crucified. She looked on as His body was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Now, she believed that the body of her Lord had been taken. It was almost too much to bear.

When Peter and John left the tomb, Mary remained behind. At first she stood outside the tomb, weeping. She stooped sufficiently to be able to see inside the tomb, apparently for the first time. Two angels were inside, clothed in white. An angel was sitting at each end of the place where Jesus’ body had been laid. From Mary’s response to these angels, one can hardly avoid the conclusion that Mary did not recognize these angels as angels. But then why should she? It is true that in Matthew’s account the one angel who sat on the stone had an appearance that was like lightening (28:3), and this fellow was so awesome the guards were terrified (28:4). But John does not tell us that these two angels were as awesome in appearance as the first angel was. And this should come as no surprise. Often in the Bible, angels simply look like men, so that their appearance alone would not reveal their true identity (see Genesis 18 and 19; Acts 1:10-11; Hebrews 13:2). It would seem that the two angels made no effort to identify themselves as angels, nor even to inform Mary that Jesus was not there. Perhaps it was because our Lord was going to do this personally.

The angels asked Mary, “Woman, why are you weeping?” The inference is that her tears were not really called for. They were tears of love, and of sorrow, but they were also ill-founded. In Mary’s mind, this was the darkest moment of her life, and yet her tears were based upon false assumptions: that Jesus was dead; that His body had been stolen; that she would not be able to find His body. If Mary had known the real reason why the tomb was empty, she would not have been crying.

Some have suggested that the angels gave a look of recognition when they saw Jesus behind Mary, outside the tomb. We do not know why, but for some reason Mary turned around to gaze at the risen Lord. She saw Him, but she did not recognize Him, in much the same way that I had seen Sally Rackets in the parking lot this past week, but did not recognize her. Mary’s vision may have been obscured by her tears, and Jesus may not have looked exactly the same as He did before His resurrection. He most certainly looked different from the way she saw Him last, from the horrible sight she could not erase from her mind—a badly beaten, bloody figure, who could hardly be recognized for all the abuse His body had taken: “Just as there were many who were appalled at him—his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness” (Isaiah 52:15, NIV).

Jesus asks Mary the same question the angels had asked her moments earlier: “Woman, why are you weeping?”, but He adds a further question, “Who are you looking for?”. Jesus knew why she was weeping. He knew that the empty tomb caused her great grief. He knew that she was seeking His body. His words indicate to Mary that He knows something about her dilemma. Mary’s grief still blinds her to the truth, but she nevertheless seems to discern that this “gardener” holds the key to her quest for the Lord’s body. She pleads with Him to convey any information He may have to her: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will take him” (verse 15).193

Jesus answered with but one word—“Mary.” For Mary, seeing was not believing, but hearing was. Would you not love to have heard this one word just the way Mary did? That one word was spoken in the voice she knew so well. It was also spoken in the manner she knew so well. What love, what compassion, what healing was conveyed by this one word—“Mary.” I cannot help but recall the words of our Lord, spoken earlier:

1 “I tell you the solemn truth, the one who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The doorkeeper opens the door for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought all his own sheep out, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow himbecause they recognize his voice. 5 They will never follow a stranger, but will run away from him, because they do not recognize the stranger’s voice” (John 10:1-5, emphasis mine).

Immediately Mary recognized that it was her Lord, and called Him “Rabboni” (or teacher). We know from our Lord’s words that Mary has already locked Him in her grasp. It is as though she intended to keep holding on to Him, so that He would never leave her again. And it is because of this that Jesus responds, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17, NAB). I must differ with the NET Bible translation here (“Do not touch me, …”) for two reasons. First, it is not that Jesus could not be touched. In but a few verses we will read, “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe’” (John 20:27). Why would Jesus tell Mary not to touch Him, and instruct Thomas to do so? In Matthew 28:9, Jesus allowed the women to take hold of His feet and worship Him. Second, the tense of the imperative is present, and this grammatical construction often conveys the thought of ceasing to do something.194 Jesus is not trying to prevent Mary from touching Him; He is trying to make it clear to her that He is going to leave this world to return to His Father. She should not suppose that by clinging to Him she can prevent His departure.

John does not include the command which Jesus gave to Mary, though it is clear that He instructed her as to what she was to tell the disciples (20:18). She who was the first to go out to the tomb was the first to see the risen Lord, and apparently the first to be privileged to share the good news of His resurrection with others.

Before we go on to the next appearance of our Lord, I would like to make a comment or two. I would like you to note that our Lord’s first appearance is not to one of the eleven disciples, but to Mary Magdalene. She will never be one of the apostles. She will never write a Gospel. She will never become a great preacher or leader. Nevertheless, our Lord chose to manifest Himself to her first. Why do you think this was? I would call your attention to three important factors. First, she had a great love for her Master, as He did for her. Second, she seemed to be the one with the greatest measure of grief. I am reminded of the words of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, because they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). In the context of this sermon, Jesus did not promise blessings to those who were the greatest, or the most powerful, but to those in the greatest need, with the greatest desire for spiritual things. There is a third reason: Mary was there first. Jesus revealed Himself first to the one who was there first. Mary came to the tomb early, because of her great love, and her great grief, and Jesus revealed Himself to her, first.

I would also like to point out an important lesson which this text teaches us: When we come to see things as they really are, we will find that many of our tears were unnecessary. To put it in different words, Many of our tears are ill-founded. Both the angels and our Lord questioned Mary as to why she was weeping. The reason she gave was that her Lord’s body had been taken, and she did not know where to find it. The truth of the matter was that Jesus was not dead; He had been resurrected. And beyond this, His body was not missing at all, and no one had taken it. Jesus did not need to be found by Mary; Jesus found Mary.

We know that in heaven there will be no more tears: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will not exist any more—or mourning, or crying, or pain; the former things have ceased to exist” (Revelation 21:4). Why will there be no more tears in heaven? The first answer is because there will no longer be those things which cause us to cry—no more suffering, no more sin, no more injustice, no more death. But the second reason is that we shall then see all of our sorrows in an entirely different light. We shall see them in the context of the perfect work God was achieving through the things which caused us to weep.

When you and I get to heaven, we will see things in a very different light, and when we do, we will discover that many of our tears of sorrow were as groundless as Mary’s tears were. I am not saying that Christians should not cry. What I am saying is that a good deal of our sorrow is the result of our inadequate knowledge of what God is doing in and through our adversities. When Christians get to heaven, they will see the entire picture, and thus they will find that everything that has ever happened to them is for their good and His glory. No wonder there will be no tears in heaven! Our comfort and joy may not come as quickly as Mary’s did, but it will be just as great, just as real, and it is just as certain.

Jesus’ Second Appearance: The Disciples, Minus Thomas (John 20:19-23)

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place for fear of the Jewish authorities. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you!” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you! Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 And after he said this, he breathed195 on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.”

John very kindly does not tell us what Mark and Luke record in their accounts—that when the disciples were told that Jesus was alive, they refused to believe it without seeing Him:

9 Early on the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 16:9-11; see also verses 12-13).

10 Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles. 11 But these words seemed like pure nonsense to them, and they did not believe them (Luke 24:10-11).

It was on the first day of the week—the same day that Mary saw Jesus—and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors. They were afraid of the Jews, and rightly so. They were disciples of Jesus, and He had just been crucified for sedition. And now, the story was circulating that they had stolen the body of Jesus (Matthew 28:11-15). Remember that the tomb was sealed by Rome, and guarded by Roman soldiers. The disciples may have felt in greater danger here than on any previous occasion. They must have been deeply troubled by the reports they had heard that Jesus was alive. What were they to think of all this? What were they to do? They did not know.

And so the disciples met together behind locked doors. We are told that one disciple was missing—Thomas. We are not told why he was absent. There is no particular blame cast on him for his absence. In some miraculous way, Jesus enters the room, even though the door is locked. We do not know what the disciples saw, but John certainly leaves us with the impression that our Lord’s entrance was unusual—one more proof of His resurrection. Our Lord twice repeated the words, “Peace be with you” (20:19, 21). This certainly reminds us of what Jesus had said earlier to these men:

25 “I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you. 27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage. 28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and I am coming back to you.’ If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am. 29 I have told you now before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe” (John 14:24-29, emphasis mine).

It would appear that this was our Lord’s first appearance to the disciples after His resurrection. If this is so, it may be the same appearance that Luke describes, providing us with additional details:

30 When he had taken his place at the table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 At this point their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Then he vanished out of their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” 33 So they got up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem. They found the eleven and those with them gathered together 34 and saying, “The Lord has really risen, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how they recognized him when he broke the bread. 36 While they were saying these things, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 37 But they were startled and terrified, thinking they saw a spirit. 38 Then he said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see; because a spirit does not have flesh and bones like you see that I have.” 40 Then when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still could not believe it for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in front of them (Luke 24:30-43, emphasis mine).

Jesus would have appeared to Mary and the other women by now, and they have already announced to the disciples that Jesus was alive. But the disciples refused to believe. Then, the two men who talked with Jesus on the road to Emmaus arrived to tell the disciples of their encounter with the risen Lord. Once again, the disciples refused to believe:

12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen him resurrected (Mark 16:12-14, emphasis mine).

John spares us from yet another account of the unbelief of the disciples, and of Jesus rebuking them for their unbelief. While their unbelief deserved rebuke, John moves on to tell us how Jesus convinced His disciples of His resurrection. He shows them His nail-scarred hands and His spear-pierced side. There was no mistaking the fact that His wounds, now healed, were incurred at His crucifixion. It was Jesus, and there was no denying it, incredible as that may be.

The disciples had a job to do, and they were being left behind so that they could accomplish it. This task is summed up in the “Great Commission”:

18 Then Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

To accomplish this task, the disciples are in need of divine enablement. This was promised by our Lord in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13–16):

15 “If you love me, you will obey my commandments. 16 Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him. But you know him, because he resides with you and will be in you. … 25 I have spoken these things while staying with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and will cause you to remember everything I said to you” (John 14:15-17, 25-26).

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me; 27 and you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27).

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I am going away. For if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong concerning sin and righteousness and judgment— 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been condemned. 12 I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but will speak whatever he hears, and will tell you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 15 Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what is mine and will tell it to you. 16 In a little while you will see me no longer; again after a little while, you will see me” (John 16:7-16).

I had never noticed before that in His high priestly prayer in John 17, Jesus does not ask the Father to send the Spirit, which He has promised in chapters 14-16. Indeed, the Holy Spirit is not even mentioned in this prayer! How can this be? I believe that while our Lord prepared His disciples for the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room Discourse, He did not intend to send the Spirit until after His ascension. In other words, the Holy Spirit would not come until Pentecost. Some suggest that in our text Jesus is temporarily bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, until Pentecost comes. I don’t agree.

In the first place, John does not report anything out of the ordinary happening as a result of our Lord’s actions. The disciples are not transformed, as they will be at Pentecost. The gospel is not preached. In fact, the next thing to happen in John’s Gospel is that some of the disciples go fishing. I do not believe that the Holy Spirit was immediately bestowed upon the disciples at this moment, as a result of what Jesus says and does. I believe Jesus is symbolically bestowing the Spirit upon His disciples, although it will not actually take place until Pentecost. Jesus will have ascended to the Father then, and so this gesture indicates to the disciples that when the Spirit comes at Pentecost, it will be as a result of what Jesus had promised earlier, and symbolically indicates here.

I wish to be very clear here, both as to what I am saying, and as to what I am not saying. I am saying that our Lord is here symbolically bestowing His Holy Spirit on the church. This symbolic act will literally be fulfilled at Pentecost. Jesus wants it to be clear that it is He who is sending His Spirit to indwell and to empower His church. I am not saying that the Spirit is given at the moment Jesus breathes upon His disciples. I am not saying that this is a temporary bestowal of the Spirit, until the permanent coming of the Spirit at Pentecost.

Specifically, I believe that what Jesus is symbolically bestowing is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples as those who will act as His apostles. Earlier, Jesus outlined some of the ministries of the Holy Spirit. For example, the Spirit would call Jesus’ teaching to their minds. He would convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. But here, none of these ministries seems to be in view. Here, the Holy Spirit is given to the apostles so that they can either proclaim the forgiveness of sins, or the retention of sins. I do not think this text justifies some priestly hierarchy, who hears confessions and grants absolution from one’s sins. Instead, I believe Jesus is giving the apostles the authority to declare men and women to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. I believe we see an example of this in the Book of Acts:

1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers took issue with him, 3 saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and shared a meal with them.” 4 But Peter began and explained it to them point by point, saying, 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, an object something like a large sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came to me. 6 As I stared I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then everything was pulled up to heaven again. 11 At that very moment, three men sent to me from Caesarea approached the house where we were staying. 12 The Spirit told me to accompany them without hesitation. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He informed us how he had seen an angel standing in his house and saying, ‘Send to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, 14 who will speak a message to you by which you and your entire household will be saved.’ 15 Then as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them just as he did on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, as he used to say, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore if God gave them the same gift as he also gave us after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to hinder God?” 18 When they heard this, they ceased their objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted the repentance that leads to life even to the Gentiles” (Acts 11:1-18, emphasis mine).

It takes a monumental work of God to convince the Jews that God has purposed from eternity past to save Gentiles (see Acts 22:21-23). Our Lord had promised to send the Spirit, which He did at Pentecost. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit directed Peter to go to the house of a Gentile and to proclaim the gospel to those gathered in his house. The Spirit then came upon all those who had come to faith, thus indicating that the gospel (the forgiveness of sins) was not just for Jews alone, but for all who believe, Jew or Gentile. It is difficult for Gentile believers today to grasp how hard it was for Jews to accept the salvation of the Gentiles. Even the apostles found this difficult. As the Spirit came upon the apostles, this truth was embraced, proclaimed, and defended by them. By means of the Spirit’s guidance and illumination, the truth that the gospel was for Jews and Gentiles was declared by the apostles, and particularly by Paul:

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh—who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed in the body by hands—12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who turned both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, in his flesh, 15 when he nullified the law of commandments in decrees. The purpose of this was to create in himself the two into one new man, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; 18 so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer foreigners and non-citizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, 20 because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22).

1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles— 2 If indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ. 5 Now this secret was not disclosed to mankind in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 8 To me—less than the least of all the saints—this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 9 and to enlighten everyone about the divine secret’s plan—a secret that has been hidden for ages in the God who has created all things (Ephesians 3:1-9).

Jesus’ Third Appearance: The Disciples, Including Thomas (John 20:24-31)

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the wounds from the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the wounds from the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe it!” 26 Eight days later the disciples were again together in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.” 28 Thomas replied to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are the people who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The disciples seem to have been convinced of our Lord’s resurrection, except for Thomas who was not there. He did not see the resurrected Lord, nor did he behold the Savior’s wounded hands and side. And so it was that when Thomas was told that Jesus had appeared to them, he refused to believe. He insisted that in order for him to believe, he would have to see Jesus with his own eyes. He would have to personally inspect the Lord’s nail-pierced hands and His pierced side. Only then would he believe. Before we become too harsh with Thomas, let me remind you that the other disciples did not believe until they saw, either. Thomas is really demanding to see the same things that convinced the others. He is not asking for anything more than what the others saw.

Eight days passed. Apparently Jesus did not appear to any of His disciples during this period of time. The disciples were all together once again, including Thomas. The doors were locked, but in spite of this Jesus arrived and stood in their midst.196 Jesus repeats the greeting He gave at His earlier appearance, “Peace be with you” (verse 26; see also verses 19, 21). Immediately, Jesus turns His attention to Thomas. He summons Thomas to come and to put his finger where the nails had pierced His hands, and to feel His side where the spear had pierced it. He challenged Thomas to forsake his unbelief and to believe.

We do not know whether Thomas actually pressed his fingers into our Lord’s nail-pierced hands or not. Since John does not tell us that Thomas actually felt the wounds of our Lord, it may well be that after seeing Jesus alive he no longer required this proof. It may have taken this sight to convince Thomas, but once convinced, Thomas got it right. He does not merely profess a belief that Jesus has risen from the dead. Thomas professes to believe in what the resurrection proved—that Jesus was God, and that He was Lord (verse 28). Thomas now has it right.

Bible translations handle our Lord’s response differently. Some render the first words of verse 29 as a question, “Have you believed because you have seen Me?” (as does the NET Bible). Others render it as a statement: “Because you have seen me, you have believed” (NIV, KJV, NKJV). The difference is not important. The contrast Jesus seeks to emphasize is between those who must see in order to believe, and those who will believe without seeing. Peter seems to take up this same thought in his first epistle:

8 You have not seen him, but you love him. You do not see him now but you believe in him, and so you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, 9 because you are attaining the goal of your faith—the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:8-9).

It is not too hard to see what John is leading up to. John is writing this Gospel for those who have never seen the risen Lord. He has selected just a few of the many miraculous signs Jesus performed to demonstrate that Jesus is who He claimed to be, who John proclaims Him to be.

The Bottom Line: Believing Jesus Is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31)

30 Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples that are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

If there is one thing I despise, it is deceptive advertising. I hate those phone calls that come from unidentified (“out of the area”) sources, which begin with the assurance that the caller is not “selling” anything. John could not be more open and direct about the purpose of this book. I believe John has two conclusions. The first is found in chapter 20. It is aimed at those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus Christ. The second is aimed at those who have believed, and it is found in chapter 21.

In our text, John informs his unbelieving readers about the “bottom line” of all that he has written. John has one goal for the unbeliever: He wants to demonstrate as clearly and as forcefully as he can that Jesus not only claimed to be the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of God, but that by many miraculous signs He proved it! The last and greatest of these signs was His resurrection from the dead:

38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. 41 The people of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; yet something greater than Jonah is here! 42 The Queen of the South will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; yet something greater than Solomon is here! (Matthew 12:38-42).

While the resurrection of Jesus from the dead was prophesied in the Old Testament, and by our Lord Himself, John makes it very clear that the disciples were not predisposed to believe it. Only after the most forceful and compelling evidence would the disciples believe Jesus really was alive. And having become convinced of this great truth, the disciples never ceased to proclaim it. The resurrection of Jesus is the final and compelling proof that He is the Son of God and the Savior of the world:

1 From Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 that he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son who was a descendant of David with respect to the flesh, 4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1-4).

Believing in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God, is the only way God has provided for the forgiveness of your sins and for the gift of eternal life. By believing in Him, you will be saved:

9 Because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and thus has a right standing and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him. 13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

11 He came to what was his own, but his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who have received him—those who believe in his name—he has given the right to become God’s children 13 —children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God (John 1:11-13).

In many ways, the Gospel of John is not a simple book. But its message to the unsaved is incredibly simple, and John sums it up in these last verses of chapter 20. If you have never come to believe in Jesus as the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, then John has written this book to you, and for you, to give you all the evidence you need to believe in Him. Have you believed? This is the most important decision you will ever make. It determines your eternal destiny.


193 Some have criticized Mary for being so nave as to assume she will be able to carry away the body of our Lord. They are missing the point. She is not thinking in terms of logistics here. She is simply saying that if this “gardener” will tell her where to find the body, she will see to it that it is returned to its proper place. Of course she will get help to accomplish this. For now, she just wants to know where His body has been placed.

194 A. T. Robertson comments, “Present middle imperative in prohibition with genitive case, meaning “cease clinging to me” rather than “Do not touch me.” Jesus allowed the women to take hold of his feet … and worship … as we read in Mt 28:9. The prohibition here reminds Mary that the previous personal fellowship by sight, sound, and touch no longer exists and that the final state of glory was not yet begun. Jesus checks Mary’s impulsive eagerness.” Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931), 6 vols. Vol. V, p. 312.

195 I am reminded that the breath of God is the source of life (Genesis 2:7; Job 33:4; Psalm 33:6; Ezekiel 37:9), even as it is also the means of divine judgment (2 Samuel 22:16; Job 4:9; Psalm 18:15). The breath of God is sometimes a symbol for His Spirit (Job 33:4). In a symbolic way, our Lord is breathing life into His church.

Both the NET Bible and the NIV smooth out the translation here. The NIV reads: “A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (John 14:26). Both the old and the new King James Versions and the NAS leave the translation a bit rough, in order to convey the unusual word order: “After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, ‘Peace be with you’” (NAS). “And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’” (NKJ). The original text seems to be emphasizing the fact that Jesus entered the room, in spite of the fact that the doors were shut and locked. (On seeing and believing, http://www.bible.org)

Passion Week – Tuesday – Olivet Discourse

Pentru traducere automata, fa click aici – Romanian (pentru tot articolul).

Saptamana Mare – Ce s-a intamplat Marti.
~~~In drum inapoi spre Ierusalim, ucenicii vad ca smochinul blestemat s-a uscat. (Matei 21 si Marcu 11)
~~~Autoritatea lui Isus este contestata de preoti la Templu
~~~Matei 22
Pilde care ne invata despre venirea Domnului
~~~Matei 23
Vai de voi cărturari şi farisei ipocriţi!
~~~Olivet discourse – Isus invata pe Muntele Maslinilor
Luca 21 & Matei 25 vorbeste despre revenirea Lui
Pilda fecioarelor, pilda talantilor, si judecata finala

  1. On the way back to Jerusalem in the morning the disciples see the withered fig tree.
  2. In Jerusalem there are more temple controversies, and then Jesus delivers the Olivet Discourse on the return back to Bethany.

„Olivet Discourse” is a name given to 4 special chapters in the Bible. It includes Matthew 24th-25th, Mark 13th and Luke 21st chapters. In all of these chapters Jesus speaks about the „End-Times” which will come upon humanity. Jesus gave these messages to the apostles while they were upon the Mount of Olives, hence the name: Olivet Discourse.

A study by Hampton Keathley IV at Bible.org

Introduction

You must be aware that these are probably the most debated parables in the Bible. Many of the books and journal articles and articles on the internet that I read said all the characters in these parables were believers. Instead of seeing that these are parables about salvation, they see them as parables about rewards or loss of rewards. It is the same argument that we dealt with a few weeks ago in our discussion of the marriage feast and the outer darkness.

Because of the context and because the punishment for the unfaithful is so severe, I see them as all dealing with salvation issues. But rewards are also taught.

These are extremely difficult parables to interpret. I’m tempted to just tell you what I think they mean and ignore all the other views, but I think it is good for you to hear the other interpretations and do your own wrestling with the details.

Context of Matthew 25

Olivet discourse – events of tribulation leading up to 2nd coming.

In Matt 24:36 Jesus begins to answer the question of when He will be returning.

It will be just like in Noah’s day when people didn’t believe Noah and were surprised when it started raining. In the same way, even when people are in the tribulation, experiencing the wrath of God, many are still not going to believe.

So, the when it says „two will be in the field, and one will be taken…” the one taken will be taken to judgment. And the appearance of the thief in the next section is to judge the unbelieving. They didn’t believe the thief was coming. They didn’t believe that God was coming to hold them accountable.

I think that this theme of judging the unbelieving is continued in these next four parables. Although the text doesn’t use the word believe, those that get judged all have actions that indicate they didn’t believe. And their judgment is severe: they get cut to pieces, locked outside, sent to the outer darkness, etc.

And in each parable those who are judged are contrasted to others who not only believed, but were prepared, faithful, fruitful, etc. And those got rewarded for their faithfulness.

We talked about it a couple weeks ago, but this is what some call „Matthew’s rejection imagery.” He always mixes rewards for some with eternal damnation for others, like it all happens at the same event. It sort of makes you wonder if perhaps it does? But then that would make us amillennial or something like that.

Anyway, I want to give you the plot up front. Because I’m going to be discussing other views mixed with my views (notice I didn’t say „the correct view”), I think it might be helpful to have the „Big Idea” in your heads as we study the parables.

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to go ahead and live our lives but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute. Because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone.

Wise and Evil Slaves contrasted

Matthew 24:45-51 also in Luke 12:41-48

Some say because these are slaves, they are both saved. And some say that there is only one slave in the parable. The slave starts off being faithful, but then changes later in life and becomes an unfaithful, evil slave. Dillow makes a big deal out of the word „that” in vs 48 saying that it proves that this is the same slave. And since the slave was once very faithful, he must now just be carnal. Since he was saved, he still is saved, but just carnal or unfaithful, he does not go to hell. He just loses rewards and is very sad.

But, concerning the idea that „since they are both slaves, they are both saved” – In all of Jesus’ parables he contrasts two or three people with the same social status. How else is he going to create tension and contrast? He always uses slaves and sons because God is the Master of all. Slaves and sons are the natural examples to represent this relationship between God and man. The idea behind all these parables is that humans have an equal opportunity to respond, believe, etc. Some do, and some don’t. And here’s what’s going to happen to them.

Concerning the idea that this is one slave who changes. The phrase „if that slave” does refer back to this hypothetical slave. This is not a story about a slave who later in life started backsliding. Jesus is just giving an example.

Jesus is saying: Let’s take a slave… If that slave does this… he will be rewarded. However, if that slave does this… he will be cut into pieces.

He is a wise slave if he believes and anticipates master’s return and faithfully carries out the master’s orders. If he does this, he will be rewarded.

He is an evil slave if he doesn’t believe his master will return.

If the slave takes no note of the coming return and deludes himself into thinking either it will never happen or that he will have time to reform, he will be severely punished. It says he will be cut to pieces.

I believe “cut off” may be a better translation because in Qumran literature this word is used for excommunication and being cut off from the rest of the group. And I think the idea of separation fits better with the context – the punishment that all the bad guys receive in this string of parables is separation from God. Either way, it is severe punishment. Perhaps too severe for a believer?

Application:

This represents a universal principle. If a person doesn’t really believe that there is a God who will hold them accountable when they die, they aren’t very likely to feel a need to “trust” in God or obey his commandments.

I’ve also heard of people who believed that there was a God and he would hold them accountable, but they didn’t want to change their lifestyle and figured they would just „get religion” later. This parable speaks to them too. You never know when God will return or if you will die in a car wreck tomorrow.

We also see the result is a lifestyle that is abusive (beat his fellow slaves) and destructive (eat and drink with drunkards.)

Speaking of „beating his fellow slaves.” Some say because he beat his fellow slaves then he must be saved because they were his fellow slaves. My question is „who else is a slave going to beat?” Free men? If he is going to be abusive to his fellow man, it has got to be another slave. We can’t read into this „a salvation relationship with God” because of his association with other slaves. Just like we can’t read into the passage that because we have two slaves, we have two saved people in view.

Ten Virgins

This is a much debated parable. No one can agree what anything means.

“Virgins” – Some say that they are called “virgins” to emphasize their purity and that this means all ten were Christians (Dillow). Most say they represent people in the tribulation.

“Lamps” People argue whether these were little bowl lamps or torches. Then they argue about what the lamps represent. Some think the lamps and their light represent knowledge. Stedman says the ladies each had light to start with. Which would equate to people having a certain degree of knowledge about the Lord’s return. But for five of them, that knowledge was just academic. It really hadn’t gripped them.

Others think the lamps represents works which are the believer’s „light” or testimony to the world.

The light was supplied by the oil, and therefore it was absolutely essential that they have an adequate supply of oil, otherwise their light would go out. So what does the oil represent.

“Oil” – Some say it is the Holy Spirit (Walvoord, Stedman), some say it is works, others say it is faith.

Here is an example of the type of reasoning you run across when reading the commentators.

In verse 3 we have one of the major interpretive problems of the parable. What does the olive-oil represent? There is a quick answer that suggest that the olive-oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. However that interpretation must be resisted because the Holy Spirit is a gift and cannot be bought. The instructions to go and buy some more would make no sense at all in the case of the Holy Spirit. I think the answer must be found in seeing that the oil is only important when it is set on fire. In other words when it is giving light. The symbol of light rather than oil helps us because then we realize that Jesus is talking about the good works of the believer which he/she does before men which constitutes them the light of the world. The foolish virgins had no oil therefore they had no works with which to greet the bride-groom.1

His argument against this being the Holy Spirit because you can’t buy the Holy Spirit doesn’t make any sense. You can’t buy works or faith either. So that is no argument. It is a good example of one’s conclusion driving his reasons. When I come across a paragraph like that, it makes me want to stop reading the rest of the paper because I question the validity of any of his arguments.

If you think the oil is works, then you have to decide if the five foolish ladies were saved or not. If they were not saved, then the lack of works proved that they were not saved (lordship view). And not getting into the banquet is the same as not getting into heaven.

If you think the ladies were saved, then you will say that the ladies didn’t get any rewards. And that the banquet represents rewards or reigning with Christ (Free Grace view).

Some say that the foolish virgins had oil to start with (Dillow) and so had faith and so were saved. But others argue that that is not necessarily so (Walvoord). It says they rose, trimmed their lamps and lit them. But since they did not have oil in them, they immediately went out. So, it is more probable that they didn’t have any oil to start with.

What do I think?

Because this parable starts off with “the kingdom of heaven is like…” I think it is a salvation parable. Matthew uses this phrase eleven times and in the other parables where this phrase is used, the parables are about salvation and getting into the kingdom of heaven. Maybe I should say that out of these eleven parables. They are clearly about salvation or debated. None are clearly not about salvation.

The term virgins is not significant. The idea is just that they were young unmarried ladies. The term “virgin” was often used that way. Perhaps bridesmaids would be a better term.

Five are prepared – have their own oil. Five are unprepared – couldn’t borrow oil. I think that the symbolism is that you can’t get into heaven with someone else’s faith.

Banquet imagery to an Israelite is a reference to kingdom with God and His bride, Israel. This is not the Bema and wedding feast with Christ and Church. Remember the context is judgment at the 2nd coming, not the rapture.

The five were left outside (never made it in banquet hall as in Matt 22). So if you go to Matt 22 and make a big deal about the fact that the guy without wedding clothes made it into the banquet and was therefore saved, then those that argue that the virgins are saved (to be consistent with their interpretation of Matt 22) have to reconcile the fact that here they didn’t get in.

The Lord didn’t know them – cf. Matt 7:21 which is the same statement and those clearly do not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Once the door was closed, it was too late to enter. Those who are shut out miss not simply a fine meal, but also the kingdom itself. Similar imagery to Luke 13:22–29 which talks about the narrow door, not being known by the Lord, banquet imagery and weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Application:

Where the last parable taught that the Lord could return sooner than expected, this one teaches that there may be quite a delay before the Lord returns. We know that in fact there has been. It’s been almost 2,000 years so far. Both the wise and foolish virgins slept. But they are not condemned for it. Perhaps the point is that we need to go ahead and live our lives. Not sell everything and go wait on the mountain top for the Lord’s return.The main point of the parable is that even if it might be a long time before the Lord returns, don’t wait until the last minute to get prepared, because you never know when that last minute will be and you may miss out.

And I think preparation is faith.

Talents

Another Kingdom of heaven is like parable – “it is like” refers back to 25:1 – Some try to say this is different because 25:14 doesn’t say “kingdom,” but the “it” has to have an antecedent. What else are you going to link the “it” to?

Big debate is whether or not the slaves represent saved people or not. Some try to argue that since they were all slaves, they were all saved. We’ve already dealt with that assumption.

But, there is a big contrast going on between the first two slaves and the third slave. The third slave did not know the master. He thought he understood what was required of him, but he was wrong. Maybe it is like the person who thinks he will get into heaven for being mostly good.

When confronted by the master, this wicked slave argued beligerantly and attempted to make his laziness a necessity and a virtue. By defaming the master, portraying him as one who enriched himself by exploiting others, he attempted to excuse his own actions. When I read his response, my thought is this: There may be shame at the Bema seat when Christ reveals our deeds, but not defiance. Does this sound like a Christian at the Bema seat? Does it sound like he “knows” the Master? Therefore, I have difficulty thinking that this third slave is saved.

This man seems to have given in to some cunning reasoning. It is much like the thinking of Judas Iscariot when he sold his Lord. Judas reasoned, if He is really the Messiah, my betrayal will not hurt anything and I will get my money from the High Priest. If He is not the Messiah, then at least I get the money. This one-talent man reasoned somewhat the same way. His lord was going on a far journey. If the servant put the money in the bank, he would have to register it in his lord’s name. Then when his lord did not come back, his heirs could claim it. He reasoned, however, that if be buried it in the backyard, there would be no record. If his master did not come back, the servant would have it for himself. If he does come back, he could not accuse him of dishonesty because he could produce the talent. It was a cunning that was built upon uncertainty that the Lord was returning. He just did not believe that his lord was coming back. If he had, he would have handled the money differently. This is what the lord meant when be said that he was a wicked servant.2

The mixture of rewards and judgment – fits Matthew’s rejection imagery. He usually globs these together like an OT prophet did when looking at the 1st and 2nd advents of Christ. Also, the Bible talks about rewards and loss of rewards (1 Cor 3:15) at Bema, not rewards and judgment. So, I think we must be careful not to say that, because some got rewards, we are at the Bema and all were saved, and the third guy just lost rewards. I think his punishment is too severe.

The description of the servant’s attitude suggests something qualitatively different from the other two servants found faithful. There is a definite contrast going on here. The works are indicative of the relationship with the master. The third slave had no works which in the gospels is the same as having no faith.

Free grace people balk at this statement because Lordship people think the logical conclusion is that one has to have good works to prove that he is saved. In the gospels we do have statements like when Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord and do not do what I say?” But when we read Paul we get in to issues such as carnality, getting to heaven as though through fire, etc. So we know that works don’t always follow. But when we are dealing with parables, we need to let them use their terminology.

Sheep and Goats

We see the Son of Man coming in glory with his angels. This is the second coming, not the rapture.

Judgment results in entrance to heaven or being sent to hell.

The rejection of the goats was not based on what they did, but on what they failed to do. It was a sin of omission toward “the least of these” (cf. the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31). God abhors not simply the performing of sinful acts but also the omission of deeds. Failure to do good is in fact to do evil. In addition the free gift of grace (as represented in Matt 20:1–16) has to be reconciled with the role of works (as here in 25:31–46 {Matt 25}). The works are the fruit that demonstrates the reality of the conversion of one’s heart. The love shown by these deeds of mercy springs from true faith. As Walvoord affirms, “What is presented here is not the basis or ground of salvation but the evidence of it…. Accordingly, while works are not the ground of justification for salvation, they can be the fruit or evidence of it.”

Since our section started off with judgment resulting in hell and Since it is clear from this parable that they are judged by their works and sent to hell for not having the works – which represent faith – why do people have such a difficult time believing that the parables in between say the same basic thing?

Summary

In summary several points are worth highlighting.

First, in each parable the judgment occurs at the consummation of this age. While the timing of that event is unknown, each follower is to be ready for and anticipate the coming kingdom.

Second, the essential nature of the judgment is soteriological. The judgment will render decisions that are eternal in nature, reflecting the status of each human being with regard to his or her eternal relationship to the kingdom. Phrases such as “the darkness outside,” the “fiery furnace,” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” describe eternal separation from the kingdom. They are not simply expressions of grief over a Christian life that did not count for much in the kingdom, for they are figures and phrases representing an eternal exclusion from the presence of God. With this in view, it has been suggested that salvation in these parables is viewed as a “whole,” not simply as a point of entry. The “sons of the kingdom” and the “sons of the evil one” (Matt 13:38) are on opposite sides of the soteriological divide. There is no room for purgatory, universalism, or a view that some may miss the heavenly “banquet” while yet retaining a right to entry into the kingdom (i.e. “salvation,” in Pauline terms). Those who are rejected are permanently excluded.

Third, the basis for this eternal judgment is the individual’s works. In some cases the emphasis is on faithfulness to a job assigned: perhaps in a picture of preparation for an event, or a picture of the fruit of the believer. But however it was pictured, works were the key to the judgment.

What complicates the problem is that the decision for rejection or acceptance is presented as a soteriological decision based on these works. Such a judgment is highlighted by the parables of the Wheat and the Tares (perhaps along with the Narrow Door and the Virgins) in which those who appear to fit into the proper categories do not do so (even when they think they do) since they were not properly prepared for the kingdom. Perhaps the clearest example is the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, in which eternal life and eternal perdition are the options meted out based on how people treated the followers of the Son of Man.

Works are not separated from the faith one exercises for entrance to the kingdom for works are evidence of that faith. A true change of heart will be reflected in a person’s life. A lack of that change is apparently enough to prevent entrance into the eschatological kingdom (the goats are prohibited from entrance because of their actions while the sheep are given entrance because of their works); but works are never ultimately separated from the faith of the individual, for it was also shown that works are not in themselves enough to impress the Son of Man positively in His role as judge (cf. Matt 7:21–23).

Paul wrote with different emphases in mind, focusing clearly on the entrance requirements into salvation, namely, justification by faith. While the Synoptics support the role of faith in establishing one’s relationship with God (usually in phrases such as “repent and believe the gospel”), they tend to emphasize the whole life of faith for the believer. In other words the life of a follower of Jesus is to be a constant exercise of faith in order to obey and please God. Paul clearly recognized this same truth, for he knew that something started by faith cannot be perfected by works (the burden of Galatians).

Conclusion

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to be go ahead and live our lives (sleep like the virgins did) but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute (like the faithful servant did), because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone (parable of talents).

c

Modern Astronomical Evidence for the Star of Bethlehem

from Biblica.

Matthew 2:1-2       The Magi Visit the Messiah

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem     2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

In Matthew’s account of the story of the magi, the ‘guidance’ of a star is mentioned four times (Matthew2:2, 7, 9, 10). Its purpose in terms of the narrative is clear–to guide the wise men to the newborn King. But what scientific validity is there for such a phenomenon?

Given that the magi were almost certainly astrologers, the kind of phenomena familiar to them would have included comets, supernova (though not the term) and a conjunction of  planets, all of which are consistent with modern scientific observation. While open to modern refinement, the definition of a comet  given by the Roman poet Virgil in the Aenid is still valid; „a star leading a meteor flew with much light”. Likewise, records of the conjuction of planets were carefully kept; there was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 7 B.C. and of Jupiter and Venus in 6 B.C.

The modern term supernova, a star that suddenly increases in size and brilliance then fades away, may not occur in ancient documentation, but this does not mean the phenomenon was unknown.

Where modern science would differ is in the interpretation held among the ancients. What was important to the astrologer was not only to notice the phenomena, but to search for their meaning. They would have concurred with the statement of Tacitus in his Annals that „the general belief is that a comet means a change of emperor” and that the conjunction of planets is associated with the birth of a king. In fact, a common role for such wise men was to discern the rise of a new king.

If we accept some element of historicity in Matthew’s account, then any number of combinations is possible and consistent with modern astronomical understanding. The star first sighted by the wise men (Matthew 2:2) could be explained as a supernova. Then the „star that  they had seen at its rising” might be a comet that „stopped over the place where the child was”. (Matthew 2:9) Alternately, it could have been a reflection from a planetary conjunction; two of which occurred in 7 B.C. and 6 B.C.– the most likely years of Jesus’ birth.

The occurrence of these phenomena is plausible in terms of modern astronomy, and their coincidence of time and place is not impossible. At some point, it comes down to a belief that it was God who guided the wise men by utilizing the ordinary processes of creation. The event, therefore, is not a violation of nature, nor a contradiction of modern science, but the way in which nature allows for such coincidences to occur. Ultimately, their importance for the Gospel is that God uses them to witness to the truth of Jesus’ identity on behalf of the gentile world.

The Privilege of Persecution: Preparing the Body of Christ for Persecution by Edgar Reich

Edgar Reich held senior management positions at a Fortune 500 Company inCanada, Germany and Switzerland. He has led a $400 Million Company in Germany and was jointly responsible for a $900 Million European Company. Rev. Edgar Reich has been called by God and his Church to preach in Revival.

Rev. Edgar Reich is a Christian who has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Savior in April 2004. You can read more about his ministry here- http://www.revivalusacanada.org

Photo credit www.raymondibrahim.com by Raymond Ibrahim

A young woman was washing her clothes in a North Korea river. As she gathered her clothes, a little book fell from her clothes. It fell to the ground, and another person saw it, looked at the book and reported her. It was either a christian book, or it was a Bible. After being reported to the authorities, she was incarcerated. She was investigated, and her 60 year old father was also arrested. Several months later, and we believe there was also torture involved, there was a public show trial and 7 police officers were assembled with guns. The surrounding people were invited to come and see what would happen. Near by there were a public school and a high school. The children from those schools were asked to come and watch. And, as this young woman and her father stood before them, they were accused of the capital offense of treason. And the 7 police officers raised their rifles and shot both of them 3 times. Blood and brain matter scattered all over. (Photo credit m.facebook.com)

Please turn with me to the text for „Preparing Ourselves for Persecution”: Matthew 24:9-13

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. 10 And then many will fall away[a] and betray one another and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Beloved, will your love grow cold when there’s opposition? Will your love grow cold when not everyone agrees with you? Will your love grow cold for the Lord when someone hurts you? Will your love grow cold, and will you then disbelieve the promises of God? God forbid!!! The disciples had asked the Lord Jesus Christ, in this passage, „What will be the sign of Your coming?” Such signs included persecution and the great tribulation. There are over 60 countries now, today, where the cross of Jesus Christ is no longer welcome. The United States of America is in the process of joining such countries.

I would like to cover 7 points about persecution.

  1. Persecution is certain
  2. The purposes of persecution. Why does God allow it?
  3. The privilege of persecution
  4. The promises of God during persecution
  5. The presence of Christ during persecution. Praise God you’re not alone. You’re never alone!
  6. Perseverance of the saints to the end, with patience, forgiveness, and love.
  7. Preparation for persecution

Photo credit www.routleylaw.com by Vanessa Routley

1. Persecution is certain, also in America and Canada

The message we read in Matthew foretells of a world wide persecution, where true christians are persecuted, perhaps tortured, and killed. And hated for the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus did not tell the disciples, His followers, in this passage: You will be exempted from such persecution. He does not even say you will be raptured so that you don’t have to face this, in this passage. He said, „You will even face the abomination of desolation, in Matthew 24:15. It refers to a coming world leader, it refers to antichrist. In America, we have these feelings that this can never happen here. „What are you talking about? God is love.” Of course God is love. He is such a loving God, and we will find out why it is even love to be persecuted.

In 2 Timothy 3:12 it says Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. You might say, „Well, I have not been persecuted yet. Praise God”. May I ask you, „May I ask you: Why not? Are you, perhaps, not living the Godly life that Scripture is speaking about?” After I got saved, I put my Bible on the side of my desk and the vice chairman walked in and said, „What is this? Are you out of your mind? You believe this kind of….” and I won’t tell you all of the words that were spoken. And the Holy Spirit said, „Be quiet. Say nothing”. And he went into a tirade against God, and the word of God, and myself. But, you know, the wonderful thing is that later on, when we asked to have a Bible study inside that corporation, he was the man that would approve or disapprove of us having christian fellowship inside that company. Do you know, the wonderful thing that happened is that God moved his heart, and we were able to have that fellowship.

I got a call from a friend that said, „Come and street preach with us in New York”. I said I would pray about it. I am called for revival, I don’t really think I’m into street ministry. And as I prayed, the Holy Spirit said, „Yes, go”. I prayed a second time, „Lord, I heard You wrong. What am I supposed to do?” „Go!” For serious decisions I always pray 3 times, „What am I supposed to do Lord?” „Go!” I went with some brothers. They had fasted for 40 days. I had fasted 1 day. We went out onto the streets of New York. We went to Ground Zero. I was standing there and passing out tracts. You know, the New Yorkers are pretty hard, and as people were walking by me, they were cussing at me, quietly. And, for the rest of the day, there were many who cursed. I asked my fellow Christians, they said no, it didn’t happen to them. Satan knew there was pride in me. At the end of the day I said, „God, they don’t want you and they don’t want me. They think I-m out of my mind. They think I’m a terrorist. I’m moved around, I’m shouted at. The police moved me around. Lord, Lord, they don’t want me.” And then, on the weekend, the Holy Spirit convicted me and the Holy Spirit came and asked me, „Do you really love people?” And I said, „Well, yes of course, God, I love people”. „Well, what about the people that oppose you a little?” And so, God convicted me mightily on that weekend. And so, I prayed, and I said, „Now, Lord, break my heart, show me your love for people, that I might know, I might understand. And, on Tuesday of the following week, I was standing at Ground Zero at 4:30, with 20,000 people rushing towards me, and all of a sudden, the sound disappeared. I couldn’t hear the people. I couldn’t hear the noise from Ground Zero, and the people were starting to walk towards me in slow motion. I was looking, and I didn’t understand. And then, I saw on their faces, I saw their need for money. I saw their need for pleasure, I saw their need to get home. I saw them wanting to be in their pools, wanting to have their drinks. I saw them wanting to have their cars, their family, their friends. But, there was no need for God in their faces. Yet, God says, „I love them”.  And, as I looked at them, I realized, I was looking at the walking dead, beloved. And my heart started to break and to weep. And then, all sound came back. The people were walking normally. And God, the Holy Spirit said in my heart, ” Their blood will I require from your hand. I love them. Why don’t you love them? You call yourself a christian?”.  Jesus said, „Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and raise holy hands, but, why don’t you do as I say?”

Another time, I went out to the Staten Island Ferry, and the night before, I had a dream that I would be stabbed by a muslim, and I would be thrown over. I said, Lord, if the dream is from you, it’s alright. I’m gonna go. I’m gonna share the Good News on the Staten Island ferry.” Nothing happened that day. Satan tried to prevent me from going. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but, it’s all right.

Photo credit & for more sermons click www.sermonindex.net

The Number 1 cause of persecution is witnessing with your mouth.

You say, „Well, I live my life.” Good. That’s great. That’s wonderful. Live it good. In John 17, Jesus prayed for them to be one, as He and the Father are one, and for those to be one, that will hear through their words. So, you’ve got to add some words, beloved. Let them know the truth. In one of the worst Iranian prisons, a leader of a Christian group was told, „If you stop witnessing, we will let you all go”. The Christian thought about it and answered, „How can we deny such great, great, great salvation? Did you know your salvation is great and incredible? We live in a country where salvation means virtually nothing. We push it aside. We don’t want to save people on the streets. Even we, as Christians, have been affected by humanism and secularism. We do not understand the greatness of God and what He has done. That divinity came to rescue humanity.

Beloved, a great, incredible God, the Son of God gave His life so that we might live. What a wonderful, wonderful truth that is. And so, much has gone wrong in our respective countries, in North America because we do not witness. Persecution has now started in the United States and Canada. Certain parts of the Bible are considered flammable. Laws have been changed to permit gross sin. Please listen to this: Committed Christians are now classified with terrorists in the United States of America. The official policy of Homeland Security and the FBI is that committed Christians are classified as a danger to this country. You are classified with terrorists in the United States. Now, we must pray for our leadership. But, I also must tell you president Obama appears to admit that he is a muslim. But, God has placed this man in charge of this country. So you pray for him. You don’t oppose him. You pray for him, that God might intercede. For in all of the prayers in the Book of Acts, in the Gospels, in the letter, all of the New Testament, there is not a single prayer against their leadership. So, as Christians, we will love unconditionally. We will do what the government says we must do. But, we will not do it if it’s against God’s word (the Bible). (18:50)

2. The purposes of persecution. Why does God allow it?

Beloved, God loves mankind so very, very much. And, guess whom He has left as witnesses. Are you a witness? You’re supposed to be. Now, if God wants to convict those that do not yet believe, even persecutors, even those that are against Christians, whom might He use as a witness? Us. You and me. It is a testimony of our faith in God and His Son Jesus Christ. The purpose of it is new growth of others receiving salvation. Here is another story from North Korea:

A soldier was watching as a construction crew, also composed of soldiers, they demolished a building and they found a Bible in it. With the Bible, there  was also a list of 25 names. As they followed up with this list of 25 names, they rounded up a pastor, 2 assistant pastors, 2 elders,  and 20 Christians. They assembled them at the construction site, they brought in steam rollers. They told the leaders, „If you do not worship Kim Ilsung and Kim Jong-il, you will die.  And beloved, that is also a picture of the antichrist in the future. That is what he will say, „If you don’t worship me, you will die”. But beloved, this „you will die”, is only in a temporal sense. It’s not for eternity. We do not put our faith in our circumstances. But, we put our faith in a loving, incredible God. And so, God permitted, as a testimony that some of these Christians should be killed. And 5 of them , the leaders, had to lie on the pavement, and then the steamrollers came and rolled over them. As their heads popped, and made a popping sound, many of the Christians fainted and fell to the ground. But, you know, there was new growth. There was new growth, because that soldier who watched, he became a Christian. The blood of the martyrs drenched the ground, but there was new growth. (SEE the actual NEWS ARTICLE on this story below the video)

Christian Bishop Polycarp (lived 69 – 155 A.D.), was a second century Christian of Smyrna. If you remember, Christ had talked to the church of Smyrna and had told them, „Do not fear any of those things that you are about to suffer”. This is Christ, speaking through the apostle John. ANd He’s saying, „Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested. And you will have tribulation 10 days. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. Life, forevermore, and a great reward. It is not the temporal, but the eternal. It is not the ‘now’, but, the ‘forever’. And so, we need not worry because Christ is with us, Christ is for us, Christ is in us. He says, „I’ll never leave you, or forsake you, whatever you have to go through. And so, this Christian bishop, Polycarp, he died as a martyr. He was bound and burned at the stake, but the fire would not touch him, the fire wouldn’t burn him. So, finally, the went over and they stabbed him to death. In Smyrna, the execution of Christians became so great, that hundreds of them are martyred at the same time. Yet, when the people saw the martyrdom of the Christians, and how they behaved in their faith, others became saved. Praise God! And those who had not believed (and were saved) outnumbered those that were being martyred. You give your life, for someone else to have life. You can start that now. You can put the old flesh to death.

The second reason God allows persecution: It refines us and tests us. You see, when we are in prison, we no longer have time to sin. And, when you’re all alone, you look to ‘from where cometh my help’. My help comes from the world. And, you have time alone with Him, with nobody to disturb you. It also tests your faith: Are you true in the faith? When you ask yourself, „Am I true in the faith?” Two Russian soldiers came to a little church in the middle of winter in Russia. And inside the church were about 12 people worshipping God. The door burst open and they saw 2 soldiers standing there with submachine guns. They walked in and said, „Now you Christians, we’re going to kill you if you don’t leave.” They stood in the middle with their submachine guns. Slowly, 6 people got up and walked out of the church. One of the soldiers went and closed the door behind them. He returned into the auditorium and both soldiers lay down their weapons. They said to the remaining 6, „Beloved brothers and sisters, we both are Christians too. We wanted to worship with true Christians”. Are you a true Christian? Would you give your life for someone else, that he might live?

Thirdly, persecution helps us to witness. Acts 8:1-4, in verse 1 ‘they were all scattered’, In verse 4 it says, „Those who were scattered went everywhere, preaching the word.A very surprising outcome. They were scattered. Do you know what scattered means? You lose all of your stuff. You lose all of your possessions, your job, your familyall of your surrounding friends. You can no longer stay there. You must leave. Be gone. You don’t know what you’re gonna eat the next day. And here they start to witness about the greatness of God. Does God have to scatter us first, before we share the truth of this great salvation? Perhaps, because we’re so stubborn, and we’re so selfish. And we say, „Why should I do what others don’t do?” There is only 1% that have read the Bible, and there is 1% only who witness faithfully and regularly. Perhaps it’s more here, but I believe a large majority of you are not witnessing regularly. (29:50)

3. The privilege of persecution

It is a cause of rejoicing when we are persecutedGod gives us eternal blessings. He gives us great rewards in heaven. He gives us a crown for eternity and He makes us shine like the stars forever. The Christians in North Korea pray, „Our persecution and suffering are our joy and honor. We want to accept ridicule, scorn and disadvantages with joy in Jesus’ name. We want to wipe others’ tears away and comfort the suffering. We want to be ready to risk our lives because of our love for our neighbor, so that they also become Christians. We want to live our lives according to the standards set in God’s Word”.

4. The promises of God during persecution

  1. Matthew 5:10-12  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
  2. Revelation 2:10  Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful,even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
  3. Daniel 12:3 Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.
  4. Deuteronomy 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for theLord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
  5. Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
  6. Matthew 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
  7. Luke 12:7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. I love you so much that I even count the hairs on your head. But, I also love the unbelieving and I might ask you to give your life, that others might live. (34:00)

5. The presence of Christ during persecution. 

Pastor Wurmbrand spent 14 years in prison, and had 18 pieces of flesh cut out of him. He relates that during torture he forgot all. He could not remember Scripture, he could not remember sermons, he couldn’t remember anything. But, he said what he remembered was the presence of the indwelling Christ who comforted him. He said. „It was Christ, the Son of God, who got me through this time. He sustained me. He helped me through.” And in 2 Corinthians 12:9 „But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Matthew 28:20 „and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” And, nothing can separate you from His love, even if you’re experiencing great, great persecution.

6. Perseverance of the saints to the end

1 Peter 4:12-13 „Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” Romans 8:18 „I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” It is not the temporal, it is the eternal. It is not the ‘now’, it is your future, beloved Christians. The glory of the future cannot be compared with what we might have to go through now.

7. Preparation for persecution

  • (a) We must repent of all sin and fear. Some of you here are still afraid. And the reason you’re afraid is because you believe Satan, not God. He puts this fear into you. It is not God, and so, you must repent. You must cry out to God and say to Him, Lord, Lord, this fear is overcoming me, I reject it in Christ’s name. I will believe you, that you will sustain me in my hour of need. I believe that you will not tempt me beyond that which I’m able to bear. Praise God.
  • (b) We must examine ourselves and see that we are in the faith. Beloved, if you’re not in the faith, you’re not able to withstand what is coming. So, if you are a nominal Christian, you should give your life to Christ. Repent of those ways, and do what the word of God says. So, examine yourself.
  • (c) There should be evidenced a personal relationship with Jesus. Do you walk with Him, do you talk with Him? Does He tell you you’re His own? There ought to be a personal relationship between you and your Savior.
  • (d) Practice forgiveness for those that hurt you. And you know there’s more hurt coming in the future, forgive everyone who has hurt you now. Forgive those in church that you cannot stand- someone who has a funny laugh, people in your family that get on your nerves, people at your job, at your office, at your school, at your university. Before you can love them, you need to forgive them.
  • (e) Practice love through the Holy Spirit. Apply Matthew 5:44 „But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Love them after forgiving them. Bless them. Do good for them. You know what the evidence is, when you have forgiven? When you do something good for them, the person that hurt you. That’s the evidence.
  • (f) Practice joy and humbleness. I wanna send all Christians to smile school. You’re so miserable. you’re so judgmental. You’re so sour. Why would I want to be a Christian like you? I don’t wanna be like you. But, give me a heavenly smile. Go to smile school with God. Ask for gladness, ask for joy to come back into your heart because you lost it. You see, when you fill up your life with the joys of this world,- football games, TV, internet, people out there, Broadway shows-. I know, when I fill up with the joys of this world, there’s no space left for the joys of the Lord. So talk in psalms and hymns. Fill up with the word of God.
  • (g) Practice witnessing. You need the Holy Spirit, you need love from the Holy Spirit. Be ready. Write a short testimony, with a verse, a Scripture in it, because, even if your testimony fails, the verse built into your testimony can never fail. Praise God because the Word of God shall not return void.
  • (h) Practice denying the flesh. Get along with less. Can you eat less? Can you get along without TV, without the internet? Can you do with less possessions? Would you lay down your life?
  • (i) Practice living the cross. The top of the cross is prayer. The bottom of the cross is the Bible. One arm is for witnessing, the other arm is for fellowship. And to learn to love your fellow Christian in church, love people at the office, at school. If you don’t love them, if you judge them even before you love them, they will never listen to you. So, use that part of the cross to have fellowship. And then, in the center of it is my relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And, it is also my place of sacrifice and surrender, where I lay down before God. The flesh profits nothing, the Spirit is life. So, let God the Holy Spirit work through you and things will change.

VIDEO by sermonindex

This was published in the New York Sun Newspaper in 2005

Korean Reds Targeting Christians

WASHINGTON – A woman in her 20s executed by a firing squad after being caught with a Bible. Five Christian church leaders punished by being run over by a steamroller before a crowd of spectators who „cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed.”

These and other „horrifying” violations of human rights and religious freedom in North Korea are reported in a new study by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, titled „‘Thank You, Father Kim Il Sung’: Eyewitness Accounts of Severe Violations of Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion in North Korea.”

The report, released yesterday, comes as President Bush is touring Asia, calling for increased political freedom. In remarks prepared for delivery early this morning in Japan, the president called on Red China to extend more freedom to its population of 1.3 billion. In an advance text of the speech, President Bush also extolled Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province, as „a free and democratic Chinese society.” And the president noted North Korean human rights abuses while reassuring the Hermit Kingdom’s people.

„Satellite maps of North Korea show prison camps the size of whole cities,” Mr. Bush said. „We will not forget the people of North Korea.”

Yesterday on Capitol Hill the chairman of the Commission on International Religious Freedom, Michael Cromartie, and two members of Congress who helped establish the commission, Reps. Frank Wolf of Virginia and Chris Smith of New Jersey, called on Mr. Bush to include the specific findings of the North Korean report in his diplomatic discussions with Chinese and South Korean officials this week, and to urge leaders of both Asian nations to take a firmer stand against their communist neighbor.

Mr. Cromartie told The New York Sun after the event that senior administration officials at the National Security Council had been provided with an advance copy of the report so that Mr. Bush could raise particular human rights abuses with his Chinese and South Korean interlocutors.

Mr. Cromartie said yesterday during the study’s unveiling on Capitol Hill that the report was unique in its depth and breadth, and in the quantity of first-hand accounts, since it is notoriously difficult to obtain reliable information from inside North Korea, owing to the country’s complete isolation under the Kim dictatorship.

Among the first-hand reports are eyewitness accounts of Christians’ being executed for the underground practice of their faith.

Photo credit creative.sulekha.com

The study recounts, for example, how in November 1996 in North Korea’s South Pyongan province, a unit of the North Korean army was tasked with widening a highway connecting Pyongyang to a nearby port city. While demolishing a vacant house, soldiers found in the basement, hidden between two bricks, a Bible and a list of 25 names. Among the list were individuals identified as a Christian pastor, two assistant pastors, two elders, and 20 parishioners who were identified by their occupations.

Hunted down at their workplaces by military police, the 25 Christians were rounded up and detained without any formal judicial procedure. Later that month, the parishioners and their clergy were brought to the road construction site, where spectators had been arranged in neat rows to observe the public execution of the pastor, assistant pastors, and elders. According to a report based on an eyewitness account, the five church leaders „were bound hand and foot and made to lie down in front of a steamroller,” accused of subversion and of being Kiddokyo, or Protestant Christian, spies.

The 20 parishioners were detained near their clergy, and watched, along with the assembled audience, as the five Christian leaders were told they could escape death if they denied their faith and pledged to serve only Kim Jong Il and his father, the first dictator of communist Korea, Kim Il Sung. According to the eyewitness, the clergy remained silent.

For their steadfast belief, the Christians were executed. According to the report, „Some of the fellow parishioners assembled to watch the execution cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed beneath the steamroller.”

Another account contained in the report says that on a summer day in North Korea in 1997, a young woman was washing clothes in a tributary of the Tumen River when she dropped a small Bible she had hidden amid the laundry. Spotted by a fellow washerwoman, the girl was reported to North Korean authorities on the suspicion that she was engaging in an exercise of thought or religion condemned by the state. The girl, believed to be in her 20s, and her father, estimated to be around 60, were arrested by local national security police and imprisoned for three months.

One morning, they were taken to a public market area, where, after a brief show trial, the father and daughter were condemned as traitors to the North Korean nation and its communist dictator, Kim Jong Il. The father and daughter were then tied to stakes a few meters from where they had been „tried,” and, before an assembly of schoolchildren, were riddled with bullets by seven policemen who fired three shots each into the pair. According to a report drawn from eyewitness accounts, „The force of the rifle shots, fired from fifteen meters away, caused blood and brain matter to be blown out of their heads.”

The study was compiled by the author of „Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea’s Prison Camps,” David Hawk, who was assisted by two South Korean researchers, Jae Chunwon and Philo Kim. Together they interviewed 40 re cent North Korean defectors to gain insight into the religious lives of average North Koreans.

From the interviews, according to Mr. Cromartie, the Commission had obtained a „horrifying picture” of the abuses suffered by Christians and other believers in North Korea.

All of the interviewees had fled to South Korea through China, which has become something of a „safety valve” for North Koreans fleeing religious persecution, Mr. Smith told the Sun yesterday. According to the study, China has received a flood of refugees fleeing the Kim dictatorship, and between 50,000 and 100,000 North Korean exiles remain in China, the commission reported.

China, however, considers dissident North Koreans „economic migrants” subject to repatriation, and the study presents a dismal account of those forced to return to North Korea. According to one defector who was grilled by North Korean border guards, the Kim regime fears that „Juche will be toppled by Christianity,” referring to the state ideology, and exercises brutal control over North Koreans who have been exposed to Chinese or South Korean Christian churches.

According to the study, in order to preserve the complete control Kim Jong Il exercises over his subjects’ minds, repatriated North Koreans are harshly interrogated to determine whether they will infect their countrymen with ideas and information obtained abroad, and Christian believers are often slapped with long prison sentences and hard labor, punishments sometimes passed on to their families and descendants.

The documented fear of Christianity is accompanied by an extensive account of the pervasiveness of the Kims’ cult of personality, and the title of the study, „Thank you, Father Kim Il-Sung,” refers to the phrase North Korean parents are required to first teach their children.

SOURCE – The New York Sun

God gives Mathematical Proof for Christianity

photo via www.wikihow.com

AN AWESOME  ARTICLE! by Dan Delzell, pastor of Wellspring Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska writes this article in The Christian Post.

It is impossible that Christianity is not God’s revelation of truth to man. Simply impossible. The math proves it beyond question. It doesn’t take faith to believe that one plus one equals two, and it doesn’t take faith to identify the religion which has mathematical certainty in its corner.

God didn’t have to give us mathematical proof of His existence, but He did it anyway. God didn’t have to give us proof of Christianity, but He chose to do so. And God didn’t have to give us proof of His love for us, but that is exactly what He did. The proof is irrefutable.

I live in Nebraska where I serve as a pastor. Imagine someone covering this entire state in silver dollars 6 feet deep. Then mark one coin and bury it anywhere across the state. Next, blindfold a man and have him choose one coin. The odds that he would choose the marked coin are the same odds of getting 8 prophecies all fulfilled in one man. God gave us about 300 fulfilled prophecies in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Here are 8 of those 300 prophecies:

(1) The Messiah will be born in Bethlehem. (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-6)
(2) The Messiah will be a descendant of Jacob. (Numbers 24:17; Matthew 1:2)
(3) The Messiah will enter Jerusalem as a king riding on a donkey. (Zechariah 9:9; Mark 11:4-11)
(4) The Messiah will be betrayed by a friend. (Psalm 41:9; Luke 22:47,48)
(5) The Messiah’s betrayal money will be used to purchase a potter’s field. (Zechariah 11:13; Matthew 27:9,10)
(6) The Messiah will be spat upon and struck. (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 26:67)
(7) The Messiah’s hands and feet will be pierced. (Psalm 22:16; John 20:25-27)
(8) Soldiers will gamble for the Messiah’s garments. (Psalm 22:18; Luke 23:34)

There is no way one man could have fulfilled all 8 of these prophecies unless God was making it happen. Who else controls history? Who else could give us such irrefutable proof for Christianity? The odds are one in one hundred quadrillion, or 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

This mathematical proof was calculated by Professor Peter Stoner. He was chairman of the mathematics and astronomy departments at Pasadena City College until 1953. He then went to Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California, where he served as chairman of the science division.

You don’t have to be a mathematics professor to see that this evidence is irrefutable. No one would pick the marked coin under those conditions. No one but God could have given us these biblical prophecies, and then brought them to fulfillment right before our eyes. It is impossible that Christianity is false. The math proves it, and the Man behind the math rose from the dead, just as it had been foretold.

Read more at http://www.christianpost.com/news/the-mathematical-proof-for-christianity-is-irrefutable-96295/#0GUltOdZo5CzMs21.99

What is the meaning of the Ascension of Jesus in the Gospels ?

By Bob Deffinbaugh via Bible.org Photo James Tissot 

Introduction

Brooklyn_Museum_-_The_Ascension_(L'Ascension)_-_James_Tissot

I had determined some time ago that this message on the ascension of Jesus Christ would be the conclusion of this series on the life and ministry of our Lord. When I began a serious study in preparing for this message, I came to a distressing realization: the ascension of the Savior was not considered worthy of emphasis by any of the gospel writers.

You will read the entire gospel of Matthew without finding any direct reference to the ascension. The same is true for John’s gospel. The book of Mark condenses this event into only one verse, and if you consult the commentaries, they will tell you that this verse may not be authentic. Luke’s gospel, in very general terms, relates this final event in the life of our Lord in one verse. I must conclude that for some reason the ascension was not considered essential to the purposes which compelled the gospel writers to record their accounts of the life and ministry of the Master. The purpose of this study is to answer the obvious question, “Why?” “Why do none of the gospel accounts make much of the ascension of Jesus Christ?”

Why Was the Ascension of Our Lord 
Not a More Important Theme in the Gospels?

Let me try to identify some of the reasons for this lack of emphasis on the ascension in the gospel accounts. While these reasons are largely inferential, they do help us to see this matter through the eyes of the gospel writers.

First and foremost, the purpose of the gospels is revealed in their title, ‘the gospel.’ That is, the authors of the gospels set out to present the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. Technically speaking, the salvation was procured by the death of Christ and proved by the resurrection. The ascension did not directly contribute to the work of the cross in such a way as to be instrumental in achieving the salvation of men.233 In the light of the writers’ purpose to portray the good news of salvation, any part of Christ’s life and ministry which does not directly relate to their purpose would pale in the shadow of the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord. It is not that the ascension of Christ is unimportant, then, but that it is largely irrelevant to the purpose of the gospel accounts.

Second, the ascension of Christ was not a favorite topic for those who were so intimately involved with Him. As John put it,

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, …” (1 John 1:1-3).

Unlike Christians today, the disciples lived and walked and talked, and touched the Savior while He was on the earth in bodily form. Whenever He talked of departing them or leaving them, they were deeply distressed (cf.John 16:6,22). It was not something they wanted to happen, or that they wanted to think about.

Those of us who have had Christian loved ones die can understand the feelings of the disciples concerning the Lord’s ascension. While we know that God’s will has been done and that those who have died in Christ are with the Lord, we personally sense the loss of the presence of our loved ones who have departed, even though we anticipate spending eternity with them in the presence of our Lord. We do not, therefore, find great comfort or joy in reminiscing over the departure of our loved ones. So, too, I believe the gospel writers did not have any predisposition to write of our Lord’s departure to return to His Father.

Third, the ascension does not serve as a fitting conclusion to the life and ministry of our Lord. It somehow seems anti-climactic in the light of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. It tends to conclude on a note of sorrow and separation rather than of joy, victory, and triumph.

What, Then, Is the Meaning of the Ascension?

We have seen that the gospel accounts hardly mention the ascension, and we have suggested several reasons for this to be the case. While the ascension may not be prominent in the gospels, it is paramount in the book of Acts. While Luke did not emphasize it at the conclusion of his first book (Luke), he highlighted it at the beginning of his second volume (Acts).

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, “Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:1-11).

One of the most significant words in the book of Acts is that little word “began” in verse one. The first account, which was the gospel of Luke, was the report of what Jesus began to do and to teach. The book of Acts records what our Lord continued to do and to teach through His body, the church.

We are guilty of misunderstanding the words of our Lord upon the cross, when He cried out, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The Savior could truly say “It is finished” with regard to the work of redemption, which was accomplished on the cross. According to the usage of this expression man’s debt for sin could be marked “paid in full.” But the Lord Jesus did not say, “I am finished” in the sense that His work on earth was completed. Only His work of procuring men’s salvation was finished. The work of proclaiming that salvation to men is still going on. That is what Luke meant when he spoke of what our Lord “began to do and teach” in the introduction of his second volume. The exciting thing to realize is that the ascension of our Lord was vital to the continuation of our Lord’s work on earth through His body, the church.

While the provision for man’s salvation was the work of our Lord which was completed on the cross of Calvary, the proclamation and application of the benefits of this work have continued through the centuries, through the church, the body of Christ. The ascension of Jesus Christ was central to the initiation and continuation of this work.

From a casual reading of the gospel accounts one would get the impression that Jesus ascended to His Father shortly after His resurrection. In Acts we learn that there was a period of 40 days that our Lord continued to manifest Himself to His disciples on the earth: “To these He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3).

The purpose of this forty-day period was three-fold as described in verses 3-5 of Acts chapter 1. First of all it was designed to convince the disciples of the fact of our Lord’s physical, bodily resurrection (cf. verse 3 above).

The remaining chapters of Acts reveal that the central truth of which the disciples were fully-convinced was that Jesus, though put to death, had risen from the grave:234

“This man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:23,24).

“But you disowned the Holy and Righteous one, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, but put to death the Prince of Life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses” (Acts 3:14-15; cf. also 1:22; 4:2,10; 5:30-32; 7:56-60).

‘Many convincing proofs’ which happened over a substantial period of time, in a variety of circumstances, to a diverse number of people (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:4-8), served well the purpose of convincing the disciples of the fact of our Lord’s resurrection.

A second purpose of the forty day period after the resurrection was to command the disciples.

“… appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God. And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, …” (Acts 1:3,4).

There was much that the disciples could not understand about the life and ministry of the Lord until after His death and resurrection. Now He could speak plainly of His work upon the cross and they could understand His teaching. But even now there were truths that they could not bear. Only after His departure, after the promised Holy Spirit came upon them, would they comprehend the great truths of the gospel. For this reason, Jesus commanded the disciples to wait until the promised Spirit was sent.

Third, the forty days enabled our Lord to clarify and correct certain misconceptions held by the disciples.

“And so when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, ‘Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth’” (Acts 1:6-8).

The Kingdom was a prominent theme in Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist came before Jesus and introduced Him as the King of Israel (cf. Matthew 3:2Mark 1:2-3), as well as the Lamb of God. Jesus frequently spoke of the Kingdom (cf. Matthew 5-7,13). The disciples were preoccupied with the subject, and particularly their role in it (cf. Matthew 19:28Mark 10:37f.). The religious leaders accused Jesus of being a king or of claiming a kingdom (John 19:12) and this Pilate acknowledged (Matthew 27:37). The thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His Kingdom (Luke 23:42).

Little wonder that the disciples should persist in bringing up the subject of the Kingdom after the resurrection. They were certain that it must be forthcoming. Our Lord found it necessary to clarify His teaching on the Kingdom that was to come.

Mark it well; Jesus corrected His disciples on the matter of the time of the Kingdom’s arrival, not on its essential nature. The commentators are much more critical of the disciples than Christ was. They would seek to change the disciples whole conception of the Kingdom; our Lord only dealt with the time of its inauguration. The disciples anticipated a literal, physical reign of our Lord upon the earth. Some Bible students would have us believe that such expectations were misguided. They suppose that Jesus spoke only of a spiritual reign in the hearts of men.

That’s a rather interesting thing, because our Lord does not correct the disciple’s concept of the Kingdom; He corrects their preoccupation with the timing of the Kingdom. Now if they were wrong in thinking there was a Kingdom to come after three years of teaching, they were also wrong after 40 days of post-graduate work. More than this, my friends, they were wrong after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Because one of the things you will discover later in the book of Acts is that when the apostles preached, they preached to the Jews that if they turned to Jesus as Messiah, there would be a restoration of the Kingdom.

Look, for example, in Acts chapter 3 after Pentecost. Peter and John are preaching as a result of the healing of the cripple who was outside of the temple, and who was healed. Peter says in verse 19: “Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

The expression ‘times of refreshing,’ was understood rightly by Israel as being the time of the restoration and the establishment of God’s Kingdom upon earth. “And that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of the restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:20-21).

In other words, that which the Old Testament prophets had been speaking, that which our Lord Jesus came to establish, that is the message which the apostles preached. Until 70 A.D., they offered to Israel the opportunity to turn to Jesus as the Messiah, and promised that if they did, the Kingdom would be ushered in. Obviously, the nation did not repent and believe. And you understand that Israel, trying to forcibly bring the Kingdom in unbelief by rebelling against Rome, brought the power of Rome down upon them. Because of Jewish insurrection, Rome sacked that city and there was a massacre that was absolutely incredible to read about. Millions of Jews, it seems, died at that time. My point is simply this, the disciples had come to believe in a literal kingdom as a result of the teaching of our Lord, both before and after His resurrection.

Understandably, then, the disciples put this question to our Lord: “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” (verse 6).

I want to underline the phrase, “at this time.” That is the issue that our Lord calls to their attention, not the issue of the nature of the Kingdom. He is dealing not with their misconceptions about the Kingdom, but with their preoccupation with the time of its coming. That is where they were wrong.

Now you must understand the circumstances in which all of this occurred. Do you remember where this took place? Not Jerusalem. It was the city outside of Jerusalem—Bethany. Bethany is where the triumphal entry began (cf. John 12:1,9,12). This is where Jesus had raised Lazarus. People had gathered not only to see Jesus, but to behold Lazarus, and it was out of all of this that the crowd came to herald Jesus as the Messiah. So it was Bethany that was the point of origin for the triumphal entry.

Now can you imagine why the disciples would bring up the subject of the coming of the Kingdom? I suppose they thought, “Here we are at Bethany again. Maybe we’re going to have the real triumphal entry this time.”

One of the seminary students suggested that the Lord had promised the coming of the Holy Spirit, and perhaps it was the fulfillment of this promise to which they also looked forward. That may be. Here they were, Jesus was raised from the dead, the subject of conversation had been the Kingdom. Now there is this promise for which they are to wait. And you know how our minds always run wild in speculation when we are waiting for something and we do not know exactly what it is. All of these things must have come together, and the disciples were almost ready to burst with anticipation. And so our Lord responded to them, not regarding their concept of the Kingdom, but regarding their preoccupation with its time: “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7).

You see, this is no correction concerning the anticipation of a physical, literal thousand-year reign. Our Lord granted that their understanding of the Kingdom was correct. He was simply saying, “Don’t get preoccupied with when it is to occur.”

There are Christians today who seem to be more interested about the precise timing of eschatological (that is, prophetic) events than they are with godly living (cf. 2 Peter 3:11-13). I am not saying we should not study prophecy. I am saying we should not become preoccupied with it to the point where we ignore our duty and our obligation to live godly lives and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is the thrust of our Lord’s words in Acts 1:7-8. They were not intended to know the exact time of the Lord’s return and the establishment of His Kingdom. But as a result of His departure, the Holy Spirit would come, bestowing power upon them, by which they would witness to Jesus Christ at home and abroad (cf. John 14:7ff.).

In one sense the ascension is the final answer of our Lord to the question raised by the apostles. We cannot view the ascension of the Savior apart from its context with the paragraph—a section which centers in the question of the disciples concerning the coming of the Kingdom.

Verse 9 informs us that after Jesus had spoken the words of verses 7 and 8 He was taken from their sight into the heavens. The last words of Jesus concerned the matter of the Kingdom and our present responsibilities. The conversation was terminated by Jesus’ departure.

But more than this the ascension itself was the most forceful and satisfying answer to the question of the disciples:

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was departing, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them; and they also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11).

The ascension was a glorious event. Our Lord disappeared into a cloud, not ‘into the clouds’ (cf. verse 9). It may well be that this cloud was no ordinary cloud, but rather a manifestation of the Shekinah glory, even as it took place in the transfiguration (cf. Matthew 16:27–17:9, especially verse 5). Since the transfiguration was a preview of the coming Kingdom, the Kingdom must be quite similar. Now, in Acts 1:11 we are told that the return of the Lord Jesus will be like that of His ascension. It, like the transfiguration, must have been glorious, but it was viewed by a larger number.

The ascension was a display of the splendor and glory of the coming Kingdom. As such it was a reassurance to the disciples that this Kingdom was the same as they had previously been instructed.

What a beautiful way to dovetail a two-fold response to this pressing question of the disciples. While they were not to be overly concerned about the timing of the restoration of the Kingdom to Israel, they were assured of its certainty and its splendor. What a gracious event the ascension was. It served as an assurance to the disciples that their hopes would be realized.

One last passage remains to be considered in our study of the ascension of Christ and its importance to us.

But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:7-12).

The ascension was the final, incontestable evidence that Jesus Christ was the victor over Satan and his hosts. It is the measure of His victory, but also the measure of the power which has been bestowed upon His saints to carry out His work on earth until He returns.

The ascension was necessary for the Holy Spirit to come upon the church (and individual believers) in a different way than in times past (John 16:7ff.). But it was also an indication of the extent of the power which was made available to complete the task set before us.

This was a desperately needed event for who but His most intimate followers would sense most deeply His bodily absence? Who most needed assurance of His spiritual presence and power? And surely those of us who have never walked the dusty roads with Him and heard Him speak or felt His touch need this assurance as well.

Conclusion

Taking the various threads of which the doctrine of the ascension of Christ is woven we can briefly summarize its reference and application to Christians:

(1) Separation. In one sense the ascension was the bodily separation of our Lord from His followers. But we must quickly add that the Scriptures never record any mourning or tears concerning this. Undoubtedly this is true because, ironic as it may seem, our Lord’s departure inaugurated a time of even greater intimacy through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. “… and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

(2) Consummation. The ascension symbolized that the work which our Lord was sent to accomplish in His physical body on earth has been finished. “… when He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).

(3) Glorification. When our Lord returned to the Father it was in splendor and glory. While His glory was somewhat veiled by His humble surroundings at His incarnation, His return was with even greater glory and honor because of the work He had accomplished. “Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

(4) Confirmation. The ascension was, in part, a confirmation of Christ’s person and work. He returned to the Father. In this His claim to have come from the Father was vindicated. While no one could actually witness the actual incarnation of Christ in the virgin birth, His return was visible to His followers. The ascension of Christ is also a confirmation of our faith and assurance in Christ: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchezedek” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

(5) Transition. The ascension serves as a connecting link: between the work of Christ in salvation and that in our sanctification; between the gospels and the epistles; between what has been accomplished by Christ and what is still being done through His Spirit. It is even a transition in the ministry of Christ as well. Having completed His work on the cross in His flesh, He now intercedes for us as a sympathetic High Priest, as One Who has experienced our afflictions:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 5:14-16).

(6) Anticipation. The ascension also creates in our hearts a sense of expectation as we realize that He will return, just as He departed: “… This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:11).

And so it is that we come to the importance of the ascension to Christians today. It is not primarily to be viewed as the conclusion of our Lord’s life and ministry, but as the introduction of a new phase of His ministry through His church, empowered by His Spirit. The assurance of His return and the measure of His presence and power in these intervening days is to be found, to a great extent, in His ascension. What a Savior!

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233 Lest anyone become upset by this statement, let me go on to say that it does have much to do with the application of men’s salvation, as we shall demonstrate later.

234 It is interesting to note that during His earthly life our Lord’s opposition came primarily from the scribes and Pharisees. These were men who believed in supernaturalism and such things as angels and resurrection. In the book of Acts the main thrust of the opposition came from the Sadducees, the liberals who did not believe in any resurrection (cf. Matthew 22:23Acts 4:11).

J. D. Greear – Advance ’13 Conference Message

Photo via www.advance13.com

See also

In Matthew 28 Jesus gives the great commission: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the again.” These are our marching orders. This commission is to be the primary thing by which we evaluate  any of our success as leaders in God’s church. The core of this great commission is making disciples. And making disciples implies two different kinds of growth: Width and depth. This group of 12 men were told to reach people, as fast as possible, from every nation on earth. That’s width. They were to make true disciples of them and teach them to obey all that Jesus had commanded- that’s depth. My premise is that to be faithful to either of those 2 , you’ve got to vigorously pursue them both.

  1. And, what I want to show you is that, ultimately, people who grow wide, without growing deep are not growing nearly as wide as they think.
  2. And also, that those who grow deep, without growing wide are not growing as deep in the Gospel as they think.

Depending on your personality and the personality of the tribe you associate with, it’s easy to gravitate towards one of those two, and to evaluate success, primarily by those 2 metrics. If width is your thing it’s all about the number of attenders, or the number of baptisms, or your weekly offering. If depth is your thing, it’s about how missional your small groups are, how many books of the Bible you preach through, how long your sermons are, how many people you disciplined last year. I’ll admit this: Focusing on one or the other makes decision making much easier. If you only evaluate success by how many people come to your church, or how many baptisms you had, then you can spend the primary amount of your money, your energy, and your staff  on producing the weekend experience. Vice versa: If you care only about taking people deeper you don’t have to worry about how many people come to your church and you sneer at anybody who does worry about it. You don’t have to get involved with the difficult questions of contextualization or creating environments that are hospitable to unbelievers.

You make self righteous statements like, „If you worry about the depth of your ministry, God will worry about the width of your ministry.” As if the Great Shepherd did not leave the 99, to go pursue the one. He was concerned about the width of His ministry too.

I wanna contend that faithful churches must be concerned with both, because the great commission implies both and to pursue one without the other is unfaithful, and also (I hope to show you) self defeating. And, along the way I want to show a few false dichotomies that I feel we are often forced into.

1. Churches that grow wide, without growing deep

will not last into the next generation, much less into eternity

A. Converts who don’t persevere as disciples do not make it to heaven. A church who makes converts, but not disciples, the width they have is illusory. When Jesus commanded us to make disciples, not merely converts, and to teach them all that He had commanded, this was not merely a matter of creating a varsity squad that He would be really proud of. This was a matter of salvation itself. A number of pastors say, „I just get them saved and baptized. Other people can worry about growing them up in their faith.” This is a deadly faulty view of conversion. The parable of the seeds that Jesus told is always one that’s troubled me as a pastor. He says the sower goes out and throws some seed, and there’s a seed that falls on soil that springs up quickly. But when the sun comes up and the weeds grow, it chokes it out and it fades away. Here’s a question: Do those represent saved or unsaved people? They represent unsaved people who for a while look like saved people. What does it look like at one of our churches? It looks like the person who prays the prayer, signs the card, gets baptized, gets involved in a small group… maybe has a year or two years where they get really involved. But their faith is shown not to be saving faith by the fact that it endures, but does not endure over time. What the Bible shows is that one of the marks of true salvation is that it endures to the end. And this is important: One of the means that God sovereignly uses to compel believers to go all the way is the continual preaching of these warnings, and the driving of the Gospel deeper into their hearts.

B. Converts in a post Christian world will increasingly have to be won outside of the church. Greear here quotes Timmis (UK) – Seventy % of Brits  say they have no intention of ever attending a church service (from a survey that came out in Britain) for any reason- Not at Easter, not for marriages, not for funerals or Christmas Eve services. That means new styles of worship will not reach them. Fresh expressions of church will not reach them. Alpha and Christianity courses will not reach them. Great first impressions will not reach them. Churches meeting in pubs will not reach them. The vast majority of un-churched and de-churched people would not turn to the church, even if faced with difficult personal circumstances or in the event of national tragedies. It is not a question of „improving the product” of church meetings and evangelistic events. It means reaching people apart from meetings and events.” We are not quite there in the USA, but, every year, the pie of people who will come to our churches, even for special events, that pie is shrinking. And we’ve got a lot of big shows trying to compete for a bigger slice of that shrinking pie. And if we do not equip the people to carry the Gospel outside of these meetings, we are going to increasingly in the next 10, 20, or 30 years  lose all audience with them.

C. Jesus said the greatest width will occur through the multiplication of leaders, not the building of audiences. This is a shocking statement from Jesus in John 14:12 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Anybody here done greater works than Jesus? Anybody ever fed 5,000? Ever raised the dead? Anybody preached on an Old Testament passage  with more insider authority? Any body ever pray with greater knowledge of the mind of God than Jesus did? Has anybody done anything that would be comparable and greater to Jesus’s work? No! Nobody in history has even come close. So greater cannot mean greater in the quality of our works. It has to mean greater in the quantity of the works that come when Jesus’s Spirit fills the church. What Jesus is saying is a pretty astounding statement that has massive implications for church philosophy. The power of Jesus working in and through ordinary believers is even greater than if He Himself personally stayed to pastor your church. In John 16 Jesus actually tells His disciples that it would be better for them if He went away, because only then could the Spirit come. If Jesus said that the power of the Holy Spirit will be greater in us than the power of Jesus beside us, thus the work of the Spirit released to the multitude of ordinary believers would be greater than if Jesus Himself stayed. Acts goes out of its way to show that the greatest achievement of the early church in the Book of Acts happened through lay people. The longest sermon preached in the Book of Acts, with the most powerful effect – the conversion of Saul to Paul, was preached not by an apostle but by a Spirit filled layman. The Gospel seems to spread faster through laypeople. In Acts 8:1, 8 chapters after Jesus gives the Great Commission, they’re all still in Jerusalem. So God sends a persecution and sends them everywhere preaching the word, except for the apostles. It was laypeople that God designed to get the Gospel into these nether regions. In fact, the last half of the Book of Acts, the plotline is Paul trying to get the Gospel to Rome, because from there it could spread to the entire empire.

Next: 2. Churches that grow deep, without growing wide are probably not growing as deep in the Gospel as they think…

 

David Platt – from Secret Church – Overview of the Synoptic Gospels

DAVID PLATT Sermon PAGE here

For more in depth study, also watch – Who wrote the Gospels? Are there good reasons to attribute their authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Essential Apologetics

Note: This clip is not from the recent Good Friday Secret Church event 2013, but of an older one.

David Platt itickets.comFrom a Secret Church event, David Platt, Pastor of The Church at Brook Hills, introduces Matthew, Mark, & Luke as the synoptic gospels & describes the characteristics that define each gospel message about the life of Jesus Christ.

Platt:

Three primary divisions:

  1. First of all as the story of the New Testament. About 60% of the New Testament is a story. It’s the first  5 books- Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts, tell us the story of the New Testament.
  2. Second is the letters of the New Testament. Those are epistles, letters that are written, that help us understand the story that’s going on in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts. Most of these letters are in context of what we see happening in Acts chapter 1 through Acts chapter 28. So you’ve got the stories of what’s happening, you’ve got the letters, and then
  3. The conclusion of the New Testament – Revelation, which is technically a letter, but is also a lot different.

There’s 2 categories in the New Testament:

1. The life and the ministry of Christ (from Matthew to John) 

All of these books- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John unites them as if they were all written for the same primary purpose. They were written to show us a picture of Christ and the Gospel. I want you to hear this. These books were not written to be biographies of Jesus, that go chronologically through his life. Some of these Gospels are not arranged chronologically at all. They were written for the primary purpose to show Christ to the people that were listening to them. Why we see some differences, why we see some different stories told by some different authors is because, yeah, they were written for the same primary purpose, but, they’re written from different viewpoints and for different  audiences. These are four different guys, with four different personalities, different perspectives, talking to different people.

Now, I want you to think about how the audience is going to affect the way you write. We’ve got to realize that in order to understand Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, we’ve got to put ourselves in the shoes of the people Matthew was writing to. Cause, whenever you communicate with someone, you take into account what they already know, you take into account what they already understand, and this is the challenge for us 2,000 years later, to put ourselves in the shoes of Matthew’s readers and to realize what was already in their frame of reference in order to understand why Matthew was doing this or that. That’s why New Testament Biblical study is more than just reading through the Bible. Not to minimize reading through the Bible, but in order to understand it, we’ve got to dive into what this meant to the people who heard it at that time.

2. The life and the ministry of the Church

..which is basically part 2 of Luke’s Gospel. So, Luke wrote both the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts (4:00)

matthew

1. Gospel of Matthew 

Matthew was a jewish tax collector. Isn’t this great? The way that the New Testament starts- that God would decide the first author should be a guy who is known and suspected for taking advantage of His people. The least likely candidate for writing the first book of the New Testament is Matthew. Aren’t you glad we have a God who doesn’t choose the most likely candidates, but He chooses the least likely candidates. Praise God that He has poured out His grace on those who can never begin to deserve it. We see that from the very beginning, in even the author here. He wrote it in the 70’s to 80’s A.D.  which meant that he wrote soon after the destruction of the  temple.

Now, this is important. What we’re gonna see is that Matthew, in his writing, is in a battle for the hearts and souls of Judaism. You’ve got Judaism, that’s gonna go one way or the other. It’s either gonna go the way of the Pharisees, or it’s gonna go the way of Christ. And he is urging Jewish christians , or those Jews who were thinking about coming to faith in Christ, he is urging them to follow Christ. That’s why he gives us this picture in this book, he wants the heart of Judaism to realize  that Judaism has been fulfilled in the picture of Jesus Christ. So, that’s why he writes this whole book. The primary theme is that Jesus is the king of the jews. From the very beginning he is pointing out over and over again the kingship of Jesus.

Practical advice for study: I wanna encourage you to  look for the focus on the kingdom of God, all throughout Matthew. When you read through this book, you’ll see either the kingdom of God, or the kingdom of heaven mentioned over, and over again. You see this outline, this structure that’s here. It’s emphasizing the kit. What it does, Matthew does this; He puts a lot of emphasis on the teachings of Christ, and there are 5 major blocks of teaching in each one of these parts of this outline- and then his actions, which show the meanings of those teachings. So that’s what Matthew’s doing, he’s not arranging things chronologically, he’s helping highlight what Christ is teaching. Probably Christ’s most famous teaching, at the very beginning of Matthew, in the ministry of Christ – the sermon on the mount. It’s an emphasis on the teaching of Christ, throughout this book.

I want to encourage you, if you read Matthew, look up cross references. That’s when the Bible is making references to different points, allusions, quotations. There’s 129 references or allusions to 25 of the 39 Old Testament books. You see why surveying the Old Testament was important? Cause in order to read Matthew, we’ve got to know the Old Testament. 12 different times in this book he talks about how this was fulfilled, or that was fulfilled.All throughout the beginning of the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, „It was fulfilled this, it was fulfilled that”- a strong link to the Old Testament.When reading about the teachings of Jesus remember to put yourselves in the hearers shows. We’ve got to get in the jewish mindset, in order to understand the book of Matthew.

mark

2. Gospel of Mark

This was written by John Mark, who was close to Peter. He wrote it between 65 and 70 A.D. So this was written before the fall of the temple. But, it was written during a time when there was a lot of insurrection between the Jewish people and the Roman empire over them. Obviously, if something is leading up to the battle in the temple, where the city of Jerusalem were going to be ravaged, that there’s some tension that leads up to that time. And so, Mark is writing to gentile christians that are in Rome suffering persecution. Mark’s writing to gentile christians in Rome who are suffering persecution. Obviously, there’s some conflict  between Rome and Judaism, christianity is this sect of Judaism, so to speak in some people’s eyes, and so, they are experiencing some major persecution in Rome, and he’s writing to them to encourage them.

Look at Mark 16, these believers are facing some very intense persecution, and many of them are wavering in their faith. When they start to get persecuted, they start to wonder: Is Christ real, should we really go on with this? Should we really move forward in our faith with Him? In Mark 16, you have the resurrection, and then look at verse 6. It says, „Don’t be alarmed”, this is a young man speaking to those who had come to the tomb, „Don’t be alarmed, you’re looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen. He is not here. See the place where they had laid Him. But, go, tell His disciples and Peter. He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him, just as He told you”.

If you are reading Mark for the first time, you are in a situation (where) you are tempted to read and be quiet, and not share your faith with anybody. Listen to where verse 8 leaves us, and this is that point where some people actually think the book of Mark stops. So let’s imagine if it does stop here. Verse 8- „Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled form the tomb, they said nothing to anyone because they were afraid.” Now, what if the book stopped right there? You realize what kind of message that puts – what if the resurrection of Christ, nobody said anything because they were afraid? Mark is reminding us that this is something we must tell people. If it stops with us, then the resurrection of Christ is just a historical fact that doesn’t expand to the 2nd and 3rd century. But, praise God that the believers who read Mark did not walk away and say nothing to anyone. He wrote to these Jewish christians in Rome who were facing persecution.

The primary theme in the Book of Mark: Jesus is the suffering servant of God. We see suffering, over and over mentioned. We see the key verses there: Mark 8:31-38 is talking about the unexpected suffering, when Jesus told His disciples that He was going to experience suffering and Peter pulled Jesus aside and said, „Maybe you don’t know what you’re doing”. And Jesus said, „You don’t tell Me, I don’t know what I’m doing”. He says it pretty sternly.  And He says, „This is exactly what I’m doing”. All throughout Mark, you see what is called the Messianic secret. And this is a different point. Do you ever wonder why Jesus wanted to keep Himself a secret? As the demons start telling how He’s Jesus the Christ? And the demons recognize Him when nobody else does, and He’s like, „Shh, don’t tell anybody”. Or sometimes He heals people and He tells them, „Don’t tell anybody. Walk away, don’t say a thing”. Why is He doing that? Because He’s got a mission. He’s headed to the cross. It’s a much different mission than what everybody else had in mind for him. Everybody else’s agenda was to bring in Messiah, exalt Him, put Him up as king, and He’s gonna take Rome out. So, they were not expecting in any way this Messiah who was born to a girl named Mary. Raised in avery humble setting and then, least of all put on a cross. That’s not where the Messiah goes. So it made sense that people were not seeing Him as the Messiah. And so, when people did expose to that truth He said, „You wait, I’ve  got a mission that I’m on”.  So we see that over and over again.

Practical study advice: Keep up. Mark show Jesus constantly on the move – 41 times. If you ever think your life is busy, just pull out and read Mark chapter 1 and you’ll see a day in the life of Jesus. He starts preaching in the morning, finishes up the sermon there, and He goes home to some friends’ house,  the friend’s mom is sick so He heals her so she can get up and be a part of this afternoon, and then, all the town starts coming. And it says, the whole town lined up outside His door, to have demons cast out of them, to be healed of all their diseases, and so, all night He spent time healing everybody in the town. So, that’s one full day. The beauty of it is Mark 1:35 – Jesus got up very early in the morning and went to a solitary place, where He spent time with the Lord. That is the key. God help us to see Mark 1:35, that in the midst of a busy world, that we find ourselves in, that we go to a solitary place and that we spend time with the Father. Notice that almost 1/2 of his gospel is devoted to events of the last week of Jesus’s life. Overall structure, you see that based around the servant ministry.

Synoptic Gospels

basically, what synoptic means is to see together. And what we need to realize, when we come to the Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke are very similar to each other. They see the life and ministry of Christ in a very similar way. John is sort of an oddball. The confusion, basically centers around a couple of different questions.

  1. Is Mark the primary source for Matthew and Luke? In other words, is Mark the anchor from which Matthew and Luke wrote? There’s some evidence that would seem to point to that. 97% of Mark’s words are in Matthew. Out of about 660 verses, 600 are there. If you’ve read Matthew, you’ve got Mark covered. Different perspectives, different things emphasized, but it’s pretty much Mark +  = Matthew. Then you’ve got Luke. 88% of Mark’s words are in Luke. Now, there’s another theory that there’s an unknown source. That there was a foundation for these books and they call that foundation Q. Well, we’re not sure. And obviously the life and ministry of Christ wasn’t confined to what Matthew, Mark, Luke was saying about it. But, the overall theme we need to realize is they do come together pretty clearly, those 3. Matthew Mark and Luke did not write their Gospels in isolation from one another. They were connected together. 

luke

The Gospel of Luke

Luke was written by Luke, a gentile physician, he’s the only gentile author of the Bible. But this idea that he’s a physician, let me show you something. Go with me to Mark 5. Now, if Mark was somewhat of a foundation, these books were written from different perspectives. Mark 5:25-28 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Jesus goes on to heal her. That’s the story that Mark gives. Now, go over to Luke 8 and hear Luke’s version of the story, and what I want you to see if there are any differences in what Mark said and Luke said. Luke 8:42 As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. 43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. 44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, Do you notice what Luke wrote that Mark did not? Mark said, „She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors”. So Luke takes this and tells the story- you don’t have to slam the doctors, and so you see that left out in Luke. Mark decides the detail is important, Luke decides, for his own reputation, maybe this is not gonna be included. So, you see the different personalities coming out in these different stories.

D. Passion Week – Tuesday – Olivet Discourse

James Tissot painting Photo credit www.joyfulheart.com Jesus curses fig tree

  1. On the way back to Jerusalem in the morning the disciples see the withered fig tree.
  2. In Jerusalem there are more temple controversies, and then Jesus delivers the Olivet Discourse on the return back to Bethany.

„Olivet Discourse” is a name given to 4 special chapters in the Bible. It includes Matthew 24th-25th, Mark 13th and Luke 21st chapters. In all of these chapters Jesus speaks about the „End-Times” which will come upon humanity. Jesus gave these messages to the apostles while they were upon the Mount of Olives, hence the name: Olivet Discourse.

A study by Hampton Keathley IV at Bible.org

Introduction

You must be aware that these are probably the most debated parables in the Bible. Many of the books and journal articles and articles on the internet that I read said all the characters in these parables were believers. Instead of seeing that these are parables about salvation, they see them as parables about rewards or loss of rewards. It is the same argument that we dealt with a few weeks ago in our discussion of the marriage feast and the outer darkness.

Because of the context and because the punishment for the unfaithful is so severe, I see them as all dealing with salvation issues. But rewards are also taught.

These are extremely difficult parables to interpret. I’m tempted to just tell you what I think they mean and ignore all the other views, but I think it is good for you to hear the other interpretations and do your own wrestling with the details.

Context of Matthew 25

Olivet discourse – events of tribulation leading up to 2nd coming.

In Matt 24:36 Jesus begins to answer the question of when He will be returning.

It will be just like in Noah’s day when people didn’t believe Noah and were surprised when it started raining. In the same way, even when people are in the tribulation, experiencing the wrath of God, many are still not going to believe.

So, the when it says „two will be in the field, and one will be taken…” the one taken will be taken to judgment. And the appearance of the thief in the next section is to judge the unbelieving. They didn’t believe the thief was coming. They didn’t believe that God was coming to hold them accountable.

I think that this theme of judging the unbelieving is continued in these next four parables. Although the text doesn’t use the word believe, those that get judged all have actions that indicate they didn’t believe. And their judgment is severe: they get cut to pieces, locked outside, sent to the outer darkness, etc.

And in each parable those who are judged are contrasted to others who not only believed, but were prepared, faithful, fruitful, etc. And those got rewarded for their faithfulness.

We talked about it a couple weeks ago, but this is what some call „Matthew’s rejection imagery.” He always mixes rewards for some with eternal damnation for others, like it all happens at the same event. It sort of makes you wonder if perhaps it does? But then that would make us amillennial or something like that.

Anyway, I want to give you the plot up front. Because I’m going to be discussing other views mixed with my views (notice I didn’t say „the correct view”), I think it might be helpful to have the „Big Idea” in your heads as we study the parables.

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to go ahead and live our lives but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute. Because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone.

Wise and Evil Slaves contrasted

Matthew 24:45-51 also in Luke 12:41-48

Some say because these are slaves, they are both saved. And some say that there is only one slave in the parable. The slave starts off being faithful, but then changes later in life and becomes an unfaithful, evil slave. Dillow makes a big deal out of the word „that” in vs 48 saying that it proves that this is the same slave. And since the slave was once very faithful, he must now just be carnal. Since he was saved, he still is saved, but just carnal or unfaithful, he does not go to hell. He just loses rewards and is very sad.

But, concerning the idea that „since they are both slaves, they are both saved” – In all of Jesus’ parables he contrasts two or three people with the same social status. How else is he going to create tension and contrast? He always uses slaves and sons because God is the Master of all. Slaves and sons are the natural examples to represent this relationship between God and man. The idea behind all these parables is that humans have an equal opportunity to respond, believe, etc. Some do, and some don’t. And here’s what’s going to happen to them.

Concerning the idea that this is one slave who changes. The phrase „if that slave” does refer back to this hypothetical slave. This is not a story about a slave who later in life started backsliding. Jesus is just giving an example.

Jesus is saying: Let’s take a slave… If that slave does this… he will be rewarded. However, if that slave does this… he will be cut into pieces.

He is a wise slave if he believes and anticipates master’s return and faithfully carries out the master’s orders. If he does this, he will be rewarded.

He is an evil slave if he doesn’t believe his master will return.

If the slave takes no note of the coming return and deludes himself into thinking either it will never happen or that he will have time to reform, he will be severely punished. It says he will be cut to pieces.

I believe “cut off” may be a better translation because in Qumran literature this word is used for excommunication and being cut off from the rest of the group. And I think the idea of separation fits better with the context – the punishment that all the bad guys receive in this string of parables is separation from God. Either way, it is severe punishment. Perhaps too severe for a believer?

Application:

This represents a universal principle. If a person doesn’t really believe that there is a God who will hold them accountable when they die, they aren’t very likely to feel a need to “trust” in God or obey his commandments.

I’ve also heard of people who believed that there was a God and he would hold them accountable, but they didn’t want to change their lifestyle and figured they would just „get religion” later. This parable speaks to them too. You never know when God will return or if you will die in a car wreck tomorrow.

We also see the result is a lifestyle that is abusive (beat his fellow slaves) and destructive (eat and drink with drunkards.)

Speaking of „beating his fellow slaves.” Some say because he beat his fellow slaves then he must be saved because they were his fellow slaves. My question is „who else is a slave going to beat?” Free men? If he is going to be abusive to his fellow man, it has got to be another slave. We can’t read into this „a salvation relationship with God” because of his association with other slaves. Just like we can’t read into the passage that because we have two slaves, we have two saved people in view.

Ten Virgins

This is a much debated parable. No one can agree what anything means.

“Virgins” – Some say that they are called “virgins” to emphasize their purity and that this means all ten were Christians (Dillow). Most say they represent people in the tribulation.

“Lamps” People argue whether these were little bowl lamps or torches. Then they argue about what the lamps represent. Some think the lamps and their light represent knowledge. Stedman says the ladies each had light to start with. Which would equate to people having a certain degree of knowledge about the Lord’s return. But for five of them, that knowledge was just academic. It really hadn’t gripped them.

Others think the lamps represents works which are the believer’s „light” or testimony to the world.

The light was supplied by the oil, and therefore it was absolutely essential that they have an adequate supply of oil, otherwise their light would go out. So what does the oil represent.

“Oil” – Some say it is the Holy Spirit (Walvoord, Stedman), some say it is works, others say it is faith.

Here is an example of the type of reasoning you run across when reading the commentators.

In verse 3 we have one of the major interpretive problems of the parable. What does the olive-oil represent? There is a quick answer that suggest that the olive-oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. However that interpretation must be resisted because the Holy Spirit is a gift and cannot be bought. The instructions to go and buy some more would make no sense at all in the case of the Holy Spirit. I think the answer must be found in seeing that the oil is only important when it is set on fire. In other words when it is giving light. The symbol of light rather than oil helps us because then we realize that Jesus is talking about the good works of the believer which he/she does before men which constitutes them the light of the world. The foolish virgins had no oil therefore they had no works with which to greet the bride-groom.1

His argument against this being the Holy Spirit because you can’t buy the Holy Spirit doesn’t make any sense. You can’t buy works or faith either. So that is no argument. It is a good example of one’s conclusion driving his reasons. When I come across a paragraph like that, it makes me want to stop reading the rest of the paper because I question the validity of any of his arguments.

If you think the oil is works, then you have to decide if the five foolish ladies were saved or not. If they were not saved, then the lack of works proved that they were not saved (lordship view). And not getting into the banquet is the same as not getting into heaven.

If you think the ladies were saved, then you will say that the ladies didn’t get any rewards. And that the banquet represents rewards or reigning with Christ (Free Grace view).

Some say that the foolish virgins had oil to start with (Dillow) and so had faith and so were saved. But others argue that that is not necessarily so (Walvoord). It says they rose, trimmed their lamps and lit them. But since they did not have oil in them, they immediately went out. So, it is more probable that they didn’t have any oil to start with.

What do I think?

Because this parable starts off with “the kingdom of heaven is like…” I think it is a salvation parable. Matthew uses this phrase eleven times and in the other parables where this phrase is used, the parables are about salvation and getting into the kingdom of heaven. Maybe I should say that out of these eleven parables. They are clearly about salvation or debated. None are clearly not about salvation.

The term virgins is not significant. The idea is just that they were young unmarried ladies. The term “virgin” was often used that way. Perhaps bridesmaids would be a better term.

Five are prepared – have their own oil. Five are unprepared – couldn’t borrow oil. I think that the symbolism is that you can’t get into heaven with someone else’s faith.

Banquet imagery to an Israelite is a reference to kingdom with God and His bride, Israel. This is not the Bema and wedding feast with Christ and Church. Remember the context is judgment at the 2nd coming, not the rapture.

The five were left outside (never made it in banquet hall as in Matt 22). So if you go to Matt 22 and make a big deal about the fact that the guy without wedding clothes made it into the banquet and was therefore saved, then those that argue that the virgins are saved (to be consistent with their interpretation of Matt 22) have to reconcile the fact that here they didn’t get in.

The Lord didn’t know them – cf. Matt 7:21 which is the same statement and those clearly do not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Once the door was closed, it was too late to enter. Those who are shut out miss not simply a fine meal, but also the kingdom itself. Similar imagery to Luke 13:22–29 which talks about the narrow door, not being known by the Lord, banquet imagery and weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Application:

Where the last parable taught that the Lord could return sooner than expected, this one teaches that there may be quite a delay before the Lord returns. We know that in fact there has been. It’s been almost 2,000 years so far. Both the wise and foolish virgins slept. But they are not condemned for it. Perhaps the point is that we need to go ahead and live our lives. Not sell everything and go wait on the mountain top for the Lord’s return.The main point of the parable is that even if it might be a long time before the Lord returns, don’t wait until the last minute to get prepared, because you never know when that last minute will be and you may miss out.

And I think preparation is faith.

Talents

Another Kingdom of heaven is like parable – “it is like” refers back to 25:1 – Some try to say this is different because 25:14 doesn’t say “kingdom,” but the “it” has to have an antecedent. What else are you going to link the “it” to?

Big debate is whether or not the slaves represent saved people or not. Some try to argue that since they were all slaves, they were all saved. We’ve already dealt with that assumption.

But, there is a big contrast going on between the first two slaves and the third slave. The third slave did not know the master. He thought he understood what was required of him, but he was wrong. Maybe it is like the person who thinks he will get into heaven for being mostly good.

When confronted by the master, this wicked slave argued beligerantly and attempted to make his laziness a necessity and a virtue. By defaming the master, portraying him as one who enriched himself by exploiting others, he attempted to excuse his own actions. When I read his response, my thought is this: There may be shame at the Bema seat when Christ reveals our deeds, but not defiance. Does this sound like a Christian at the Bema seat? Does it sound like he “knows” the Master? Therefore, I have difficulty thinking that this third slave is saved.

This man seems to have given in to some cunning reasoning. It is much like the thinking of Judas Iscariot when he sold his Lord. Judas reasoned, if He is really the Messiah, my betrayal will not hurt anything and I will get my money from the High Priest. If He is not the Messiah, then at least I get the money. This one-talent man reasoned somewhat the same way. His lord was going on a far journey. If the servant put the money in the bank, he would have to register it in his lord’s name. Then when his lord did not come back, his heirs could claim it. He reasoned, however, that if be buried it in the backyard, there would be no record. If his master did not come back, the servant would have it for himself. If he does come back, he could not accuse him of dishonesty because he could produce the talent. It was a cunning that was built upon uncertainty that the Lord was returning. He just did not believe that his lord was coming back. If he had, he would have handled the money differently. This is what the lord meant when be said that he was a wicked servant.2

The mixture of rewards and judgment – fits Matthew’s rejection imagery. He usually globs these together like an OT prophet did when looking at the 1st and 2nd advents of Christ. Also, the Bible talks about rewards and loss of rewards (1 Cor 3:15) at Bema, not rewards and judgment. So, I think we must be careful not to say that, because some got rewards, we are at the Bema and all were saved, and the third guy just lost rewards. I think his punishment is too severe.

The description of the servant’s attitude suggests something qualitatively different from the other two servants found faithful. There is a definite contrast going on here. The works are indicative of the relationship with the master. The third slave had no works which in the gospels is the same as having no faith.

Free grace people balk at this statement because Lordship people think the logical conclusion is that one has to have good works to prove that he is saved. In the gospels we do have statements like when Jesus says, “Why do you call me Lord and do not do what I say?” But when we read Paul we get in to issues such as carnality, getting to heaven as though through fire, etc. So we know that works don’t always follow. But when we are dealing with parables, we need to let them use their terminology.

Sheep and Goats

We see the Son of Man coming in glory with his angels. This is the second coming, not the rapture.

Judgment results in entrance to heaven or being sent to hell.

The rejection of the goats was not based on what they did, but on what they failed to do. It was a sin of omission toward “the least of these” (cf. the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19–31). God abhors not simply the performing of sinful acts but also the omission of deeds. Failure to do good is in fact to do evil. In addition the free gift of grace (as represented in Matt 20:1–16) has to be reconciled with the role of works (as here in 25:31–46 {Matt 25}). The works are the fruit that demonstrates the reality of the conversion of one’s heart. The love shown by these deeds of mercy springs from true faith. As Walvoord affirms, “What is presented here is not the basis or ground of salvation but the evidence of it…. Accordingly, while works are not the ground of justification for salvation, they can be the fruit or evidence of it.”

Since our section started off with judgment resulting in hell and Since it is clear from this parable that they are judged by their works and sent to hell for not having the works – which represent faith – why do people have such a difficult time believing that the parables in between say the same basic thing?

Summary

In summary several points are worth highlighting.

First, in each parable the judgment occurs at the consummation of this age. While the timing of that event is unknown, each follower is to be ready for and anticipate the coming kingdom.

Second, the essential nature of the judgment is soteriological. The judgment will render decisions that are eternal in nature, reflecting the status of each human being with regard to his or her eternal relationship to the kingdom. Phrases such as “the darkness outside,” the “fiery furnace,” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” describe eternal separation from the kingdom. They are not simply expressions of grief over a Christian life that did not count for much in the kingdom, for they are figures and phrases representing an eternal exclusion from the presence of God. With this in view, it has been suggested that salvation in these parables is viewed as a “whole,” not simply as a point of entry. The “sons of the kingdom” and the “sons of the evil one” (Matt 13:38) are on opposite sides of the soteriological divide. There is no room for purgatory, universalism, or a view that some may miss the heavenly “banquet” while yet retaining a right to entry into the kingdom (i.e. “salvation,” in Pauline terms). Those who are rejected are permanently excluded.

Third, the basis for this eternal judgment is the individual’s works. In some cases the emphasis is on faithfulness to a job assigned: perhaps in a picture of preparation for an event, or a picture of the fruit of the believer. But however it was pictured, works were the key to the judgment.

What complicates the problem is that the decision for rejection or acceptance is presented as a soteriological decision based on these works. Such a judgment is highlighted by the parables of the Wheat and the Tares (perhaps along with the Narrow Door and the Virgins) in which those who appear to fit into the proper categories do not do so (even when they think they do) since they were not properly prepared for the kingdom. Perhaps the clearest example is the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, in which eternal life and eternal perdition are the options meted out based on how people treated the followers of the Son of Man.

Works are not separated from the faith one exercises for entrance to the kingdom for works are evidence of that faith. A true change of heart will be reflected in a person’s life. A lack of that change is apparently enough to prevent entrance into the eschatological kingdom (the goats are prohibited from entrance because of their actions while the sheep are given entrance because of their works); but works are never ultimately separated from the faith of the individual, for it was also shown that works are not in themselves enough to impress the Son of Man positively in His role as judge (cf. Matt 7:21–23).

Paul wrote with different emphases in mind, focusing clearly on the entrance requirements into salvation, namely, justification by faith. While the Synoptics support the role of faith in establishing one’s relationship with God (usually in phrases such as “repent and believe the gospel”), they tend to emphasize the whole life of faith for the believer. In other words the life of a follower of Jesus is to be a constant exercise of faith in order to obey and please God. Paul clearly recognized this same truth, for he knew that something started by faith cannot be perfected by works (the burden of Galatians).

Conclusion

These parables are designed to teach the immanent return of Christ. It could be real soon, or it could be a long time away. But either way, we need to be go ahead and live our lives (sleep like the virgins did) but stay prepared. We need to live and work like the master is going to be back any minute (like the faithful servant did), because we are going to be rewarded for how hard we worked while he was gone (parable of talents).

B. Palm Sunday – (3/3) Jesus Declares His Kingship

You can listen to the audio here from Desiring God, John Piper.

Matthew 21:1-17

When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, „Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3 „If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: 5 „SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, ‘BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'” 6 The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8 Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9 The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, „Hosanna to the Son of David; BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Hosanna in the highest!” 10 When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, „Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, „This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” 12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13 And He said to them, „It is written, ‘MY HOUSE SHALL BE CALLED A HOUSE OF PRAYER’; but you are making it a ROBBERS’ DEN.” 14 And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, „Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant 16 and said to Him, „Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, „Yes; have you never read, ‘OUT OF THE MOUTH OF INFANTS AND NURSING BABIES YOU HAVE PREPARED PRAISE FOR YOURSELF’?” 17 And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

What I would like to do this morning is help you hear Jesus’ own declaration of his kingship. I want you to see from Matthew 21:1-17 how Jesus says, „I am your king.” And I would like to do it in a way that makes sure you see the nature of his kingship now and the different nature of his kingship when he comes a second time. And I want you to see and feel the difference because the nature of Jesus’ kingship now is creating a season of salvation in world history during which you can still switch sides and be saved from his wrath and judgment. There is still time – even now this morning – when you can accept the amnesty that King Jesus holds out to you, and renounce your allegiance to self and success and money and family and physical pleasure and security – and whatever else rules you more than Jesus. And you can bow and receive Christ as your King and swear allegiance to him, and be on his side with everlasting joy.

The Kingship of Jesus Will Look Different Than It Does Now

To help you feel the wonder of this brief season of salvation in world history – and yes I say brief, though it has lasted 2000 years; compared to how long we will exist in heaven or hell, it is very brief – to feel the wonder of this brief season of salvation in world history consider that the day is coming, and perhaps soon, when the kingship of Jesus will very different than it is now. Here is a description of that kingship, as John saw it in the last book of the Bible:

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, „KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:11-16)

When the kingship of Jesus appears in the skies like that, it will be too late to switch sides. „Behold, now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation'” (2 Corinthians 6:2). I believe that is what Matthew is trying to say to us this morning in the way Jesus proclaims his kingship in Matthew 21:1-17. What he wants us to hear – what Jesus wants us to see – is that, yes, he is king, yes his kingship is not provincial or tribal or national, but international and global and universal. But it is for now meek, lowly, welcoming, seeking, forgiving, patient. He will, in a matter of days, shed his own blood to save all who will accept his free gift of amnesty and come over to his side. And until he comes again this is the wonder of his kingship. It saves sinners.

So let’s watch him make this declaration. I just want you to see him. I want you to hear him. Rivet your attention on Jesus this morning. He will win you. He will heal you. He will save you.

There are four ways that Jesus declares his kingship in this triumphal entry. All of them are Jewish. He was a Jew, and he was fulfilling Jewish promises of a coming king and Messiah. But all them are bigger than Jewish. Remember this gospel is going to end in chapter 28 with the words, „All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 28:18-19). Jesus knows that he is the king over all nations, not just Israel.

So let’s listen and watch as he declares himself King of the Jews and King of the nations.

1. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Riding on a Donkey (Zech. 9:9)

First, notice Matthew 21:1-5. Jesus sends two of his disciples to get a donkey. Verse 2: „Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me.” Why? What is he doing? Why does he want a ride into Jerusalem on a donkey? Never before has he done such a thing. Matthew tells us why in verses 4-5, „This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to the daughter of Zion [that is, to Israel], „Behold your king is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”‘”

This is a quote from the prophet Zechariah (9:9). Jesus has chosen to act out the fulfillment of this prophecy and to declare his kingship in the action of riding on a donkey. This means, yes, I am king, for that’s what the prophet says it means: „Behold your king.” „But,” he is saying, „I am gentle and lowly. I am not, in my first coming, on a white war-horse with a sword and a rod of iron. I am not coming to slay you. I am coming to save you. This time. Today is the day of salvation.

But is he only coming for the „daughter of Zion,” Israel? Listen to the context in Zechariah 9:9-10 – and Jesus knew the context –

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion [his kingship] will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.

That’s declaration number one. Jesus very intentionally acts out the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 and declares his humble, gentile, saving, Jewish and global kingship. And invites you to receive it.

2. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Cleansing the Temple (Isa. 56:7)

Second, in verses 12-13 Jesus acts out another Old Testament text. It says he „entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.” Don’t think that this meek, gentle, lowly Savior-King was without passion for his Father’s glory!

Then to explain what he is doing he quotes Isaiah 56:7. Verse 13: „And He said to them, ‘It is written, „My house shall be called a house of prayer;” but you are making it a robbers’ den.'” There are two things that make this action and this Old Testament quote so significant. One is that the context in Isaiah is about the coming kingdom of God, and so Jesus is putting himself in the position of the coming king. And the other is that the context is global, not just Jewish. Listen to Isaiah 56:6-8.

Also the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord. . . 7 Even those I will bring to My holy mountain And make them joyful in My house of prayer. . . . For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” 8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, „Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”

So when Jesus chooses a prophetic word to interpret his action in the temple, he chooses one that underlines his coming on a donkey as king and the fact that his kingship is „for all the peoples.” It’s for you this morning. He is jealous to open his Father’s house to you for prayer.

3. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Healing (Isa. 35:4-6)

Third, in verse 14 it says, „And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them.” Imagine what an impact this must have had. We are talking about the most public place in the city – the temple. We are talking about blind people, and people who can’t walk – lame, paralyzed people. Not people with headaches and sore throats. This was a public demonstration of something. What?

We’ve already been told at least once. When John the Baptist was in jail he sent and asked Jesus, „Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” In other words, are you the coming king of Israel, the Messiah? And Jesus sent this word back to John in Matthew 11:4-5, „Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk.” In other words, „Yes. I am the coming king.”

Why? Why does the healing of the blind and the lame in the temple after coming into Jerusalem on a donkey mean: I am the coming king? Because in Isaiah 35 the prophet describes the coming kingship of the Messiah like this: ” Take courage, fear not. . . . The recompense of God will come, But He will save you. Then the eyes of the blind will be opened. And . . . Then the lame will leap like a deer” (35:4-6).

Jesus comes on a donkey, lowly and gentle and patient; he comes cleansing his Father’s house to make it a house of prayer for all the nations; he comes healing the blind and the lame – all to show what his kingship is now in part, and will be fully in the age to come. It is not just a kingship over other kings, but over disease and all nature. We will not just be safe and sick when he comes. We will be safe and whole – absolutely whole. Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation. Trust him. Receive his amnesty. Become his subject.

4. Jesus Declares His Kingship by His Response to Children (Psa. 8)

Finally, Jesus declares his kingship by the way he responds to what the people and the children are doing and saying. In verse 8 the crowds are spreading their cloaks on the road in front of him. This is what they did when kings were crowned in the Old Testament (2 Kings 9:13). In verse 9 the crowds were shouting, „Hosanna [salvation!] to the Son of David [the hoped for king like David]; ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.'” (These are words from Psalm 118:25-26.)

Then in verse 15 the children were shouting the same things: „Hosanna to the Son of David.” In other words, „The king is here, the king is here!” But the chief priests became angry. So they said in verse 16, „Do You hear what these children are saying?” Now I think they could just as easily have said, „Did you hear what those crowds said? Did you see what they were doing when they put their cloaks on the ground?” They can’t believe Jesus is letting all this stand unchallenged.

Jesus answers their question with one simple word. And then an absolutely astonishing quote from Psalm 8. They say, „Do you hear what these children are saying?” And he answers in verse 16b, „Yes.” „Yes, I do. I not only hear it. I planned it. And I receive it. I would gladly receive it from you. And he would gladly receive it from us!”

Then, he ends this section by quoting Psalm 8, „Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?” What is so astonishing about this is that it refers to God. „O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! 2 From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength [or: praise] Because of Your adversaries.” Don’t miss this. Jesus receives the praises of little children and then explains it by quoting a psalm where children are praising God.

The King Has Come and Is Coming

So here is the concluding declaration and invitation: Jesus came the first time, and he is coming again, as the king over all kings. King of Israel, king of all the nations, king of nature and the universe. Until he comes again, there is a day of amnesty and forgiveness and patience. He still rides a donkey and not yet a white war-horse with a rod of iron. He is ready to save all who receive him as Savior and Treasure and King. Come to him. Know him. Receive him. Live your life in allegiance to him.

By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Who wrote the Gospels? Are there good reasons to attribute their authorship to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Essential Apologetics

I have posted this about a year ago, and I think it is a very good study on Gospel authenticity, as it is very detailed, so I am reposting it here together with my transcript of the entire session. This is one of those MUST READ/WATCH lectures because in most colleges in the US, your son or daughter’s religion class will teach your children that the synoptic Gospels are not authentically written by their authors, and they will date them much later than most scholars have agreed to date them and present their view as historically accurate.

Matthew, Mark, Luke & John’s Gospels ‘wordled’ (TNIV version). Wordle – Someone generated this “word cloud” from the text of the 4 Gospels. The cloud gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.

by Dr. Timothy McGrew (PhD Philosophy from Vanderbilt University), currently Professor, Department of Philosophy, Western Michigan University.

Video Intro from Dr. McGrew:

I teach at a secular university and one of  things that I see constantly is young people coming to university from our churches, good churches, Bible teaching churches, and falling away from their faith at the university. It is my contention that what we have given our young people is not what they needed: Bible stories, entertainment, even some devotional thoughts, but, they’re not being prepared for WAR. And, we’re sending them out with rubber swords and plastic armor and that is not enough. I always like to pick a Bible verse for a motto, and here I picked Deuteronomy 32:7: Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations, ask your father and he will show you, your elders and they will tell you

If you hop online, in 5 minutes, you can find some of the wildest theories that have ever been invented. In this lecture Dr. McGrew is trying to show the genuineness of the Gospels. He defines

Authenticity and Genuineness

  • an ancient historical work is authentic if it gives a substantially  truthful account of the events it reports.

Authenticity is what we want in an historical document; we want to know if what it says is substantially true.

  • an ancient historical work is genuine if it was actually written by the person to whom it is attributed.

Showing the document is genuine helps to establish that it is authentic because it helps to rule out rival theories (e.g. that the document is a late mythical composition)

Dr. McGrew does 2 things in this lecture. First, he examines the genuineness of the Gospel, of it being the product of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, „just like they say”. Second, he considers the principal arguments of some people who dispute the genuineness of the Gospels.

The way Dr. McGrew argues that the historical evidence favors the traditional position. In making his argument, Dr. McGrew does not depend at all on the inspiration of Scripture, although he does in fact believe that the Scripture is inspired by God, but, in making the argument, he appeals only to evidence and criteria that can be applied to any historical document. He does not use theology to support his arguments (which is what Christians need to learn to do when arguing with atheists/non believers).

Point of departure when you walk into a University

The two statements below, made by Bart Ehrman and Richard Dawkins are taken as „point of departure” (foundational) in universities.

Bart Ehrman – a former Pastor, now an apostate, who considers himself to be an agnostic inclined towards atheism. He is the principle guy people will go to if they are looking for a negative verdict on Scripture because he has been urning out enormously popular books aimed at sort of a church level audience, undermining fundamental points of faith. Here’s what he says about the Gospel: „Some books, such as the Gospels,… had been written anonymously, only later to be ascribed to certain authors, who probably did not write the (ascribed to apostles and friends of the apostles). From Jesus Interrupted 2009 pp 101-102

Richard Dawkins – (a) The Gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life. (b) Nobody knows who the four evangelists were, but they almost certainly never met Jesus personally. From The God Delusion 2006.

About this video:

Dr. Timothy McGrew lays out the case for the traditional authorship of the Gospels, while countering Bart Ehrman’s claims that the Gospels are forgeries. This is one hour of content followed by twenty minutes of Q&A. Uploaded by 

Augustine Against Faustus  33 6 (~400 AD)

Around 400 AD, Faustus was the first to systematically challenge that the Gospels were written by the men to whom they are ascribed. Here’s Augustine’s criterion for authorship: „Why does no one doubt the genuineness of the books attributed to Hippocrates? Because there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which makes it unreasonable either now or in the hereafter to have any doubt on the subject. How do we know the authorship of the works by Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence? And the chain of evidence is exactly what he says we have for our Gospels. Here’s some of the evidence:

The Early Attestation of Authorship of the Gospels

  • Tertullian of Carthage (~207) Tertullian writes: „The Gospels were written by Matthew and John, who were apostles, and Luke and Mark, who were apostolic men. Mark’s Gospel is the record of Peter’s preaching. They tell the same basic facts about Jesus, including His virgin birth and his fulfillment of prophecy. They bore the names of their authors from antiquity and the ancient churches vouch for them and no others.” 

McGrew: So, Tertullian, writing just around the 200’s (AD) that „these books bear names and have been handed down to us, this is a tradition we received from far back”. And, that the ancient Church at Corinth, the Church at Rome, the churches that received letters from Paul (Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians); these ancient churches vouch for these Gospels and the authorship of these Gospels.

Why is Tertullian saying this? He is criticizing a heretic sect founded by a fellow named Marcion, who really hated the Old Testament and hated Judaism. (McGrew talks about how in Matthew you can find many references to fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies as one example of what Marcion rejected in the Gospels). Marcion wanted nothing to do with the Old Testament or anything Jewish. So Marcion took the Gospel of Luke and trimmed out any OT or Jewish reference and published the rest of Luke in the 130’s AD. Marcion was very well off. He gathered a following and after his death, his followers kept on going. At around 200 AD Tertullian tells them they are following a false Gospel.

  • Clement of Alexandria (~180) Clement was a great teacher and head of a school in Alexandria, Egypt. He writes: Mark wrote his Gospel by request of his knowledge of Peter’s preaching at Rome. Matthew and Luke were published first; they are the Gospels that contain the genealogies. John’s Gospel was written at the urging of friends.
  • Irenaeus of Lyons (~180) Iraneus was a bishop in France (very far away from Egypt and Clement) He writes: Matthew’s Gospel was the first written, it was originally written in the „Hebrew dialect” (Aramaic). Mark, a disciple of Peter, handed down in his Gospel what Peter had preached. Luke, a companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Joh, the disciple of the Lord, published a Gospel while living at Ephesus in Asia.
  • Muratorion Fragment (~170) This is a damaged manuscript that gives us a catalog of books that tells us something about the authors. The first page or so is lost because it starts with saying  Thirdly, Luke.… and it keeps on going.  So, it’s a pretty good guess that the first 2 pages were probably about Matthew and Mark. He writes: Luke, the physician and companion of Paul, wrote his gospel from the reports of others, since he has not personally seen Jesus. John, who was an eyewitness, wrote his Gospel after the rest, at the urging of some friends.

McGrew: There is no dissenting views and virtually nothing contrary to show because there is no other tradition about the authors of the Gospels. The unanimous testimony of the Church coming down through the ages, coming towards the apostolic times is behind this traditional ascription to Matthew and Mark and Luke and John.

  • Justin Martyr (~150) Justin writes: The Christians possessed „memoirs” of Jesus which were so called „Gospels”. These were written by apostles and by those who were their followers. They tell us of such events as the visit of the Magi and His agony in Gethsemane. Justin’s pupil, Tatian, produced a harmony of the four Gospels, the Diatessaron.

McGrew: Up until the middle of the 19th century we didn’t have a copy that anybody knew about of the Diatessaron. In 1888 a copy surfaced. It was actually always around, however, no one ever translated it and therefore no one knew what it was until 1888. This document opens with, „In the beginning the word was …” and continues with John’s entire prologue and writes a harmony of the 4 Gospels. So, Justin Martyr was quoting from the Diatessaron, which means all four Gospels, including John’s (which is usually attacked as being written hundreds of years after the fact) are not only in existence before the year 150 , but in use.

The apostle John died right around the turn of the century (~100) at extreme old age. He was probably in his teens when he was a disciple of Jesus. So the first reference  comes within one generation of the life of the apostle John. We have to understand that we are at the mercy of whatever literature has survived. A lot of it was written on papyrus and time and weather are not kind to papyrus. Unless it is in an extremely dry environment, it deteriorates and it’s gone.

  • Papias of Hierapolis (~125) Papias is recorded for us in Eusebius’ History. Eusebius was a voracious librarian. He put together all kinds of sources, some of which we’ve now lost. except for what was preserved in him. He gives us a couple of fragments from Papias. Papias writes: Mark, having been the interpreter of Peter, wrote down what Peter had preached accurately, though, not necessarily in order. Matthew wrote the oracles (a reference to his whole Gospel? to the sayings of Jesus?) in the Hebrew language.

Attestation of Authorship Summary of Facts

The attestation of authorship is not only significant and early, it is also geographically diverse, coming from every quarter of the Roman Empire:

– Tertullian in Carthage
– Clement in Alexandria
– Irenaus in France
– Papias in Asia Minor

Dr. McGrew: There is no rival tradition of authorship for any of the four Gospels.  In any field other than biblical studies that would be enough. The Bible is always held to a standard that is higher than the standard of any other work would be held to. So let’s look at more evidence:

Assessing Genuineness – External Tests

  • External Tests – Attributions of Authorship is strong and consistent.
  • Early use in other works –  Many early writers make use of the Gospel without naming or describing the authors (Ex. in preaching, or making exhortations, etc).This evidence takes us back even earlier than the evidence of attribution.

For these authors to make use of the Gospels as authoritative sources, means that they expected their audience to recognize their quotations and allusions and to accept them as authentic. Here’s some examples:

  1. Ignatius, Letter to Polycarp (~107): In all circumstances be ‘wise as a serpent’ and perpetually ‘harmless as a dove’. Cf Matthew 10:16.
  2. Polycarp, Letter to Philippians (~108): „Blessed are the poor and those persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of God”. Luke 6:20
  3. The witness of Basilides (~125) an agnostic heretic using quotes from the Gospel of John writes: that each man has his own appointed time, he (Basilides) says, ” The Savior sufficiently indicates when he says, ‘My hour has not yet come’„. John 2:4 and
  4. …this he (Basilides) says is what is mentioned in the Gospels, „He was the ‘light which lights every man coming into the world’„.Cf John 1:9
  • Early use – external evidence
  1. Polycarp, Letter to Philippians (~108) quotes from or alludes to verses from : Matthew, Mark, Luke, Acts, Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1 Peter. Polycarp sat at the feet of the apostle John when he was a young man. He then passed on the Gospel to his own disciples when he was an old man. One of Polycarp’s people was Iraneus of Lyons. This unbroken chain takes us back to the very disciples themselves (John).
  • Early use – summary of facts
  1. The four Gospels and Acts are used copiously by the early church fathers
  2. Even heretics tacitly acknowledged their genuineness, which they would not have done if they could help it.
  3. Justin Martyr, in his first Apology-on the reading of Scripture: „And, on the day called Sunday, all who live in the cities and in the country, gather together in one place and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits.” First Apology ch 67.  For the Gospels to be read as Scripture in weekly services, they must have been extremely highly regarded and well known to Christians throughout the world.

On a side note, did you know this author Thucydides c. 460 BC – c. 395 BC) was a Greek historian who is not mentioned once in any other writing for 250 years from the time of his existence? From a historical standpoint, the evidence for the Gospels isn’t just good, it’s great!

for more please visit The Library of Historical Apologetics at http://historicalapologetics.org/

After you view this video, you may want to read these  additional  articles:

  1. The Rationality of the Christian Worldview
  2. Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels I
  3. Does archaeology support the Synoptic Gospels II
  4. John Piper – How Are the Synoptics „Without Error”?
  5. The Real Roots of the Emergent Church (a documentary)
  6. Why I am not an atheist – Ravi Zacharias
  7. Belief in an age of skepticism – Tim Keller at University of California at Berkeley

(The Last Days) Don’t Get Drunk with Worldiness by Zac Poonen

Zac Poonen video messages from his visit to a Romanian church in Washington state –

  1. Sex is the biggest problem confronting teenagers – Sexul e cea mai mare problema cu care se confrunta tinerii – Zac Poonen la Biserica Penticostala Kenmore (Seattle)
  2. Zac Poonen – Promises of God – Promisiunile si Poruncile lui Dumnezeu (tradus)2012/11/14
  3. Zac Poonen – Q & A – Intrebari si Raspunsuri (1)2012/11/12
  4. Zac Poonen – Q & A – Intrebari si Raspunsuri (2)2012/11/13

photo via avbiblebaptist.org 

A lot of people are interested in escaping hell,

but, are not interested in escaping sin, while on this earth. 

Are you all about drinking, partying, shopping? Keeping up with the others? Then, that day is going to take you by complete surprise. It’ll spring on you, suddenly, like a trap. And, it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at the same time. So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep spiritually. Keep alert at all times. Pray constantly. How do you do that? How can you be on alert at all times? It doesn’t mean we can’t do our job and the many responsibilities we have for our family. It’s a spiritual alertness, that’s always there, at the back of our mind, while we are doing many other things. In a computer, there are certain programs always running in the background, while the computer is working on other things. It’s checking out for viruses. Our mind is sharper than any computer. It’s really like a computer in one sense, but a million times better. And, there’s a lot of things that can go on in the background, while  we’re doing our other things, exactly like a computer. Like checking for earthly viruses that are coming in. How foolish to take care of a computer that lasts a little while, and you don’t take care of  viruses that can destroy your entire future.

Always alert- and prayer means having a dependence on God, all the time. Saying, „Lord, I don’t have the strength to overcome all these things. Lord, I don’t have the strength to overcome deception, because it’s so subtle.” Jesus said, „Deception will be so subtle, that even, perhaps, the elect could be deceived. Imagine what Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23 about people doing miracles in Jesus’s name, and people casting out demons in Jesus’s name, and people prophesying in Jesus’s name- Many! And He’ll say to them, in the last day, „Depart from Me. I never knew you.” (Not, once upon a time, I knew you, and you backslid). But, „I never knew you.” Because you never gave up sin in your life. You read that in Matthew 7:22-23, that in the last day when you will stand before the Lord, He’s gonna say that to many people. I don’t want him to say that to me. (These 2 paragraphs were excerpted from the full message – Read in FULL below the video)

One of the mistakes that early church missionaries made in China was that they told the Christians there that Christ will come before the tribulation. And so, everybody was ready for that, and instead of Christ coming, the communists came and took over the country. And, some of those Chinese leaders said, „The reason why so many Chinese christians renounced Christ and forsook Him at that time was because they were not prepared. It’s important for us to be ready, it is much more important than the details of His second coming. (3:00) Then we can ask, „Why has God given vague details, which people can interpret in various ways?…  All types of things have gone on in the name of Christ, particularly in the last 150 years. But, you’ll never go wrong, if you listen to what the Lord says: To be ready for His coming. And, it doesn’t matter when it is.

Be on guard

LUKE 21 34 Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

Luke 21 Straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draweth near. I take it like this: A true disciple of Jesus has got his head lifted up at all times. It’s never hanging down in defeat, and in depression, and gloom, and occupied with earthly things. Look around at animals, always having their heads down. For them it is food, sex, and sleep. When you pursue only food, sex, and sleep, I am sorry, but you reduce yourself to the level of an animal. Unfortunately, you see a lot of human beings whose heads are not lifted up; their heads are down. One of the first questions God asked a man (Cain), outside the Garden of Eden, was, „Why is your face fallen?” Cain had something wrong in his heart towards somebody else. But, Jesus said, „We must walk with our heads lifted up, because He is our glory and the lifter of our head. If your head is not lifted because of some earthly reason, ask the Lord to lift up your head. It is not only those who have no problems. It has pleased the Lord to take me through many trials, but He’s taught me to lift up my head, and not sink because of those trials, but walk on top of the water, because that is His power that can keep us. We can’t do it without Him.

Luke 21:34 „Be on guard.” He said that often in relation to the last days. Jesus said His coming will be so sudden. He said His coming would be like a thief in the night. So, we have got to be on our guard. That’s why the Bible says that, we, God’s people, are not going to find Christ coming like that of a thief. I want to show you in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 „You, yourselves know full well, that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. And while everyone in the night is saying peace and safety, destruction will come”. Suddenly, everything will fall apart. You know, we’re living in a world, and it’s coming into the cities in India too, where people have become rich and they say, „Hey, we’ve got it made now, finally. And now we can take it easy. Suddenly, everything is going to fall apart. Now, be ready for that. The Lord said that a lot of people who put their trust in currency and bank accounts, and stock markets, in real estate, and in their secure jobs- I wanna tell you: Everything’s gonna fall apart. I’m not trying to scare you; I’m just trying to get you ready for that day- to keep your head lifted up and trusting in the Lord and things will not fall apart in your life, no matter what happens around you. So, when people say, „Finally, we’ve got it made now. Suddenly, everything will fall apart. It will come as suddenly and inescapably as birth pangs of a woman. She knows she’s going to deliver, but the actual moment of delivery comes suddenly. Verse 4 – But, you brethren are not in darkness, that day should overtake you like a thief. So the coming of the Lord like a thief in the night is for the unbelievers. We read that the wise virgins, physically they were asleep, but their lamps (spiritually) were burning.

Spiritual drunkenness

When it says, „Be on guard,” how do I ensure my light’s going to be burning, and my head’s going to be lifted up? „Be on guard, so that your heart will not be weighted down with drunkenness.”  Now, I can understand physical drunkenness- let none of us ever get drunk- but, there is another drunkenness Jesus speaks about- of the heart. How can you tell a man is drunk? Externally, you can see that he can’t walk steadily. He can’t walk a straight line. Spiritually also, it’s something like that. You know your drunk with the world when you can’t walk straight with the world. There’s a bit of crookedness in your life. You can’t walk straight, you can’t have your eyes fixed on the things above. You are sometimes here and sometimes there. And then you know you’re drunk. (12:30)

Another characteristic of a drunken man is that he really doesn’t know what’s happening around him. You can steal his money and he won’t even know it. He’s so drunk, that he’s in another world. The real world is not real to him. If this were written today, it would be: Don’t get drugged in your heart. When a person is on drugs, and he is on a high, he is living in another world. The real world is not real to him. And, when a Christian lives in a way, where the real world (the real world, by the way, is in heaven) is not real to him; but, another world which is unreal (this earthly world) is real to him, you know he’s drunk.  I made that rule for myself: That when the things of this earth are more real to me than the things of heaven, I’m drunk. And, I never want to be drunk. Are you drunk? You say, „Only once in a while.” Well, most drunken people are not drunk every day. They’re drunk only once in a while.

Are you drunk spiritually? He’s speaking about your heart’s weighing down with drunkenness. The heart- you can’t walk steady anymore. A worldly christian doesn’t say: This world’s gonna pass away. He says: I’m gonna live for this world. I don’t believe that there’s another world. Even the religious people, they just ease their conscience by going to a church, or a temple, or a mosque- just in case. To keep God happy, by giving Him a tip every now and then. To most people, their religion is like that. I tell you, most Christians are like that too- they’re reading the Bible, or going to church, or whatever they do is like giving a tip to God. Just keep Him happy, cause one day, after you die, He’s gotta help you. That’s not christianity. Far from it, and if any of you think that by doing that, it makes you a Christian, (you are) living in a world of delusion, deluding yourself. Jesus only spoke of whole hearted, radical disciples, for whom God is everything. When God created man, the very first commandment  is „Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.” And Jesus says, „If you don’t keep that, what’s the use of keeping all these other things?” (18:00)

Are you all about drinking, partying, shopping? Keeping up with the others? Then, that day is going to take you by complete surprise. It’ll spring on you, suddenly, like a trap. And, it’s going to come on everyone, everywhere, at the same time. So, whatever you do, don’t go to sleep spiritually. Keep alert at all times. Pray constantly. How do you do that? How can you be on alert at all times? It doesn’t mean we can’t do our job and the many responsibilities we have for our family. It’s a spiritual alertness, that’s always there, at the back of our mind, while we are doing many other things. In a computer, there are certain programs always running in the background, while the computer is working on other things. It’s checking out for viruses. Our mind is sharper than any computer. It’s really like a computer in one sense, but a million times better. And, there’s a lot of things that can go on in the background, while  we’re doing our other things, exactly like a computer. Like checking for earthly viruses that are coming in. How foolish to take care of a computer that lasts a little while, and you don’t take care of  viruses that can destroy your entire future. (21:00)

Always alert- and prayer means having a dependence on God, all the time. Saying, „Lord, I don’t have the strength to overcome all these things. Lord, I don’t have the strength to overcome deception, because it’s so subtle.” Jesus said, „Deception will be so subtle, that even, perhaps, the elect could be deceived. Imagine what Jesus said in Matthew 7:22-23 about people doing miracles in Jesus’s name, and people casting out demons in Jesus’s name, and people prophesying in Jesus’s name- Many! And He’ll say to them, in the last day, „Depart from Me. I never knew you.” (Not, once upon a time, I knew you, and you backslid). But, „I never knew you.” Because you never gave up sin in your life. You read that in Matthew 7:22-23, that in the last day when you will stand before the Lord, He’s gonna say that to many people. I don’t want him to say that to me. Photo via http://missionventureministries.wordpress.com

Depart from Me, you who called My name, but were living in sin

I’ve gone around in different countries, prophesying in Jesus’s name, teaching God’s word. I don’t want Him to say, „Get away from Me, you who lived in sin.” Sin. Your attitude to sin is going to be the most important thing to matter when you stand before the Lord. The Bible says, „Let everyone who names the name of Christ, depart form sin.”That’s the mark on God’s seal. Let me show you what’s written on that seal: 2 Timothy 2:19, where it speaks about a firm foundation of God. God certifies a firm foundation with a seal.

I want a foundation in my life with God’s seal on it. There are two sides to a seal- the upper and lower sides. Here’s what’s written on the side that God looks at: „The Lord knows those who are His.” He’s not fooled. As He looks at all of us, this morning, the Lord knows those who are His. I don’t know. Sometimes I’m fooled by some who come to our church regularly and I could be mistaken, in the final day I will discover He never belonged to the Lord at all. He was just a first class hypocrite who fooled me for many years. What can I do? I warned them. But, it’s absolutely certain that the Lord knows who are His. That’s the upper side of the seal. I can’t see it. If I could see the upper side, I could easily say who are the Lord’s, right now.  (25:00)

I can see the bottom side of the seal. And, that’s how I know. On the bottom side of the seal, it says, „Everyone who names the name of the Lord (like when a person says: I’m a christian- that’s the name of the Lord),  every christian is to stay away from sin. That’s all I can know. So, when I see a person hating sin, and staying away from it, that’s how I know. I don’t know the Godward side. And, if a person’s not staying away from sin, and he’s not seeking to keep others from sin, all he’s interested in is doing miracles and casting out demons, and preaching, well, I’d say: He may be saved. But, he may not be, also. This is primary. (26:00)

What are the things that God wants us to escape?

It’s gonna come like a trap, be alert, praying, so that you may have strength, to escape these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. What are the things that God wants us to escape? Now, here is where every christian is tested. When he reads this verse, he will say, „See, I told you that we’re gonna escape the tribulation,” because that’s the most important thing in his life- to escape suffering. You know, it depends on what you’re looking for. I’ll tell you what I’m looking for- to escape sin. I read this verse completely differently. Escape. Escape what? To escape sin. I am not even interested in escaping hell. I’m just interested in escaping sin. If I escape sin, I automatically escape hell.

A lot of people are interested in escaping hell, but, are not interested in escaping sin, while on this earth. „Pray constantly, that you may have strength…” Strength for what? I’m gonna have Jesus come and rapture me before the tribulation. So, strength for what? What do I need strength to escape? I want to have help to escape denying the Lord, in the time of tribulation. I wanna have strength to escape sin, to avoid the temptation which is pretty powerful. I’ll tell you that. I wanna have strength to escape the forces of this world that seek to swallow me up, that seek to make me drunk, cause that’s the context. The context is not: You’re gonna suffer. The context is: Your heart is gonna be weighted down by drunkenness, with the cares of this world, and the worries of this life. Pray, that you’ll have strength to escape these things.

A bad habit of christians is to have favorite verses, or sometimes, half a verse, and they don’t even read the paragraph. Verse 34- there’s drunkenness, there’s dissipation, being occupied with worries of this life… That’s what I wanna escape. So I can stand before the Lord. So that His coming does not find me like a thief, because I belong to the day. So, why should he come like a thief for you? Make sure that the world doesn’t get inside your heart. Pray that you’ll have strength to keep the world outside (your heart). What does he mean, the world? He doesn’t mean the people of the world, because „God so loved the people of the world”. And I’ve gotta love the fellow who hates me. I’ve gotta love the boss who is harassing me day and night. In christianity, you’re not permitted to hate anybody. You’re not permitted to keep an unforgiving spirit to anyone, no matter what they did to you. (31:00) It’s tough and that’s why we have to pray to escape these attitudes towards people. Don’t just say, „It’s tough brother.” I know it’s tough.

Some people talk about the sermon on the mount and say, „Brother, it’s difficult to live up to that sermon.” I say, it’s not difficult, it’s impossible.” As long as you think it’s difficult, you’re going to try. When you realize it’s impossible, you’re not gonna try, you’re gonna say, „Lord, you’d better help me.” Some of you folks are trying, and trying, and constantly failing. Why not recognize that it’s impossible and come to the Lord for the power of the Holy Spirit, so you’ll have strength, and then you’ll be able to keep those commandments. Then, you’ll be able to live according to God’s standards. To have strength to escape these things that seem to come into my heart.

I don’t wanna get drunk. Jesus said the last days are going to be like Noah. And, God’s people are going to be like Noah. If you wanna live like God wants you to live in the last days, you’ve got to live by faith.  ANd it’s not this third rate faith for getting a better house or a better car, that is preached by tv preachers, no. It’s another type of faith that Noah had. Don’t be deceived by these preachers. The faith that we need is the faith of Jesus Christ. The Bible says He is the author of our faith. That means, every single letter of faith in my heart was written by Jesus, not by some tv preacher. Every single word in my heart, I want written by Jesus Christ, and not my any man. Then as it says in Hebrews 12 we’ll be able to sun the race and overcome. Then we won’t have these third rate christians hanging their head down, with depression and gloom, and still losing their tempers, and still watching internet pornography, and coming to church and pretending to be holy people. They are first class hypocrites. Why? Because Jesus is not the author of their faith. They’re listening to all this rubbish from other people. They don’t stay away from sin, they love the world so much, that their faith is only interested in getting things for themselves. (37:00)

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith. Noah heard a word from God and he had tremendous reverence for it. He had only one verse in his Bible: „I’m gonna destroy this world. You had better make an ark and save yourself and your family.” That was the word that he got, and he got it once. He didn’t have a preacher to remind him over and over again. He heard it once and kept it in his mind for 120 years. That’s faith. When you hear something from God, you won’t be interested in what man has to say to you, after that. Man shall not leave by bread alone, but, by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth. Noah prayed with his family and built the ark to escape. (42:00)

The devil knows that Christians today don’t know the Bible. I thank God that I studied the Bible so I can have my faith in Jesus, and have a clear picture of Jesus and how He lived his earthly life. Noah had a reverence for God. I want to encourage you, my brothers and sisters to have reverence for God. I sent a circular (letter) to my elders (at the other churches) and I said, „See if the song you sing in the church have reverence in them. There are a lot of worldly songs creeping into the church. What do I mean by worldly? Written by people who don’t have reverence themselves for God, written by people who are more interested in money. Tell me honestly, would you listen to a preacher who only preaches to you to get your money, and he’ll only preach that sermon if he thinks he can copyright that sermon and make some money out of it, get royalties? Or would you rather listen to someone who says, „Hey this is free, you don’t have to pay for it, there’s no copyright on it, you can preach it too, elsewhere.” Which of these two, do you think would have a word form God?

The same goes for music. That is why I love the old hymns, written by people who never made money off of it. Another thing. These sentimental songs, „Hold me close, never let me go,” you don’t know who they’re singing it to, written by these half converted cowboys who wrote these  songs to their girlfriends and now they write them to Jesus. Just see if there’s a spirit of reverence in it, that brings you close to God. Or if it’s just soppy emotion that makes you think you love Jesus with teary eyed  eyes on Sunday morning and you go and watch internet pornography on Monday. Why? That’s sentimental rubbish. If you’d really love Jesus, you’d keep His commandments. He said that in John 14:15 „If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”  That’s reverence. I want to sing songs that keep me close to God on Sunday, but also keep me close to God on Monday, and Tuesday, and …

Noah prepared an ark. He said, „I’m gonna built the ark.” He didn’t give up his earthly living. Noah was a full time worker for God, but he supported himself. And then, first of all, he was interested in saving his family. If your children are not saved, they are not born again, they are not disciples of Jesus, Fathers especially, it’s probably because you’re not too serious about it. Noah was the head of his home. He didn’t let his sons wander off whichever way they liked. Don’t give up control of your home. A lot of children would like to take up control from their parents. Noah did not permit it.

Undesigned Coincidences – Evidence for the historicity of the Gospels Tim McGrew (via Logos Apologia)

Arial view of BETHSAIDA, Israel via http://jewishmag.com/

Video by Chris Putnam of LogosApologia

Do the Gospels contain internal and external evidence

that they are eyewitness accounts? 

One compelling line of evidence comes in the form of what is called „undesigned coincidences”. When one is telling a story, especially a story one has witnessed, one often hits the highlights and does not explain every detail. The focus is on what is important to the action. This is why two eyewitnesses will testify in different ways about the same event. Each person brings his own unique point of view in his description, due to his individual preferences and his predisposition. When telling a story, one gets caught up in what one actually remembers, and drops incidental references to significant facts. The sort of facts which are seemingly selected randomly by the memory of the individual. This is typical of the real memoirs, but not of legendary embellishments. When accounts from different eyewitnesses fill in the unknown details for each other, this is called an undesigned coincidence.

Here are 3 undesigned coincidences we are taking a look at, which show how the Gospels are pieces of an interlocking historic narration:

1. The miracles Jesus performed in Bethsaida

Such coincidences, especially when they are considered in their cumulative force, provide strong evidence for the integrity of the individual accounts. In Matthew 11:21 Jesus pronounces a curse on some cities in Galilee, saying, „Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.”  So, the question naturally arises: What is Jesus talking about? What were the mighty works done in Chorazin and Bethsaida? For Chorazin, we really cannot say. It’s one of those cases, where we realize that Jesus did things that we do not have recorded in Scripture, and Bethsaida is never mentioned elsewhere in the Gospel of Matthew. In Mark and John, who do name Bethsaida a couple of times, tell us nothing that would make sense of Jesus’s words, as quoted in Matthew.

But, in Luke’s Gospel, we find the answer. Luke 9:10 reads „When the apostles returned, they gave an account to Him of all they had done. And taking them with Him, He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida.” Immediately after this verse, and set in the same geographic location, we have Luke’s account of the feeding of 5,000. Now, here we have an answer to our question, about the mighty work done in Bethsaida. It was there that Jesus fed the 5,000.

Now, a critic, trying to get around the force of this coincidence, might point out that Luke gives out both the location of the miracle, and in Luke 10:13, Jesus’s pronouncement was on Chorazin and Bethsaida. Might Matthew have simply copied form Luke, forgetting to include the reference to Bethsaida? Most scholars, traditional and liberal, think Matthew did not use Luke’s Gospel at all in writing his own. No one, not even an honest and observant eyewitness, can report every event in complete detail. So, the alternative hypothesis of chance and legendary elaboration does not really explain the coincidence at all. And modern scholarship makes the copying hypothesis very unlikely. The best explanation is Matthew was simply reporting facts, as he knew they had occurred.

2. Why does Jesus address Philip in the feeding of the 5,000?

In John 6:5 , Jesus is preparing to feed the 5,000. He turns to Philip and asks: Therefore, Jesus lifting up His eyes and seeing that a great multitude was coming to Him said to Philip, „Where are we to buy bread that these may eat?” Philip is a minor figure in the Gospels. After the calling of the disciples, Jesus addresses Philip directly only once, that we hear of. Why then, does Jesus ask this question of Philip? Why not Peter, James, or John, who are much more prominent figures? Why not Judas, who kept the money? Presumably, when John told the story, he wasn’t concerned with the reason Jesus chose Philip. But, if someone were forging the story as fiction, crafting a legend, he would have a literary reason for selecting a particular disciple as a character in his fictional narrative. Accordingly, a fabricator of fiction would not select a character without making the reason clear to the audience.

So, why did Jesus choose Philip? John’s Gospel does not really say why. Keep in mind that we just learned in the previous undesigned coincidence that the miracle took place in Bethsaida- Luke 9:10. Then turn to John 12:20-21. Here is Jesus teaching and some Greeks approach and want to speak with him, asking permission from Jesus’s disciples. Now, casually, in the course of reporting the request, John remarks, „Now, there were certain Greeks among those that were going up to worship at the feast; these therefore came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.'”  

Now, here is a remarkable, interlocking  of the 2 passages in John and Luke-  BECAUSE PHILIP WAS FROM BETHSAIDA! (John 6:1-13; Luke 9:12-17: Matthew 11:21)There’s no other way that this could be explained, as having one of the authors copying from the other. John does not tell us where the miracle took place, and Luke never mentions Philip. And the coincidence is too tight and clear for a chance of a legendary elaboration to be a plausible explanation. (6:06) But, putting the 3 passages together, we find that they interlock, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. This is what real history looks like. It has a ring of truth.

3. 

Two passages in Mark give us the setup for our third undesigned coincidence. In Mark 6:31, we find a reference to large crowds of people, so large and pressing, that they force Jesus and the disciples to withdraw. „And He said to them, ” Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while.” (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.) This passage sets the stage for the feeding of the 5,000. A little time later, Mark gives us another vivid description of the scene: Mark 6:39 „And He commanded them all to sit down by groups on the green grass.” Two questions arise form these passages.

  1. Why should there have been particularly large crowds, just then? We are entitled to demand an answer with the evidence of the historic faithfulness of the narrative, if we could find one. 
  2. It is a bit odd that the grass should be described as green. In Palestine, there’s only a short growing season. After that, dry heat turns the grass brown, and it remains brown throughout the summer.

But, in John’s description of this setting, for this same miracle, we find the detail that explains both of these facts. John 6:4 reads: „Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near.” At Passover each year, thousands of Jews travelled each year to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast. That would definitely explain why a Galilean town would be unusually crowded at the time. As it happens, Passover falls every year, in the middle of the year’s growing season, when the grass would be lush and green. John doesn’t mention the crowds or the green grass. Though he does note that there was much grass in that place, John 6:10. Mark doesn’t mention the season was Passover, but, putting the two accounts together, makes for an explanation that fits everything together. And, no other explanation does the job so well. This has a ring of true history.

Even skeptics believe that Gospels were written at different times and places. Where the accounts are obviously independent, the odds against some kind of subtle collusion are astronomical. The best explanation is that they were writing about something that actually occurred. This undesigned coincidence supports the historicity of all the different accounts. When we overlap the Gospels in this way, these undesigned coincidence provide evidence the Gospel accounts are eyewitness testimony of actual historical events.

David Platt – Why the church cannot fail

great commission

3 texts, 8 non-negotiables in mobilizing the local church in the accomplishment for the Great Commission:

  1. Matthew 28:16-19 – Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.  And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Matthew 24:9-14 – “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
  3. Revelation 7:9-10 – After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,  and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”
  • There’s two convictions that are driving those 8 non-negotiables, that accomplish the driving of the church for the Great CommissionThe Great Commission can be accomplished. There will be a day when this commission will be complete. What we are talking about, when we talk about the great commission is achievable. Not just ‘can be accomplished‘, this great commission ‘will be accomplished‘. God, in His sovereignty knows exactly when it will be accomplished. We cannot fail, when we give ourselves to this great commission. And it’s pretty humbling to just wonder, what if we had the privilege of seeing it accomplished in our day? Not in some arrogant way, that it’s all dependent on us. It’s on God’s shoulders. But, His people, one day, are going to see it accomplished. I want to be counted among that people.

The Prophecy of the Coming Messiah

this entire post is from http://www.angelfire.com

Isaiah 9:6-7

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

„For to us a child is born” – This refers to the virgin birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. The word birth signifies „humanity.” The promised Messiah had to be true humanity in order to bear the sins of the world. Therefore, the word „birth” refers to the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:16; „…..Mary, of whom was BORN Jesus, who is called the Christ (the Greek word for Jewish Messiah).

Matthew 1:18; „This is how the BIRTH of Jesus came about.”

Matthew 2:1; „After Jesus was BORN in Bethlehem in Judea.”

Matthew 2:2; „Where is the one who has been BORN king of the Jews?”

Matthew 2:4; „….where the Christ was to be BORN.”

Luke 1:14; „…..many shall rejoice at his BIRTH.” They are still doing that today. Every Christmas the world seems to go through a sort of metamorphosis. Through the music and the story of the Jewish Messiah, everyone seems to enjoy and appreciate this time of year, whether they are believers or unbelievers. We even use the phrase, „I have the Christmas spirit.” So when the Bible tells us that „many shall rejoice at His birth,” it’s not just talking about the land of Israel in 4-6 BC. It is referring to all generations of mankind.

Luke 1:35; „…the holy one to be BORN will be called the Son of God.”

Luke 2:11; „Today in the city of David a Savior has been BORN to you.”

John 3:16; „For God so loved the world that He gave His uniquely BORN Son.”

John 18:37; „Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was BORN.”

Therefore, the words „born” or „birth” refers to the humanity of Jesus Christ.

birth Christ JesusGod, not willing that any should perish (II Peter 3:9), had promised a sign to identify this perfect righteous One when He appeared on the stage of human history. That sign is recorded in Isaiah 7:14; „Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign (a miracle, a supernatural occurrence), a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (meaning, God with us).”

The Hebrew word for „virgin” in Isaiah 7:14 is ALMAH. This Hebrew word is used for a virgin and a young woman. Skeptics of the Bible always refer to this word in an attempt to prove that there was no virgin birth, but that the concept of the virgin birth was invented by the Christian religion. But God never leaves His people in the dark about important issues. He always gives them the answers when they need them. In Matthew 1:22-23 it says, „Now all of this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, (Matthew now quotes Isaiah 7:14). „Behold, a VIRGIN shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”

The Greek word for virgin is PARTHENOS, and means „a virgin, and nothing but a virgin.” The Greek word for young woman is NEOS in the femenine gender. So even though the Hebrew can be interpreted to be a „young woman,” God clarified this issue to the skeptics when He had the New Testment written in Greek. A language that is far superior than the Hebrew when it comes to clarifying issues. We should also note that when the Jewish scholars translated the Old Testament Hebrew into Greek about 200 years before the birth of Jesus (the Greek Old Testament is known as the Septuagint) they used the Greek word PARTHENOS to translate the Hebrew word ALMAH. This tells us that the ancient Jewish scholars knew and understood that the Messiah would be virgin born.

Therefore, since this individual experienced birth, and since He came from the womb of a woman, it could truly be said that „a child was born.” However, since no man was involved in the conception process, the sin nature was not passed down to Jesus at His birth. This was a very unique conception. It was the result of an obedient Jewish maiden by the name of Miriam (her proper name), and the Holy Spirit, who, in the words of doctor Luke, „Would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her.” (Luke 1:35). The result of the holy conception was a holy and perfect child. Here was perfect humanity in every sense of the word. But Jesus was much more than just perfect humanity.

„To us a son is given” – This phrase refers to undiminished deity. The first phrase in this verse „a child is born” tells us that Jesus experienced physical birth, just as any normal human being. And the second phrase „a son is given” tells us that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He existed before His physical birth. He was the preexistent Son of God. Concerning this latter statement, the prophet Micah said in Micah 5:2; „But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the clans of Judah, yet out of you shall he (Jesus) come forth to me that is to be ruler in Israel, WHOSE GOINGS FORTH HAVE BEEN FROM OF OLD, FROM EVERLASTING.” Jesus Himself, in response to questions by the Jewish leadership, declared in John 8:58;„….Before Abraham was, I am.” This also acknowledges His preexistence.

Jesus was not only perfect humanity as the virgin born Son of Adam’s race, but He was also undiminished deity as the eternal Son of God given to redeem man from the fall. Theologians call this perfect merger of God and man the „Hypostatic Union.” Jesus is one hundred percent undiminished deity and one hundred percent perfect humanity. Isaiah the prophet wrote of this unique union with these words in Isaiah 7:14; „…the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son (humanity), and shall call his name Immanuel (meaning God with us) (deity).” The baby Jesus was also the One who spoke the universe into existence; the baby Jesus was the One who fashioned man from the dust of the ground; the baby Jesus was the One who breathed into man the breath of life, and the baby Jesus not only spoke the universe into existence, but even while He was in the manger in Bethlehem, He was sustaining everything that He created.

„For unto us a child is born (true humanity), to us a son is given (true deity).” These two phrases deal with His first advent. Beginning with the next phrase and going through verse seven deals with His second advent and the Millennial Kingdom.

„And the government shall be upon his shoulders” – This refers to inherent royalty. „The Government shall be upon his shoulders” is a quaint way of saying „HE IS GOING TO RULE.” Jesus Christ will rule when the world government rests upon His shoulders during His 1000 year reign. Again I want to remind you that within the framework of this one verse of Scripture the first and second comings of the Lord Jesus Christ are clearly outlined. „A child is born, and a son is given” occurred at His first coming more than nineteen hundred years ago. „And the government shall be upon his shoulders” awaits His second coming to the rebuilt Temple when He takes over the throne of David at Jerusalem.

„And his name shall be called” – This tells us of a unique identity. Biblical names were given to underscore a major characteristic or achievement of the individual who bore the name. The Son of God came to be a Savior, that was to be the major achievement at His first coming. So the angelic messenger commanded Joseph „to call his name Jesus, because he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). At the Lord’s second coming His major achievement will be to reign and bring human history to its divinely intended ending. A series of names are given to the Son of God to reveal attributes which He possesses and the character of His reign after His second coming. These names set Him apart from and infinitely higher than all other beings. Since He alone possesses these qualities to a perfect degree, none other can properly appropriate these names.

It is generally thought that five names are given in Isaiah 9:6 to describe the Lord’s character and reign. These five names are: „Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” But actually there are only four names, not five. The word „Wonderful” is not a name. It is simply modifying the word „Counselor.” So it should read„Wonderful Counselor.”

„And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor” – This refers to His faultless discernability. This should not suggest the imagery of a clergyman, or a lawyer, or a psychologist, or another professional in an office conferring counsel on someone. Rather, it is speaking of one of the Lord’s characteristics while governing during the Kingdom Age. Isaiah amplifies this concept in Isaiah 11:2-3; „And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, and the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of COUNSEL and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord…….and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.” Men judge empirically, they see, they hear, and they evaluate and make decisions, and many times they are wrong. But because of the omniscient spirit resting upon Jesus, He will intuitively know right from wrong in everyone. He will not judge by what He sees or hears, but He will judge by what He knows about each individual. He will be „The Wonderful Counselor.” And as a result of this, „….righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his waist” (Isaiah 11:5).

„And his name shall be called The Mighty God” – This refers to absolute authority. One of the problems with the Old Testament Theocracy (God ruling through chosen men) was that they had limited strength. A man might ascend to the throne of Israel. He might be well-intentioned, but he did not possess absolute power. He was not omnipotent. His good intentions were not enough. They did not give him sufficient power to carry out all he had planned. Rebellion within the nation and opposition from without often frustrated the best intentions of a good king.

But when the government rests upon the shoulder’s of Jesus, „…..with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and shall reprove the lowly of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4). He alone possesses absolute authority and power because He is what the Hebrew says, EL GIBBOR,„The Mighty God.”

„And his name shall be called The Everlasting Father” – This refers to endless longevity.

On occasion a good king would come to the throne of Israel. Men like David, Solomon, or Josiah. For a time they brought a degree of freedom, prosperity, stability, blessings and peace. But invariably, the inevitable occurred. They died. They were succeeded by another king. Many times he was not a good king, and his policies did not follow that of his predecessor. So the government was subject to ebb and flow, as leaders came and went.

But when the government rests upon the shoulders of Jesus Christ, „Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever….” (Isaiah 9:7). Jesus Christ is„The Everlasting Father.” Or better, „The Father of Eternity.” He will not die, and there will be no ebb and flow in His government, only continuity of perfect rule.

„And his name shall be called The Prince of Peace” – This refers to enduring tranquility. Peace comes in two dimensions. There is a vertical peace between God and man, and there is a horizontal peace between man and man. Peace between men is impossible until there is peace with God. In other words, horizontal peace between members of the human race is impossible without peace with God. And the peace with God is impossible without the acceptance of Jesus Christ as personal Savior. And because the majority of the people of the earth reject the salvation provided by Jesus Christ, mankind is doomed to the conflict of racial hatred, intolerance, inflexibility, crime, violence, and war. Mankind can never have true peace apart from God and His plan. And because mankind will not make peace with God, that means that there can be no peace between men on the earth. War and violence will continue all the way to the second advent of Jesus Christ.

peace with GodI should add at this point that the world will achieve a false or pseudo peace just before the return of Jesus Christ. This false or pseudo peace will reach its culmination under the dictator of Rome known as the antichrist. Paul refers to this in I Thessalonians 5:3; „For when they shall say, ‘Peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them….” Everything you see transpiring in the world today to bring about world peace, will bring about the greatest war the world has ever seen. The war of Armageddon.

Jesus alone can and will bring peace to this unruly planet. And when He does, „The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling will feed together; and a little child will lead them. The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox. The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child will put his hand into the viper’s nest. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain (a name for the government of God) because the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:6-9).

Because Jesus is „The Wonderful Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father,” He is also what the Hebrew calls, SAR SHALOM, „The Prince of Peace.” Men talk about peace constantly, but never achieve it and never will. But Jesus Christ, at His second coming, will make it a reality.

During this Christmas season, look back to the virgin born child, and thank God that He became humanity; then look at the cross, and thank God for the Son He gave who provided our „So great salvation.” All of that was involved in the first advent of Jesus Christ. „For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” But don’t stop there like so many do this time of year. We should also look ahead toward His second coming. Look ahead to what Jesus Christ is still going to accomplish when „the government will be on His shoulders.”

During this Christmas season, may the reality of His return give you as much peace as the celebration of His birth.

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