Big Picture Gospel – Part 2

What does it mean to be a human being? Why are we here or what is our purpose? What is truth and where do I find it? Why do we suffer? Where is everything heading? In sharing the gospel, these are the questions that also need to be answered. We need a “big picture gospel”, one that not only provides the answers to life’s larger ontological questions but shows their connection to God’s redemptive plan[1].

1. God created men and women in His image as eternal[2], free-will spirits[3] with a moral conscience[4] and a two-fold purpose: 1) to have relationship with Him and others (and) 2) to promote and protect moral physics (truth, beauty and justice[5]) in relation to Him and the rest of Creation.

It is this two-fold purpose that establishes the two greatest commandments in the Bible (love the Lord your God and love your neighbor) (Mat 22:37-40).

It should therefore come as no surprise that moral physics – most specifically the practice of justice (or equity), is what makes us peacemakers (Mat 5:9 “peacemakers” = Equity promoters and protectors – Mat 7:12 “for this is the Law and the Prophets” [Mat 22:40 “on these two commandments depend the whole Law and Prophets”]; IOW: Equity [or justice] is the foundation of moral physics, the Bible and our creation mandate. Hence Psa 89:14 “justice is the foundation of your throne”).

2. God created everything that exists according to His moral physics (truth, beauty and justice) which is defined by the Bible (God’s written words).

Anything therefore not agreement w/the Bible is not truth, beauty or justice.

3. Our rebellion (sin) against our two-fold purpose is the biggest reason we suffer and die.

It is b/c we fail to have relationship w/God or others and/or violate truth, beauty and justice in our image-bearer relationships w/God and the rest of Creation.

4. This Creation was never meant to be the final version but rather the test to determine who is worthy to enter the New Creation where there will be no suffering, sin, death or disappointment but rather perfect and perennial truth, beauty and justice.

This then is the other reason we suffer; this life is a test.

5. If we are to make it to the New Creation (i.e., be saved), we must exist with God in a marriage covenant – which could also be called a “new creation covenant” since this is not only its goal (to enter the New Creation), but the same goal given in the first human marriage (new creation).

6. Like our human marriages, the covenant relationship we exist in with God operates according to the principles of gain and maintain: we gain the relationship w/God by grace through vows of faith (expressed in baptism) and we must maintain it through faithful submission to the rest of His covenant laws (His moral physics: truth, beauty and justice) as our Head or Husband.

1) (Exo 24:7-8 w/Lev 18:5 [Eze 20:11]; 1Pe 1:1-2 w/3:21 w/Gal 3:26-27 [“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ”; IOW: faith = baptism]; Mat 28:19-20).

2) (Mat 19:16-19 [v21, “if you wish to be complete”]; Luk 10:25-28; Rom 3:28 w/Jam 2:21-24 [v22, “faith was completed”]; Phi 2:12-13; Phi 3:16 [“let us keep on living by that standard to which we have attained” = Let us maintain what we gained] followed by a warning vv17-19; Deu 29:18-20 w/Heb 10:26-30; Jer 3:3-8; Isa 50:1).

3) Faithful not perfect (Deu 28:1); We can be faithful (Deu 30:11-14).

4) God is our head/husband (Isa 54:5).

5) We must obey the latest version of God’s Law and its application – i.e., the one associated w//His current salvific covenant. In our case, the New Covenant. In every case, this Law is comprised of two-parts: clean laws (the signs associated w/that covenant’s justification/right standing w/God: 1] Adamic and Noahic = Animal sacrifice, 2] Abrahamic = Animal sacrifice and circumcision, 3] Old = Animal sacrifice, circumcision, separation and sabbaths [in the NT these are referred to as “the works of the law”], 4] New = baptism and the LT) and moral commands (the rest of God’s commands according to the current covenant’s prescribed application – e.g., 1Co 5:1-5 versus Lev 20:11).

7. Jesus, the fully God – Son of God is not only the specific Person of the Godhead[6] with whom we must gain and maintain a marriage covenant if we want to be a part of the new Creation (i.e., He is the divine Husband), but also the One lovingly sent to earth by the Father so that through His death and resurrection, sin could be sufficiently cleansed from His covenant people and the way of salvation finally opened to all those nations who formerly rejected Him.

1) (Joh 1:1 “Word” [Grk., logos] = Jewish philosopher Philo id’d Melchizedek as “the logos of God” before the time of Jesus w/Joh 8:56 [Gen 14:17-20 w/Heb 7:1-28 and Heb 11:10 “city whose builder was God” = Jewish tradition says that Mel was the builder of Jerusalem – i.e., Jesus built Jerusalem; Jud 1:5; Heb 9:15-16 w/Exo 24:1-8; Eph 5:22-23).

2) (Joh 3:16; Eph 2:4-5; Rom 3:25 w/Heb 10:1-18; Rom 4:25; 1Co 15:1-4).

3) (Mat 1:21; Luk 2:32 [Act 13:47]; Act 17:26-31; Luk 10:1w/17 = Seventy sent out to take control back from the demons as a sign of Jesus’ coming deliverance of the seventy gentile nations given over to Satan and the demons [Gen 10:1-11:9 w/Psa 106:35-37 w/1Jo 5:19]. Hence v18; Eph 2:12).

8. Because God is reasonable and just (or equitable), He will give to people as their eternal home what they freely chose based on their deeds in this life which means hell – or a place of nothing but fire – for those who rejected their two-fold purpose since this is all that is left after God takes His truth, beauty and justice with Him into the New Creation.

1) (Deu 7:9-10; 1Sa 26:23; Mat 16:27; Rom 2:6-10; 1Pe 1:17; Hence Rev 20:11-15).

2) (2Pe 3:10-13) = The removal of the righteous and all that is righteous from this Creation will start a blaze that will never be put out or escaped by those left behind.[7]

 

CLOSING CHALLENGE = Do your best to give people the big picture (gospel).

 

[1] Without the big picture, we run the risk of people hearing our gospel as the answer to the larger ontological questions. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that our world is becoming increasingly post-Christian. IOW: more and more people are operating without a biblical worldview. As such what the typical 3 point gospel of: 1) God is holy, 2) you are not (your are sinful and suck), 3) God sent Jesus to save you from His holy wrath (b/c you sin and suck) is interpreted as God created humans unlike Him (as image-offenders not image-bearers) whose purpose for existence is escaping His wrath through self-deprecation at the feet of His Son.

[2] Eternal = Cannot cease to exist.

[3] Free-will spirits = Spiritual beings characterized by unrestrained choice.

[4] Moral conscience = Ethical right and wrong are lens and limits (locus) of one’s operation in the world (we do b/c we deem it right).

[5] Truth = Agreement w/reality; Beauty = Agreement w/symmetry; Justice = Agreement w/equity.

[6] The one true and only God of heaven and earth eternally exists as three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Hence the reason all three are named in our baptism of allegiance (Mat 28:19 w/1Pe 3:21).

[7] Hell or the lake of fire is also described as a place of utter darkness (Rev 21:8 and Mat 25:41 w/Mat 8:12, 22:13, 25:30 and 2Pe 2:12, 17 and Jud 13). Is it possible this is all that remains when the elements of Creation are removed? A field of dark energy or burning plasma similar to that found in space? Is it possible that the expansion of the universe caused by this dark energy (which scientists believe came after initial creation of the universe) is a result of sin and the countless demons and dead spirits which are expanding its realm (Eph 6:12 “forces of this darkness”)? “An exotic possibility is that [dark energy] springs from the physics of extra dimensions.”(Ron Cowen, “A Dark Force in the Universe,” Science News).

Big Picture Gospel – Part 1

What does it mean to be a human being? Why are we here or what is our purpose? What is truth and where do I find it? Why do we suffer? Where is everything heading? In sharing the gospel, these are the questions that also need to be answered. We need a “big picture gospel”, one that not only provides the answers to life’s larger ontological questions but shows their connection to God’s redemptive plan[1].

1. God created men and women in His image as eternal[2], free-will spirits[3] with a moral conscience[4] and a two-fold purpose:

1) to have relationship with Him and others.

1) (Gen 1:27 “image”) = Not only does this word infer humans are eternal, free-will spirits w/a moral conscience like God but also relationship w/God and other image-bearers given this is the primary reason things are created to be like one another: to make them compatible in relationship.

2) (Gen 1:28 “be fruitful and multiply” = Create others w/Gen 2:18-20 “there was not a suitable helper found for him”) = Because of the massive dissimilarity between humans and animals, animals cannot be used to create other humans and remove loneliness (deficiency of deep relationships w/others like you -i.e., humans).

2) to promote and protect moral physics (truth, beauty and justice[5]) in relation to Him and the rest of Creation. 1) (Gen 1:31 w/2:15-17 “cultivate”) = Promote or develop and expand…the borders of Eden according to its moral design (“Eden” = Paradise – a place filled w/truth, beauty and justice); “keep” = Protect and care for… Eden according to its moral design.

2) God’s moral physics (t/b/j) were to be promoted and protected in relation to both Him and His Creation – which included the woman or other image-bearers since the garden of Eden was her (or humanity’s) original residence as well.

3) It is this two-fold purpose that establishes not only the two greatest commandments (love the Lord your God and love your neighbor) but the entirety of God’s Law and Word (Mat 22:37-40).

2. God created everything that exists according to His moral physics (truth, beauty and justice) which is always in agreement with His law, as established by His written words in the Bible.

1) (Gen 1:31 [Heb., tobe]) = Full of truth, beauty and justice (excellence).

2) (Gen 2:7 w/19) “formed” [Heb., yasar] = To form as art (beauty); “breathed” = Filled w/His moral essence (t/b/j). This same idea is communicated when speaking about the Bible (2Ti 3:16).

3) Consider also (Psa 119:142, 15, 160 w/Joh 17:17 “your Word is truth”; Psa 119:96 “I have seen a limit to perfection [beauty]; Your commandment is exceedingly broad” [the most beautiful] w/ also Ecc 3:11 “everything [in God’s Word] is appropriate [beautiful] in its time [perfect for understanding God’s purpose and plan]”; Psa 19:7-9 = God’s Word establishes justice).

3. Our rebellion (sin) against our two-fold purpose is the biggest reason we suffer and die.

1) IOW: it is b/c we fail to have relationship w/God or others and/or violate truth, beauty and justice in our image-bearer relationships and/or w/the rest of Creation.

2) (Gen 2:17 w/3:16-19; Rom 6:23; 1 Jo 3:4)

3) Consider also (Rom 8:19-21) = The rest of Creation suffers b/c of the sin of humanity in failing to promote and protect her according to t/b/j. As a result, we suffer also. Hence the reason the Creation waits w/eagerness for the revealing (or arrival) of those who will be her good moral stewards (i.e., “the sons [children] of God”).

4. This Creation was never meant to be the final version but rather the test to determine who is worthy to enter the New Creation[6] where there will be no suffering, sin, death or disappointment but rather perfect and perennial truth, beauty and justice.

(Mat 10:37-38 [Contra Mat 22:8]; Luk 20:35; Rev 3:4-5; Jam 1:12 [Hence Jam 1:1-3]; Rev 21:1-8)

5. If we are to make it to the New Creation (i.e., be saved), we must exist with God in a marriage covenant – which could also be called a “new creation covenant” since this is not only its goal (to enter the New Creation), but the same goal given in the first human marriage (new creation – Gen 1:28 w/Gen 2:18).

1) What you discover when you read the Bible is that God uses covenants to save people. And those covenants are marriage covenants (e.g., Jer 31:31-32). Hence the reason the Bible begins with a marriage and ends with a marriage (Gen 2 and Rev 19) and a great portion of the language of Scripture is marital in nature (e.g., Rev 21:2). 2) In addition, the first marriage (Gen 2:23), possesses the same Hebrew structure as the Bundesformel [“I will be their God and they will be My people”], the vow of allegiance God makes when He enters into covenant w/people for the purpose of salvation (Lev 26:12; Jer 31:33; 2Co 6:16).

3) We likewise take vows of allegiance in our marriage to God (Exo 24:7-8 and 1Pe 1:1-2 and 1Pe 3:21 “appeal to God for a good conscience” = Pledge/vow of our allegiance to God).

4) As an additional connection between marriage and new creation, consider what we become when we get saved/enter into marriage w/God (a new creation – 2Co 5:17).

To be continued…

 

[1] Without the big picture, we run the risk of people hearing our gospel as the answer to the larger ontological questions. This risk is exacerbated by the fact that our world is becoming increasingly post-Christian. IOW: more and more people are operating without a biblical worldview. As such what the typical 3 point gospel of: 1) God is holy, 2) you are not (you are sinful and suck), 3) God sent Jesus to save you from His holy wrath (b/c you sin and suck) is interpreted as God created humans unlike Him (as image-offenders not image-bearers) whose purpose for existence is escaping His wrath through self-deprecation at the feet of His Son.

[2] Eternal = Cannot cease to exist.

[3] Free-will spirits = Spiritual beings characterized by unrestrained choice.

[4] Moral conscience = Ethical right and wrong are the lens and limits (locus) of one’s operation in the world (we do b/c we deem it right).

[5] Truth = Agreement w/reality; Beauty = Agreement w/symmetry; Justice = Agreement w/equity.

[6] This then is the other reason we suffer: this life is the test.

God’s New Covenant Prescription for Singing in the Church

Scholars agree that the subject of Paul’s instruction in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 is corporate worship on the Lord’s Day (Sunday). What many also agree on is the interchangeability of the terms “psalms”, “hymns” and “spiritual songs.”[1] IOW: these terms do not refer to different types of songs but rather function as “overlapping near synonyms”[2] meant to emphasize the imperative of congregational singing.[3] With that in mind, here (then) is God’s prescription for our congregational singing:

1. The focus must be on God and His work not us or ours.

1.1. (Eph 5:19, “singing…to the Lord”; Col 3:16 “singing… to God”)

1.2. Too many songs in MCW (modern Christian worship) are guilty of placing the focus on us (what we are feeling, doing or going to do for God) w/very little – to no communication in respect to God (Who He is and what He has done or is doing). IOW: they are heavy on us and light on God.[4]

1.3. Compare: 1) (Psa 8, 46) = Words focused on God: Who He is and what He has done.[5] 2) Crown Him With Many Crowns (“the Lamb upon the throne…Awake my soul and sing of Him Who died for Me; And hail Him as they matchless King thru all eternity…Crown Him the Lord of heaven; One with the Father known…His glories now we sing; Who died and rose on high; Who died eternal life to bring; And lives that death may die.”) = The focus is on God (Jesus): Who He is and what He has done (not us or what we are going to do).

to [Last week’s top 20 worship songs, CCLI]: 1) I Speak Jesus (“I just wanna speak the name of Jesus, Over every heart and every mind, Cause I know there is peace within Your Presence, I speak Jesus, I just wanna speak Jesus”) = The focus of this song is what we are going to do – not Jesus or His work. 2) How Great Is Our God (“sing with me, how great is our God and then the world will see how great is our God…name above all names worthy of all praise, my heart will sing…”) = Besides being entirely about what we are doing or singing (we are the primary acting agent), the song makes no mention of Who God is or what He has done or is doing, nor speaks any of words directly to God. Consider also [the 7 top cliches in MCW]: 1) I want you, 2) I need you, 3) I lift you up, 4) I lay it down, 5) I’m in awe, 6) I’m alive in you, 7) I am living for you. = All focused on us as the primary acting agent.

1.4. PNTM: We are here to sing to God – or about God not ourselves (i.e., bows not vows is how we give praise to God).[6]

2. The words (and music) must communicate God as our King not our girlfriend.

2.1. (Eph 5:19) “Lord” = A term used to confer majesty to those in positions of authority. Our songs must therefore communicate this majesty. IOW: the songs we sing must sound like an expression of majesty to a king versus a solicitation for intimacy with our girlfriend.

2.2. Example: All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name (“All hail the power of Jesus’ name let angels prostrate fall, to Him ascribe all majesty and crown Him Lord of all, to Him all majesty ascribe and crown Him Lord of all!”).

2.3. Compare: The Secret Place by Phil Wickham (“Where are you going to run my soul…How you gonna keep this flame alive…In the fading light when night is breaking, I know you will always be waiting, You’ll always be there, I running to the secret place. Where you are…you stole my heart, stole my heart. Better is a moment I spend with you…I’m running, I’m running to the secret place.”).

to The Secret Place by RC Sproul (“He who dwells within His most secret place, Is never far from His blessed grace…The secret place of God Most High, The shadow of our Mighty King, The dwelling place where angels cry, Is where our praise will forever ring.”).

2.4. Examples from other MCW songs: 1) “Capture my heart again, your love is extravagant, your friendship, intimate.” (Your Love Is Extravagant by Casting Crowns), 2) “As I feel your touch, you bring a freedom to all that is within.” (Pour Out My Heart by Craig Musseau), 3) “A sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside my chest.” (How He Loves – John Mark McMillan), 4) “Lay back against you and breath, hear your heartbeat, this love is so deep, it’s more than I can stand” (The More I Seek You – Kari Jobe), 5) “We’re going all the way, and the wonder of it all is that I’m living just to fall more in love with you.” (Deeper ’99 by Delirious)

2.5. It is not just a song’s lyrics that can make us be guilty of treating God like our girlfriend. It can also be the music. Does the music [melody etc.,] make you feel like God is your king or your lover? Does it sound more like the Michigan Wolverine’s fight song, Hail To The Victors! or Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On?

2.6. PNTM: what we sing and how it sounds must be majestic. If it doesn’t feel majestic, then we probably shouldn’t be singing it.

“Care must always be taken that the song be neither light nor frivolous, but that it have weight and majesty.” – John Calvin

“There is a great difference between music which one makes to entertain men at table and in their houses, and the [songs] which are sung in the Church in the presence of God and his angels.”- St. Augustine

3. Songs must also communicate rich wisdom and theology that will aid in the congregation’s spiritual formation and fortitude.

3.1. (Col 3:16) “Let the word of Christ [or early manuscript version: the Lord] richly dwell within you [in] all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” = Because of its large biblical content, our congregational singing should represent the first sermon of our church service. Our worship in song should feel like “the meal before the main course.”

3.2. With the exception of the Getty’s (and a few other modern hymn writers), the wisdom and theology found in most MCW is extremely lacking or completely non-existent.

“Too often today the church serves up affective sentiments without much care for the discipline of the Word.” – R. Kent Hughes

“One of the saddest features of contemporary worship is that [it is filled with] trite jingles that have more in common with contemporary advertising ditties than with [God’s inspired music], the Psalms. The problem here is not so much the style of the music, though trite words fit best with trite tunes and harmonies. Rather the problem is with the content of the songs…Today’s songs reflect our shallow or nonexistent theology and do almost nothing to elevate one’s thoughts about God.” – James Montgomery Boice

“Many American evangelicals continue to exhibit a considerable gap between the materials they sing and the theology they preach. They confess to believe in a transcendent God who is above all creation, yet they sing few [songs] which properly reveal God’s excellences. Some congregations expect “strong meat” in biblical preaching but seem to be satisfied with “milk” or even lollipops in song.” – Donald Hustad

3.4. MCW Examples: Oceans by Hillsong (“You call me out upon the waters; The great unknown where feet may fail; And there I find You in the mystery; In oceans deep my faith will stand, I will call upon Your Name; And keep my eyes above the waves; When oceans rise; My soul will rest in Your embrace; For I am Yours and You are mine; Your grace abounds in deepest waters; Your sovereign hand will be my guide;
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me; You’ve never failed and You won’t start now; Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders; Let me walk upon the waters; Wherever You would call me;
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander;
And my faith will be made stronger;
In the presence of my Saviour; I will call upon Your Name; Keep my eyes above the waves; My soul will rest in Your embrace; I am Yours and You are mine.”) = This song could be talking to any (so-called) God given there is nothing specific or any theology which exclusively ties it to the God of the Bible. It is completely void of any biblical wisdom or theology.

3.5. We need to be concerned about more than simply making sure the lyrics are orthodox, they need to also be rich in wisdom and theology (“Poor songs [also] lead us to idolatry. Not just inferior worship – idolatry. It’s that important.” – Chris Anderson). [7]

3.6. In contrast, most hymns – including modern hymns (e.g., Getty’s) are packed full of wisdom and theology that aids the saints in their spiritual formation and fortitude.

3.7. Example: Crown Him With Many Crowns (“The Lamb upon the throne; Hark How the heav’nly anthems drowns; All music but its own! Awake, my soul And sing; Of Him Who died for thee; And hail Him as thy matchless King; Thru all eternity [Rev 5 and 7]…Crown Him the Lord of heav’n; One with the Father known; One with the Spirit thru him giv’n; From yonder glorious throne; To Thee be endless praise; For thou has died for me; Be Thou, O Lord, thru endless days; Adored and magnified [Heb 1; Rev 15 and 22]; …His glories now we sing; Who died and rose on high; Who died eternal life to bring; And lives that death may die.” [Rom 4 and 5; Rev 5, 12 and 13]).[8]

3.8. PTNM: Worship (in song) is not testimony it’s teaching (“rhythmic theology” – Anderson). The question then to ask when deciding whether a song should be sung by the congregation: What is it teaching? Is it (this “first” sermon) doctrinal sound or sinfully idolatrous? Additionally, how much wisdom or theology is being communicated through its verses and chorus? Is it an aid to the congregation’s spiritual formation and fortitude?[9]

4. The words and music must be beautiful but without a feminine vibe.

4.1. Similar to the above point, much of MCW makes God seem more like a metrosexual than the mighty warrior portrayed in Scripture (e.g., most if not all music/songs by Chris Tomlin especially when it is sung by Chris Tomlin).

4.2. Among the many reasons God only identifies Himself in masculine terms in the Scripture is most certainly this: to make clear that His tastes are not feminine. The words we sing and the music we use must therefore never be anything less than fully masculine. No feminine vibes allowed!

4.3. That being said, our God also cares deeply about beauty – especially in His house and what takes place there (Exo 28:2, 40; Psa 27:4, 50:2, 96:6).

4.4. What this means is that: 1) beauty is not a feminine invention – nor something that only women should care about. It is instead at the heart of masculinity (rightly understood), 2) the masculine music we sing must also be beautiful (e.g., masculine music that is not majestic/beautiful = Country worship music [words may promote aspects of masculinity but the music is not beautiful – it is instead as the saying goes, “like clean underwear covered in a sh*tty suit”]).

4.4. “The Christian Life should not only produce truth– but also beauty” – Francis Schaeffer

4.5. Beauty is achieved when our music/songs are “skillful” (i.e., complexity performed w/excellence; Psa 33:3), “glorious” (i.e., filled w/rich wisdom and right theology; Psa 66:2) – and (again) majestic (def., beauty expressed in dignity, power, perfection and stateliness).

PNTM: We must protect the masculinity of God and the beauty He loves (and is!) in the songs we sing since anything less can also make us guilty of idolatry.

CLOSING COMMITMENT: 1) song-writing group to start writing hymns, 2) a hearty diet of singing only hymns for the next 8 weeks (to inspire our song-writing group and strengthen our souls) 3) a removal of all music from our congregational singing that do not meet the criteria discussed today.

 

 

[1] See for example, F.F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians; Douglas J Moo, The Letters to Colossians and Philemon; Andrew Lincol, Ephesians; Frank Thielman, Ephesians; See also David F Detwiler, “Church Music and Colossians 3:16”

[2] Scott Aniol (Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs: Assessing the Debate”). That the terms psalms, hymns and spiritual songs should be viewed as referring to the same thing (as overlapping near synonyms) is supported by their interchangeable use in Scripture. For example: 1) all three terms are used in the LXX as titles for the Psalms, 2) The NT writers use the term “psalm” (Grk., psalmois) to refer to “hymns” ([Grk., hymnois]1Co 14:26; cf. 1Co 14:15) and spiritual songs ([Grk., odais] Jam 5:13). “Since [these three Greek terms] are each used as translations of psalm titles in the LXX and are employed interchangeably in the NT, the weight of evidence seems to suggest that Paul did not intend the terms to designate clearly identifiable genre of corporate song.” – Aniol (ibid)

[3] That Paul expects the church to be characterized by singing that involves the entire congregation (versus a select few – or one) is established by the “one another” phrase found in both verses. Additional PNTM: 1) the people leading us in worship are not the only ones ministering to others thru singing (we are all “speaking [ministering] to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs”), 2) singing is not optional (how we accomplish the command to “let the word of Christ [or the Lord] dwell richly in [us]” is by “singing”), 3) refusing to sing or singing w/an unthankful heart is sin which not only qualifies as a threat to our eternal future (Heb 10:26-30), but may also place us under God’s immediate and special wrath (Heb 13:28-29 w/13:15), 4) the songs we sing together must be something that is easy for us to sing (hymns are “songs for unmusical people to sing together” – Erik Routley) .

[4] “In many cases, congregations have unwittingly begun to sing about themselves and how they are feeling rather than about God and His glory.” – Chris Anderson (Theology That Sticks)

[5] Keep in mind that not all of the Psalms were meant to be sung by the congregation. Only 55 of the 150 are directed to the choirmaster. Most of the psalms were meant for special music or special occasions (e.g., songs of ascent).

[6] Music must be tethered to God – His attributes, His names, His works, His purposes, and His glory. This is vital, perhaps more than anything else.” – Anderson (ibid)

[7] “Careful attention to the selection of hymns and praise songs is important. People learn from everything that happens in a worship service, not just the sermon. Indeed, there are probably many Christians who imbibe more of their theology, for good or ill, from what they sing than from what they hear taught.” – Carl Trueman (“The Trinity and Prayer”)

[8] “The old hymns expressed the theology of the church in profound and perceptive ways and with winsome, memorable language. They lifted the worshiper’s thoughts to God and gave him striking words by which to remember God’s attributes.” – James Montgomery Boice

[9] “Congregational song is part of the teaching ministry of the church. Church musicians and pastors should ask themselves: if our people learned their theology from our songs what would they know in twenty years about God, the cross, the resurrection, the offices of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, creation, justification, election, regeneration, the church, the sacraments, and all the other fundamental doctrines of the faith?” – Anderson (ibid)

Divine Council – Part 3

Stranger things = Those fringe[1] subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

Why we are discussing these kinds of subjects = So that we are viewing of our world in the same way Jesus and those living in the ancient near east (the bible’s authors) viewed their world since this is not only the real world but also vital to proper biblical interpretation (or the avoidance of projecting on the text/reading into the text our modern ideas and assumptions [eisegesis] – e.g., Gen 2:18-20).

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Divine council (def.,): a heavenly assembly of beings who have been deputized by God to function as His vice-regents on earth governing and judging the nations on His behalf.

1. Biblical evidence of their existence

(Psa 82:1-8)

(1) “God (Heb., elohim [singular – see underlined] = Divine being/God) takes His stand taking His stand(participle -singular) in His own the divine (Heb., be el = the divine [See ESV], e.g., el shaddai = God of the mountain, Gen 35:11) congregation (or council); He judges in the midst of the rulers (or gods) (Heb., elohim [plural – see verse 2], “you” [plural] = Divine beings/Gods/gods). See also verse 6, “I said, ‘you are gods’” (again, elohim).

2. Who are the plural elohim that make up this divine council? After considering the possible options, there is only one that meets all the biblical tests: the anointed priests and levites (judges) of the covenant community.[2]

3. What are the practical implications and application associated with the God’s divine council being the priests and levites in Christ’s churches (the New Covenant community)?

3.1. Deacons/officers are a part of the DC by proxy (i.e., they are deputized not anointed, e.g., Korah the levite – Num 16:3 “we are all holy” [anointed]) (Deu 21:5 [priests are judges] w/2Sa 15:1-4 and 2Ch 26:21 [kings are judges] = Deu 17:8-9) = The king and priests are the anointed judges in the CC (high court judges or divines[3]). Levites and the heads of households help the king and priests in judging. They are the low court judges (2Ch 19:8). They have been deputized to represent the high court judges – i.e., the divine council or council possessing divines or those w/divine authority/anointing (Deu 16:18 “judge the people…tribes…in all your towns”; “judging ones [participle; the wise heads of household in each tribe[4]] and officers” [Levites] versus 17:8-9 “if any… cases of dispute” are “too difficult…then you shall arise and go to…the Levitical priests and judge” [priests and king/the anointed/divines]; NC = Pastors and deacons, Isa 66:21 [priests and deacons selected as heads of their households] w/1Ch 17:6 “the judges of Israel whom I commanded to shepherd My people”).

3.2. Jesus confirms that the NC possesses a DC just like the OC which means there is supernatural authority, power, protection and guidance in our church that Jesus Himself backs up or supports – which is what makes it a divine council issuing divine judgments:

1) (Mat 18:15-16) = [Deu 16:18, 17:6],

2) (Mat 18:17a) = [Deu 17:8],

3) (Mat 18:17b-20) = [Deu 17:9-12].

3.3. The way God perfectly cares for and leads His people to heaven is through the fallible and fallen leadership of His DC which means:

1) though fallible and fallen, God’s DC can judge/rule with justice (or equity) and righteousness (e.g., 2Sa 8:15).

2) unless it can be disproven to the congregation, our default position as a congregation should be to view the decisions and judgments made by our DC as coming directly from God (Pro 16:10; 2Co 1:21 w/4:6-7; Consider also 1Ti 3:1-16 = The P+D are what make the church the pillar and buttress [fortress] of truth; Mat 10:40 and 18:19-20; Act 15:22).

 

3.4. Anyone who thinks the church possesses no DC (i.e., no human judges w/divine authority):

1) is ignorant of the Scriptures and God’s power (in the church) (Mat 22:29).

2) has not considered the implications of such thinking w/respect to not only the preservation of justice and righteousness in the church but protection from demons and demonic influence (e.g., how many of us wb okay w/getting rid of the American judicial system which appoints secular men as judges w/final authority in relation to laws and issues of justice? If we deem them necessary to procuring the aforementioned things in this country, why would the same not be necessary for the church? [1Co 6:3-4]. Do we not view the secular judges as possessing authority from God? [Rom 13:1] Then why not those leaders in the church?).

3) are more than likely rebels who despise such authority or judges since they are a threat to their wicked way of life (Pro 21:15).

3.5. The church’s DC will be under stricter judgment by God and so should be careful in their decisions and judgments to make sure they are always promoting justice and preserving equity (Deu 16:20; Jam 3:1; the result of such carefulness wb the ignorant/disobedient viewing many of their decisions/policies as petty or unrighteous – e.g., late = absent; Pro 28:5).

3.6. Understanding that the DC in the church is actually referred to as elohim, brings further clarity and certainty to why insubordination or insurrection amounts to apostasy from God (Deu 17:9-12 [Num 15:30-31; Deu 29:18-20] w/Mat 18:17b-20 [Mat 12:32]; Mat 10:14-15; Rom 13:2 w/5; the crayon-eaters dilemma = When you refuse or reject the counsel of the DC, you have pushed your case to God on J-Day – which allows for no recourse/redemption after judgment).

3.7. It makes sense that the DC of the church will be involved in the final judgment of those who were a part of their congregation given they will also be involved in the judgment of those angels who caused their office and congregation pain and distress (1Co 6:3 = Those angels who caused trouble to the CC over which that DC was responsible. The righteous angels will face no judgment; Heb 13:17; Hence why then even the archangel Michael chose never to speak against the DC – Jud 8-9; Consider the context of Jude: humans treading where no angel would dare to tread; 1Th 5:12-13 “live in peace w/one another” = CC w/their DC; Num 12:1 w/9-10).

3.8. The existence of a DC in the church means that though Jesus has left us for heaven, He has not left us as orphans (i.e., persons w/o a father – or one who through their vision and discernment, discipline and discipleship, provides them with the tools to prospering in this world and passing the eternal test).

In the ANE, it was assumed that those w/o fathers were also those w/o the proper leadership in their lives to become wise or make wise decisions. Orphans – or those left as orphans, were as a result, often the idiots and criminals of society.

How (then) Jesus (though again in heaven), keeps His church from becoming aimless idiots and crooks who ultimately damn their souls b/c of such folly or lack of wisdom = Through the special anointing of “another Helper…the spirit of truth…the Holy Spirit” on certain members of His DC (Joh 14:16-18a w/25-26).

Why we cb confident that John 14 is a reference to the HS’ special anointing of the priests (in Jesus’ DC) and not the HS given to all at baptism:

1) bc the three things Jesus says about it are in perfect agreement w/what Jesus says at the initial special anointing: 1] He will personally deliver it after His death (18-20), 2] it will be associated w/Jesus’ special peace (26-27), 3] it will strengthen their belief (28-29). All three of these things are only found in (Joh 20:19-22).

2) the purpose of the John 14 HS is not the purpose of the Spirit given at baptism/@Pentecost. It can make someone a prophet (the gift of revelation – Act 2:15-18) but not a judge/part of the DC (the gift of remembrance in re: to truth – Joh 14:26; Consider also 1Co 15:29 “others judge” = The judges/DC [v28 w/Act 15:19 “my judgment” = James the anointed priest]. IOW: prophets are not judges. What about the prophet Samuel who “judged Israel”? [1Sa 7:15] Sam was also a priest – 1Sa 2:18 w/22:18 and 7:9 in contrast to 13:12]).

[1] Subjects not part of the mainstream; topics or understanding that are unconventional and/or uncomfortable to modern culture and thinking.

[2] In the ANE, the spiritual realm and humanity were inextricably linked. To believe in the spiritual realm meant also believing that its supernatural power had also been given to certain humans who functioned as authorities within specific spiritual communities. Those communities were identified as religions (or the old term, cults) and the dispensers of this power, their priests (e.g., Psa 132:16). To assume then that no such power or authority existed – or still exists today, would have been for those in the Bible, the same as believing the spiritual realm itself was fantasy. The question should therefore never be, are their human beings functioning as God’s divine council today? But rather, who are they?

[3] Old term for priests and theologians (e.g., Westminster Divines)

[4] In ancient times, being the head of a household or tribe did not require you be the oldest in the family (e.g., David; hence Psa 119:100). It meant that those in the community (or household) viewed you as among the wisest and most righteous of their clan (Exo 18:21).

Divine Council – Part 2

Stranger things = Those fringe[1] subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

Why we are discussing these kinds of subjects = So that we are viewing of our world in the same way Jesus and those living in the ancient near east (the bible’s authors) viewed their world since this is not only the real world but also vital to proper biblical interpretation (or the avoidance of projecting on the text/reading into the text our modern ideas and assumptions [eisegesis] – e.g., Gen 2:18-20).

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Previously discussed: Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send/receive things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal). BIG TAKEAWAY: In Christ’s churches, we have access to a heavenly portal that allows us to give and receive from God those persons (e.g., receive angels for help – Heb 1:14) and things (e.g., give praise to God, receive forgiveness through the sacraments – 1Pe 3:21; Joh 13:5-15 [context is the LT – v26]) important to our saving relationship with Him.

Divine council (def.,): a heavenly assembly of beings who have been deputized by God to function as His vice-regents on earth governing and judging the nations on His behalf.[2]

1. Biblical evidence of their existence

(Psa 82:1-8)

(1) “God (Heb., elohim [singular – see underlined] = Divine being/God) takes His stand taking His stand(participle -singular) in His own the divine (Heb., be el = the divine [See ESV], e.g., el shaddai = God of the mountain, Gen 35:11) congregation (or council); He judges in the midst of the rulers (or gods) (Heb., elohim [plural – see verse 2], “you” [plural] = Divine beings/Gods/gods). See also verse 6, “I said, ‘you are gods’” (again, elohim). [3]

2. Who are the plural elohim that make up this divine council? Considering the options:

2.1. other members of the Trinity (Jesus and the Holy Spirit) (Heb 1:8; Act 5:3-5)

Why this is not a viable option: God not only condemns the elohim (“rulers”) of verse 1b of judging unjustly and walking in darkness but also promises they will one day “die like men” because of such behavior (2-7).

2.2. other deities (or the gods of other religions) 1) (Exo 20:3; 1Ki 11:33)

Why this is not a viable option: Other deities do not exist (Deu 4:35, 39; Isa 45:5-6)

2.3. Dead people – particularly dead saints (1Sa 28:13)

Why this is not a viable option: 1) Dead people play no role in governing or judging the affairs of those currently living (2-4). 2) Though communication with or by them is possible, God strictly prohibits such interaction as punishable by death (Lev 20:27).

2.4. Angelic beings (the view of Michael Heiser)

Specifically: Satan and the other fallen angels who are identified as “sons of God” before His throne (Job 1-2) and are responsible not only for the Fall but mating with humanity and promoting global rebellion against God leading to the Flood (Gen 6 w/1Enoch 6-11). God placed these demons over the Gentile nations as their divine council (or spiritual authorities) after their rebellion at Babel (Deu 32:8-9 w/17 = “Sons of Israel” sb “sons of God” referring to “demons”, who inherited the Table of “Nations” as God’s judgment against the Gentiles for the Tower of Babel event [Gen 10-11]). God’s rebuke and condemnation of this council in Psalm 82 is the result of their poor oversight. Though wicked they were still expected to rule righteously.

Why this is not a viable option:

1) God never gives angels authority positions over humans – including archangels (Jud 8-9). Rather, it is humans who function as judges (rulers) over the angels (1Co 6:3). Angels exist to serve humans – specifically, those inheriting salvation (Heb 1:14). [4]

2) The idea that angels had sex with women infers not only that angels have the ability to procreate. Yet Jesus makes it clear that angels possess no such capability given they lack the proper context for such activity, marriage (Mat 22:30). To assume sexual activity were possible by angels is to therefore equally accuse God of sin – or providing moral creatures with natural desires and capabilities that possess no righteous application or solution. The fact that giants existed after the global flood (Gen 6:4) lends additional support. They are the mutated offspring of men – not angels[5].

3) Viewing the word “nations” in Deuteronomy 32 as a reference to the 70 nations of Genesis 10 is not only a false assumption – one leading directly to Heiser’s change of the phrase “sons of Israel” (MT) to “sons of God” (DSS), but a failure in reading comprehension.[6]

The entire context and focus of the Deuteronomy 32 (Moses’ Song) is God’s inheritance for the people of Israel, a group made up of twelve nations (Gen 17:4-6 w/16) which means the phrase, “sons of Israel” found in the MT is correct.

Regarding the reference to “demons” in (v17), Moses is simply recounting the idolatrous acts of the first generation (e.g., Exo 32:1-6; Lev 17:7; Act 7:43 [Amo 5:26-27]) since this is what prohibited them from receiving or realizing this land inheritance.

4) Jesus applies (6) to humans not angels (Joh 10:34 = Jesus’ defense only makes sense if the Jews understood Psalm 82 – including verse 6, as referring to humans).

2.5. the anointed priests/judges of the covenant community (Deu 17:8-9 w/Deu 21:5 = Priests/levites are the judges in the CC)

1) the place where the elohim carry out their office as rulers/judges is on earth (not heaven), the same place as the priests/judges of the covenant community (1-4; hence why God will also judge them on the earth – v8 “Arise O God, judge [the unrighteous judges] on the earth for it is You [God] who possesses [owns] all the nations”).

2) the judges (priests and levites) of the covenant community are also referred to as elohim (e.g., Exo 21:6 [See “God” Fn]; Exo 22:8-9).

3) the word translated “earth” in (5,8 [eretz]) can also be translated as land – as in the land of Israel (i.e., the covenant community) (e.g., 2Ki 5:2 “land” [eretz]).

4) the word translated “nations” in (8) can refer to the tribes of Israel (i.e., the covenant community) (e.g., again Gen 17:4-6).

5) The predominant concern and scope of Scripture is justice in the covenant community and among its leaders – not the other leaders or nations. To therefore assign a context bigger than God’s people to Psalm 82 (as Heiser does – the 70 nations of the Gentiles from Gen 10-11), is to assume an interpretive position or approach contrary what is most common in the OT – including its largest literary portion, the Prophets (e.g., Jer 22:1-17; Eze 45:9; Amo 5:10-24)[7].

6) Paul uses divine council language to speak of Old and New Covenant priests and levites:

1] (Eph 2:6) “seated us” = Paul’s audience according to 1:1-3, is the church (“Paul” along w/the “saints…and faithful…in Ephesus”) not the individual. At the very least then, the “us” of ch.2 refers to the covenant community – most specifically, her priests and levites (“faithful” = Or “faithful ones” – most likely a reference to her priests and levites – See Phi 1:1[8]). This is further supported by Paul’s connecting phrase “with Him in the heavenly places” – a direct allusion to (Psa 89:5-7) = The leaders of God’s assembly/covenant community are viewed as existing in heaven. IOW: this is the origin of their office and authority (Eph 3:10).

2] That Paul is indeed referring to spiritual leaders in the covenant community when using the phrase “rulers and authorities in the heavenly places”) versus spiritual beings such as angels or demons (again, Heiser’s view) is confirmed by the role of the church in explaining and proclaiming the “mystery” and “gospel” of God’s Messiah [Jesus] – most especially to the Jewish nation (Act 1:8; Rom 2:10) – including its spiritual leaders (Eph 3:1-10) = Assuming Heiser’s view, why would the gospel need to be preached to demons or angels – those with no hope of salvation? These verses therefore have to be referring to a human occupied divine council – most specifically those in the OC community. Why the OC divine council (priests and levites) and not those under the NC? Because of (Eph 3:11-15) = Paul’s preaching this gospel (as the ambassador of the “church”) to the aforementioned rulers and authorities has caused him “tribulations” that will bring the Ephesians “glory” (or “glory in the church”). It can’t therefore be New Covenant priests and levites Paul is referring to since not only would they not be guilty of persecuting him, but by such tribulation, bring glory to the church (such actions – if true, would bring shame to the church). How then will Paul’s preaching to OC divine coucil bring glory to the church (one that makes the tribulation/persecutions suffered bc of it worth it)? Through their conversion. They remain a part of “God’s family” (again, vv14-15) and therefore the field of final harvest for the church before Christ’s return (Rom 11:11-12). Consider (Rom 11:11-12).

3] What Paul says about these heavenly rulers or authorities in his letter to the Colossians confirms this is who Paul has in mind (the OC divine council/priests and levites) (Col 2:15-16) “When He (God) had disarmed (or defrocked and dismissed) the rulers and authorities” (through Jesus’ atoning death that removed our debt before God – v14), He made a public display of them having triumphed over them through Him” = IOW: Christ was able to make us righteous before God without the OC priesthood which in turn made them essentially obsolete (Heb 7:12 w/8:13). Additional support: (v16) = B/C the priests of the OC community have been defrocked and dismissed, we are to no longer recognize them as our spiritual authorities (our divine council).

4] Lastly, consider how Paul uses this phrase (“rulers…in the heavenly places”) at the end of his Ephesian epistle. Close cross examination of this phrase with earlier portions of the letter and other Scripture also points to Old Covenant priesthood.

(Eph 6:11-12) “schemes of the devil” = Schemes accomplished thru the “deceitful scheming” and trickery of men (4:14) = More than likely a reference to the Jews since this was – once more, the main antagonist in Paul’s ministry – and the apostolic church[9]. Additional support (1Th 2:14-18) = Notice Paul views the Jews “hindering” his mission in the gospel as satanic [“Satan hindered us”]). Paul’s point (then) in verse 12 of Ephesians 6: “Our struggle is not (only) against flesh and blood but against the rulers…in the heavenly places” (i.e., the OC divine council) who – though they have been defrocked/dismissed from their former poisitons, are now being empowered by “the powers” related to “the world forces of this darkness…the spiritual forces of wickedness” (i.e., Satan). That Paul is in these verses referring specifically to the Jewish rulers and authorities (“in the heavenly places”) is also supported by the fact that the Greek term Ioudaioi (v14, “Jews”) was the common way to refer to the Jewish priesthood and its levites (e.g., Joh 2:13-18).

7) If the anointed leaders of the Old Covenant community possessed spiritual authority (i.e., represented God’s divine council), how much more this would be true for the New Covenant community given:

1] the biblical evidence of priests and levites (judges) existing under the New Covenant just as they did under the Old (Isa 66:21; Deu 17:8-9 w/Mat 18:15-20; Consider also 1Co 6:1-4 = The church will appoint her own judges who will not only be competent enough to make righteous decisions concerning “matters of this life” but also one day judge the angels. How is that possible unless they like their predecessors have been anointed and/or deputized as God earthly vice-regents?).

2] the Body of Christ has also been given the indwelling Spirit to help her leaders – something not present under the OC.

3] We possess the “perfect” or completed corpus of God’s revelation for securing justice in the covenant community (i.e., the completed canon of Scripture – 1Co 13:10).

8) In the ANE, the spiritual realm and humanity were inextricably linked. To believe in the spiritual realm meant also believing that its supernatural power had also been given to certain humans who functioned as authorities within specific spiritual communities. Those communities were identified as religions (or the old term, cults) and the dispensers of this power, their priests (e.g., Psa 132:16). To assume then that no such power or authority existed – or still exists today, would have been for those in the Bible, the same as believing the spiritual realm itself was fantasy. The question should therefore never be, are their human beings functioning as God’s divine council today? But rather, who are they?

 

CLOSING CHALLENGE/CONTEMPLATION: What are the practical implications and application associated with the divine council being God’s anointed leaders in the church (the New Covenant community)? List as many as you can and discuss with others.

 

[1] Subjects not part of the mainstream; topics or understanding that are unconventional and/or uncomfortable to modern culture and thinking.

[2] “All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council.” – Michael Heiser (“So What Exactly Is an Elohim?”)

[3] That the office of this assembly or council is indeed located in the heavens is supported not only by the fact that it is identified as “divine” – a word implying heavenly or spiritual origins, but also passages such as Eph 3:10 and 6:12.

[4] Ancient Jewish tradition teaches that this was the reason for Satan’s initial rebellion. Though stronger and more knowledgeable, God placed humans above the angels in authority and made them their servants. It should be mentioned also that though Scripture speaks of Satan as the ruler of this world (1Jo 5:19; also 2Co 4:4 “god”/elohim), his office and authority are illegitimate – having no appointment by God. To assume God did give such appointments/authority to angels (including Satan) would mean as humans we are required to submit to them and all rebellion against them would be viewed as rebellion against God (Rom 13:1-2).

[5] The purpose of Genesis 6:1-4 is to communicate the level of devastation produced by the global flood. At the time it took place, the earth was covered by human beings – including their mutated offspring, the giants (“the sons of God [human males] came into [procreated with] the daughters of men” [human females]; See 1Co 11:7).

[6] Though I do believe that the intention of God’s language confusion – or the forfeiture of His divine language (Hebrew), was a means of judgment that would ultimately send Babel’s rebels further into the direction of spiritual darkness and false religion (i.e., worshipping and serving demons – Deu 4:19-20 “beware not to…be drawn away and worship them [the moon and the stars] those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven”), such conclusions are of no import to our understanding of Deuteronomy 32 whose concern are the nations of Israel not the world.

[7] The Prophets (major and minor) contribute 250 chapters to the Old Testament’s total of 929 chapters – almost as many as the entire New Testament (260 chapters).

[8] The Ephesian church is made up of Christians (or “saints”) including also “faithful ones” (priests and levites). See similar in Col 1:2.

[9] This only changed after 70 A.D. and the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Neronic persecution – influenced, aided and abetted by the Jewish priesthood, ultimately back-fired, turning Rome’s destructive forces against them and their religion.

Divine Council – Part 1

Stranger things = Those fringe subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible…The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

Previously discussed: Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send/receive things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal). BIG TAKEAWAY: In Christ’s churches, we have access to a heavenly portal that allows us to give and receive from God those persons (e.g., receive angels for help – Heb 1:14) and things (e.g., give praise to God, receive forgiveness through the sacraments – 1Pe 3:21; Joh 13:5-15 [context is the LT – v26]) important to our saving relationship with Him.

Divine council (def.,): a heavenly assembly of beings who have been deputized by God to function as His vice-regents on earth governing and judging the nations on His behalf.[1]

1. Biblical evidence of their existence

(Psa 82:1-8)

(1) “God (Heb., elohim [singular – see underlined] = Divine being/God) takes His stand ([participle -singular], “taking His stand) in His own the divine (Heb., be el = the divine [See ESV], e.g., el shaddai = God of the mountain, Gen 35:11) congregation (or council); He judges in the midst of the rulers (Heb., elohim [plural – see verse 2], “you” [plural] = Divine beings/Gods/gods; See also verse 6, “I said, ‘you are gods’” [again, elohim]). [2]

2. Who are the plural elohim that make up this divine council? Considering the options:

2.1. other members of the Trinity (Jesus and the Holy Spirit) (Heb 1:8; Act 5:3-5)

Why this is not a viable option: God not only condemns the elohim (“rulers”) of verse 1b of judging unjustly and walking in darkness but also promises they will one day “die like men” because of such behavior (2-7).

2.2. other deities (or the gods of other religions) 1) (Exo 20:3) “You shall have no other gods (elohim) before Me”, 2) (1Ki 11:33) “Ashtoreth the goddess (elohim) of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god (elohim) of Moab, and Milcom the god (elohim) of the sons of Ammon.”

Why this is not a viable option: (Deu 4:35, 39; Isa 45:5-6)

2.3. Dead people – particularly dead saints (1Sa 28:13) [in reference to Samuel the witch of En-dor says],“I see a god (elohim) coming up out of the earth.”

Why this is not a viable option: 1) Dead people play no role in governing or judging the affairs of those currently living (2-4). 2) Though communication with or by them is possible (e.g., besides 1Sa 28:13, see also Isa 29:4), God strictly prohibits such interaction as punishable by death (Lev 20:27).

2.4. Angelic beings

1) (Psa 8:5) “gods” [elohim] translated as “angels” in (Heb 2:7); (6) “I said, ‘You are gods (elohim), and all of you sons of the Most High (a reference to God) = elohim are sons of God w/(Job 1:6) “sons of God” (elohim) which included “Satan” who exists as part of the angelic class known as Watchers/archangels [Dan 4][3] or cherubim [Isa 28]). In the case of Psalm 82, fallen watchers/cherubim -i.e., demons, hence the rebuke and condemnation of (2-7). This is the view of Dr. Michael Heiser.[4] Included in Heiser’s view, is the belief that the global flood was the result of Satan and his fallen watchers/cherubim having sexual relations w/human women (which produced the Nephilim or giants) and convincing humanity to (once more) rebel against God. Heiser’s view comes from an Enochian understanding of (Gen 6:1-4).

“The divine transgression before the flood is retold in several Jewish texts from the intertestamental period. At least one has the divine offenders coming to earth to ‘fix’ the mess that was humankind—to provide direction and leadership through their knowledge. They were trying to help, but once they had assumed flesh, they failed to resist its urges. The more common version of events, one with a more sinister flavor, is found in 1 Enoch 6–11…The story begins very much like Genesis 6: “And when the sons of men had multiplied, in those days, beautiful and comely daughters were born to them. And the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw them and desired them. And they said to one another, ‘Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the daughters of men, and let us beget for ourselves children’…The offspring of the Watchers (sons of God) in 1 Enoch were giants (1 Enoch 7)…But what does it all mean? Why is Genesis 6:1–4 in the Bible? What was its theological message? Yes, there were giants, renowned men, both before and after the flood (Gen 6:4). But those offspring and their knowledge were not of the true God—they were the result of rebellion against Yahweh by lesser divine beings. Genesis 6:1–4, portrays…a horrific transgression and, even worse, the catalyst that spread corruption throughout humankind. Genesis 6:5 is essentially a summary of the effect of the transgression. It gets little space—it’s a restrained account. The later Second Temple Jewish literature goes after it full bore. First Enoch 8 goes on to elaborate how certain watchers corrupted humankind by means of forbidden knowledge.” – Heiser (ibid)

 

“They [the Watchers] became servants of Satan and led astray those who dwell upon the dry ground” (1 Enoch 54:6)… “These are the Watchers (Grigori), who turned aside from the Lord, 200 myriads, together with their prince Satan(ail)”(2 Enoch 18:3).

2) (Deu 32:8-9 w/17) “When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, When He separated the sons of man, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the sons of Israel” (Masoretic Text) – versus “sons of God” (elohim) (Dead Sea Scrolls) = A reference to God giving over the 70 nations of Genesis 10 (the “table of nations”) to Enoch’s watchers (the “demons” of verse 17) due to the people’s rebellion at the tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9). It is therefore also these individuals that God is rebuking and condemning in (2-7). Though fallen, the demons were still expected to exercise righteous judgment.

“Deuteronomy 32:8–9 describes how Yahweh’s dispersal of the nations at Babel resulted in his disinheriting those nations as his people. This is the Old Testament equivalent of Romans 1:18–25, a familiar passage wherein God ‘gave [humankind] over’ to their persistent rebellion. The statement in Deuteronomy 32:9 that ‘the LORD’s [i.e., Yahweh’s] portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage’ tips us off that a contrast in affection and ownership is intended. Yahweh in effect decided that the people of the world’s nations were no longer going to be in relationship to him. He would begin anew. He would enter into covenant relationship with a new people that did not yet exist: Israel. The implications of this decision and this passage are crucial to understanding much of what’s in the Old Testament. Most English Bibles do not read “according to the number of the sons of God” in Deuteronomy 32:8. Rather, they read ‘according to the number of the sons of Israel…’ The difference derives from disagreements between manuscripts of the Old Testament. ‘Sons of God’ is the correct reading, as is now known from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Frankly, you don’t need to know all the technical reasons for why the “sons of God” reading in Deuteronomy 32:8–9 is what the verse originally said. You just need to think a bit about the wrong reading, the “sons of Israel.” Deuteronomy 32:8–9 harks back to events at the Tower of Babel, an event that occurred before the call of Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel. This means that the nations of the earth were divided at Babel before Israel even existed as a people. It would make no sense for God to divide up the nations of the earth ‘according to the number of the sons of Israel’ if there was no Israel. This point is also brought home in another way, namely by the fact that Israel is not listed in the Table of Nations. So what happened to the other nations? What does it mean that they were apportioned as an inheritance according to the number of the sons of God? As odd as it sounds, the rest of the nations were placed under the authority of members of Yahweh’s divine council. The other nations were assigned to lesser elohim as a judgment from the Most High, Yahweh… God decreed, in the wake of Babel, that the other nations he had forsaken would have other gods besides himself to worship. It is as though God was saying, ‘If you don’t want to obey me, I’m not interested in being your god—I’ll match you up with some other god.’ Psalm 82, where we started our divine council discussion, echoes this decision. That psalm has Yahweh judging other elohim, sons of the Most High, for their corruption in administering the nations.” – Heiser (ibid)

3) (6b) “sons of the Most High” (elyon).

“Elyon is a completely transparent title for deity, both in Hebrew and Ugaritic. The word refers only to God in the Bible and Ugaritic religious texts. The point here is that the phrase ‘sons of Elyon’ in Canaanite (Ugaritic) material always refers to gods/divine beings.” – Heiser (“Divine Council 101: Lesson 2: The elohim of Psalm 82 – gods or men?”).

Why this is not a viable option:

1) God never gives angels authority positions over humans – including archangels (Jud 8-9). Rather, it is humans who function as judges (rulers) over the angels (1Co 6:3). Angels exist to serve humans – specifically, those inheriting salvation (e.g., guardian angels) (Heb 1:14). [5] The idea that angels had sex with women (Enochian understanding of Gen 6) infers not only that angels have penises, but sperm – or the ability to procreate. Yet Jesus makes it clear that angels possess no such capability given they lack the proper context for such activity, marriage (Mat 22:30). To assume sexual activity were possible by angels is to therefore equally accuse God of sin – or providing moral creatures with natural desires and capabilities that possess no righteous application or solution. The fact that giants existed after the global flood (Gen 6:4) lends additional support. They are the mutated offspring of men – not angels[6].

2) Viewing the word “nations” in Deuteronomy 32 as a reference to the 70 nations of Genesis 10 and the Tower of Babel incident in Gen 11 is a false assumption[7]. The entire context and focus of the chapter (Moses’ Song) is instead about God’s allotment to the people of Israel, a group made up of twelve tribes or nations (Gen 17:4-6 w/16 = All references to nations in these verses are speaking about the twelve tribes of Israel; See also God’s words to Jacob in Gen 35:11) which means the phrase, “sons of Israel” found in the Masoretic text is correct. How then we should understand Deu 32:8-9:

“When the Most High (God) gave the nations (the twelve nations of Israel) their inheritance (Israel btw is the only one ever spoken of in the OT as receiving an inheritance from God), when He separated the sons of man (the Jews), He set the boundaries of the peoples (God pre-determined the borders of the land that wb given to each Jewish tribe when they entered the Promised Land) according to the number of the sons of Israel (twelve sons equaling twelve nations within the one nation of Israel).”

Regarding the reference to “demons” in (v17), Moses is recounting the idolatrous acts of the first generation which eventually led them to being prohibited from entering into the Promised Land (e.g., Exo 32:1-6; Lev 17:7; Act 7:43 [Amo 5:26-27]).

3) Jesus applies (6) to humans not angels (Joh 10:34 = Jesus’ defense only makes sense if the Jews understood Psalm 82 – including verse 6, as referring to humans). Furthermore, though the term “sons of God” can be used for angels and other spiritual beings, the term “sons of the Most High” is only used in relation to humans (Christians) (Luk 6:35).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: Who are the members of God’s divine council?

 

[1] “All ancient Mediterranean cultures had some conception of a divine council.” – Michael Heiser (“So What Exactly Is an Elohim?”)

[2] That the office of this assembly or council is indeed located in the heavens is supported not only by the fact that it is identified as “divine” – a word implying heavenly or spiritual origins, but also passages such as Eph 3:10 and 6:12.

[3] “The term ‘Watchers,’ meaning ‘wakeful ones’ (Aramaic ןיריע), glossed as ‘sons of Heaven’ in 1 En. 6:2, refers to a class of angels, mentioned in the Bible only in Dan. 4:10, 14, 20. – Angela Kim Harkins (The Watchers in Jewish and Christian Traditions)

[4] “The term elohim more broadly does not refer to ‘deity attributes.’ Rather, it points to a plane of existence. An elohim is simply a being whose proper habitation [or origin of office and authority] is the spirit world…An elohim is a divine being, in that an elohim is an inhabitant of [or office-bearer in] the spiritual place of reality.” – Heiser (ibid)

[5] Ancient Jewish tradition teaches that this was the reason for Satan’s initial rebellion. Though stronger and more knowledgeable, God placed humans above the angels in authority and made them their servants. It should be mentioned also that though Scripture speaks of Satan as the ruler of this world (1Jo 5:19; also 2co 4:4 “god”/elohim), his office and authority are illegitimate – having no appointment by God. To assume God did give such appointments/authority to angels (including Satan) would mean as humans we are required to submit to them and all rebellion against them would be viewed as rebellion against God (Rom 13:1-2).

[6] The purpose of Genesis 6:1-4 is to communicate the level of devastation produced by the global flood. At the time it took place, the earth was covered by human beings – including their mutated offspring, the giants (“the sons of God [human males] came into [procreated with] the daughters of men”[human females]; See 1Co 11:7).

[7] Though I do believe that the intention of God’s language confusion – or the forfeiture of His divine language (Hebrew), was a means of judgment that would ultimately send Babel’s rebels further into the direction of spiritual darkness and false religion (i.e., worshipping and serving demons – Deu 4:19-20 “beware not to…be drawn away and worship them [the moon and the stars] those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven”), such conclusions are of no import to our understanding of Deuteronomy 32 whose concern are the nations of Israel not the world.

What the Bible Teaches About Resurrection

Resurrection (def.,): The supernatural phenomenon whereby the present state of those who have died is replaced by once more being alive in a physical/material body yet unable to die again.

1. Easter is also known as “Resurrection Sunday” since it marks the day Jesus Christ became the first person to experience resurrection. Jesus’ resurrection is also the reason God’s people corporately worship God on Sunday rather than Saturday (Rom 6:9; 1 Co 15:20; Act 20:7 = Every Sunday is Resurrection Sunday).

2. Jesus’ resurrection (to Paradise): 1) proved that He is the Divine Son of God (Rom 1:4 w/Joh 10:18), 2) means His sacrificial death was sufficient to propitiate – or satisfy God’s requirements for cleansing the sins of His people and make them truly righteous before God the Father. As such, the temporary injunction of animal sacrifices (“pass-over atonement”) was forever canceled (Rom 3:23-25, 4:25 w/Heb 10:10-17; also Mat 1:21).

3. No one since Jesus has experienced resurrection since: 1) the son of the Shunammite woman, the widows’ sons, Lazarus, Dorcas, and Eutychus experienced resuscitations not resurrections given they died again (1Ki 7:17-23; 2 Ki 4:18-37; Luk 7:12-15; Joh 11:39-44; Act 9:36-41, 20:9-10), 2) all those who have died in the past currently exist like God without physical/material bodies ([Due 4:15-18 w/Joh 4:24 w/Luk 24:39] w/1Co 15:20-23; 1Th 4:16-17; 2Co 5:8).

4. Every person who has ever lived will experience a resurrection at the return of Jesus to earth (Joh 5:28-29; Act 24:15 [Dan 12:2; Psa 11:7]).

5. Before Jesus’ resurrection, those who died went either to Abraham’s bosom (the temporary resting place of righteous disembodied spirits) or Hades (the temporary torturing place of wicked disembodied spirits) and neither could cross over to the other (Luk 16:19-26).

6. After Jesus’ resurrection, those in Abraham’s bosom were allowed into heaven (their sins having been propitiated versus simply passed over) to fellowship w/the Trinity, the angels and the righteous disembodied spirits of those who die after Jesus’ resurrection (Heb 9:15-16 w/Eph 4:8-10; 2Co 5:8; Luk 23:43).

7. Experiencing the resurrection of the wicked will: 1) be the fate of most human beings because they chose to love wickedness rather than put faith in and be faithful to Jesus during their earthly life (Mat 7:18-23; Luk 13:23-24; 2Th 2:1:5-9, 2:10-12, 2) be followed by God’s condemning judgment and then being tortured in a lake of fire everyday forever (Psa 11:4-6; Rev 20:11-15; 2Th 2:10-12; again Joh 5:28-29 and Dan 12:2).

8. Experiencing the resurrection of the righteous will: 1) be followed by God’s approving judgment then an eternal life of never sinning, suffering or being bored, as they will be forever equipped with superhuman bodies and forever occupied with discovering, developing and enjoying King Jesus’ perfect new – and infinite universe to His glory (Rev 21-22), 2) require not only pledging your allegiance to Jesus in this life through baptismal faith but then living in faithful obedience to those vows until you die or Jesus returns (1Pe 3:21; 1Jo 3:7-10; Luk 20:35 “those considered worthy to attain to the resurrection [of the righteous] w/Joh 5:29).

9. We should not be surprised that people mock our belief in a future resurrection, the resurrection was as unpopular (a belief) in the ANE as it is today (e.g., Act 17:18 w/31-32). To not believe in a resurrection – most especially, the resurrection of Jesus, will eternally condemn you (1Co 15:1-4 “the gospel which I preached to you” w/Gal 1:6-9 “a different gospel…anathema”).

“Nobody in the pagan world of Jesus’ day and thereafter claimed that somebody had been truly dead and had then come to be truly, and bodily, alive once more.” – N.T. Wright (The Resurrection of the Son of God).

10. The fact that there will be a future resurrection not only confirms that this is not the only life we will live, but that the point of this very temporal life is to determine what version of eternal life we deserve (1Co 15:32).

 

TODAY’S TAKEAWAY: GOD IS REAL. THIS LIFE IS THE TEST. GAIN THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS AND THE RIGHTEOUS.

 

PHI 3:10-11

“10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Dimensional Portals – Part 3

Stranger things = Those fringe subjects of the Bible which exist at the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

 

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is …not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible….The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

 

Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send/receive things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal).

1. Summary of what we learned in our previous two discussions:

1.1. In the Bible, access to the divine (a heavenly portal/gate which in most cases, is also identified as the house of God) is associated w/mountains (including hills and high places). Hence the name, “El Shaddai” (Literally, “God of the Mountain”):

1) Mt. Eden (Eze 28:13-14 “Every precious stone was your covering” = This statement along w/what follows could be a reference to a temple like structure that existed as God’s house on the mountain – Precious stones were a part of Solomon’s Temple – 1Ch 29:2)

2) Mt. Ephraim (Gen 28:10-22 “a ladder was set on earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it…‘This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate [portal] of heaven [Bethel].’” w/Jug 4:5 “Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim”)

3) Mt. Sinai/tabernacle (Exo 24:1-18 w/the tabernacle being constructed at the base of the mountain – Exo 40)

4) Mt. Zion/Jerusalem Temple (Psa 84:1-3, 9), 5) Jesus as the eschatological Mt. Zion/Temple (house of God) (Mat 16:18 “rock” [mountain] w/Dan 2:35 [7:13] w/Isa 2:1-3; Joh 1:14 “dwelt” = Literally, “tabernacled”; Joh 2:19-21 w/Rev 21:22; Mat 16:19 “keys [to the portal/gate] of the kingdom of heaven”). Hence why also (Gen 11:1-9 “Babel” – later, “Babylon” or “Gate of Heaven”).

 

1.2. In the Bible, bodies of water (seas, lakes and rivers) are associated with death, the wicked and demons (Psa Psa 9:17 “the wicked…Sheol”; Luk 8:31 “demons…the abyss”, 16:23 “[wicked] in Hades”; Mat 8:31-32 “[the demons possessing the swine] rushed…into the sea” w/12:43 “[exorcised demon] passes through waterless places seeking rest [a water-filled place]”) (In re: to both Psa 18:1-17).

 

*For further study see L. Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend The Mountain of the Lord?)

 

2. Conclusions (Inferences/Hypotheses) that can be drawn from what we have learned:

2.1. The above two truths, are why God’s salvation often involves (or is depicted as) deliverance from the watery depths and ascent to the mountain heights (bc we are moving from death to life/new life):

1) Noah and family: were delivered from the global flood to Mt. Ararat (Gen 7:6-7 w/17w/21-8:4)

2) Moses and Israel were delivered thru the Red Sea to Mt. Sinai (Exo 14:29-30 and 19:1-2)

3) David (in re: to Saul’s deadly manhunt) was delivered from “the torrents (rushing water) of ungodliness (or demonic assault, 1Sa 16:14)…the cords of Sheol…the snares of death…the many waters” to a place “on high” to the mountain of God – or God who is the mountain (“rock”) (Psa 18:1-7 w/15-17)

4) Us/Christians were delivered thru the waters of baptism symbolizing the place of our sin/death to new life on the mountain that is Christ (1Pe 3:20-21 w/Rom 8:3-4) Who experienced the same path in His mission to save us: baptism unto death (Luk 12:50) leading to resurrection and heavenly ascension from the top of a sacred mtn (Mt. Olivet).

 

2.2. Access to God – or His sacred mountain (for forgiveness, blessings, empowerment, guidance) has never been something available in any place, at any time or in any way (Exo 19:10-19 w/Psa 15 = Access to God/His mtn is limited and restrictive; Joh 12:25-26 = Access to El Shaddai Jesus is limited and restrictive; Again Mat 16:18-19 [Joh 20:21-23] = Forgiveness exists only in the church planted on El Shaddai Jesus and thru the hands of His anointed priests [Jam 5:14-16]).

2.3. Only God can open portals to heaven. The only portals we can open, are those to Hades (e.g., Gen 28:16 “surely God is in this place and I did not know it”) = Jacob plays no role in opening the portal, only in recognizing it. (Gen 11:4 w/6) = Their efforts in opening a heavenly portal was an exercise in futility, what however they could open in respect to evil had no limits [“nothing evil which they purpose to do will be impossible for them”]; 1Co 10:20 “sharers in demons” = Sacrifice to demons opens portals to [contact w/] demons).

 

2.4. Heavenly portals are necessary for salvation (Joh 3:3 “born again”) = Literally, born from above (Grk., anothen = Above, e.g., Joh 3:31 [“He who comes from above”]). Hence the reason the sacraments reside w/the church (i.e., the house of God/gate of heaven where these portals exist) (Mat 16:19).

 

2.5. The closer the portal the closer the help or hindrance (Dan 10:2-13) = It seems as though the angel was not able to simply appear at the place where Daniel was praying and fasting, but rather had to travel (from Jerusalem) through Persia to get to him (i.e., God was not willing to open a portal in Babylon). This implies that portals are not everywhere and the time it takes to receive supernatural help is determined by their proximity (See Num 1:51-2:2 w/Psa 34:7; Consider also Mar 5:25-30 = Jesus as the new house of God, was a walking portal). The proximity principle should also be assumed in relation to demonic activity (1Th 2:18 “Satan hindered us”).

 

2.6. The world is filled w/churches (sacred mountains) who, because their gospel is false and/or are compromising, have filled the world w/portals open to the demonic realm (Mat 16:18 “gates of Hades” w/Rev 18:2; Combined w/the previous point consider all the Evangelical churches that start in public schools – or false Christian schools [Roman Catholic, Evangelical] and what that means for those places – i.e., they are being overrun by demons. Could this be the reason for the uptick in violence, idolatry and immorality in our schools today?).

 

2.7. It should come as no surprise that false versions of Christianity share many similarities to true Christianity since this is how all effective false religions work. Consider the false religions of the ANE started by the 70 nations who are the descendants of Noah’s rebellious sons Ham and Japheth (Gen 10 Table of Nations). Because they share the same ancestors and experiences as the true followers of YHWH, what they produce as their god and religion share many of the same names, stories and beliefs (e.g., portals, sacred mtns and high places, the necessity of sacrifice, stories of Creation and the Flood, etc). The differences (in these false versions) exist in those areas where the truth is incompatible with their desires or agenda (e.g., a gospel req’g only faith to be saved).

The PNTM: counterfeits versions of YHWHism are bound to look like what is legitimate because of their past history or prior connection to the truth. Yet in the end, what they are – no matter the level of similarities, is a religion worshipping demons (e.g., Evangelicals are worshipping demons they call YHWH or Jesus. How many demons have been afforded the name YHWH or Jesus?).

 

2.8. Our tithing (or lack thereof) affects whether or not the heavenly portal (and its benefits) are available to us (Gen 28:22) = The ancient religion passed down to Jacob by Isaac and Abraham taught him the necessity of tithing to maintaining access to God’s heavenly portal and receiving His blessings (Mal 3:8-10 “windows” [Heb., arrubbah] = Flood-gate).

 

2.9. The biblical relationship between the sea and the demonic (Rev 13:1), as the alternate, acceptable existence for demons (Mat 8:32), could be the reason for UFOs entering and exiting from our oceans.

 

2.10. False churches are our world’s greatest threat: they promise a portal to heaven yet open those leading to the Hades and the devil (Rev 18:2)

 

2.11. The safest place on earth: Christ’s church (Joh 1:51; Mat 7:24 w/Psa 18:1-3),

 

2.12. Is it by accident that Christ Covenant Church sits on a high place (a hill) in the Mile High City – or is it poetic providence?

Dimensional Portals – Part 2

Stranger things = Those fringe subjects of the Bible which exist in the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

 

What to keep in mind when discussing subjects like this: (1Ti 1:3 “strange doctrines”) = Doctrine that does not agree with orthodoxy – e.g., Gen 6:1-4 according to 1Enoch (fallen angels mated with human women who gave birth to the giants who actions and dead, demonic spirits are the main reason for humanity’s corruption [tbd under Divine Council]).

Why talking about these subjects are important:

1) we are living in stranger times (e.g., The US secret program that employed what is known as remote viewing [clairvoyance] from 1978-1995 [Project Stargate]; UFO/UAP and alien phenomena and their possible connection to world govts, the divine or demonic and other dimensions, our culture’s current obsession w/the supernatural [super-heroes, aliens, stargates/portals to other dimensions or multiverses [The Marvels, Avengers Infinity War and End Game, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Spiderman Across the Spiderverse, Zac Snyder’s Justice League, Stargate, Fringe, Resident Alien, Ancient Aliens, Stranger Things, etc.], quantum mechanics/physics and its belief in multiple dimensions).

2) much of what the Scriptures have to say about these kinds of subjects were suppressed in the over correction of the Protestant Reformation [16th century] as the means to not only curtailing the myths of Roman Catholicism but also the hyper-supernaturalism that characterized much of the Middle Ages [400 – 1500 A.D.].

3) the evidence for dimensional portals (or “stargates”) or divine councils are not only present in the Scriptures but also other ANE[1] literature (Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, Egyptian and Assyrian [e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Book of Gates).

4) the Bible presents a material world that is very connected to, dependent on, impacted and affected by an immaterial world filled with supernatural beings and power.

“Human events are inextricably intertwined with the events in heavenly places.” – Sinclair Ferguson (“Preaching From The Book Of Daniel”)

5) to speak of the events of life without consideration of their connection or impact on the spiritual realm would have seemed strange to the biblical authors living in the ANE. If we are to understand our bibles and its message to us, we must then understand it from their perspective.

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is not Augustine or any other church father. It is not the Catholic church. It is not the rabbinic movements of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. It is not the Reformation and the Puritans. It is not evangelicalism in any of its many flavors. It is not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible. Every other context is alien to the biblical writers and, therefore, to the Bible….The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

 

Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal).

 

1. The cosmology[2] established by the Bible seems to identify certain geographical locations as more likely to possess dimensional portals. The geographical locations most frequented by those living in the ANE for the purpose of connecting with the spiritual/immaterial/supernatural realm were the high places. Hence the reason communication w/God (or false gods), religious sacrifices and temples often existed on mountains (e.g., Mt. Sinai, Mt. Zion) or mountain-like structures (e.g., pyramids, ziggurats; the Tower of Babel)(See Tabernacle Prefigured: Cosmic Mountain Ideology In Genesis and Exodus, Who Shall Ascend The Mountain Of The Lord? by L. Michael Morales).

 

2. Those high places confirmed to be dimensional portals between heaven and earth are also referred to as the “house of God” (other by its other terms: “sanctuary”, “tabernacle” or “temple”). This is the point behind God resting on the seventh day [after the six days of Creation] – and the reason we are told to be gathering for worship on the Sabbath in God’s house. ANE thought teaches us that though God’s home is in heaven, the place He chooses to rest is in His house [think vacation home] on earth. In the beginning that was Mt. Eden, later it was Mt. Sinai.[3] Other houses of God and dimensional portals associated w/high places/mountains: 1) Jacob’s Bethel (Gen 28:10-19 [“Beth-el” = House of God; “gate of heaven” = Dimensional portal] w/Jug 4:5 [“hill country of Ephraim” = Mt. Ephraim; See also Gen 35:3, “let us go up to Bethel”]),

2) Israel’s tabernacle (Exo 29:44-45 w/1Chr 6:48 [“the tabernacle of the house of God”]; Exo 40:34 w/24:15-16 [“cloud…glory of the Lord” = God’s Presence transfers to the tabernacle identifying it as the new sacred mountain of God and gate to heaven] [4]), 3) Jerusalem’s temple/sanctuary (2Chr 6:6 w/Psa 78:68-69; Psa 48:1-3 w/9 w/13 [“Mount Zion…His holy mountain…Your temple…her palaces”] w/Psa 27:4 [“house of the Lord…His temple”]).

Understanding the connection between high places and heavenly portals (the presence of God/the divine) helps us to better appreciate why: 1) important events or meetings are often referred to as “Summit Meetings” (e.g., G5 Summit; Gen 31:51-32:2 = The fact that Jacob and Laban are on a mountain when all these things happen [covenant/“pillar” of “witness” est’d, God invoked for judgment, sacrifice is made] and supernatural events are experienced [“angels of God” are on the mtn] is not by accident. Jacob and Laban no doubt saw this place as a potential portal [“This is God’s camp”]), 2) Jesus and His disciples found solace in the high places or mountain gardens (Mt. Olivet, Luk 21:37; its mountain garden:: the Garden of Gethsemane – consider also the angels who are there – Luk 22:39-43), 3) the gospel is connected to a high place/mountain (Isa 52:7 [Rom 10:15; Eph 6:15]) = Reference to the mountain tells us the messenger possesses a message from “on high” – i.e., it comes from God.

 

3. Jesus moves the house of God or dimensional portal between heaven and earth off the former sacred mountains and on to Himself and His churches. The physical location of Jesus’ churches wb be global and no longer require the need of a literal high place or sacred mountain (Joh 4:20-24 “worship in spirit and truth”) = Access to God (for forgiveness, blessings, empowerment, authority) would no longer be based on Jewish bloodline or its former sacred mountain (Zion/Jerusalem). God’s people would instead be born by the Spirit and building their lives on the truth/teachings of Jesus – God’s new sacred mountain – the eschatological Mt. Zion of the prophets. (Mat 16:13-18a) “I also say to you that you are Peter” = Jesus seems to be indicating that the reason He gave “Simon Barjona” (v17) this nickname (“Peter [Grk.-masc., petros] is a modified version of the actual term for rock [Grk., – fem., petra])[5] at the beginning of His ministry (Joh 1:42 “Cephas” [Aramaic for rock]) was for this divinely orchestrated moment, Simon (or Peter’s) powerful proclamation of Jesus’s identity (“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” – v16) a statement which also identifies Jesus as eschatological Mt. Zion of the nations, the foundation of God’s new house and fountain of His new laws (Isa 2:1-3 w/Dan 2:35) = The eschatological “mountain” of Isaiah and Daniel’s visions are the same. And according to Dan 7:13-14, the divine mountain is a Divine Person (Dan 7:1-18 is a repeat of Dan 2:31-45). Jesus alludes to Himself as the mountain and His church where His laws/truth will not only be taught but obeyed in (Mat 7:24 “rock” = An epithet for mountain often used when speaking of God – e.g., Psa 18:2, 31, 46[6]). Like before however, worship on this new mountain (and new house) would require a portal/access to heaven since it too would possess spiritual commodities to be received by heaven (the sacraments). Hence (Mat 16:19). The church is therefore the new Jacob’s ladder or heavenly highway, the sacred space on earth where an influx of celestial traffic and new spiritual commodities [e.g., the sacraments; judgments – Mat 18:18-20” I am there in your midst” = The heavenly portal is open and I am participating w/you in your judgments; See also 1Co 5:4 and Act 15:19-20 w/28-29][7] pass through on a regular basis (Mat 28:20b “I am with you always” [i.e. there on a regular basis] w/Joh 1:51; Heb 12:22-29; Hence Eph 1:23 “fills all in all” = Christ’s full presence resides in the church b/c of the heavenly portal that exists there).

4. Like those worshipping false deities (demons), those churches given to moral compromise or false gospels, can become portals and/or open portals of Hades. Like those houses of God before it, Jesus’s promise in Mat 16:18b (“gates [or portals] of Hades will not overpower it [the church]”is conditioned upon the church’s practice of righteousness and justice – and embracing the true gospel.[8] (e.g., Rev 3:8 [notice the implied condition, they “kept His word and did not deny His name”] in contrast to Rev18:2 w/16:13-14 [“false prophet” = Israel’s priesthood] = B/C of her rejection of Jesus and His gospel, the OC church [Israel] not only became a false religion but a portal to Hades that filled Jerusalem w/demons]; Deu 32:15-17 [“Jeshrun” = Israel] w/Psa 106:37-38 and 1Co 10:16 w/19-20) = As in the case w/God, what can be safely assumed is that worship [sacrifice] to demons [knowingly or unknowingly] likewise opens portals allowing them passage into our dimension – or bodies. Hence the reason the global corruption of the church will eventually accomplish the permanent emancipation of Satan and the demons from Hades (Rev 20:7-8).

 

CLOSING COMTEMPLATION: What conclusions (inferences or hypotheses) can be drawn from what we have learned about the Bible’s cosmology and teaching on dimensional portals? [Make a list and discuss!]

[1] ANE: Ancient Near East. The world of the bible’s authors and teachers (2,000 BC – 100 AD).

[2] Cosmology refers to the way we understand the structure of the universe. According to ANE thought, the universe was comprised of three realms or dimensions: 1) heavenly for God and angels, 2) earthly for humans, 3) underworld (under the earth) for the dead, the devil and his angels. All three are depicted in the second of the Ten Commandments (Exo 20:4).

[3] It is possible that like Moses on Mt. Sinai, so also Adam would summit Eden to meet w/God on the Sabbath. On the other days, God could be found walking in the garden at its base (e.g., Gen 3:8).

[4] “The experience at Sinai as mountain of God will give way to another reality as this approach to God in worship is carried though the tabernacle as a portable mountain of God…Because the tabernacle is an architectural embodiment of the mountain of God, the transfer of God’s Presence from Sinai to the tabernacle yields other links and correspondences between them. Commentators, at least since Ramban in the Middle Ages, have noted the similarity between Mount Sinai and the tabernacle, first in relation to their tripartite divisions whereby the holy of holies (the priest’s sole access) corresponds to the summit, the holy place (accessed by the priesthood) corresponds to the second one partway up the mountain, and the outer court with the altar (accessed by the people) corresponds to the base of the mountain, also with an altar (Exo 19:1-25 w/24:1-2, 9-18)…After Adam’s and Eve’s expulsion from the garden of Eden, YHWH installed cherubim to guard the entrance – specifically to bar access to the tree of life (Gen 3:24). The only other place within the Pentateuch where one reads of the cherubim is in relation to the tabernacle (Exo 36:8, 35). Also, the tree of life in the garden…symbolizing God’s life-giving Presence, appears to find correspondence in the stylized tree the menorah – of the tabernacle.” – Morales (ibid)

[5] The Roman Catholic church’s attempt to identify Simon as the same rock where Jesus will build His church reveals either their ignorance – or deliberate choice to ignore that these words are different and therefore referring to two different things.

[6] “The word ‘rock’, sometimes a synonym for mountain, is also an epithet for YHWH.” – Morales (The Tabernacle Pre-Figured)

[7] With respect to spiritual commodities consider the OT sacrifices or burnt offerings whose very name implies movement upward through God’s portal. “The supreme sacrifice, the burnt offering, or holocaust, is in Hebrew ‘ola, a going up.’” – Morales (ibid)

[8] It is worth noting that where Jesus makes this promise (“the gates of Hades”) is also on a mountain, Mt. Hermon, a place known in the ANE as “the gates of the dead.”

Dimensional Portals – Part 1

Stranger things = Those fringe subjects of the Bible which exist in the intersection of the supernatural and natural, the immaterial and material worlds.

 

 

What to keep in mind when discussing subjects like this: (1Ti 1:3 “strange doctrines”) = Doctrine that does not agree with orthodoxy – e.g., Gen 6:1-4 according to 1Enoch (fallen angels mated with human women who gave birth to the giants who actions and dead, demonic spirits are the main reason for humanity’s corruption [tbd under Divine Council]).

 

Why talking about these subjects are important:

1) we are living in stranger times (e.g., The US secret program that employed what is known as remote viewing [clairvoyance] from 1978-1995 [Project Stargate]; UFO/UAP and alien phenomena and their possible connection to world govts, the divine or demonic and other dimensions, our culture’s current obsession w/the supernatural [super-heroes, aliens, stargates/portals to other dimensions or multiverses [The Marvels, Avengers Infinity War and End Game, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Spiderman Across the Spiderverse, Zac Snyder’s Justice League, Stargate, Fringe, Resident Alien, Ancient Aliens, Stranger Things, etc.], quantum mechanics/physics and its belief in multiple dimensions).

2) much of what the Scriptures have to say about these kinds of subjects were suppressed in the over correction of the Protestant Reformation [16th century] to not only curtail the myths of Roman Catholicism but hyper-supernaturalism that characterized much of the Middle Ages [400 – 1500 A.D.] and its theology.

3) the evidence for dimensional portals (or “stargates”) or divine councils are not only present in the Scriptures but also other ANE[1] literature (Sumerian, Babylonian, Akkadian, Egyptian and Assyrian [e.g., the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Book of Gates).

4) the Bible presents a material world that is very connected to, dependent on, impacted and affected by an immaterial world filled with supernatural beings and power.

“Human events are inextricably intertwined with the events in heavenly places.” – Sinclair Ferguson (“Preaching From The Book Of Daniel”)

5) to speak of the events of life without consideration of their connection or impact on the spiritual realm would have seemed strange to the biblical authors living in the ANE. If we are to understand our bibles and its message to us, we must then understand it from their perspective.

“It would be dishonest of us to claim that the biblical writers read and understood the text the way we do as modern people, or intended meanings that conform to theological systems created centuries after the text was written. Our context is not their context. The proper context for interpreting the Bible is not Augustine or any other church father. It is not the Catholic church. It is not the rabbinic movements of late antiquity and the Middle Ages. It is not the Reformation and the Puritans. It is not evangelicalism in any of its many flavors. It is not the modern world at all, or any period of its history. The proper context is the context of the biblical writers-the context that produced the Bible. Every other context is alien to the biblical writers and, therefore, to the Bible….The biblical context was produced by men who lived in the ancient near east (ANE). Seeing the Bible through the eyes of an ancient reader [therefore] requires shedding the filters of our [modern] traditions and presumptions. They processed life in supernatural terms.” – Michael S. Heiser (The Unseen Realm)

 

 

Dimensional portals (def.,): doors or gates and their accompanying bridges connecting the immaterial/spiritual/supernatural world to the material/physical/natural world allowing those with access, the ability to travel or send things from one dimension (or realm) to the other (e.g., Rev 4:1 “door” = Portal; Consider also 2Co 12:2 – Like John, Paul most likely travelled through a dimensional portal).

 

 

1. The cosmology[2] established by the Bible seems to identify certain geographical locations as more likely to possess dimensional portals. 1.1. The earth’s oceans or large bodies of water are depicted as uncreated space, the place of darkness, chaos and evil – and therefore the place where those go who are now dead (uncreated physically, no longer attached to a physical body, spirits) those who have left the “light” of creation or “light of life” (life/creation being associated w/life – Gen 1:3-4; Job 33:30; Psa 56:13; Joh 1:4, 8:12). The sea was therefore thought of as a portal to the underworld (again Exo 20:4). Most common biblical terms used to identify the underworld: “Sheol or Abbadon”– Job 26:5-6[3]). Support: (Gen 1:1-2, “formless and void” = Uncreated; Gen 6:17 w/7:21-23 w/1Pe 3:20-21 [Like the blood of the sacrifice, water removes what should not exist in creation – i.e., sin, to the place of uncreation[4]]; See also 2Pe 3:5-6 [“formed out of water by water” = The water represents the instrument of creation rather than creation itself. Peter also associates it w/destruction – which coincides with the idea of uncreation since this is the end product of destruction]; Psa 18:4-6 w/16-19, 49:14 [Sheol is associated w/darkness in contrast to the upright who rule in the light/“morning.” It is also the place where our created “form” is uncreated or “consumed”]; Job 17:13]; Jon 2:2-3; Isa 57:20-21; Jam 1:6; Jud 1:13; Hence Rev 21:1)[5].

Given this understanding consider water’s connection to demons or demon possession (Mat 8:31-32 w/12:43 = Water shares much in common w/physical bodies making it a nice alternative. In this sense, pigs are also a reasonable option as a transport vessel back to the water – especially given their recent eviction from their human host – the ideal home for sentient life-forms/spirits)[6].

1.2. In contrast, the earth’s land is depicted as created space and her gardens and high places or mountains (think Eden and the mountain of God in Eden) are depicted as sacred space, or the place where dimensional portals often exist. Hence the reason, ancient religions (those whose origins are closest to Creation and “religion zero”, or that originally instituted by God and practiced by Adam and Eve) are frequently associated with sacred gardens or high places, natural (mountains) or engineered (e.g., man-made ziggurats/pyramids of Mesopotamia and Egypt) (Exo 3:1; Deu 9:10; 1Ki 3:4; Psa 48:1-2, 68:15; Isa 2:3, 8:18, 14:13-5; 18:7, 51:3, 57:15; Jer 17:12; Eze 20:40, 28:13-14 [“Eden, the garden of God” in on the “holy mountain of God”]; Mic 1:5, 4:2; Heb 12:22; Rev 14:1, 21:10). With respect to the false religions existing in the ANE consider (Gen 4:12-14[7]; Gen 11:1-9[8]; Lev 26:30; Num 33:52; Deu 12:2; 1Ki 11:7, 12:31-32, 13:33; 2Ki 17:9-11, 29 Isa 65:3, 66:17). Mountains as sacred space also played a role in how those living in the ANE perceived the watery depths of the underworld. It existed at “the roots of the mountains” (Jon 2:5-6).

“[In the Bible] sacred space was poetically conceived as a world-mountain surrounded by the primeval waters. At the cloud-covered summit of the mountain is the temple, the dwelling of God, and at the base are the chaos waters, underneath which lies Sheol, the place of the dead. Representing God’s life-giving Presence, the waters of life flow from the summit of the mountain. Movement away from life (creation) toward death (chaos); and, conversely, movement toward God is expressed as an ascent from death to life…Hence the movement from death to life, from exile to entry into God’s Presence, involves a pattern of deliverance through waters to the mountain of God. Noah and his household…will be delivered through the waters of deluge to the Ararat mount where he will offer sacrifices and receive divine blessing. Later, Israel will be delivered through the waters of the sea and brought to Sinai, entering into covenant with YHWH. The pattern of exile or expulsion entails the reverse movement: from the temple of God to the waters of destruction.” – L. Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend)

“God’s holy mountain, where His temple is located, is the center of the cosmos, or orderly creation. The farther away from the center of the cosmos one goes, the more one moves into the realm of chaos or non-creation. The spatial image is equally vertical and horizontal. Vertical, the heavens are the source of existence and creation; the underworld and abyss are the place of death and nonexistence. Horizontally, the land around the mountain of one’s god is known and understood and therefore thought of as most ‘created’; the sea which lay beyond the limits of the land was unsolid, non-formed – in other words, ‘uncreated’.” – B.F. Batto (“The Reed Sea: Requiescat in Pace”).

[1] ANE: Ancient Near East. The world of the bible’s authors and teachers (2,000 BC – 100 AD).

[2] Cosmology refers to the way we understand the structure of the universe. According to ANE thought, the universe was comprised of three realms or dimensions: 1) heavenly for God and angels, 2) earthly for humans, 3) underworld (under the earth) for the dead, the devil and his angels. All three are depicted in the second of the Ten Commandments (Exo 20:4).

[3] When referring to the unrighteous dead, the NT uses the terms, “Hades” or the “abyss” or the “bottomless pit.” This underworld place is also associated w/Satan and the demons (e.g., Luk 16:23; Mat 11:23; Luk 8:31; Rev 9:1-11, 20:1-3).

[4] With respect to the animal sacrifices of the Bible, the reason God prescribes them is so that sin – a corrupting element to the code of creation or life, can be properly dispensed of (or cleansed) through (or upon) something which (through its death) is leaving creation (i.e., being uncreated). What however man needs to truly experience freedom (from sin), is new creation. This then is what was accomplished and has been applied to us through Christ’s “uncreation” (death) and “recreation” (resurrection).

[5] That the sea is more than simply a metaphor can be seen by its use in Revelation where it also provides clues to the Beast’s geographical origin (e.g., Rev 13:1).

[6] The underworld is itself not filled with water. According to Zechariah, it is a “waterless pit” (Zec 9:11) implying that it is also a place of some level of discomfort or unrest (compare again to Mat 12:43 and also Luk 16:23 [Hades]).

[7] The first deviation from “religion zero” is connected to the Bible’s first apostate, Cain. After being driven from the presence of God and Eden’s east door/gate (the established place of sacrifice after the Fall – Gen 3:24 w/11-16), Cain, no longer able to receive forgiveness (hence his response, v13, “my punishment is too great to bear!”), finds spiritual solace (and “new religion”) in his son (Enoch) and seeks a high place (or mountain) to build a city in dedication to his name (versus the name of God) (v17; archeology: Mesopotamian island hill-city of Eridu; in Sumerian, Nun-ki) . Hence the contrast mentioned in vv25-26. Archeology believes Cain’s city to also be the later site of the Tower of Babel/Babylon (which means, “Gate of God”) – the engineered (man-made) religious high place constructed on a now very flat (post Flood) area (Gen 11:1-4).

[8] “The ziggurat builders wanted access to the divine through the gate [portal] of heaven.” – L. Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?); “Such cultic towers were typical of the time in ancient Mesopotamia. Their purpose was to serve as a gateway between heaven and earth whereby the god could come down and even refresh himself on the way down to the earthly temple.” -G.K. Beale (“The Descent of the Eschatological Temple in the Form of the Spirit at Pentecost.”); “The Sin of the tower builders is their desire to storm the heavens and make a name for themselves, which symbolically means that they seek to invade the divine realm and become immortal like gods [to dethrone God and set themselves in His place].” – A. Gnuse (“An Overlooked Message: The Critique of Kings and Affirmation of Equality in the Primeval History.”).

The Power of Loyalty – Part 1

In Matthew 6:19-24 Jesus reveals the power our discretionary and listening loyalties possess not only for determining who we truly serve (who we are loyal to as King), but also producing the salvation-essential attributes of affection (for God) and conviction (in regard to the Word of God). Our confidence that loyalty is indeed His subject is confirmed by His conclusion (24 “serve…be devoted to” = be loyal to).

Understanding For Encouragement And Overcoming

1. The problem is not ours, but theirs.

2. We are in good company.

3. Our primary mission is to be the aroma of Christ to the lost, not win the lost to Christ.

4. Our primary audience and antagonist is and will be the false churches of the world.

5. God uses the persecution of false churches to purge the apostate from Christ’s true church.

6. Persecution serves as one of the greatest and most reliable assurances that we are going to heaven.

7. The Evangelical rejection of the true gospel may also be another sign that Jesus will be returning soon.

What the Bible Has To Say About The Transfer Of Our Church Membership

Common belief today: “We have the right to transfer our membership whenever we want, for whatever reason we want, as long as we believe the other church to be biblical.”

Those who believe such things indicate they are not only completely ignorant – or rebellious to, what the Bible actually teaches on this subject, but also the church’s divine authority in such matters[1].

1. We cannot transfer to another church without our current church’s allowance or approval.

Why? Because our membership is attached to our baptism and our baptism is the property of the church currently possessing it -not us.

1.1. God only recognizes us as a member of a specific church when that church performs/possesses our baptism (Act 2:41 “added” [to the church as members] at the point of baptism). IOW: Membership = Baptism.

1.2. To transfer our membership to another church therefore requires the transfer of our baptism to that church.

1.3. Given that baptism is also the way we receive initial forgiveness or the washing away of our sins, it constitutes one of the keys of salvation given to the Christ’s churches – not the individual (Act 2:38, 22:16 w/Joh 20:21-23 w/Mat 16:18-19: Keys unlock gates – in this case, the gates to the kingdom of heaven [in contrast to v18 “gates of Hades”]. The key of baptism gives us access to the blessings of the Spirit and forgiveness [the blood of Christ]).[2]

1.4. Transferring to another church would therefore also require allowance/approval of the church (possessing your baptism) since: 1) they (not you) are the owners of that heavenly access key (baptism) (again, the keys are the property of the church not the individual) (Gen 28:11-18: Notice the gate to heaven is in God’s house, the pillar of truth; the NT church is that place today – 1Ti 3:15 “household of God…pillar…of the truth”), 2) it is impossible to have access granted by another church since only one legitimate baptism is allowed (Heb 6:1-6 “washings” which makes us “partakers of the Holy Spirit.” = Baptism; “impossible to renew them again to repentance since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God” = No second forgiveness or cleansing from sin – i.e., No second baptism; Hence, Eph 4:5)[3].

1.5. As additional support that our baptism is the property of the church and not us, consider also the church’s authority to permanently bind or remove forgiveness (i.e., declare apostasy) – which therefore means the rescinding of that person’s baptism (Mat 16:19 and Joh 20:21-23 w/Mat 18:17-20). Hardly could the church do that if baptism was the property of the individual (at least not without their consent)!

 

2. The church where our baptism resides, must be very careful when it comes to transferring a person’s baptism/membership to another church.

Why? Because the church where our baptism currently resides – most specifically its shepherds (elders/pastors), have been assigned as our primary overseers for protection and the promotion of obedience to Christ’s commands (Mat 28:19 w/20; Act 20:28).

2.1. Allowing members of the church to leave without absolute confidence in the new church and its pastors, would therefore constitute a failure in these shepherds’ duty of care for which they will be severely judged (Act 20:26-27 w/Eze 33:7-9; Jam 3:1).

2.2. This will be especially true if the church where their membership is transferred possesses: 1) a false gospel (allowance to or approval of a church with a false gospel is the same as approving a false gospel which in turn brings judgment on their former church – or at least its pastor; Gal 1:6-9 w/2Jo 1:9-11) or 2) no relationship w/their current church by which to confirm the legitimacy of their gospel (that they are a true church) and competency of their shepherds (that they are a safe church) (Act 20:28-31 = Guard the flock from wolves. Would anyone consider someone to be a good shepherd guarding their flock from wolves if they allowed them to be cared for by strangers or someone they knew to be incompetent? This is akin to those Jesus refers to as “hired hands” or false shepherds – Joh 10:12-13; Consider this same question from the perspective of a parent)

 

3. Clear evidence it is not God’s will that the church allow or approve of the transfer of someone to another church:

3.1. They have outstanding discipline or grievances with their existing church (Mat 5:23-26).

3.2. The church they wish to be transferred to is false or not safe (point #2; Consider Paul’s perspective in regard to those pastors he knew to be false though they claimed to be comrades and had received the support of the people – 2Co 11:6 w/10-15 = Paul fought against giving approval or equal footing to flaky or false shepherds – regardless of what other people thought. Notice also, Paul has no problem using strong language in his assessment of such men).

 

3.3. Their current church does not know or have a relationship w/the transfer church so as to confirm them as true and safe (again, point #2). The idea that the church can trust the individual to make that decision is like saying we trust our children to make the big decisions in the home or the patient to determine the diagnosis or prescription for the doctors [who will still be responsible for the consequences of those decisions]).

3.4. They don’t want their current pastor over them and/or believe him to be unrighteous/unfit/using his office for evil/a false teacher – though they do not have the biblically required evidence to prove it (1Ti 5:19; Deu 17:12-13; Num 16:1-3 w/Num 15:30-31 w/Mat 12:32; Consider also 2Co 13:1-2).

3.5. They want to live somewhere too far from the existing church w/o confirmation of a church in that area (Jam 4:13-17).

3.6. There is nothing to be gained by them or the other church (this is the pattern est’d in the NT: those sent out will profit those other churches [e.g., Phoebe, Rom 16:1-2; Apollos, 1Co 16:12 w/Act 18:24; Timothy, 1Ti 1:3; Paul and Barnabas, Act 13:1-4]).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: What should the church follow, the will of God or the will of people (those wanting to transfer)?

 

[1] Both now and going forward, what is to be assumed is that the church we are attempting to transfer from is a biblical church as well as the church where we were baptized or is currently possessing our baptism based on the allowance or approval of our baptizing church.

[2] Hence the reason churches have always viewed the sacrament of baptism as the prerequisite to the other key of the kingdom, the LT (the sacrament where we receive continued cleansing by Christ’s blood – Joh 13:1-10), because baptism is the only way to gain access to this atoning reservoir (the blood of Christ resides in His church – Act 20:28; In this light Consider again Joh 13:10 = IOW: the original bath or washing of baptism by Jesus is what grants us access to the additional – and necessary washing provided thru the “supper” [v4]).

[3] “The sacrament of baptism is but once to be administered unto any person,” – WCF, (ch.27)

Mission Critical Truths

Our Billboard campaign has begun! Below are the mission critical truths we need to know if we are to be successful in fulfilling our evangelistic ministry (2Ti 4:5):

 

1. Salvation requires you believe/practice the right gospel (i.e. the gospel of gain by faith in Jesus Christ and maintain by faithful obedience to all His commands versus the false gospel of faith alone).

1.1. (Rom 3:28 [gain] AND Jam 2:24 [maintain]; 1Jo 1:6, 2:3-4) = We need more than faith to get to heaven. We must be faithful, otherwise what was gained initially by faith wb lost and we wb counted as “liars” (to our covenant oaths) before God. GRAVEDIGGER: Can a Christian get to heaven whose life is characterized by disobedience? (No, Jam 2:14ff). Obedience is therefore another condition of salvation and the FAG is (therefore) false.

1.2. Popular today is the idea that precision/correctness w/respect to the gospel doesn’t matter. What God cares about is strictly belief and practice. IOW: Even if our gospel is wrong/false, we are good as long we truly believe it and are committed to its practice.

1.3. What God’s Word teaches (Gal 1:6-9) = The context is gospel mechanics (what we must do to be saved) not historical facts (Who Jesus is and what He did). We need to get both right (historical facts: 1Co 15:1-4).

1.4. What about those who sincerely love God yet are ignorant to the right gospel? God leads those people out of their ignorance and into the truth (He sends messengers):

1.4.1. The apostle Paul (1Ti 1:12-15 “Yet for this reason I found mercy”) = B/C Jesus saves the ignorant sinner who is sincerely seeking God (v12, “faithful” = Paul’s problem was intellectual not moral)

1.4.2. Cornelius (Act 10:21-22 w/34-35)

1.4.3. Apollos (Act 18:24-26)

1.4.4 Woman at the well (Joh 4:20-24 [“must worship Him in spirit and truth” = You need to have the right gospel] w/28-29, 39-42).

1.5. These are the kinds of Evangelicals we are looking for (those welcome to God/those whose problem is intellectual not moral/those “worthy” to receive the gospel). What to do w/those whose problem is moral (Mat 10:12-15) = Notice: those who are “worthy” are: 1) the only ones we give our time to, 2) the ones whose problem is not moral (v14, “does not receive you, nor heed your words” = Is not teachable to what you are saying; Mat 16:1-4).

1.6. POINTS NOT TO MISS: 1) There is no such thing as a saved person that believes and practices the wrong/false gospel. 2) God wants us to be seeking those who are seeking Him (those whose problems are intellectual – not moral).

 

2. Just because a person or church claims to believe/practice the right gospel doesn’t mean they do.

2.1. (Tit 1:16)

2.2. Most every person or pastor who claims to be a Christian will initially “agree” that obedience is necessary to salvation yet when pressed further, it becomes only nice but not necessary (e.g., Andy and Kasey pastoral interviews). Further investigation is therefore necessary.

2.3. Questions for assessment: 1) do they hold to the FAG? (if a church, check their website), 2) Can a Christian get to heaven whose life is characterized by disobedience (e.g., continues to live with their girlfriend) if that person continues to fully trust Christ for their righteousness and faithfully confess their sin to God? 3) In relation to a church, how often do they practice church discipline, enforce obedience or declare people apostate? (Mat 7:15-23: bad fruit = practicing lawlessness – or in the case of a church, allowing for the practice of lawlessness).

2.4. Verifying a person or church as truly legitimate takes time. In the early church, you could not move from one church to another w/o pastoral collaboration for this very reason. Churches or people professing to be legit was not naively assumed to be true (or allowed to be true b/c people wanted to take a “vacation” from their current church [usually a sign of rebellion and thinking they will be more effective at flying under the radar elsewhere – (e.g., my conversation w/a Reformed Baptist pastor in LA; our response to the elder and people from the Evergreen church).

 

3. You cannot be a saved person (Christian) yet not baptized and a member of church believing/practicing the right gospel.

3.1.There is no such thing as a saved person who has not received remission/forgiveness of their sins (“Baptism is said to be ‘for the remission of sins’ and to ‘wash your sins away’. Unless one is prepared to say that one is saved without their sins being forgiven, then they must admit that baptism is a condition of salvation” – Robert Oliver, Clinton Church of Christ) (Act 2:38, 22:16; 1Pe 3:21). Consider Christ’s confirmation of baptism in the gain and maintain gospel presented by Jesus in (Mat 28:18-20).

3.2. The “keys” of the kingdom (baptism and the LT) have only been given to those churches built by Christ—churches possessing the right gospel (Mat 16:17-19 w/Joh 20:21-23 w/Act 20:28).

3.3. Hence the reason the early church was fond of saying, “there is no salvation outside of the church.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. It is possible for people/churches to have different doctrinal beliefs/practices yet still believe/practice the right gospel.

4.1. Though a church/person may possess different doctrinal beliefs or practices (doctrine or practice that may even create theological, ethical or logical contradictions), as long as those doctrines and practices do not negate their belief and practice of the right gospel, we are to view them as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

4.2. Examples of different doctrine that does not immediately negate a person or church’s ability to believe and practice the right gospel: 1) Calvinism, 2) Creedal Baptism, 3) limited forms of Continuationism (those versions not negating Scripture as our final authority or the existence of a closed canon), 4) Dispensationalism, 5) Premillennialism.

4.3 Examples of different doctrine that does immediately negate a person or church’s ability to believe and practice the right gospel: 1) Antinomianism (belief that any portion of God’s Law is no longer in force or must be observed), 2) Modalism (Oneness Pentecostalism), 3) any denial of Jesus’ full humanity or full deity, 3) Open Theism, 4) denial of Ecclesiastical Soteriology (sacerdotalism or the authority of the church in salvation), 5) denial of eternal and literal heaven and hell, 6) denial of baptism as necessary to salvation, 7) any rejection of God’s Word as our final authority, a closed canon or the embracing of progressive revelation (e.g., some Pentecostals/Charismatics and all Roman Catholics), 8) Neo-Orthodoxy.

4.4. POINTS NOT TO MISS: 1) There is big difference between saying that someone holds to different doctrine versus a different gospel. 2) Some doctrine/practice automatically negates a person’s belief or practice of the right gospel (e.g., Gal 5:1-4).

 

5. Just because a church believes/practices the right gospel doesn’t mean it is a safe church.

5.1. True churches can still be dangerous churches.

5.2. The problems these churches (or their pastors) can still have: 1) Intellectual problems. The pastor is weak in the following areas: logic and critical thinking, Special Revelation -i.e., Scripture [1. hermeneutics or interpretation, 2. grammar or how language works, 3. worldview/framework theology, 4. biblical theology, 5. biblical jurisprudence/justice – inc. the proper practice of church discipline/excommunication and apostasy, cap crimes, 6. systematic theology -most esp., soteriology and theology proper, 7. church history and tradition, 8. ancient culture, 9. the ability to recognize biblical patterns of continuity and timeless principles], General Revelation [philosophy, psychology, sociology, economics, business, finance and law]) (Hos 4:6). 2) Moral problems. The pastor is a hypocrite (preaching against the practice of sin yet practicing sin), lazy, cowardly (not enforcing obedience) or a people-pleaser (not willing to say the tough things).

5.3. Examples of the kinds of spiritual dangers created by pastors w/intellectual or moral problems:

5.3.1. Practical antinomianism (pastor preaches obedience but does nothing to see that it is enforced).

5.3.2. Legalism (Practice/Prohibition incorrectly supported/not supported by Scripture – e.g., Some Churches of Christ claim to hold to the right gospel yet b/c of their gross ignorance of the continuity that is communicated between the Old and New Covenants, they don’t allow for anything not explicitly mentioned in the NT – like musical instruments in worship [in the OT, God establishes musical instruments for worship in His OC house, why wouldn’t we expect the same for His NC house?]. For this same reason, they also reject infant baptism [1. NT teaches the church/Christians are the inheritors of the Abrahamic promises – 2Co 1:20; Gal 3:29, 2. one of God’s promises to Abe was special provision for babies born to covenant parents – Gen 17:7-13, 3. that promise now looks like baptism – Col 2:11-12]).

5.3.3. Fail to create an environment promoting faithfulness/fail to understand what constitutes faithfulness (Def., of faithfulness = A life characterized by obedience that is driven by a constant lack of intellectual and moral satisfaction; 2Pe 1:5-11; 1Co 9:24 = Run to win not simply finish; 1Th 4:9-10 “But urge you…excel still more” w/3:12-13 = Perennial push to excel is the key to being established before God as “without blame”, the requirement for getting to heaven – 2Pe 3:10-14 w/3:17-18; Mat 18:7-9; Mat 28:20 “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded” = Constant learning and changing. We are driven to increase our knowledge so that our obedience may also increase; Heb 5:11-6:6 = Lack of maturity/excelling makes us more prone to apostasy).

5.3.4. Lack of wisdom. Examples: 1) inability to make the distinction between intellectual and moral problems. An improper diagnosis w/respect to either – or ignorance of the need to make such distinction, will lead to improper prescription [discipleship or discipline], abuse and people failing to possess the tools necessary to gain victory over their sin. 2) ignorance of the church’s authority and the power of her sacraments. Rejection of these two truths results in an impotent community overrun by sin.

5.3.5. The creation of unnecessary stress and suffering that makes faithfulness more difficult (e.g., church’s position on divorce: never any grounds or limited to a very wrong understanding of what constitutes adultery [i.e., sexual intercourse w/another person versus Mat 5:32 = porneia establishes mocheuo]).

5.3.6. Lack of justice or equity. Most churches’ jurisprudence is non-existent. The pagan courts of America have thought more and instituted, more of what the Bible teaches on this subject than the majority of churches on the planet. As a result, the justice practiced by most churches often protects the guilty and punishes the innocent.

5.3.7. Lack of proper pastoral oversight (See Malcom Gladwell, Revisionist History podcast, In Triplicate (findings from the Triplicate Program during the Opioid Crisis = More oversight/policy/rules results in more people obeying the law and less people suffering as victims). Where would this congregation be if left to self-police? Would JUDCO even exist? What crimes and violations would go unpunished? How many more people wb taken advantage of? What curses wb upon our congregation for sins left unchecked in the Body? If a Christian whose life is characterized by disobedience cannot get to heaven , what is that church doing to prevent that from happening (Jam 5:20)?

5.4. POINT NOT TO MISS: Not all saving churches are safe churches. The stupidity or sinfulness of its shepherds will affect your chances of getting to heaven (Mat 10:24-25a = Most Christians will not rise above the intelligence or morality of their shepherd; Mat 18:6).

God’s Family Versus Human Family

Just as children bear the image of their family, God created us as image-bearers to be a part of His family. He also created human families with this goal in mind: we would teach our human families to join – and be supremely loyal to, God’s family -i.e., to embrace “the blood of the covenant [family as] stronger than the water of the womb”. The wonderful gift of family is therefore a deep and divinely constructed part of our DNA. It is what gives us identity and purpose. And it is central to God’s Creation and Christian mandate: we conquer for Christ and His kingdom only as a united family (Mat 28:18-20 w/Phi 1:27-30). Satan and sin have however taken this wonderful gift and perverted it: pitting human families against the family of God (e.g., Gen 11:1-9 = the Tower of Babel: the human families of Noah’s evil son Ham, stand against God and His family, Noah’s righteous son Shem and his descendants including Abraham [11:10-23] who was not only alive at the time of the Tower, but Jewish tradition records him as living at Noah’s house for 39 years and leaving to spread the truth about God after its destruction; Rev 20:7-9 = Satan will unite the human families of earth against the family of God, Rev 20:7-9).

 

What (then) we need to know (beyond this) so that we do not end in eternity w/ the wrong family:

1. Jesus knew His ministry would cause division in human families b/c it would involve calling people back to loyalty to God’s family over their human families (Mat 10:34-37) “Me” = My family (Mat 10:40; Joh 13:34-35). (Luk 1:16-17) “turn the hearts of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God” = “turn the hearts back to the children” (or “restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers” – Mal 4:6). The patriarchs are the “fathers” (e.g., Abraham). In this way the Jews would be “a people prepared for the Lord” – i.e., worthy to receive salvation from Jesus/Messiah. What was the heart of “father” Abraham? He chose God (or God’s family) over his only (beloved = special, miracle, divine promised) son, Isaac, the child gaining honor for his human family (e.g., Luk 1:25; the reason some parents live vicariously thru certain children – they are the child that finally made them feel like a success/gave them the honor their former life had not afforded to them) (Gen 22:1-18: Notice the lack of hesitancy, level of commitment and trust demonstrated by Abraham’s actions in carrying out God’s instructions to kill his son. The lesson no doubt learned by Isaac from his father’s actions: 1) there sb no question as to which family possesses our supreme loyalty/love – Gen 22:1 “tested” w/16, 2) love/loyalty to God’s family should make our love/loyalty for human family look like hate – Luk 14:26).

 

2. When we become Christians we are (therefore) committing to leave behind all loyalties to our human families and cleave (or cling) to God and his family (Mat 19:27-29). This truth is reinforced by the fact that how we join God’s family is through a marriage [God/Jesus becomes our Husband] (Gen 2

 

3. God greatly rewards and holds in high regard those who do not hesitate to demonstrate their loyalty to His family over their human family (again Gen 22:16-18; Exo 32:25-29 w/Deu 33:8-9 = The Levites gained the high honor of leading God’s people bc of their loyalty to God’s family over their human families).

 

4. Jesus saw the church as God’s family and the priority during His time on earth (Mar 3:31-35).

 

5. Jesus’ human family thought He was crazy because of His loyalty to God’s family (Mar 3:20-21 [w/31-35]: Notice what loyalty looks like: our homes are constantly filled w/God’s family – Act 2:42, 46).

 

6. We are expected to separate from human family who refuse to listen to the true gospel (the gospel calling for the complete submission of their entire life to faithfully obeying Jesus as their forever Boss) or God will group us w/them in their damnation (2Co 6:14-17) v17, “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate” = A common OT theme w/ reference to both unrepentant/wicked outsiders and family members that – as a result of such unrepentant wickedness, have been placed under God’s damning ban/curse (outsiders – Isa 52:11, Jer 50:8, family – Deu 13:12-17; Rev 18:4). Paul’s use of this OT theme further reinforces his strong prohibition against relationship [“bound together”] or “fellowship” w/any persons (family or otherwise) who are unrepentant/wicked. Notice, Paul also makes his prohibition and its accompanying OT support, a condition of our covenant relationship w/God (vv16, 18). (2Jo 1:9-11) = Who more than our human family fits the description of those we would naturally welcome into our homes [i.e., give a greeting to]?). POINT NOT TO MISS: Being set apart as God’s holy people has always required separation from the unrepentant wicked.

 

7. Only those willing to endure the pain of separation from human family for the sake of Jesus will make it to heaven (again Mat 10:21-22 w/32-33 w/37; also Luk 14:25-35).

 

8. Jesus Himself suffered separation from human family b/c of His loyalty to God’s family (Luk 9:58-62) = The context is human family. When Jesus (therefore) speaks of having nowhere to lay His head, He is indicating He was separated from many of His human family and therefore possessed none of the expected places of rest afforded to weary travelers in ancient times (i.e., the homes of their family relatives).

 

9. Jesus’ first disciples suffered separation from human family b/c of their loyalty to God’s family (again, Mat 19:27-29)

 

10. Many among God’s family and greatest saints will be orphans (Mat 19:27; Psa 27:10).

 

11. Being a part of God’s family is performance-based and conditional – the very opposite of most human families and the reason many people choose the latter over the former (i.e., in my human family I don’t have to change or leave my sin behind to remain and receive its benefits) (Joh 10:17, 15:1-11; Jud 1:21; Deu 7:9).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: Two conclusions can be drawn from the truths above: 1) False gospels (and the world run by Satan) will always preach a Jesus and gospel message that exalts human family and unconditional love and demonizes the ideas of division and separation, 2) One of Satan’s greatest tools and man’s greatest stumbling blocks to getting to heaven wb human family.

 

CLOSING CHALLENGE: 2024 RESOLUTION: Excel in our love/loyalty to God’s family (1Th 4:9-10).

Christian Talking Points on Feelings

We live in a world dominated by feelings and that is not by accident. It is God’s ordained trial for us (and as such, Satan’s most prized strategy). Here then is what we need to know:

1. Getting to heaven requires that we stop living by our feelings[1] and become characterized by a life of obedience to Jesus’ words (i.e., God’s will [Law and mission]): 1) the terms “flesh”, “fleshly”, “passion”, and “sensuality” or commands to deny ourselves are often a reference to our feelings (Mat 16:24; Col 3:5-7; Gal 5:19 w/24; Rom 8:12-13 w/13:13-14; Tit 2:11-12; 1Pe 2:11, 4:1-3; Consider also Mat 7:24-27 = The “sand” or foundation of the second man’s house – the man not living in obedience to Jesus’ words, more than likely represents his feelings. He lives according to his feelings. As a result, when the storms or trials of life come, he is fickle and falls apart). 2) the command for self-control is a call to have command over our feelings (i.e., emotional intelligence) (Act 24:25; Gal 5:23; 2Pe 1:5-6; lack of s-c is what brings “difficult times” -2Ti 3:3). 3) living in obedience to Jesus’ words is what it means to live by the Spirit (which is always contrasted w/living by our feelings) (Joh 16:13-15 w/[Gal 5:16, 24-25; Rom 8:5]). 4) it is impossible to live faithfully for Jesus and be under the control of your feelings (Gal 5:17; Rom 8:6-8). 5) Feelings are weak and unreliable (Mat 26:41 and Rom 7:18; 2Co 1:17; Jer 17:7 in contrast to v9 “heart” = A reference to feelings). 6) Living by our feelings is sin (2Co 12:21).

2. Living by our feelings is associated w/loving the world and the message/enticement of false teachers and Satan which is why it is impossible to live according to our feelings and please God (1Jo 2:15-16; 2Pe 2:1-2, 7, 10, 18-20; Eph 2:1-3).

3. Everybody has the ability to win the war over their feelings, some however exacerbate their situation because of their choices, making it nearly impossible (Deu 30:11-14; 1Co 10:13; Mat 19:24-26).

 

4. Overcoming our feelings (i.e., possessing self-control or emotional intelligence) will require that: 1) we are self-programmed robots (we start like animals limited to feelings, afraid and unwise to everything [feelings don’t think – e.g., Teyve barks at boxes] and become self-programmed robots [programming our feelings thru conditioning/reinforced action that results in us becoming either adult animals or proper image-bearers -2Pe 2:12]. 2) as we get older/more removed from learning, we resort back to feelings as the main driver in decision-making and as a result, more averse to change/taking risks and fearful (Ecc 12:3-5). 3) we practice extreme degradation and desertion of our feelings as a guide for truth (1Co 9:27 [Modern translation: “I make it my b**ch”] = Degradation; Rom 8:13 “putting to death” = Desertion – treating how we feel as irrelevant to what is true/false; Mat 5:29-30, 18:7-10 = Completely ignore/dessert those things convincing you of rebellion so that you do not despise [lead astray] those looking to you for guidance [e.g., your children]; Important not to miss: when considering our approach to living the Christian life, analogies are never from the business world [i.e., it is not business etiquette or best practices that we are to employ], but rather the military or sports – which uses extreme degradation and desertion to be successful [e.g., boot camp instructor; David Goggins]; 2Co 10:1-5 = Fighting for God’s kingdom requires desertion in relation to our feelings). 4) we start with our tongues (Jam 3:1-2 “bridle the whole body” = Bridle your feelings).

5. Everyone is born welcome to God and will by their response to their feelings, either solidify themselves in that state – or a state of rebellion (Gen 22:16-18; Rom 1:18-26 = God eventually gives people over to their feelings [leading to His wrath] b/c of their choice to continue living according them [“gave them over in the lusts of their hearts…to degrading passions” = You can’t give someone over to something unless this was already present and in practice. This then is the source of their unrighteousness/ungodliness – v18]; Eph 4:17-22 = Living according to our feelings will eventually corrupt our souls – and once it is corrupted, there is no fix, even for Christians. Hence Heb 6:1-6 and 10:26-30).

6. The kind of preaching or proclamation (teaching and evangelism) practiced by Jesus and the apostles and prescribed by God and the Holy Spirit was always controversial and polarizing b/c it was never sensitive to the feelings of the audience since feelings won’t cause us to live for God (What you win them with is what you win them to; 1Th 2:1-5; 2Ti 4:2; Heb 4:12; Hence Paul can say 2Co 2:15-17 e.g., Mat 15:11-14; Act 4:1-2 w/18; Act 6:9-14 w/51-53; Act 9:22-23; Act 13:5-10, 14-16 w/44-51; Act 14:1-2 w/18-19; Act 17:1-6; Act 18:4-6; Act 28:20-24).

7. God will see to it that those who hate His truth- including His life purpose and plan for humanity (i.e., this life is a test of overcoming our feelings in favor of God and His ways that will determine who is worthy of heaven), are duped by Satan at His reveal (2Th 1:3-5 w/2Th 2:1-10).

 

8. There is only one feeling that is safe and sb promoted in our life and that is genuine heartfelt love for God and for others (a choice that results also in a feeling) since this is what overcomes the feelings most responsible for our failures as a Christian, fear, jealousy and pride [i.e., caring what others think] (Joh 21:15-17 [18:25-27]; 1Jo 4:12, 16-21; Love creates lasting commitment and consistency whereas fear, jealousy and pride, nothing but posers and pansies).

 

9. The feelings associated with our conscience – or our conscience and General Revelation, were never designed to be enough when it comes to determining right and wrong (IOW: we also need God’s Word – Special Revelation) (Gen 2:16-17).

 

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION/CHALLENGE: One of the sticky wickets associated w/the subject of feelings is that most people who are living according to their feelings (versus the Spirit/in obedience to Jesus) are completely blind to it – or in absolute denial. IOW: they don’t think they are that kind of person –or they do not they see it—which is what makes it difficult—and why we need to pick up on those objective cues (or signs) from Scripture so that we can see it and make the proper spiritual diagnosis of who we are before it is too late.

 

The objective signs that you are living according to your feelings: 1) what most determines your free time is what pleases you versus what pleases God, prospers His people or prepares you to better serve and advance His kingdom (Phi 1:21). 2) you are averse to change (change creates negative feelings). 3) you are constantly fighting doubt/suspicion w/regard to God, God’s Word, church, leaders or people though you possess no sound evidence to do so (1Ti 6:1-4). 4) you struggle w/fear, pride and jealousy or wanting to be in positions of importance so that people will look up to you (Jam 3:14-15 “natural” = “fleshly or animalistic – i.e., the basis for all judgment or actions is our feelings). 5) you are prone to insurrection against God’s leaders or causing division in the Body of Christ (Jud 1:18-19 “following ungodly lusts” [their feelings] –“these are the ones who cause divisions, worldly-minded [Literally, natural or animalistic – same word as Jam 3:15 referring to creatures operating off their feelings]). 6) Jesus is your sponsor rather than your Lord (i.e., He serves/fulfills your Christian vision for yourself [i.e., where you feel you wb most happy]). 7) you are sloppy w/your words (e.g., “I was making fun of my coat but it actually does a good job of blocking the wind” versus “I was being negative about my coat…”; Pro 15:28 = The Righteous are committed to making sure their communication is accurate [truth] versus just letting whatever they feel in the moment roll off their tongue. Sloppy in the little, sloppy in the big – Luk 16:10).

[1] Living by our feelings = Truth, morality [right and wrong], our actions and speech are predominately determined by our feelings.

What You Should Expect If Your Church Truly Possesses a Shepherd from Jesus

A major reason churches fail to trust or follow their shepherds — or identify them as legitimately from Jesus, is bc they are ignorant of their job description – or more accurately, the job description they possess for that position in the church, does not agree with Scripture.

BC I want to avoid that pitfall in this church, this morning we are going to discover and be reminded of what God says about this subject or, What you should expect if your church truly possesses a shepherd from Jesus

 

1. They wb IMITATORS:

Jesus the Great Shepherd (Heb 13:20) promised to give Jesus-imitating shepherds as a gift to His people and primary caretakers of His body, the church, while He is in heaven. (Jer 3:15a “I will give you shepherds after my own heart”) = Shepherds w/the same heart (likes/dislikes, affections, agenda and desires) as Jesus (i.e., sheps who are imitators of Jesus in their shepherding). It’s fulfillment: (Eph 4:8 w/11 [“pastors” = shepherds] w/12 [“equipping…building up” = A caretaker]). POINTS NOT TO MISS: 1) If Jesus gave these kind of shepherds to His church, then it must not only be possible, but what we should expect and believe wb true of our shepherds. Hence the reason (Mat 10:40). 2) All of us need to possess a healthy level of skepticism, but skepticism that persists even when the evidence says otherwise is not healthy nor safe. It is pathological and rebellious unbelief (not against me –BUT GOD). Scripture to keep in mind (1Co 4:5 When the Lord comes He will “bring to light the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts” – i.e., no plausible deniability before God).

2. They wb EDUCATORS:

Central to their role as Jesus imitators, these shepherds will spend copious amounts of time educating their people in God’s Word since this is the key to trusting God. (Jer 3:15 [Eph 4:14 = Education/understanding of God’s Word/doctrine wb how the shepherds shore up instability/distrust; Pro 22:17-19) = Trust is the by-product of education; Education is the key to trust (not entertainment/manipulation of the emotions [e.g., the “sermons” in most churches]). The piece that makes this a little bit of “sticky wicket” = Retainage requires repetition—which means if the only time you ever hear what I preach on Sunday is (on Sunday) then what you retain wb very little (20-30% at best). Which means though I am doing the job of an educator, you are failing to do your job as a learner (i.e., to study the lecture, to go over and over it until you retain it or know it). This btw the way is what the Proverbs are talking about when it says, “seek understanding” – understanding is learning—AND learning requires repetition or study to retain the material. Are you doing that —or do you think you have more important things to do? Remember: this is the key to trust (and the reason so many of you still struggle w/trust) –B/C you are uneducated (and you are uneducated) bc you care more about spending your time being entertained than being educated (learning or studying what is given to you every week [you trade the steak dinner for terd rolled in sugar]).

3. They wb OBSESSORS:

Because obedience is so important and empiricism (truth/morality, actions/speech det’d by feelings) so dangerous, Jesus’s shepherds become obsessed with making sure their people are growing in faithfulness to God’s laws while faithfully ignoring their feelings as their guide to truth. (This was Peter as witnessed in his second epistle; in re: to obedience or faithfulness, 2Pe 1:5-13; in re: to empiricism or truth/morality, actions/ speech det’d by feelings, 2Pe 2:1-2 “sensuality” = Empiricism [2:18]; See also 2:7 “unprincipled men” = People w/o laws governing them [instead it is their feelings – “sensual conduct”], 2:10 “indulge in the flesh” = “despise authority”; Empiricism [truth/morality, actions/speech determined by our feelings versus God’s Law] is at the heart of the faith- alone false gospel [2:18-20 “promising them freedom” = Freedom from God’s law – that which keeps us from corrupting and defiling ourselves).

4. They wb ENFORCERS:

Like Jesus, these shepherds will be incorruptible and unfaltering in their use of authority to secure justice in the covenant community. (Isa 42:1-4): “My Servant…My chosen One…I have put my Spirit [mantle of authority] upon Him” = A reference to Messiah. He wb characterized by two things: 1) The justice He secures will never mistreat or abuse those under it or fail to provide the tools necessary for the repentant sinner to be restored (They wb incorruptible). (1-2, “He will bring forth justice to the nations [In doing so] He will not cry or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street [the idea of chaos or disturbance caused by the malpractice or abuse of those in authority]”) w/(3, “A bruised reed…a dimly burning wick [the repentant sinner] He will not break…extinguish [destroy or leave w/o the hope of future restoration]”). IOW: His actions will establish equity in the covenant community. 2) The taunting or condemnation of the wicked and ignorant, or the obstacles they present will not intimidate or stop Him from securing justice in the covenant community (THEY WB unfaltering) (4). Jesus-imitating shepherds will (because of such imitation) be characterized by the same two things: they too will be incorruptible (no malpractice/no abuse) and unfaltering (never intimidated or discouraged) in their use of authority to secure justice.

In addition to what has already been said, it sb noted that the securing justice for the covenant community also requires a staunch rejection of empiricism (i.e., judgments based on feelings). This too is picked in the picture painted by the prophet w/respect to the coming Messiah (Isa 11:1-5) “He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear, But with righteousness He will judge…” = Don’t miss the contrast being made by Isaiah between judgment that takes place by way of the senses (what the eyes see or the ears hear) versus judgment based on righteousness. One is sensual (or based on how judgment is affected purely by those devices – how our feelings are manipulated or moved –empiricism), whereas the other (righteousness – referring to God’s Law) is outside of us—and therefore objective (or able to make decisions that are not influenced by personal preference or experience – those things which create a double standard or inequity).

Which means this is entirely possible. Pastors can be truly equitable and just if they (like Jesus) are committed to listening only to God’s Law when making judgments/decisions for the covenant community. Hence the reason (btw) we are commanded not to pursue outside (or pagan) courts when dealing w/members of the covenant community (1Co 6:1-6). To think we need the council of outside authorities or courts to handle crimes w/in the church is to believe that the world (run by Satan) and rebellious to God are more objective or know better how to secure justice for the innocent or bring reform those individuals committing the crimes. It reveals not only a complete distrust of God but also a level of insanity, why would we go to darkness to find the light? (Isa 8:20!). All of this is true also as it relates to those functioning in the world as authorities and judges versus Jesus’ shepherds in the church. What would ever make us think that those controlled by Satan and completely ignorant of God’s Word wb more competent than those empowered by the Holy Spirit and equipped w/Scripture? Again, to do so betrays a level of insanity. Hence Paul’s command in (Rom 12:1-3) = According to Paul there are three things we all need to do (in light of what He has done for us): submit our life our minds and our ego to God and His Word — which means executing a full-stop when it comes to trusting ourselves and the “wisdom” of the world – especially as it re: to truth and justice.

5. They wb OUTLIERS:

We should not be surprised if those Jesus picks and empowers to be His shepherds are (like Him), viewed by the world as unconventional and controversial given their pedigree, practice and people.

As we saw in Isaiah 11, Messiah wb a descendant of “Jesse” – or as it says elsewhere, “the Son of David.” (Mat 21:15). What this means is that Jesus’ life would (in a very real way) resemble that of David’s. This is sometimes referred to as “type and archetype”. David was a type of Messiah, His life wb the pattern followed by the coming (and superlative) Messiah – his fulfillment or archetype, Jesus. Which is why throughout the gospels we find Jews attempting to determine whether Jesus was the Messiah by considering his life and ministry based on the prior life and ministry of David. How (then) is this relevant to our point? Well, bc of what I said about Jesus being unconventional and controversial w/respect to His pedigree, practice and people (or followers). It starts w/David and the same is reflected also in Jesus.

Both were not who the world (including the religious world of their days) would have picked to be Israel’s Shepherd. They lacked what most people view as the “confirming categories”. For example: 1) Neither David nor Jesus possessed the kinds of backgrounds normally associated w/kings. Hence the reason Jesse (his father) didn’t even think to bring David back from the field where he was shepherding his father’s flocks when Samuel revealed that one of his sons wb selected as king (1 Sa 16:1-11). Jesus (likewise) was questioned often by the religious leaders, given His strange birth and birthplace (Nazareth) (Joh 7:27, 41-42). Both David and Jesus were the unconventional pick – or bore a very unconventional pedigree (when compared to the world’s choice or expectations).

2) Both David and Jesus challenged the status quo – or religious establishment of their day—and were (therefore) considered controversial in their beliefs or practices. So much so that both were forced to flee into the wilderness w/their followers. During their earthly ministries they were hunted and condemned by those in power and denied a place among the religious elite.

3) Finally as it relates to their people, Both David and Jesus were defined by misfit followers. David’s mighty men were at one time considered the unimpressive losers” of Israel (1Sa 22:10, 25:10). In similar fashion, Jesus’s mighty men (or apostles) were considered the hillbillies of Jewish society, “unlearned men” who did not keep the traditions of the dominant form of Judaism in their day (Act 4:13; Mar 7:5).

(And) Paul’s words in 1Co 1 make that clear not only that God continues to pick these people to be His followers But WHY (1Co 1:26-31) = If we are truly in “Christ Jesus” and this is a place possessing a Jesus-imitating shepherd, then it is not bc we followed the wisdom of what was popular, but bc of God –bc of what He has done is delivering us from those things by giving us hearts that care more about the truth of His Word and gospel than being popular or accepted by that version of Christianity which is.

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: If we find ourselves possessing this kind of shepherd, what should be our response? (1Th 5:12-13)

Acts 3

WGO?

Peter heals a lame beggar and preaches to the crowd who have gathered because of the miracle.

 

WTP?

1. Evangelism can look like going to another church’s bible study (1; Act 17:1-3; Deu 33:10; Mal 2:7; Joh 18:20 = Temple courts [e.g., Solomon’s Portico] were where the people in Jerusalem would go to find teaching from various experts on the Law [priests/scribes, lawyers/judges, Pharisees, Sadducees, etc.,]. Hence the reason Jesus went to the Temple to teach – because He knew the religiously inclined wb there; Similar Act 16:13 = Bible studies were not always held in synagogues or the Temple [see also Act 20:20 “teaching…house to house”).

 

2. It is the job of the covenant community to see that those born w/disabilities are provided with the financial support necessary to care for their needs (1-2, “alms” = Financial donations; Act 4:34 “not a needy person among them”; Lev 15:4).

 

3. We must graciously accommodate the theological ignorance of those whose soteriology is right (1, [“going up to the Temple at the ninth hour” = The time of the evening sacrifice] w/17 “acted in ignorance” = Peter and John knew that the sacrifices of the Temple could not propitiate for sin. They however also knew that those attending the Temple who were ignorant of this –and more importantly of Jesus’s true identity and role in this respect, possessed the right soteriology [i.e., gain thru vows/covenant signs/faith and maintain through obedience to God’s Law or faithfulness is also required to be save]. Hence the reason for referring to them as “brethren”. In this light, consider 1Ti 1:12-14 = Paul was already a faithful member of the covenant community [already saved]. Paul made similar accommodations to the Jews in Act 21:20-26).

 

4. The mantle of authority (or power) given by Jesus to those pastors possessing the right gospel remains fully intact even when they possess certain beliefs which are wrong due to ignorance (1-10 = At the time that Peter exercises Jesus’s authority/power [“in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene” = According to His authority/power], he ignorantly believes the gospel to only be available to Jews or Jewish proselytes [Act 10:1-28]; Mat 18:18 “whatever you bind…loose” [Grk., hosos = Any or all things in quantity or measure]).

 

5. God gives power and spiritual authority (“piety” [Grk., eusebia = spiritual authority] to the church’s anointed pastors as a means to:

5.1. glorifying Jesus since it is His power and authority they now possess (11-13a; Joh 14:13; Joh 20:21-23). POINT NOT TO MISS: when you resist the authority of the church’s leaders you are both resisting Jesus and robbing Him of His glory.

5.2. exposing those possessing hearts of rebellion against God’s authority (13b-15 = The Jews refused, rejected and killed [“disowned”] Jesus b/c they did not want to submit to His authority. God raised Him from the dead proving Jesus’s authority was divinely-appointed). POINT NOT TO MISS: When you buck the authority of Jesus (which now resides in His anointed pastors), you show yourself to be a rebel to God.

 

6. Loyal obedience to Jesus as our King can lead to more than just spiritual deliverance (16, “on the basis of faith in His name [a pledge of loyal submission to Jesus’s authority]…has given him this perfect health”; 1Co 11:30 = Many Christians get sick or suffer ill health bc they continue to pledge their loyalty to Jesus’s authority [which we do every time we partake of the LT – “for faithfulness of life”] yet live in sinful opposition to Him).

 

7. There is mercy for those whose rebellion is the product of ignorance and not stubbornness (17; 1Ti 1:13; Zec 7:8-13 = Stubbornness leads to wrath – not mercy [God being stubborn to us]. Hence the reason we need to determine whether the problem is moral or intellectual).

 

8. God knows how to take our ignorance and evil actions and use them to advance His Kingdom (13-18, “He has fulfilled” = God’s purposes were being accomplished even thru the wicked suffering inflicted upon Jesus by the Jews; Isa 53; Pro 16:4). POINTS NOT TO MISS: 1) free wills and a free future are not enough to keep God from perfectly accomplishing His plans – esp. in re: to His people (Rom 8:28).

2) possessing the proper biblical framework in re: to God and human responsibility, is essential to avoiding – or reading into passages like vv13-18, the error of determinism ([Exo 13:17; Isa 54:15; Jer 19:5] w/Eph 1:11 “works [Grk., energeo] = To give energy to, to operate – not determine/decree/fix – Act 17:26, 31 [Grk., horizo] = Some things – but not most things, have been determined by God – e.g., Jer 5:22).

 

9. There is no forgiveness of sins or blessing of salvation from Jesus for those who fail to cease in their practice of (known) sin and live in obedience to God’s commands (19, “repent and return [to loyalty to the Lord, to practicing His ways and righteousness– Act 11:21, 26:18; Jam 5:19-20; Isa 55:7 w/56:1; Jer 4:1-2]” = This is the principle of put off and put on [Eph 4:22-24; e.g., it is often people’s failure in the latter that keeps them from persevering; Other examples: dieting, unhealthy relationships – self programmed robots//*wb awkward and uncomfortable at first]; 26, “to bless you by [instrumental – how the blessing will take place] turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” = The blessing [of Jesus’s salvation] happens only where there is no more practice of sin – i.e., where [again] it has been replaced by the practice of righteousness [1Jo 3:7-10]).

 

10. Jesus will return when the Jews return to Jesus (19-25)[1] “in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things” = The return of the Jews to God thru becoming Christians (Rom 11:25-29), will lead to the return of Christ and times of refreshing (new heaven, new earth (Isa 66:18-22), which will also signify the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (1:6) and the eternal destruction of all people who do not bow the knee to Jesus (22-25 [Gen 22:18; Deu 18:15-19; 2Sa 7:8-17]; Isa 66:23-24)[2].

 

 

[1] “Christ’s coming is seen as in some sense dependent on Israel’s repentance.” – Ben Witherington (Acts)

[2] “If the Israelites would repent for a day, the son of David (Messiah) would come immediately” – 1st cent., Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (p. Ta’an)

Acts 2

1. The Christian Pentecost should be viewed as Sinai 2.0. given:

1) the sacred holiday of Pentecost (Shavout – Feast of Weeks, Exo 34:22) represented not only a celebration of God’s bountiful giving of physical food (or harvest), but also spiritual food since according to Jewish tradition, Pentecost was the day Israel received the Law from God at Sinai (Hag Matan Torateinu – The Festival of the Giving of Torah[1]) (1, “Pentecost…they were all together in one place”[2]).

 

2) the parallels that exist between Sinai and the Christian Pentecost:

(Exo 19:16-18 w/20:1, 18) = Fire and awe (“fire…people trembled”) accompanying the presence of God speaking about His mighty deeds and Law (“God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery’”) which all the people experienced/heard (“All the people perceived”).

(Act 2:2-12) = Fire and awe (“fire…They were amazed and astonished…they all continued in amazement and great perplexity”) accompanying the presence of God (“the Holy Spirit”) speaking about His mighty deeds and Law (“speaking of the mighty deeds of God”) which all the people experienced/heard (vv5-11).[3]

 

3) like the Christian Pentecost, Sinai also shares the association of people receiving the Spirit (Act 2:4 and Num 11:16-17 [this event takes place immediately following the Sinai event – Num 10:11-13]).

 

4) Luke’s mention of the Pentecost event as “fulfillment” (1, “When the day of Pentecost had come”) = Literally, “in complete fulfillment of the day of Pentecost” (Grk., en ho hemera pentakostay sumplay-ra-oe = In sum/complete fulfillment). Luke seems to be indicating that something started in the past (i.e., Sinai) has now come to completion (at Pentecost).[4]

 

5) What follows the Christian Pentecost is the receiving of the “new” Law (the Law as transformed in application and/or semantic range by Jesus) (42, “the apostles’ teaching”).

 

2. The “other tongues” – or tongues given by the Spirit to the early church, were human languages unknown to their speakers (versus a non-human language unknown to the speakers – e.g., an angelic language [Pentecostal version of speaking in tongues]) [5] (4-6, “tongues” [Grk., glossa = human language, Rev 14:6], “hearing them speak in his own language” – See also again, vv8-11)[6].

 

3. Without the proper biblical framework, acts of God (or obedience to God) have been known to be misinterpreted as the behavior of fools or false teachers (12-13; “full of sweet wine”) = Drunk early in the morning, the behavior of fools (14-15). Drunkenness during the day was also associated w/many pagan religions who believed alcohol (or the creation of ecstatic states) was a means to connecting w/deity (e.g., early Christians were accused of being cannibals [for eating their Lord] and guilty of incest [bc they married their brothers and sisters]; we are accused of being works based/trying to earn our salvation or unaware of what Scripture teaches about salvation by faith [bc we teach salvation also requires obedience]).

 

4. Prophesy always involves the miraculous but not always new words – or predictions about the future (16-18, “prophesy”) = Peter is identifying their miraculous speech as the fulfillment of the first portion of Joel 2:28-32 (i.e., the portion re: to prophecy). Yet the content of their speech was itself not miraculous. Once more, they were “speaking (only) of the mighty deeds of God” – referring to those deeds done by God in the past. How then does this qualify as prophecy? The content of most prophecy is not miraculous; it neither speaks about anything new nor predicts anything still future. For speech to qualify as prophetic only two things are necessary: 1) speech in agreement w/God’s existing words (Deu 13:1-11, 18:20), 2) speech accompanied by something miraculous (2Co 12:12; Deu 13:1-2, 18:21-22)—which in the early church’s case, was the ability to speak the various foreign languages of those present at Pentecost w/o knowing them beforehand.

 

5. Peter’s divinely inspired interpretation of Joel 2:28 as “And it shall be in the last days (versus how it was communicated in the original text, “And it shall come about after this”):

1) indicates that the Christian Pentecost/IPO of the indwelling Spirit is not only the beginning of new words/NT canon from God but also the final millennia before Christ’s return and Judgment Day (17-18 = Gifts of the Spirit necessary to new words from God [“prophesy…visions…dreams” = The indication of new words from God/NT canon], 19-20 = Signs that will immediately precede Jesus’ return [Mat 24:29-31]).

 

2) provides further evidence that Jesus’ return will be in the very near future (17, “last days” = Plural or referring to more than one day which in Jewish tradition, each day represents a thousand years of redemptive history [2Pe 3:8] and Messiah returns on the last day, the Sabbath [or at the end of 6,000 years].

At the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry, we were already somewhere in the range of 4,000 years – which means the “days” (or millennia) being referred to by Peter can be no more than two. That puts Jesus’ return somewhere around 2033 [or two thousand years after the Christian Pentecost which took place in 33 A.D.]. In this light, consider Jesus’ words in Joh 9:4).

 

3) should create greater urgency (in us) to be faithful and productive for His kingdom (Mat 25:14-30) – most especially in witnessing to the truth and saving others (Peter’s [Joel’s] point in v21. Once we reach the last days, there is no time to waste; again Joh 9:4, also Pro 11:30).

 

6. The indwelling (or empowering of the) Spirit is given for the purpose of:

1) witness in persecution (Chapter one: witnesses on fire in the fire) (1:8).

 

2) new Scripture (2:17, again, “prophesy…visions…dreams”).

 

3) judgment (most esp. in the covenant community – 18, “prophesy” [all God’s people] = Judgment is a form of prophecy [e.g., Eze 23:36]; The NC indwelling Spirit is the new version of Num 11:17, hence Mat 18:15 = Every member judging/holding other members accountable/responsible for preserving justice/confronting sin as the first step in congregational justice/discipline).

 

7. What God wants the Jews to know about Jesus:

1) He was from God (22; Joh 3:2).

 

2) God’s plan was to deliver Him to the Jews as the (truly) propitiatory sacrifice for their sins (23a; The animal sacrifices were neither sufficient nor penal [i.e., the lambs were not punished]– Rom 3:25; Heb 10:4; Consider also the example of Isaac [God was not punishing him or Abe] or the prophesy of the High Priest [Joh 11:50-51]).

 

3) The Jews treated Jesus as though He were a criminal (23b).

 

4) God still treated Jesus’ death as propitiation for Israel’s sin, hence the reason death could not keep Him/He was resurrected (i.e., He was victorious – Rom 4:25) (24; Heb 9:15-16).

 

5) Jesus’ resurrection and role as Messiah (the “Christ”) was prophesied by David (25-32).

 

6) Jesus is now in heaven where God has exalted and confirmed Jesus’s role not only as His earthly king (“Christ”), but the divine King of heaven and earth (“Lord”) (33-36), 7) God is holding the Jews personally responsible for Jesus’ mistreatment and death (23, 36).

 

8. Peter uses the three most relevant pieces of evidence to validate a person and their message to prove that Jesus was who He claimed to be:

1) their public body of work (22; Act 26:26).

 

2) the Scripture (25-31).

 

3) personal (eyewitness) testimony (32).

 

9. One of the ways to know that you have been a faithful witness causing conviction in others, is that those receiving the message will either be “pierced to the heart” which leads to salvation (37) or “cut to the quick” which leads to persecution (5:33, 7:54, 10:39).

 

10. We are saved and regenerated in the waters of baptism (37-41, “be baptized…for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit…Be saved [thru repentance and baptism]…So then, those who had received his word were baptized…and…there were added [to salvation] about three thousand souls”). That by the word, “added” Luke means salvation is confirmed by (v47 “adding to their number…those…being saved”; 1Pe 3:21).

 

11. The Bible teaches infant baptism:

1) All the essential ingredients found in the phrase, (39, “For this promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off”) are also found in God’s promise to Abraham in Gen 17:7-13 (“children” = infants [v12], “this promise is for you and your children” [7, 10, “you and your descendants after you”], “for all those [children] who are far off [in the future]” [13 “everlasting covenant”]).

 

2) for the entirety of Israel’s redemptive history, infants were granted this special favor by God (i.e., they were automatic members of the covenant). Hardly would any Jew have found what Peter was preaching as good news if such special favor was no longer part of the deal (i.e., they were in under the OC, but now [under the NC], they need to be old enough to understand and give consent).

 

3) to remove God’ special favor toward infants (in this respect) would be a violation of God original and “everlasting” promise (hence the reason, baptism is identified as the new form of circumcision [Col 2:11]– God is keeping His promise!).

 

12. The first true Christians were continually devoting themselves to practicing the very things the world and popular religion (which is only popular b/c it has adopted many of the convictions of the world) has always found controversial or outright rejected:

1) new understandings (of old teachings) (42, “the apostles’ teaching [on the new application/understanding of the OT/Law]).

 

2) seeking confirmation from God (not popular opinion) for what they believed (43, “wonders and signs” = Confirmation that what was being taught was from God. Such signs and miracles were needed given the absence of the NT canon [what we use today to confirm the teaching]).

 

3) treating those in the covenant community more like family than blood family (42, “fellowship” [Grk., koinoenia]) = The idea of family or sharing and becoming one in re to: our resources/care (44-45), our beliefs, convictions and perspective (46a), our personal life (transparency) (46b, “and breaking bread from house to house” = Devoted themselves to time together outside the Temple for the purpose of sharing their personal lives), loyalty (“breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” = Joyfully sharing a meal w/others was an ancient indicator of your loyalty to them), happiness and blessings (47).

 

4) signs with real spiritual power (sacraments v. ordinances) (41, “baptized” w/47 “adding…those being saved”; 42, “breaking of bread” w/Joh 13:10 w/Joh 6:54).

 

[1] Tradition also speaks of this as the day that Ruth – a Gentile, placed herself under the yoke of the Law.

[2] During Pentecost, it was customary for ancient Jews to

gather in one place, stay up all night learning Torah, and remembering their

vows of obedience to God’s commands (See “Shavout – The Holiday of the Giving

of the Torah” – Chabad.org)

[3] The famous Jewish philosopher, Philo’s words, “Then from the midst of the fire that streamed from heaven there sounded forth to their utter amazement a voice, for the flame became the articulate speech in the language familiar to the audience” were not spoken about Christian Pentecost, but Sinai.

[4] “Luke uses an odd phrase to introduce this event, literally ‘in the fulfillment of the day of Pentecost,” but clearly from what follows [is not the fulfillment of that specific day since] the day was yet young.’” – C.K. Barrett (Acts Vol. 1)

[5] Jewish tradition records that the language of angels is the same language God used to create the world, Hebrew (Jub 12:26). It is also this language that (Jewish) tradition teaches was preserved by Michael the archangel for those descendants of Noah in the line of Abraham after the splitting of the languages during the Tower of Babel incident (Apend. Of Naph. 8:4-6). Of further interest, the word “Hebrew” in Hebrew (eev’riyt) is a derivation of the Hebrew word for covenant (beriyt). Put another way, Hebrew was the language of covenant (or those in/remaining in covenant with God).

[6] “The Greek syntax, surely dictates that the phrase ‘in his own language’ must go with the word ‘speaking’ not ‘hearing,’ in v6. They heard them speaking in their own languages.” – Ben Witherington (The Acts of the Apostles A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary)

Acts 1

1. Important people can help us advance the Kingdom (1; “Theophilus” – See Luk 1:3 “most excellent Theophilus” = Title reserved for those with high social status, power or influence [Act 23:26, 24:3, 26:26]. Given that Luke’s audience was much larger than just Theophilus, strongly implies the mention of his name was for the purpose of adding extra validity – and therefore readership, to his writings – possibly to those in the Jewish community. Luke was a Gentile and therefore would have carried no respect in the Jewish community. Such an assumption infers that Theo was an important and highly respected Jew.).

2. Jesus did not go back to heaven until equipping His Church w/: 1) authority: He passed the mantle of Holy Spirit authority [anointing] to His “chosen” leaders (2, “after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders [or “charge” – Mar 13:34] to the apostles”, Joh 20:21-23). 2) assurance: He proved He was alive after His death (3, “many convincing proofs” = Evidence that removes doubt – e.g., Joh 20:17 [Mary Magdalene hugged Him], 20, 24-29 [Apostles saw/touched His wounds], 21:12-15 [Peter and other apostles ate breakfast w/Him]; “over a period of forty days” = Most likely the time when more than 500 people also witnessed Jesus alive after His death -1Co 15:6). 3) ability: He provided His disciples w/instructions for receiving the promised indwelling Holy Spirit for empowerment (4-8).

3. There is an ascending and descending gift of the Holy Spirit: 1) ascending = anointing (2; Joh 20:21-23 = Jesus gives the HS just before He ascends back to heaven), 2) descending = indwelling (4-5, 8; Eph 4:7-11; “measure” = indwelling – or indwelling and anointing; “When He ascended…He gave [aorist = tense stressing association more than indicating time]” = Christ’s HS anointing is associated w/His ascension; “descended” = On Pentecost to give the indwelling Spirit; v11 = The anointed offices today [“evangelist” = NT priest who plants churches/missionary, “pastor-teacher” = NT priest; See Isa 66:21]).

4. Being faithful as Jesus’ “witnesses” in the midst of persecution/trials is: 1) necessary to being empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit (4-8 w/Luk 3:16-17 w/Mar 9:43-50 “salted by fire” = Tested by fire [or fiery trials] (Lev 2:13 “with all your offerings you shall offer salt”)[1]. Jesus went through the same process – Luk 3:21-22, 4:1-14. In this light consider also Paul’s words in Act 20:22-24 w/14:22; we are born [again] w/power that can only be released thru the trials that come thru witnessing). 2) the reason most Christians never experience empowerment from the indwelling Spirit — because they avoid witnessing for Jesus and the persecution/trials it often brings! Point NOT to miss: empowering is for the purpose of witnessing in the midst of persecution/trials which means if you avoid witnessing in these situations, you avoid being empowered (12-26 = The apostles are praying [w/ the expectation of] empowerment [12-14] bc they are planning to witness [15-26] to the same hostile Jews who killed Jesus[2]; See similar in [4:29-30]).

 

5. Jesus’ return will feel a lot like a science fiction movie, an alien invasion and episode from “Law And Order” (9-11 w/1Th 4:15-17 [Mat 24:29-31] and 2Th 1:7-8 [Psa 149; Joh 5:28-29; Mat 13:40-43]; In the end, everyone will have their day in God’s court and some of us wb called to testify against others– Rev 20:11-15; Heb 13:17; 1Co 6:2-3).

 

6. The geographical place of Jesus’ ascent will also be the geographical place of His return (11-12 w/Zec 14:1-14, 9).

 

 

 

 

7. The standard by which to measure any church is its divinely inspired prototype: the church started by Jesus, the church of the apostles, the Jerusalem church which was small and filled with a lot of personal family members (versus large and filled with a lot of strangers) [3] (13-15; As it re: to being small: “one hundred and twenty persons” = Very small in comparison to the crowds that once followed Jesus [e.g., Luk 9:12-14]; As it re: to being filled w/family members: “Judas” = Jesus’ [half] brother, apostle and author of Jude, “Mary the mother of Jesus, …with His brothers.” = This list would include James – the future senior pastor of the church, as well as Joses and Simon. His sisters were [ml] also in attendance [Mar 6:3]; According to Scripture and tradition [e.g., Clement of Alexandria], most of the “eleven” were married and had at least one child [e.g., Mat 8:14; 1Co 9:5; e.g., Peter’s daughter was named Petronilla]. More than likely then, 30-40 [or 25-33%] of the 120 persons were family members. As it re: to remaining small: though experiencing times of great expansion (Act 2:41, 4:4, 5:14), they were short lived. Persecution forced most of the church’s new members to seek shelter in churches outside of Jerusalem (e.g., Act 8:4). As a result, the Jerusalem church remained one of the smallest for the majority of her first century existence (hence Act 11:28-30; Rom 15:25-26; 1Co 16:2-3).[4]

 

8. The apostles believed that insurrection – condemning or coming against the authority of those anointed to sacred office in the church was blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, the unforgiveable sin and apostasy (16-20 w/Mat 26:14 w/Joh 12:1-8; “Let his homestead be made desolate and let no one dwell in it” [See the full context of Psa 69:22-28] = Let them become apostate; For blasphemy against the HS as insurrection against the anointed in the covenant community, see Mat 12:32 w/Num 15:30-31, 16:1-3; also Psa 105:15).

 

9. The qualifications for being in the anointed sacred office of apostle make clear that anyone claiming that office today is a false teacher (21-22 w/25 “apostleship”).

 

10. The congregation is the one deciding who gets anointed/ordained (15-16 w/23 [“they” = the congregation] – 26 [“added” = voted in by the congregation]; See also Act 6:1-6 [“the whole congregation…chose”; That they were choosing for the purpose of anointing/ordaining – i.e., that these were elders/pastors is confirmed by the fact these individuals had the authority/ability to baptize – e.g., Act 8:38]; OT ref. to congregational choosing for anointing – 1Ch 29:20-22).

 

11. Casting lots (sortition or selection by lottery) is a divine way to preserve equity in situations where there is no explicit counsel from God [His Word] (23-26 = Lots were cast to determine the duties of the priests. Joseph and Mattias were [ml] elders in their church [Luk 1:9 and 1Ch 24:1-5, 31, 25:8, 26:13-16] e.g., also [clothing] Mat 27:31; [land] Num 26:55; Jos 18:6; [sacrifices] Lev 16:8; in re: to it being divinely attended [revealing God’s will] – Pro 16:33 [e.g., Urim and Thummin – Exo 28:30]).

 

[1] “The reference to ritual sacrifice (Lev 2:13) would be fairly evident to the first readers of Mark. The argument has a coherence deeper than catchwords: Since undisciplined disciples risk the fire of gehenna at the last judgment, the hardships the disciple will undergo now are disciplines like the fire of a sacrificial offering that purifies, or like salt which stings but is preservative in its effect. Jesus on his way to Jerusalem is the supreme example of the sacrificial offerings ‘salted with fire.’ His sacrificial death is not to shield disciples from costly obedience, but rather show them the way: ‘For every one (meaning every disciple) will be salted with fire.’ Disciples whose lives are not characterized by rigorous self-discipline [and bold witness] are like flavorless salt. They have lost the sharpness which sets them apart from their environment and constitutes their usefulness.” – Lamar Williamson Jr. (Mark)

[2] Since both were required holidays and the cost of travel was steep, the Jews who travelled to Jerusalem to observe Passover, would often stay until Pentecost. As such, the Jews who witnessed Jesus’ death are still in town.

[3] The are several good reasons for referring to the Jerusalem church as prototypical: 1) it is the specific church Jesus is referring to when making His “church promises” to Peter (Mat 16:17-19), 2) it is the church to which all the other first century churches looked for instruction/ruling on orthodoxy and orthopraxy (e.g., Gal 2:1-2; Act 15:1-29; 1Co 11:16 = The unity of practice among the “churches of God” on this issue was no doubt due to the fact that it came from their mother, the church at Jerusalem).

[4] According to ancient church historian Eusebius, the Jerusalem church relocated to the city of Pella just before the city’s fall to the Romans in 70 A.D. It did so however without its two leaders, James (the brother of Jesus) and Peter who stayed behind and perished during the siege. At this point, most of the apostles were also dead and the church’s former members permanently dispersed to other locations. Though the city itself would continue to play a significant role in the world’s politics and religion, her church remained small and struggled to exist.

Acts: Signs You Are Part of a Genuine Jesus Movement

Acts stands for “Acts of the Apostles.” IOW: What the apostles did, endured or experienced as God used them to spearhead the first genuine Jesus movement after His death and ascension back to heaven. Given the purpose of Scripture, those actions and events can be considered the signs of when such a movement is taking place today. In broad strokes, they are the following:

1. The gospel message being preached will have teeth.

1.1. Two things are meant by this figure of speech:

1.1.1. the message wb offensive not only to the world, but also the majority of those claiming to follow God (e.g., the Jews of Jesus’ day; Evangelical Christians) (Act 7:51-54) = Like the messages preached by the former prophets, Stephen’s gospel was offensive to the majority of those already believing themselves to be the followers of God (the Jews of Jesus’ day; popular Christianity) (Act 17:6 “upset the world”, Act 28:22 “it is spoken against everywhere”). Most people (pagans and “Christians”) will hate the gospel of a genuine Jesus movement.

1.1.2. salvation would not be free and easy – or something you get for nothing (with no strings attached). It would instead require sacred vows of loyalty to Jesus and a life of faithfulness to God’s Laws (Act 2:38):

1) “repent” = Commit to practicing obedience to God’s Laws (which means putting off/turning from the practice of sin) (Luk 3:3 [notice, like faith, repentance is also necessary to the forgiveness of sins], 4-14 = IOW: Practice the Law in all things, this is what it means/looks like to repent (Isa 40:3-8 “word of our God” [i.e., God’s Law]) = Eternal preservation/salvation will require clearing out of our lives all lawlessness and clinging to God’s Law as preached (esp. at the time of His Messiah) (Isa 42:1-4, 51:4-5). Notice this message (or offer of salvation) also applies to the “nations” – people other than the Jews (Isa 55:1-7 w/56:1-8)[1]. That by repentance is meant commitment to obeying God’s Law is also supported by other passages in the book of Acts (Act 21:21-24) = Paul would have refused James’ request if the version of Christianity he had converted to did not view obedience to the Law as necessary; (Act 24:14-15 w/25:8) = Likewise, Paul could not say these things if the version of Christianity he had converted to did not view the Law as necessary; (Act 17:11) = The Bereans would have found Paul’s gospel to be false if it ignored obedience to God’s Law since this was the central message of the OT Scriptures they were using to validate his message.

2) “each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” = Notice, this too (baptism) is necessary for salvation (or the forgiveness of sins). According to Peter’s first epistle, baptism represents a sacred vow of loyalty to Jesus (1Pe 3:21 “an appeal [Lit., a vow or pledge of loyalty] to God [in exchange for] a good conscience [i.e., forgiveness] through the resurrection of Jesus Christ [the person whose blood is the source of our forgiveness]”). This vow of loyalty is also picked up in the word faith [Grk., pistis = loyalty]. Examples from Acts (Act 3:16 “faith in His name”) = A common ancient idiom referring to a person’s loyalty to another (usually a person more powerful or of higher status than themselves); (Act 20:21 “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ”) = Not only is the aforementioned idiom expressed, but this time the word “faith” is used as the substitute for baptism. Instead of Peter’s former gospel combination of repentance and baptism, it is repentance and faith – demonstrating faith to be both a suitable synonym for baptism and another term communicating vows of loyalty.

1.2. Why a gospel requiring such things was (and continues to be) so offensive to those outside a genuine Jesus’ movement = Because the gospel preached by the majority of those claiming to follow God has always been a gospel which requires no such loyalty or commitment. True now and true also in Jesus’ day. The rebellious Jews were the first Evangelicals. They too believed in a FAG (Jer 6:14-19; Luk 3:8 w/Joh 8:39).

1.3. A gospel causing this kind of offense among the majority was prophesied as central to the genuine Jesus movement (Luk 2:34-35 w/Mat 10:16-39) = The people Jesus is calling “wolves” – who will do these awful things, wb the majority of those claiming to follow God and blood family.

2. The gospel message is powerfully and irrefutably proven from the Scriptures.

1.1. (Act 18:24-28 “powerfully refuted…demonstrating by the Scriptures”) = Proving by powerful argument and irrefutable Scriptural evidence (“demonstrating”, Luk 17:14).

1.2. (Act 1.17:1-3, 8:4, 19, 19:8 “synagogue”) = Jewish place of worship where scrolls containing all the OT Scriptures would be found. Though Paul [ml] possessed some books (e.g., Pentateuch – 2Ti 4:13), it would have been almost impossible to his missionary endeavors to carry everything.

Hence therefore the common practice of going to the synagogue to evangelize. (“explaining and giving evidence”, “reasoning”) = The employment of logic and facts to make an argument. In this case, the logic and facts established by the Scriptures. (“persuading”) = Irrefutably proving.

1.3. Jesus preached the same way (Luk 24:27 w/32 “our hearts burning within us”) = Idiomatic phrase indicating the presence of strong conviction where there had once been doubt. Jesus’ demonstrably proved from the OT Scriptures that the gospel message He had preached (most esp., that the Christ would need to suffer and die) was true.

1.4. Point not to miss: the gospel of a genuine Jesus movement doesn’t just claim its message is irrefutable, but proves it from the Scriptures in such a way that it leaves its opponents w/o a valid rebuttal (in re: to ordained men, Tit 1:9-11 silenced” = their mouths made shut/stopped).

3. Because what is being preached as the gospel is both offensive and irrefutable, those rejecting its message (including those within the majority) will employ slander and shady tactics to shut the preachers up.

2.1. (Act 6:7-13 “cope with the wisdom”) = Refute his arguments from Scripture. Jesus promised to give His preachers this kind of wisdom (Luk 21:15). (“secretly induced men to say…put forward false witnesses”) = Employed slander and shady tactics to shut Stephen up bc (once more) they couldn’t refute him.

2.2. (Act 9:22-23 “plotted” [20:3 “plot…formed by the Jews”, 19 “plots of the Jews”]; See also 23:12-15 “conspiracy”) = Shady tactics. In this case, the shady tactic of condemning someone w/o giving them the opportunity to defend their actions or beliefs (e.g., a kangaroo court). God’s Law forbids such shady tactics (Exo 23:1 w/Deu 19:15; Hence Joh 7:51). Even the pagan Romans viewed such behavior as shady and illegal (Act 19:21-28 w/35-42; See also Act 23:30, *25:16).

2.3. Because they could not refute their gospel, the Jews called the Christians a cult (“sect”) so that others would view them with suspicion.

2.4. Another common (shady) tactic of those who are unable to refute the preachers in a genuine Jesus movement is to slanderously attack their personal character. This they also do, in the hopes of scaring others out of listening to them (Act 24:5 “deceivers…pest”) = Translates as “scoffer” in the OT. It refers to a wicked person who boldly condemns those who are right as though they were wrong. (“dissension”) = Insurrection (against God). See also Paul’s words in (2Co 6:8 “regarded as deceivers”) = Imposters.

2.5. Jesus’ character and intentions were likewise attacked by those who were unsuccessful in attacking what He preached (Mat 11:19 “gluttonous man and a drunkard” [Notice they condemned JtB also- v18]; Joh 8:41 “fornication” = Implying that Jesus was a bastard child; See also v48).

2.6. It is for these reason that both Jesus and Paul were confident that those part of a genuine Jesus movement will experience hatred and persecution from others (including once more, those a part of the majority followers of God) (again, Mat 10:22; See also Joh 15:18-21; Act 14:22).

 

4. The church will possess real authority.

4.1. The fact that Acts speaks of those being baptized as receiving forgiveness of sins means there is real power in this sacrament. Another text that speaks of baptism as the place where we are forgiven – or our sins are washed away, is (Act 22:16).

4.2. Seeing that the church (or her elders) were the only ones able to carry out this powerful act (Act 8:12, 35-38 = Philip was an elder in the Jerusalem church [Act 6:1-6], 9:18 = Ananias was the elder at the church in Damscus, 10:46-48 = Peter as an apostle/elder of the Jerusalem church, 16:14-15, 31-33 = Paul was an apostle/elder in the church at Antioch) means that the church possessed real spiritual authority – the authority (or power) to “bind and loose”, just as Jesus had promised (Mat 16:17-19; Joh 20:21-23).

4.3. That those churches associated w/a genuine Jesus movement possess real spiritual authority is also supported by the church’s exclusive ability to: 1) determine who received this authority from the HS (Act 8:15-19, 14:23; Act 20:28) = Notice it mentions the HS [or His authority and power] in conjunction w/ the elders at Ephesus (“the HS made you overseers…to “guard…oversee [and] shepherd” the church), 2) to pronounce and secure divine judgment in relation to the disobedient in the church (Act 5:1-11) = Notice again, the mention of the HS w/respect to the elders. When Ananias and Sapphira lie to the elders, they are viewed as lying to the HS.

4.4. As a final note, it should be mentioned that Acts also indicates that false churches and their leaders – or those not part of a genuine Jesus movement, will not possess such authority – and as a result, not be able to keep the demons out of their covenant communities (Act 19:11-16 w/Mat 16:18-19).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: Many have claimed that their church is (or has been a part of) a genuine Jesus movement. If the present study’s findings are correct, how many churches truly are (or were)? What about us? Is what has been discussed today, what we see or have experienced in this church? If so, welcome to a genuine Jesus movement.

[1] Scholars believe Acts to be the fulfillment of these chapters in Isaiah. See David W. Pao’s Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus

Canon – Function

Canon (definition): Those books containing God’s spoken words (the Old and New Testaments otherwise known as Scripture, God’s Word or the Bible) preserved for the purpose of saving (physically, spiritually) His people (the covenant community).

A major deterrent to canonical confidence[1], is not only a poor understanding of the canon’s formation, but the intended function of God’s spoken words as communicated in the canon itself. This study (or part one) will address the latter, part two, the former. With that in mind, there are several important truths that must be understood with respect to God’s spoken words:

 

1. The exclusive instrument God has chosen to lead and have relationship w/His people (i.e., to save them) has been His spoken words (not feelings or Jesus’ face in pancakes or naan – or the more recent and local example, glitter bombs [Church of the Front Range]) (Exo 34:27 “in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel” = God’s words were the means to covenant relationship w/OC Israel; Deu 31:8-9 = God’s words were the means to leading OC Israel; Isa 8:19-20 = Those led by anything other than God’s spoken words are counterfeits; Heb 1:1-2; 2Ti 3:16 “inspired” [Grk., “God-breathed” = Spoken by God] = What has been written down as Scripture is what was spoken [to the human authors] by God; 2Pe 1:19-21 = Gaining and maintaining a saving relationship w/God [“until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts” = Until you get to heaven/the day of your eternal salvation is realized] requires that you give yourself to His “spoke[n]” words [“Scripture”] as the exclusive means to leading and living your life [versus to false teachers who lead thru feelings, their experiences or promises of false freedom [2:1-19]; What about Gideon’s fleece? See Jug 6:36 w/37-40).

2. Since the purpose of God’s spoken words is the salvation (physically and spiritually) of His people, we should: 1) always view His spoken words with this as their intention (i.e., whatever He has said is relevant/important to the subject of salvation – 2Ti 3:15), 2) never view His spoken words as an attempt at referring to or explaining all things (e.g., the Bible has very little to say about dinosaurs; the Bible spends very little time on the subject of Creation).

3. Never – including the present, have God’s people ever possessed all God’s spoken words yet they have always had what they needed to be faithful (Deu 29:29; 2Pe 1:3; e.g., 1Sa 10:10-11; Joh 20:30; Col 4:16; Rev 10:4).

4. God at times, has deliberately hidden His spoken words – or their understanding, until His people were ready to receive it and take the next necessary step in their journey of obedience (Neh 8:13-18 [Lev 23:34; Deu 16:16]; Eph 3:1-6 = OT saints not given full understanding as to the prophecies regarding the coming Messiah. Hence Mat 13:34-35 and Luk 24:27, 45-46//Luk 9:45, 18:31-34; Joh 12:16, 13:7, 20:9; *the importance of this truth to our church: do not become unsettled by the fact that as we mature, God corrects our poor understanding of His spoken words from the past – e.g., Calvinism, baptism, Insurrection or the unforgiveable sin, what other things qualify as a capital crime, etc. ** what has never changed: our view that what a person needs to do to be saved is more than simply put faith in Christ, they must also be faithfully obedient to His laws).

5. God has also deliberately foregone giving the exact application for some of His spoken words to accommodate the changing moral climates experienced by His people throughout the world and redemptive history (e.g., Deu 25:1-3; 1Co 5:1-5 w/2Co 2:6-8; see also 2Co 8:21; *important not to miss: though the church is given freedom as to the application of these laws, that does not make our decisions arbitrary or without God’s authority and backing[2]; Mat 18:18-20).

6. Under Jesus’ new covenant kingdom, God has deliberately changed the way we are to understand and apply some of His previously spoken (or preserved) words (e.g., Rom 10:20-21 w/Isa 65:1-2; 1Co 5:1-5; Col 2:11-12; Act 15:17 w/Amo 9:12 [LXX versus MT[3]]).

7. In addition, God has deliberately made some of His spoken words hard to understand (e.g., 2Pe 3:16) so that those who truly love Him will truly understand it and those who don’t, won’t[4] (Jer 29:13 “with all of your heart” = Hard work motivated by love is the condition to finding God; Isa 6:10 w/1:1-15 and 5:24 = Dull and dim are God’s curse on those who refuse to love Him by listening to His laws [to love is to listen]; Mat 13:13-15; Joh 8:42-43; Act 28:27; 2Co 12:7-10 [the theory of desirable difficulty] = We are better at understanding things [we are “stronger”] when those things are presented in a difficult way[5]).

8. Though not always apparent on the surface, there are no contradictions or inconsistencies between the principles established by God’s spoken words in the Old Testament and those established in the New Testament (Hence the reason: 1) Jesus and the NT’s speakers always appeal to the OT in support of their position or teaching – e.g., Act 24:14 [roughly, one out of every three verses in the NT is a direct or indirect reference to the OT], 2) Paul supports the OT as a source for becoming “wise” about NT salvation or training in righteousness [2Ti 3:15-16], 3) the Scriptures used at the start of the 1st century church to discern truth from error was the OT [the NT didn’t exist] – e.g., Act 17:10-11//e.g., Act 15:17 w/Amo 9:12 = No contradiction in the way James applies Amos since the intended goal of the prophet’s words agree with James’s interpretation [i.e., the Gentiles will be able to seek God’s salvation w/o becoming Jews [“all the nations who are called by My name”. Hence Paul’s struggle w/the Jews – Gal 6:13-15 w/3:28).

9. The two worst things therefore a person can be, are: 1) lazy in working hard to understand God’s spoken words (2Pe 3:16 = The reason they are “untaught and unstable” is due to their unwillingness to put forth the effort or work to “grow” in their understanding of God’s new covenant plan [the “grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” They are “unprincipled men” [lazy – literally, w/o a law governing their behavior- most esp. God’s law – e.g., 2Pe 2:7], vv17-18; why so bad: v16b, “to their own destruction”) and 2) under the impression that no changes or corrections will be made to their understanding of God’s spoken words as a consequence of their growth in understanding (and therefore refuse to change – or call into question what is being taught) (this too is implied in 2Pe 3:16-18 = People refusing to grow are people refusing to change; e.g., Act 6:8-7:53 [51]; Gal 4:1-10 [8-10]; why so bad: Heb 6:1-8).

10. The end of first-century supernatural offices, brought an end to any additional spoken words from God in human history (1Co 13:8-10).

 

[1] By canonical confidence I mean, confidence that what we possess as God’s spoken words is enough to save us.

[2] Arbitrary (def.) based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system.

[3] Based on the evidence from other extant Jewish sources (e.g., Dead Sea Scrolls), some scholars believe the LXX rendering to be the more accurate/correct rendering.

[4] To say that something is hard to understand does not mean the same thing as beyond human understanding. If this were true, then hardly could Peter (for example) make an appeal to Paul’s wisdom – or encourage other Christians to read his letters since their message would be indiscernible (2Pe 3:14-15). It should also be noted that acknowledging the difficulties of Scripture (i.e., their interpretation) does no violence to the doctrine of Perspicuity or clarity of Scripture. Clarity is not the same as simplicity. In the words of Mark D. Thompson, “The clarity of Scripture [does] not mean, and [has] never meant, that there are no difficulties in Scripture.” (A Clear And Present Word, p.153).

[5] For a popular culture treatment of this subject see Malcom Gladwell’s David and Goliath (Part 2: The Theory of Desirable Difficulty).

Canon – Formation

Canon (definition): Those books containing God’s spoken words (the Old and New Testaments otherwise known as Scripture, God’s Word or the Bible) preserved for the purpose of saving (physically, spiritually) His people (the covenant community).

 

A major deterrent to canonical confidence[1], is not only a poor understanding of the canon’s formation, but the intended function of God’s spoken words as communicated in the canon itself. Having addressed the latter (function), this study will address the former (formation). With that in mind, there are several important truths that must be understood with respect to the formation of the Canon – or those books believed to contain God’s spoken words:

 

1. By the time of Jesus and the apostles, the Old Testament had long been accepted by the Jews as the first installment of God’s spoken words.

1.1. First century Jewish historian, Josephus claims that the same books found in (our modern-day) Old Testaments, had long been considered God’s spoken words by the Jews, “For although such long ages have now passed, no one has ventured neither to add, or to remove, or to alter a syllable” (Against Apion, 1.38-42).

1.2. First century Jewish writer, Philo of Alexandria likewise acknowledges the Old Testament as God’s spoken words using the same three-fold structure used by Jesus to describe them (Luk 24:44 “the Law and the Prophets and the Psalms”), “The laws and the sacred oracles of God enunciated [God spoke] by the holy prophets … and psalms” (On the Contemplative Life, 25; See also Ben Sira, Ecclesiasticus and Dead Sea Scrolls, 4QMMT).

1.3. The way that Jesus and the apostles speak about the Old Testament, it is clear they too saw it as the first installment of God’s spoken words (i.e., as Scripture) (e.g., Mat 4:1-11, 9:13, 15:3-9, 22; Mar 12:10; Luk 4:21, 18:20; Joh 5:39, 7:38 10:35; Act 1:16, Rom 4:3; 2Ti 3:15-16; Jam 2:8; 1Pe 2:6).

1.4. Furthermore, 33 of the 39 Old Testament books are referenced or directly quoted by Jesus and other NT speakers[2]. Those not referenced or directly quoted: Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Song of Solomon, Obadiah[3].

1.5. Point not to miss: The OT (as the first canon or installment of God’s spoken words) was not only a forgone conclusion by the time of Jesus and the apostles, but something they and the other NT speakers firmly believed and promoted.

 

2. When the Old Testament speaks about the coming new kingdom (new Israel) and its Messiah, it also speaks about new spoken words from God (i.e., a new “testament” from God)[4].

2.1. Support: 1) (Deu 18:18 “put my words in His mouth and he shall speak”) = Messiah will speak new words from God [fulfilled: Mar 9:7; Joh 6:14, 7:40; Act 3:23-24, 7:37], 2) (Isa 11:1 “rod of His mouth”) = Messiah will judge the earth w/new spoken words from God [fulfilled: 2Th 2:8; Rev 1:16, 11:15, 19:15], 3) (Isa 61:1-2 “bring good news”) = Messiah will bring new spoken words of salvation [fulfilled: Luk 4:18-19], 4) (Isa 2:2-3 “the word of the Lord from Jerusalem [shall go forth to the nations]”) = The new spoken words from God will go forth from Jerusalem to the nations of the world [fulfilled: book of Acts]. David Pao believes Isaiah 2 to be the paradigm for the entire book of Acts[5] (In this light consider, Luk 24:46-47).

2.2. Literature from the Second Temple period make it clear that the Jews knew the Old Testament was not the end of God’s spoken words. IOW: there would be a second installment:

“The Jews of the Second Temple period were not a settled group. Despite having returned to their promised land, they still conceived of themselves as in ‘exile’ – they were still oppressed by foreign rulers (Bar 2:7-10; 2Macc 2:5-18; 4Q504 2-5; T. Mos. 4:8-9). Thus, Israel was in a posture of anticipation and longing; they were waiting for God to fulfill His promises to break into the world and redeem His people…Another way [therefore] to articulate Second Temple expectations…is to say that the Jews of this period viewed the story of the Old Testament books as incomplete. When the Old Testament story of Israel was viewed as a whole, it was not viewed as something that was finished but as something that was waiting to be finished….That Second Temple Jews regarded the Old Testament story as incomplete and in need of a proper conclusion has significant implications for the production of a new corpus of biblical books. If some Second Temple Jews became convinced that the story was completed in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth – such as the earliest Christians did — the it is not unreasonable to think that the proper conclusion to the Old Testament might then be written. Indeed, the very structure of the Old Testament itself, with its truncated and forward-looking ending, naturally leads to the expectation that there would be a second installment of writings to finish the job. Otherwise, one would be left with a play that had no final act.” – Michael J. Kruger (The Question Of Canon)

 

“A new Israel would require new Scriptures.” – David Meade (“Ancient Near Eastern Apocalypticism and the Origins of the New Testament Canon of Scripture.”)

 

3. The concept of a new covenant also points to a second installment of new spoken words from God.

3.1. Scholars have long observed that “where there is a divine covenant…there is a divine covenantal document [containing God’s spoken words].”[6]

3.2. So close is the connection between covenant and an accompanying document containing God’s spoken words, that the OT authors would frequently equate the two. To possess a covenant w/God meant to possess spoken words from God (Exo 24:7; Deu 4:13, 29:21; 2Ki 23:2).

3. It is therefore safe to assume that the early Christians – who were also highly covenantal in their understanding of their new faith, were expecting new spoken words from God (a New Testament to go with their new covenant).

 

“The earliest Christians were themselves immersed in the covenantal structure of the Old Testament and thus would have understood this critical connection between covenants and written texts [of God’s spoken words for that covenant]…If they believed that through Jesus Christ a new covenant had been inaugurated with Israel (Jer 31:31), it would have been entirely natural for them to expect new written documents [of God’s spoken words] to testify to the terms of that [new] covenant.” – Kruger

 

4. At least some of the New Testament authors were aware they were writing the second installment of God’s spoken words (i.e., the New Testament).

4.1. Consider for example, Peter’s use of the word “Scripture” when speaking about the writings of Paul (2Pe 3:16). Paul likewise uses the word “Scripture” when referring to a saying from Jesus in Luke’s gospel (1Ti 5:18 w/Luk 10:17). Certainly, such identification was not lost on the authors themselves. IOW: the authors (Paul and Luke) also shared the view that what they were writing was indeed Scripture (Consider Paul’s words in 1Co 14:37-38).

4.2. Assuming Luke felt the same way about his other book, the book of Acts, means we have accounted for over half the books in the NT (15 of the 27) or 139 of its 260 chapters (53%). Chances therefore are high that those writing the remaining portion also knew they were writing Scripture.

4.3. As additional support, many scholars believe that all of the NT’s authors believed they were preserving apostolic witness – i.e., that God was (through them) preserving (in written form) His (or Jesus’) spoken words to the apostles (Joh 14:26 w/17:8). And their belief shares substantial patristic evidence. The early church fathers, Justin Martyr, Tertullian and Irenaeus all believed this to be true. For example, they believed the gospel of Mark to be the embodiment of Peter’s teaching about Jesus (captured by his “ghost writer” Mark, before His death) (See 2Pe 1:3-15; Mark is identified in the NT as “John Mark”, the cousin of Barnabas and close friend to the apostles [Act 12:25]).

4.4. Finally, the literary structure of the New Testament also bears witness to canonical awareness and intent. The NT authors wrote their respective books to mimic the language and patterns found in the Old Testament. For example: 1) the author of Hebrews presents the terms of the new covenant through Christ in the same mode and manner as the terms of old covenant through Moses in the book of Deuteronomy. So close is the literary structure of Hebrews to that of Deuteronomy, that David M. Allen concludes that Hebrews “does not just use Deuteronomy, it becomes the new Deuteronomy.” (Deuteronomy & Exhortation in Hebrews: A Study in Re-presentation), 2) Matthew appears to be molding his Gospel after the first five books of the Old Testament – or the writings of Moses (the Pentateuch). Even the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel bears witness to Scriptural (or canonical) intent. He begins with a genealogy and ends with a great commission – both vivid echoes of the book of Chronicles (1Chr 1-8; 2Chr 36:23), the last books in Israel’s history and the perfect place to therefore begin God’s new plan (and promise) of deliverance.

 

“Matthew constructs his Gospel partly to reflect the beginning and ending of Chronicles.” – G.K. Beale (The Temple And the Church’s Mission)

 

5. The church’s role was never to determine what should be a part of the New Testament canon, but to recognize what already was.

5.1. In the words of Bruce Metzger, “Neither individuals nor councils created the canon; instead they came to recognize and acknowledge the self-authenticating quality of these writings which imposed themselves as canonical upon the church.” (The New Testament, Its Background, Growth And Content).

5.2. Based on numerous quotations from the 2nd century early church fathers, Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria, all 27 books of our modern-day New Testaments had already been recognized as Scripture by the time of – or shortly after, the death of the apostles[7].

 

“We have learned from none other the plan of salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith.” – Irenaeus (Against Heresies)

 

“The fact that the collections of new Christian Scriptures used by Clement and Irenaeus…on the opposite sides of the Mediterranean Sea, resemble each other so closely, undermines the notion that churches, at a relatively late date in the second century, were only beginning to sort through a large mass of Christian writings.” – Charles E. Hill (Who Chose The Books Of The New Testament?)

 

5.3. Point not to miss: the self-authenticating qualities of the 27 books which make up the NT canon were so obvious, that their place in the Bible – as the second installment of God’s spoken words, was accepted and promoted immediately – or almost immediately after they were written.

 

6. What (then) were the “self-authenticating qualities” that caused the early church to recognize them as God’s new spoken words (i.e., NT Scripture)?

6.1. agreement with the Old Testament gospel, focus and theology: The NT authors used the OT Scriptures to prove their New Covenant beliefs, demonstrating the agreement that existed between their gospel, focus and theology and the prior covenant (OC) (e.g., 1Co 15:3-4; Act 8:35, 17:11, 18:24)[8].

6.2. authorship: All the NT books were written by an apostle – or someone appointed by them to write on their behalf: 1) Mark (for Peter), 2) Luke and Acts (for Paul, [Luke was his travelling companion – Col 4:14; 2Ti 4:11, Phm 1:24]), 3) Hebrews (early church attributed to Paul), 4) Jude (the apostle Judas [Thaddeus] brother of James and half-brother of Jesus – Luk 6:16; Joh 14:22; Mat 13:55), 5) James (an apostle, brother to Jude and half-brother of Jesus – Gal 1:19).

6.3. writing style and format: a common distinction between those books accepted as part of our New Testament versus the many writings that were not, are their writing style and format. Recovered fragments of the NT books were always written in “biblical [or book] majuscule”: a professional upright form of writing used in legal documents. In contrast, other books (pseudo scripture or gospels – e.g., the gospel of Mary) were always written in the informal style of cursive. Likewise, the biblical books were always written on a codex (think of a book w/pages) versus in the informal format of a scroll (the format used by the pseudo documents)[9].

6.4. circulation among the churches

“There may have been eight to ten or maybe even twelve other gospels circulating in the second or third centuries, so, two to three times as many non-canonical as canonical ones. But simply estimating the number of gospels in existence does not tell us how many people or churches were using each one, or for what purpose they might have been using them. Currently, archaeologists have dug up ten fragments from one of the maybe eight to twelve non-canonical gospels dated to the second or third centuries. [In contrast however], the number of fragments of one of the four canonical Gospels from the same period is about forty, so a ratio of four to one. This suggests that, even though there were more alternative [pseudo] gospels than canonical Gospels in existence, apparently these others weren’t being copied and circulated as much as the four.” – Hill

[1] By canonical confidence I mean, confidence that what we possess as God’s spoken words is enough to save us.

[2] See

“Old Testament Passages in the New Testament”, preceptaustin.org; For those not

listed, see Heb 11:32-34 for Judges, Mat 27:30 for Lamentations

[3] Though not referenced or directly quotes these books contain motifs and principles repeated and alluded to throughout the NT (e.g., the Kinsmen Redeemer motif of Ruth; the marriage covenant love of Messiah and His bride motif of SoS; the principles of true discipleship and learning established by Ezra and Nehemiah).

[4] What I will be arguing for in this – and the remaining points, is what has been referred to as the “intrinsic model” for canon formation. Simply put it argues that the phenomenon of canon was one that arose early and naturally as the consequence of the Old Testament witness (the current point) and deliberate sense the church possessed as to the need for writing down what they believed were God’s new spoken words.

[5] See Acts and the Isaianic New Exodus

[6] Meredith Kline, The Structure of Biblical Authority

[7] See Charles E. Hill’s list in Who Chose The Books Of The New Testament?

[8] For an example of this in the patristic writings, see Justin Martyr’s, Dialogue With Trypoho

[9] See Hill, p.15-18

Value-add Christianity

1. Accomplishing the mission of our Master

1.1. The mission of our “Master” = Using our potential to be a value-add to His (new) kingdom (i.e., the church) through the

cultivation of its assets (14-17). (14) “entrusted his possessions…talents [literally, weights of value]”, (27) “money” = Kingdom assets, those things determining the kingdom’s value. (15) “each according to his ability” = Potential based on one’s resources and opportunities. (16, 17) “traded and gained”, (27) “money back with interest” = Cultivation.

1.2. Accomplishing the mission of our Master is necessary to being ready when we meet Him (24:44 w/25:13 w/14a “for it is just like…”). IOW: it is necessary to receiving (final) salvation (versus damnation) (21 versus 30).

1.3. Adding to the value of Jesus’ (new) kingdom/church is the reason He (the Master) purchased (redeemed/saved) us out of this condemned world. IOW: the gracious gift of our salvation (i.e., forgiveness/escape from hell/eternity in heaven) is reciprocal (26 = Jesus expects a ROI).

1.4. Maintaining our salvation therefore includes this aspect of obedience. We must make sure we are the kind of Christian whose life is a value-add to the mission of our Master. Consider:

1) Christians are the “slaves” (14) of God (term used most frequently in the Bible to describe God’s people). Slaves have no rights or reason to live beyond the mission of their master (again, this is why they are purchased).

2) Our potential (“ability”) plays a crucial role in determining whether we were faithful to our Master’s mission – i.e., did our potential match our performance? (15 w/29).

3) The third slave is considered “wicked” and sent to hell not because of living an unholy life (e.g., he didn’t steal the master’s talent), but rather because he refused to be productive – or productive according to his master’s preference (Mat 7:21-23 = Those condemned chose to serve Jesus according to their preference versus God’s preference [“the will of My Father”]).

1.5. According to Jesus, failing to be productive (according to your potential and God’s will for your life) means you are still wicked and worthy of hell.

 

2. Kinds of Christians: value-add (v-a) and value-bad (v-b)

2.1. “Lions” (v-a Christians) (16-17):

1) they make good use of their “ability”/they live up to their potential/they have a great ROI. In the case of the first two servants in our parable, they had a 100% ROI!

2) they view Christianity like the military: they respect authority and live for the mission (20, “Master… you entrusted to me…see I have gained”).

3) they are bold and courageous: they capitalize on their fear versus being controlled by their fear (25, “afraid”).

4) they have sense of urgency and always execute the mission (16 “immediately”).

5) their value is determined by the value of the church (Phi 2:3-4; this is what removes selfishness; it is how we die to self and live for Christ).

6) lions love pain (their perspective: pain = gain).

7) lions know – and are good with, God’s love being conditioned upon performance (Joh 17:4).

8) lions are like/imitate Jesus and so go to heaven (23 “joy of the master” = Heaven, where “the Lion from the tribe of Judah” lives – Rev 5:5; Joh 17:4).

2.2. “Chickens” (v-b Christians) (18):

1) they do not live up to their ability/potential. Like chickens who bury their eggs, the wicked servant buried his ability/potential so that others [in this case, the master] cannot benefit from them (25-27). Important point NOT to miss: it’s not enough to serve if what we do falls short of our ability/potential-i.e., we possess a poor ROI (e.g., pastor becoming a lay-teacher in the church – Would that be an acceptable ROI? Could I say I had been faithful w/my ability/potential?).

2) they view Christianity like a book club: no one is boss, we exist to discuss what we like in God’s book/complain [squawk like chickens] about what we don’t.

3) they are big talkers/squawkers who end up being nothing more than lazy cowards and emotional wrecks (26 “lazy” = cowardly = selfish)

4) they hate anything urgent, make excuses and often fail to execute the mission (24 w/26 = Servant rejected the urgency of the mission assigned by his master).

5) their value is determined by what others think of them/how they view themselves in relation to others (in the church) (e.g., 24 = The wicked servant’s value was determined by how superior he felt to others [“a hard/harsh man”]).

6) chickens avoid pain (their perspective: pain = not necessary for gain) (24 w/25; e.g., pastor chooses a different career path because of the pain and effort required).

7) chickens delude themselves into believing that God’s love for them is unconditional/not performance-based – i.e., they are evangelicals (25 = the wicked servant assumes his master will be okay w/his lack of performance).

8) chickens go to hell (30 “outer darkness…weeping and gnashing of teeth” = Hell; Mat 13:42 see also Rev 22:18).

2.3. “Hogs and dogs” (very v-b Christians) (Mat 7:6):

1) they are worse than hell-bound chickens. Hogs and dogs have no genuine interest in adding value to Jesus’ kingdom.

2) they despise the “holy” mission given to them at their conversion and anyone who attempts to push them in that direction they will “tear…to pieces”.

3) though citizens of Jesus’ kingdom, they hate His rule/authority (Luk 19:14)

4) hogs and dogs not only fail to execute but drain (“devour”) the resources of the church.

 

On Judgment Day, all farm animals (chickens, hogs and dogs) will be thrown into the lake of fire by the angels (Mat 13:41-42; “stumbling blocks” = Chickens, those who by their cowardly selfishness and laziness promote the same in others; “those who commit lawlessness” = Hogs and dogs, those who despise God’s holy law and those who practice/enforce it [“they will devour you – Mat 7:6]).

Only royal animals (lions) make it to heaven (Mat 13:43; “the righteous will shine forth as the sun” = V-A, royalty language – see Dan 12:3 w/Psa 80:1, 132:17-18])

 

3.Cultivation of the Kingdom’s assets

3.1. How we cultivate the Kingdom (or Church’s) assets = Through the bold AND consistent promotion of her 3 main assets in our lives, church, and the world (boldness and consistency = cultivation)

3.2. Why boldness? Boldness brings conviction, and conviction – not conversion is the goal. Only the HS can bring conversion. We are called to create conviction not conversion (Ecc 10:4 [“allays” = removes]; Act 2:47, 4:29). boldness = conviction

Signs associated w/boldness (how you know you are being bold, and people are convicted):

1) They want to hear more/get right with God (Act 2:36-37)

2) They get angry, say mean things, avoid or condemn you or seek to hurt you (Act 7:52-54).

3.3. Why consistency? Past victories/faithfulness only counts if you keep producing in the present (Eze 18:24; Mat 21:19). consistency = perseverance

3.4. The 3 main assets of Jesus’ (new) Kingdom (the Church) that must be boldly and consistently promoted in our lives, church and the world:

1) TRUTH (the reality of the K) [God’s Word – most esp. His gospel] (Mar 16:15 [v20]; Luk 24:46-48 w/Act 1:8 – Notice it includes those who already think they are saved [“Jerusalem and in all Judea” = the Jews]; Lev 19:16-18 w/Psa 34:12-13; Isa 8:20; Joh 17:17; Eph 4:15; 1Pe 2:22; 1Jo 3:18; remember Rev 22:15).

2) JUSTICE (the function of the K) [God’s prescription] (Psa 34:14 [“peace” = justice]; Psa 37:30, 97:2, 106:3; Pro 21:3, 28:4; Isa 1:27, 9:7, 16:5, 42:1, 4, 51:4, 56:1; e.g., Mat 5:21-48).

3) BEAUTY (the setting of the K) [symmetry](Gen 2:15 [“Eden” = Paradise – place of beauty; “cultivate” = to promote/spread abroad]; Exo 28:2; Psa 27:4 w/Psa 50:4 w/Psa 96:6; Eze 16:14 “your fame went forth among the nations because of your beauty”; Isa 62:1-12 [v3]w/Hos 14:6-7= Messiah’s coming kingdom/people will be characterized and conquer not only by truth and justice, but beauty; hence the prophets’ lament in Lam 2:15; “Beauty will save the world” – Dostoevsky).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION:

1)     Based on the resources and opportunities provided to you, are you making good use of your potential in boldly and consistently promoting truth, justice, and beauty to those in your home, church and the world? IOW: are you a value-add to Jesus’ (new)kingdom, the church?

2)     Based on your present state, where do you best fit in: with the lions, the chickens, or the hogs and dogs?

3)     Would your pastor – or others in the church who know you (and will be truthful with you), agree with your answers?

4)     Imagine a church filled with lions.

Making Sense of Revelation – Part 2

“One of the ironies of the Bible is that its most difficult book is called ‘Revelation’.”

 

Making sense of the book of Revelation requires:

1. We treat Revelation like all other prophetic literature in Scripture which operates according to the principles of symbolism (Rev 1:1, “communicated” [Grk., saymainoe] = Communicated through symbols/signs), original audience relevance (Rev 1:3-4, written to seven churches existing in the 1st century about events that will [in the majority] take place in their lifetime [3, “the time is near”; Mat 24:34]. Hence the early date for writing: > 70 AD[1]), unconventional fulfillment (e.g., Rev 14:8 [Isa 21:9], “Babylon” identified as someone other than literal Babylon), and recapitulation ([def., repeating previously mentioned events for the purpose of reinforcing formerly established truths and introducing new details or different perspectives that further the reader’s understanding and appreciation of those events.], Rev 5-11 w/12-18 [TBD]).

2. We read John’s heavenly vision (chs. 4-22) as five main acts: two past, one in the past and present, two yet future.

2.1. ACT ONE (PAST): DIVORCE

(4:1-5:14) = Jesus before the divine divorce court.

2.1.1. John is taken up to God’s heavenly throne room, the place where His judgments are determined (4:1-3).

2.1.2. The court’s business on this day is the finalization of Jesus’ divorce from OC Israel (5:1-5).[2]

2.1.3. The “book” (or scroll) with the seven seals represents the marriage covenant between Jesus and OC Israel created during the Sinai event (Exo 19-24 w/Jud 1:5; Exo 24:7 “the book of the covenant” = the marriage covenant document).

2.1.4. John weeps knowing that unless the marriage w/OC Israel is put asunder, the kingdom and promises of God could not be transferred to the church (or NC Israel). IOW: Jesus’ prophecy would not come true (Mat 21:43).

2.1.5. Jesus’ status as Israel’s true Husband (her “Lion” and “Root”) is the reason He is only One who can execute the divorce (break the seven seals of the marriage document rendering it void).

2.1.6. Likewise, Jesus’ status as a priest is the reason for the seven seals (Heb 4-10). Unlike normal marriage documents which were sealed only once, the marital document used for priests (get mekushar) was sealed seven times to dissuade priests from hasty divorces since priests were prohibited from the possibility of re-marrying their former spouses (or marrying those divorced). This understanding tells us that Jesus’ decision to pursue divorce is neither hasty nor without substantial grounds. Jesus’ grounds for divorce are two-fold: 1) OC Israel’s continuing (and generational) spiritual harlotry (Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8-9, 5:7, 13:27; Eze 16:8-30), 2) OC Israel’s murder of her Messiah and Husband-God (Act 2:36, 3:15, 7:52; Rev 5:6, 11:8; According to Jesus, this was the “final straw” – Mat 23:32-36).

2.1.7. As such, correctly interpreting Revelation 4 and 5 is essential to understanding 15 of the remaining 17 chapters (i.e., chs. 6-18 or 70% of the entire book of Revelation).

(6:1-11:19) = The seven-seals of the marriage document are broken releasing a seven-fold judgment against OC Israel culminating in the destruction of the Jerusalem and the Temple by the Romans (depicted as seven trumpets)

2.1.8. God promises a seven-fold judgment for Israel’s adultery/apostasy in Leviticus 26 (Lev 26:18, 21, 24, 28).

2.1.9. The “four horsemen” of the initial four seals are also an allusion to Ezekiel 14 where God promises severe judgment against Jerusalem for unfaithfulness (Ezekiel 14:12-21).

2.1.10. Direct parallels exist between the initial four seals and what is communicated in Leviticus 26 and Ezekiel 14: 1) Seal one (Rev 6:1-2) = Conquest (Jerusalem) (Lev 26:28-31; Eze 14:21), 2) Seal two (Rev 6:3-4) = Sword/War (Lev 26:24-27; Eze 14:17-18), 3) Seal three (Rev 6:5-6) = Famine (Lev 26:18-20; Eze 14:12-14), 4) Seal four (Rev 6:7-8) = Wild Beasts and Pestilence (Lev 26:21-23; Eze 14:15-16, 19-20).

2.1.11. Jesus prophesies that He will use the Romans as His primary means of judgment against the Jews (Mat 22:1-7; the Roman-Jewish War [67-70 AD]).

2.1.12. The fifth seal places Nero’s persecution (64-68 AD) squarely on the shoulders of the Jews (who suggested Christians be Nero’s scapegoat for the burning of Rome) (Rev 6:9-11[3]).

2.1.13. The sixth and seventh seals (Rev 6:12-17 w/8:1-11:19) represent the five-month siege against Jerusalem (April – September 70 AD).

2.1.14. The seven trumpets which begin at the breaking of the seventh seal, signal the high point/culmination of the vision’s goal: the destruction of Jerusalem (most spec., her Temple) and the end of Jesus’ marriage to OC Israel (Rev 11:2 w/8).[4]

2.1.15. Revelation 7 predicts a reprieve in the war when: 1) Jewish Christians (i.e., the Jerusalem church) who understood and heeded Christ’s previous warning, flee the city (Rev 7:1-8; Luk 21:20-24[5]), 2) the full number of martyrs is complete and Nero’s persecution is over (Rev 7:9-17; fulfillment of Rev 6:11; Nero’s death/Vespasian’s dispatch [68 AD][6]).

(12:1-18:24) = Recapitulation (repeat w/extra details/different perspective) of Revelation chapters 6 through 11.

2.1.14. Jerusalem, the “great city” of (Rev 11:2 and 8) is identified w/the idolatrous and pagan nation of Babylon, OC Israel’s former oppressors and place of exile (Rev 14:8 w/16:19, 17:18, 18:2, 10, 16, 18-21).

2.1.15. The beast that comes up from the abyss” in (Rev 11:7) is identified as Rome and Nero (the beast from the sea) (Rev 13:1-6, 18 [Rev 17:9-10 “seven heads…seven mountains” = Rome the city on seven hills; “seven kings, five have fallen, one is” = Nero was the sixth of the seven Roman Caesars][7]) who makes an unholy alliance with Israel and her priesthood (the beast of the land and the false prophet) (Rev 13:11-17 [Rev 16:13, 19:20, 20 :10 “false prophet”][8])[9] to destroy Christians. (Rev 6:9-11 w/[11:7, 12:17, 13:7-10, 14:12, 16:6, 17:6, 18:24])

2.1.16. The seven seals (of Rev 6-11) are depicted as seven bowls of wrath (Rev 16).

2.1.17. Revelation 12 and 13 also reveal: 1) OC Israel’s apostasies in relation to Messiah (Apostasy #1: abdication of her Messiah motherly duties [Rev 12:1-2; Mal 2:10-15], Apostasy #2: attempted murder of her Messiah Son [Rev 12:3-4; Mat 2:13-18; Luk 4:28-29], Apostasy #3: abandonment of her Messiah Son [Rev 12:5-6]), Apostasy #4: anarchy against the Roman govt [Rev 12:7-14][10]. 2) Satan’s (aka, the “dragon” and “serpent”) direct involvement in Israel’s apostasy (Rev 12:3-4), Rome’s power (Rev 13:1-4), and Christianity’s persecution (Rev 12:12, 17, 13:7-10).

2.2. ACT TWO (PAST): REMARRIAGE

(19:1-21) = Jesus consummates His marriage to the Church (NC Israel) signaling their reign on earth.

2.2.1. After celebrating the finalization of His divorce to adulterous/apostate OC Israel (the “great harlot”) through: 1) destroying Jerusalem and the Temple and 2) avenging the blood of the first century Christian martyrs (Rev 19:1-6), Jesus consummates His marriage to His new Bride, the Church (OC Israel) whose faithful deeds are her wedding dress (19:7-10).

2.2.2. Jesus is revealed as the Divine Warrior Husband Who fights for His Church (Rev 19:11-16 w/6:2 [“conquering to conquer”] and 19:2 [“avenged the blood of His bond-servants”]).

2.2.3. As His final act of vengeance for the first century Christian martyrs, Jesus’ destruction of Rome is also predicted (19:17-21). IOW: (Dan 7:13-14) wb fulfilled!

2.2.4. The reign of Jesus’ kingdom (NC Israel/the Church) has begun (Rev 19:6b w/11:15, 12:10, 17:14).

2.3. ACT THREE (PAST and PRESENT): SATAN

(20:1-6) = Satan’s exile and NC Israel’s reign

2.3.1. As part of the Church’s reign, Satan is exiled from this world curtailing his ability to deceive the Church or corrupt its gospel message to the nations (20:1-3; “thousand years” = Like the former time indicators in the book [e.g., Rev 13:5]], this refers to a literal period of time).

(20:7-9a) = Satan’s escape and NC Israel’s demise

2.3.2. Satan is successful in escaping back into this world (20:7).

2.3.3. Satan begins deceiving NC Israel/the Church through the invention of various false gospels/forms of Christianity: 1) Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy (11th century – or [roughly] one thousand years after his exile), 2) Evangelicalism and the Faith Alone Gospel (Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation, 16th century).

2.3.4. Satan unites the world against the last remaining Church on earth (Rev 20:8-9a).

2.3.5. The extinction of Christianity (the last Church) is thwarted by the physical, final and fiery return of Jesus and His heavenly armies who instantly obliterate Satan and his forces and throw them into the eternal “lake of fire” (Rev 20:9b-10; 2Th 1:7-9). For additional consideration: A clue to Satan’s HQ since his escape (Isa 27:1 w/Mat 12:43).

2.4. ACT FOUR (FUTURE): JUDGMENT

(20:11-15) = The end of human history results in a final judgment of all who have ever lived.

2.4.1. Two books determine every human’s new and eternal home, both related to our deeds (Rev 20:11-13).

2.4.2. Based on what has been communicated in the previous chapters, our performance in the face of temptation and persecution – as well as our productivity for the Kingdom (the Church), will be the determining factors for finding our names in the “book of life” or among those who continued to receive the blood of Christ for forgiveness (Rev 20:14-15 w/Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21, 7:9-14, 12:11, 17, 13:10, 14:4-5, 12, 17:14, 19:8; Mat 25:14-30).

2.5. ACT FIVE (FUTURE): REBOOT

(21:1-22:21) = The saints of human history enter the new heavens and new earth.

2.5.1. Every human who passed their test through persevering and productive faithfulness to Jesus during their earthly lives, will inherit a new and permanently perfect creation where they will serve Jesus and search out new worlds in immortal, impregnable, immutable bodies which guarantee no end to their happiness, knowledge or life (Rev 21:1-22:5).

2.5.2. Our free-wills (and nothing else) will determine where we end up eternally (Rev 22:6-13).

2.5.3. Those who end up going to Hell (instead of the Reboot) are not only pagans but those who: 1) chose to believe Christ’s blood was an endless fountain for their constant sin (versus endless only for those who are faithful keep His commands/not characterized by sin) (Rev 22:14), 2) continued to practice what are false versions of God, the gospel and reality (e.g., revisionist history, slander, careless words and thinking) (Rev 22:15).

 

CLOSING WORDS: God: 1) sees salvation a s a marriage between Christ and the Church (Rev 22:16-17), 2) wants Revelation to be a part of Scripture – and His Law to still be in force (STARE DECISIS!) (Rev 22:18-21).

[1] For further study see Kenneth Gentry’s, Before Jerusalem Fell.

[2] Papers were served and divorce threatened in the past (over 600 years ago; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8-9). Unfortunately, Israel produced no lasting moral change/repentance to keep the divorce from being finalized (Mat 23:37).

[3] “If the martyr’s blood is flowing around the base of the altar (Rev 6:9), it must be the priests of Jerusalem who have spilled it.” – David Chilton (The Days of Vengeance); “(The Neronian persecution of Christians was accomplished)…through jealousy and envy (by the Jews).” – Clement (source unknown); “(The Jews) possessed very powerful advocates in the palace, and even in the heart of the tyrant; his wife and mistress, the beautiful Poppaea, and a favorite player of the race of Abraham. These two suggested to Nero the new and pernicious sect of the Galileans, the Christians.” – Edward Gibbon (History of the Fall and Decline of the Roman Empire)

[4] The significance of the Temple’s destruction to Jesus’ divorce = The Temple was the sign of Jesus’ presence and covenant w/OC Israel (Exo 25:8). Hence the reason: 1) immediately after God first makes covenant (Exo 24), He gives to them the plans to build the tabernacle/temple (Exo 25-31), 2) the Temple had to be rebuilt (after its destruction by the Babylonians) for the covenant to be renewed (Neh 9:38-10:29).

[5] “For when the city was about to be captured and sacked by the Romans, all the disciples were warned by an angel to remove from the city, doomed as it was to utter destruction.” – Epiphanius (On Weights and Measures)

[6] “Vespasian [Rome’s new emperor] sent a dispatch to Rome rescinding the disenfranchisement of Christians as had been condemned by Nero.” – Dio Cassius

[7] “Corporately the Beast is the Roman empire; specifically, he is Nero Caesar, its contemporary head.” – Kenneth Gentry (Revelation Made Easy)

[8] “This lesser beast appears as a ‘lamb’ reminding us of temple worship in that the lamb us the dominant sacrificial victim. Just as the first beast’s image as a carnivore compound points to Rome and her bloody amusements, so it seems that the second beast’s lamb image points to Israel’s sacrificial system and religious claims.” – Kenneth Gentry (ibid)

[9] “Revelation appears to present an unholy alliance against Christianity, a Roman-Jewish alignment.” – Kenneth Gentry (Navigating the book of Revelation)

[10] “What did most elevate the Jews in undertaking this war, was an ambiguous oracle that was also found in their sacred writings [Dan 7:13-14], how…one from their own country should become governor of the habitable earth. The Jews took this prediction to belonging to themselves.” – Josephus (Wars); “Since God has established Rome and since you are at war against God’s laws, then you must go to war against Rome [that will] depend on [additional] human assistance. [Yet] where are you going to get human assistance? You might as well kill your wives and children and set fire to your own cities with your own hands and save Rome the trouble.” – King Agrippa (Josephus, Wars)

Revelation 2-3: Jesus’ Final Message To His Shepherds

Ephesus · Smyrna · Pergamum · Thyatira · Sardis · Philadelphia · Laodicea

1. The senior pastor (or shepherd) –and therefore his helpers/under-shepherds (i.e., deacons/officers – Luk 12:58), are the one(s) responsible for the spiritual health of their churches (Rev 1:20 “stars are the angels of the seven churches” or “messengers sent by God to those particular churches)”(2:1, 8, 12, 18, 3:1, 7, 14) = Senior pastor/shepherd.

Additional support: 1) stars are a metaphor for pastors who lead people to righteousness (Dan 12:3), 2) the seven stars exist among the “seven golden lampstands.” Not only is this a metaphor for the church, but a reference to the lampstands tended to by the OC priests and Levites in the Temple. In the same way, the NC priests and Levites will tend to (or be responsible for) the lampstand that is now the church.

 

2. A church that is spiritually healthy is a church characterized by people overcoming their sin (i.e., their lives are no longer characterized by sin – 1Jo 5:3-5 = Christians [those who believe in Jesus/God’s Son and are born again] overcome sin [the “world” – 1Jo 2:16] by faithfulness to God’s commands which they do not find hard/burdensome”).

Maintaining the spiritual health of the church – or seeing to it that people are overcoming their sin is absolutely necessary not only to each individual’s salvation, but each church’s ability to continue as a place where God’s Spirit and salvation resides (Hence Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21) = Each “overcome” message exists in the form of a conditional statement. IOW: only those who overcome their sin will receive the salvific/eternal promises mentioned.

With respect to the church see (Rev 2:5 “remove your lampstand out of its place”) = The lampstands in the Temple represented God’s spiritual presence and lit the way to inner sanctum/holy of holies – the place offering salvation. As such they represent both the Holy Spirit and salvation. Christ’s threat to remove the lampstand therefore refers to Him removing that church as a legitimate church – or dwelling place of His spirit and salvation.

 

3. To produce a church that is spiritually healthy – or characterized by people overcoming their sin (or being faithful to God’s commands), requires that her shepherd (senior pastor) and his under-shepherds (deacons/officers) be completely intolerant of seven particular sins. The reason Jesus chose the seven churches mentioned in Revelation (though there were many other churches), is because each of them possessed one (or the potential for one) of these seven sins:

 

3.1. Ephesus: Failure to give first loyalty to Jesus/His church/His words and gospel.

(Rev 2:1 w/4-5 ) “The One who holds…in His right hand…who walks” = Jesus is the One who created/owns us and cares for us most (Gen 3:8).

“left your first love” w/(Mat 10:27-37) = Our loyalty to Jesus includes preaching God’s words/gospel to our lost blood family members. Our loyalty to Jesus is also measured by our loyalty to His Body, the church (Mat 25:40 “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers…you did it to Me”; “The blood of the covenant is stronger than the water of the womb”).

 

3.2. Smyrna: Failure to be faithful when suffering persecution.

(Rev 2:8-10) “first and the last” = Jesus is the only God. The largest cult of emperor worship (“Nero is Lord of the universe”) existed in Smyrna; “who was dead, and has come to life” = Docetism – or the belief that Jesus could not be a man or die, came only in spiritual form, also very popular in Smyrna;

“you will be tested…have tribulation…be faithful unto death” = The city’s devotion to the emperor as God and the popularity of Docetism within the local churches made employment/living as a true Christian very hard – even deadly (Mat 10:22).

3.3. Pergamum: Failure to be theologically, spiritually and sexually pure.

(Rev 2:12-16) “The One who has the two-edged sword” = Jesus possesses the real authority not only to destroy but heal. Pergamum worshipped the Asclepius – the Greek god of healing.

“I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is” = Asclepius was a serpent; e.g., symbol for modern medicine/medical science

“teaching of Balaam/Nicolaitans” = Doctrinal impurity. The church was teaching that it was okay to embrace the sin of your culture as a means of reaching others for Christ (e.g., the pragmatism of the mega-churches – “the ends justify the means”)

“eat things sacrificed to idols and commit acts of immorality” = Spiritual and sexual impurity. Christians were frequenting the temple of Asclepius to receive healing (e.g., our involvement in alternative medicine associated w/false religion; entertainment that is spiritually/sexually impure)”.

 

 

 

 

3.4. Thyatira: Failure to separate from false Christians or gospels.

(Rev 2:18-20) “The Son of God, whose has eyes like a flame of fire and His feet are like burnished bronze” = Jesus knows the true motives of our hearts (v19 and 23; also Rev 1:12-15 [picture of a king/judge sitting in judgment – “in the middle of the lampstands”]). Jesus’ stmt (ml) due to the excuses made by those unwilling to separate from false Christians/gospels (e.g., “I go to that church/hang out w/those people b/c I am trying to win them to Christ”).

“you tolerate the woman Jezebel who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and leads my bondservants astray” = There were people in the church (not everyone – v24) who were not separating from this local false Christian teacher, yet the church did nothing about it (2Jo 1:9-11).

 

3.5. Sardis: Failure to take our Christian life seriously by being productive for the Kingdom of God.

(Rev 3:1-3) “He Who has the seven Spirits of God” = Jesus is the One Who determines who remains spiritually alive (Hence, “you have a name that you are alive but you are dead”).

“Wake up, strengthen the things that remain, which are about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed” = The Christians in Sardis were lazy and unproductive when it came to advancing the Kingdom and gospel. As a result they were about to lose their personal salvation and ability to offer salvation to others (as a church) (Mat 25:14-30; Luk 8:16-18).

3.6. Philadelphia: Failure to take on the religious giants condemning us as heretics or apostate.

(Rev 3:7-11) “He Who is holy who is true, who has the key of David…I have put before you an open door that no one can shut” = Jesus is the true King of Israel and His church the true re-constituted Israel that old Israel cannot oppose/reject (Rev 6:10-17).

“you have a little power [you are small in comparison to your opponents]…[yet] I will cause those of the synagogue of Satan [the majority group/the giants who condemn you and call you apostate – Act 24:14], who say they are Jews [i.e., the true followers of God] and are not…I will make them come and bow down at your feet”).

3.7. Laodicea: Failure to be truthful in their assessments of life, love, self or others.

(Rev 3:14-19) “the Amen” [the truth] the faithful and true Witness” = Jesus is the God Who demands truth.

“I wish that you were cold or hot” =I wish you were true to one degree or another (hot or cold)

“you say, ‘I am rich…and you are wretched and miserable and poor’” = You are untruthful in your assessment of self/life.

“blind” = You are untruthful in your assessment of others (Mat 7:5)

“those whom I love I reprove” = (ML) said for the purpose of correcting their wrong/untruthful view of love (e.g., slander, lies, revisionist history, holding onto/refusing to change from former views of the world or the way things work that are no longer true, viewing God’s shepherds/authority as those who hurt us rather than help us, viewing justice as a bad thing; Rev 21:8 “all liars” [all forms of liars] w/Mat 12:34-37).

 

4. Eradicating these seven sins will be a primary goal of all those functioning in any capacity as shepherds in Jesus’ churches (in our church!) (Rev 2:29).

Making Sense of Revelation – Part 1

“One of the ironies of the Bible is that its most difficult book is called ‘Revelation’.”

Making sense of the book of Revelation requires:

1. We treat Revelation like all other prophetic literature in Scripture which operates according to the principles of symbolism, original audience relevance, unconventional fulfillment, and recapitulation.

1.1. Symbolism

(Rev 1:1 “communicated” [Grk., saymainoe]) = To indicate the reality of something through signs or symbols; symbolism). Scholars believe Jesus’ use of this Greek word is a direct allusion to Daniel 2 where he is told to interpret the various pieces of Nebuchadnezzar’s great statue dream as symbolism – or symbolic of the various kingdoms that would exist in the future (Dan 2:30 “interpretation” = saymainoe [LXX]). Jesus is therefore communicating that like Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, John’s visions (chs 1 and 4-22) are not to be interpreted literally, but through the lens of signs and symbols. This principle is true not only with respect to Daniel’s prophecy but all OT prophetic literature. We are to interpret its visions as symbolism (signs/symbols pointing to reality rather than the reality itself). What also proves true is that the book of Revelation shares many of the same signs and symbols found in those Old Testament prophetic books. Knowing this helps us to avoid using our imaginations in the interpretive process (e.g., Rev 1:7-8 w/Isa 19:1).

Examples of imagination from John MacArthur’s interpretations of Revelation:

1.1.1. (Rev 6:12-13), “moon became blood. Accompanying the earthquake will be numerous volcanic eruptions; large amounts of ash and debris will be blown into the earth’s atmosphere, blackening the sun and giving the moon a blood-red hue. Stars of heaven fell. The best explanation is a massive asteroid or meteor shower.”

Understanding these verses based on prior OT use (Isa 13:1-22; Eze 32:1-11) = Prophetic language indicating God’s judgment against one pagan nation through their destruction by another pagan nation– which also meant the defeat of their false gods/idols. Isaiah 13 = The fall of the Babylonian kingdom to the Medo-Persians in 539 BC. Ezekiel 32 = The fall of the Egyptian kingdom to the Babylonians in 605 BC. In respect to false gods/idolatry = Both the Babylonians and the Egyptians worshipped gods derived from the “sun”, “moon” and “stars”.

What then is being communicated by these symbols in Revelation 6:12-13? Israel’s rejection of their Messiah (Jesus) means that they too have become a nation guilty of idolatry (of worshipping a false god) and will likewise

suffer God’s destruction at the hands of a pagan nation. In this case, the Romans (Jewish War 67-70 AD).

1.2.1. (Rev 8:8), “Like a great mountain. Probably a huge meteor or asteroid surrounding by gases that will ignite as it enters earth’s atmosphere. Its impact will create a tidal wave, destroying one-third of the world’s ships. sea became blood. This may refer to an event known as red tides, caused by billions of dead micro-organisms poisoning the water—in this case the result of the meteor’s collision.”

 

Understanding these verses based on prior OT use (Jer 51:24-25, 42 [w/Rev 17:1-6 which is the same city mentioned in Rev 11:8; See also Rev 18:20-21] = Prophetic language indicating the destruction/conquering of a great city by a massive enemy army. Jeremiah 51 = The conquering of the great city of Babylon by the massive armies of the Persian king, Cyrus).

 

What then is being communicated by these symbols in Revelation 8:8? The great city of Jerusalem (and her Temple) will be overrun and destroyed by the massive army of the Roman Empire.

1.2. Original Audience Relevance

The majority of what the biblical prophets write has relevance to its original audience (e.g., Isaiah = 71% or 47 of its 66 chapters). As such, before we attempt discern universal principles – or what portions of prophecy may be related to us, we must first attempt to understand the importance of the prophecy to those to whom it was first spoken or written (1:4-6, 9-11) = The majority of what John receives as prophetic visions in the book of Revelation is directly relevant to seven 1st century churches existing in Asia Minor. The majority of what is revealed will be fulfilled in their time (1-3). Similar time-markers are provided in Jesus’ prophetic, “Olivet Discourse” (e.g., Mat 24:15-34). Scholars agree that Jesus’ Olivet Discourse is a direct corollary to John’s Revelation. Of interest, is the fact that John’s gospel is the only of the four gospels not containing this famous prophecy. As such, some have called Revelation, “John’s Olivet Discourse.”

Examples from OT prophecy supporting the principle of historical or first relevance to the original audience (Isa 7:10-16 w/8:1-8 w/Mat 1:23; Jer 1:11-16 w/7:1-13 w/Mat 21:13).

Applying this principle to the book Revelation (examples):

1.2.1. The mountain thrown into the sea in Rev 8:8 as the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple: 1) Jesus made this connection w/His disciples before His death (Mat 21:18-21), 2) According to Dr. William Telford (Dept. of Biblical Studies, Sheffield University), “mountain” was the standard expression among the Jews for the Temple Mount.

1.2.2. The Beast who kills Christians for 42 months and possesses the number, 666 (Rev 13:1-7, 18) = The 1st century Roman king, Nero Caesar: 1) his name according to Hebrew numerical value equals six hundred and sixty-six, 2) many in the 1st century referred to him as a “wild beast” or “the beast” due to his bloody tirades and public displays of animalistic sexual indulgence, 3) As a means to escaping national revolt, Nero blamed his burning of Rome on the Christians (an idea provided by the Jewish leaders via his Jew-favoring wife, Poppaea Sabina) leading to 42 months (Rev 13:5) of the most bloody and violent persecution of Christians in the history of the world (A.D. July of A.D. 64 until Nero’s death in January of 68).

1.3. Unconventional Fulfillment

Most prophecy in Scripture experiences multiple fulfillments (e.g., Isa 7:10-16 w/Mat 1:23). Each however is almost always partial – or related to only a portion of the entire prophecy. Rarely is a particular prophecy fulfilled in its entirety in the same event (e.g., contra Isa 53). Instead, each successive fulfillment tends to be concerned with different portions while at the same time, reapplying the previous portion already fulfilled to a completely new or different context.

Example from Isaiah (Isa 9:1-7):

1.3.1. Sans verses 6b-7a = Hezekiah (Isa 36-39 -esp., Isa 37:32).

1.3.2. Sans verses 4 and 5 = Jesus (Mat 4:15-16; Luk 1:32-33, 79).

 

Such unconventional forms of fulfillment can also include change to the original intent or meaning (e.g., Isa 65:1-2 w/Rom 10:20-21).

Example from Revelation: Isaiah’s prophecy regarding the destruction of Babylon by the Persians is later used to communicate the destruction of Jerusalem (the new Babylon) by the Romans (Isa 21:9 w/Rev 14:8).

1.4. Recapitulation

Recapitulation is the repeating of previously mentioned events for the purpose of not only reinforcing formerly established truths, but to introduce additional details and different perspectives that also help the reader’s understanding and appreciation of those events. Revelation 12 through 18 (the seven bowls of wrath) are a recapitulation of Revelation 6 through 11 (the seven seals culminating in seven trumpets). Recapitulation is an important literary tool employed throughout the Bible.

For example:

1.4.1. The historical books of the Bible: 1) Genesis (Gen 1 w/Gen 2), 2) history of the kings and prophets ([1Sa 31 and 2Sa, 1 Ki and 2Ki] w/1Ch and 2Ch), 3) the Gospels (Matthew w/Mark w/Luke w/John).

1.4.2. The OT prophetic books (e.g., Isa 42:1-9, 49:1-13, 50:4-9, 52:13-53:12, 61:1-3 = The Servant of the Lord).

1.4.3. Theological truths (e.g., Isa 65-66 w/Rev 21-22 = The new heavens and the new earth/Reboot).

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: Was Revelation written in the 60s or the 90s? Based on what we learned today, how do we know?

Seven Deadly Deficiencies

The Seven Deadly Deficiencies can and will shipwreck you and your family’s Christian Faith.

1. Lack of Loyalty (Luke 12:51-53; Luke 14:26, 33; John 13:35; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13).

2. Lack of Conformity (Romans 12:1-3; Philippians 1:27, 2:1-2; Luke 8:16-18; 1 John 1:5-10)

3. Lack of Dignity, Honor, or Respect (Philippians 4:8; Titus 2:2; 2 Corinthians 8:21)

4. Lack of Time (Ephesians 5:15-18; Luke 8:14; Luke 21:34-36).

5. Lack of Cashflow (Proverbs 27:23-27; Proverbs 13:8).

6. Lack of Discipline (James 3; Matthew 5).

7. Lack of Wise Counsel (Hosea 4:6; Deuteronomy 32:28; Proverbs 15:22; 2 Timothy 4:34).

Ancient Christian Polity

At Christ Covenant Church, we strive to possess the ancient Christian Faith of Jesus and the apostles. And that includes in the area of church polity (i.e., the operational model or governing structure established by God for His church). Hardly a simple task, this puzzle has alluded many throughout church history (including our pastor for almost twenty-two years). Hence the reason there exists at least seven models: 1) Presbyterian 2) Presbyterian w/a synod, 3) Plurality of elders, 4) Plurality of elders w/congregational affirmation, 5) Congregational, 6) Congregational w/pastors, 7) Episcopal, 8) Episcopal w/connexion. Continued study of Scripture and history, however, has allowed our pastor to finally put all the pieces of this important puzzle in their proper place. Said differently, to see the model presented in Scripture that alleviates all the problems created by the previous models adopted by our church. That model is also the oldest and first in church history. As such we can be confident that it was the polity of the first Christian churches. It is the episcopal model – or ancient Christian polity of Jesus, priests and deacons (JPD).

1. Jesus is our High Priest, Prophet and King.

1.1. The term “messiah” (or “christ” in the Greek) means “anointed one” and referred those who had received the (Holy) Spirit of authority for the purpose of salvation and judgment in relation to right doctrine and direction for the covenant community. This anointing (or ordination[1]) was limited to three offices: priest, prophet and king (priests – Exo 28:29-30; Lev 10:10-11, 17; Exo 40:12-15 w/Psa 132:16; Mal 3:6-7; prophets – Psa 105:15; kings – [1Sa 16:1,13; 2Ki 9:1-3] w/1Sa 24:6 and 2Sa 1:14-16; also 1Ch 11:1-3; With respect to it being limited, see Num 11:29).

1.2. Jesus became the first (and last) Person to combine all three offices in their superlative and divine form. He is the Christ: our Heavenly High-Priest, God’s Final Prophet and Divine Davidic King (or King of kings) (Mat 3:16-17: 1] as Heavenly High Priest – Heb 3:1, 4:14, 8:1-2; 2] as Final Prophet – Deu 18:15, 18-19 w/Joh 5:46 and Act 3:22-23 w/Heb 1:1-12; also Mat 21:11; 3] as Davidic King – Isa 11:1, 10; Psa 2:2, 45:1-7, 110:1 and 2Sa 7:12-13 w/Mat 1:1, 21:1-9; Rom 1:3; 2Ti 1:8; Heb 1:8-9 and Rev 11:15).

1.3. What all of this means for Christ Covenant Church from a church polity/government perspective: Jesus is our highest authority, the final “Word” in all things, the One for whom we exist (Joh 1:1-4; Col 1:16). Hence the reason we proclaim at the end of every service, “All for King Jesus!”

2. Priests are our ordained pastors (elders/overseers [Grk., episkopei = Bishop[2]]).

2.1. God promises to re-establish the offices of priest and Levite for the new covenant community (Isa 66:18 w/21).

2.2. As discussed, priests are an anointed/ordained office or the office possessing God’s special spirit of authority for the purpose of salvation, and judgment in relation to justice, doctrine and direction for the covenant community. Given the identification and requirements of elders/overseers/pastors[3]/pastor-teachers (1Ti 3:1; Tit 1:5; Eph 4:113), they represent the new covenant community’s priests. Hence the reason they are:

2.2.1. said to possess authority (1Co 5:4; 2Co 10:3-8, 13:10; Tit 2:15)

2.2.2. anointed/ordained (2Co 1:21; Tit 1:5 w/Heb 8:3 “appointed” = anointed; Act 14:23 “appointed” = Different word than Tit 1:5 but same idea is being communicated as confirmed by texts like Heb 8:3 [“appointed” – same word and subject as Act 14:23)

2.2.3. required to demonstrate competency in teaching (1Ti 3:2 w/Tit 1:5 w/7 w/9 [notice he calls the elders, “overseer”]). Hence why they are called “pastor-teachers” (again, Eph 4:11). Hence why also, those seeking to be ordained were often commissioned to assist and be trained by those already ordained (e.g., Joshua – Num 11:28; Timothy – Act 16:1-3).

2.2.4. deputized by Jesus (through their ordination/anointing/receiving of the Holy Spirit of authority) not only for judgment in relation to justice, right doctrine and direction, but also to extend or withhold His forgiveness/justification/salvation (Mat 16:17-19; Joh 20:21-23; 2Co 3:1-6; Heb 13:17).

2.3. As additional support: 1) Paul identifies himself as a “priest” (Rom 15:15-16), 2) Jesus provides the same support/backing to the judgments and decisions of new covenant elders as those given to old covenant priests (Mat 16:17-19 w/18:17-20 w/Deu 17:9-13; in this respect consider also Num 15:30-31 w/Mat 12:22-32), 3) James speaks of new covenant elders (Jam 5:14-18) in the same way that Josephus speaks of old covenant priests,“[The priest] it is that must put up prayers for you to God, who will readily hear them, because God will receive them as offered by one that he hath himself chosen to this office.” (Antiquities of the Jews)

2.4. If then, ordained pastors are the promised priests of the new covenant community, then it is only reasonable that they (like their old covenant counterparts) would also wear special garments associated w/their anointing/ordination (Exo 29:29). Hence the reason for the long legacy of vestments in church history.

2.5. Their ordination typically happens through the recognition of an existing body of professing believers and the laying on of hands by existing ordained men (1Ti 4:14, 5:22; 2Ti 1:6-7; Act 6:1-6, 8:14-19, 9:15-18 [laying on of hands precedes Paul’s baptism for the HS] w/Gal 1:1, 15 and 2:9 = Paul equates his encounter w/Ananias [likely the ordained pastor at Damascus] w/his ordination as a apostle).

2.6. Last but not least, those serving as new covenant priests (or ordained elders/overseers/pastors): 1) must be men who meet the character qualifications in (1Ti 3:1-7; Tit 1:5-9 = Both of these passages assume the possession of the right gospel – especially Tit 1:9 “sound doctrine” since this is the prerequisite to the existence of a Christian church, the HS’ empowerment and Christ’s backing of that pastor)[4], 2) will be judged more strictly by God – most especially in what they say and so must become masters over their tongues (Jam 3:1-2), 3) are destined for a great heavenly reward if they are faithful (1Pe 5:1-4; Rev 4:4 = Elders are the one’s possessing a king’s crown – See 2Ti 4:8).

 

2.7. What all of this means for Christ Covenant Church from a church polity/government perspective: 1) never will there be women pastors/elders 2) never should there be elders/pastors who are not ordained/anointed, 3) those who “aspire” (1Ti 3:1) to be elders/overseers/pastors – i.e., new covenant priests are seeking a good thing and must be trained so that they can be ordained/anointed, 4) the new covenant priest is second in authority to Jesus and therefore possessing His support/backing when making judgments/decisions on justice, doctrine or direction for the church – even when wrong on issues (other than the gospel) due to ignorance. (Consider Deu 17:9-13 w/Lev 4:22ff = Due to ignorance, leaders can sin/be wrong in their judgments. Such fallibility does not mean obedience to their judgments is optional or will be excused by God. Hence Paul’s response in Act 23:5 and his instruction in Rom 13:5). 5) Until others are ordained, pastor Scott is the only one who should be addressed this way (“pastor”).

3. Levites are our deacons and judicial council (or JUDCO)[5].

3.1. As discussed, Levites were also promised to the new covenant community. Their office is realized in the role of deacons who like them are:

3.1.1. to submit to and protect their priests/ordained pastors (their person and personal integrity) – as well as God’s house (Num 1:53 w/3:10, 18:3-4, 7; 1Ch 9:14-27; Act 23:1-5 [man who struck Paul was most likely a Levite guard]; 1Ti 5:19 [“elder” = ordained/anointed pastor]w/Exo 22:28 [applied to all rulers including priests as demonstrated by Paul’s violation w/Ananias]; 1Pe 5:5; e.g., O-line protecting their QB).

3.1.2. deputized by the priests/ordained pastors w/a portion of the Spirit/spiritual authority (Num 8:9-10 “lay their hands” = Deputize w/authority versus anoint/ordain w/ authority)[6] to help their priests/ordained pastors w/:

3.1.2.1. the sacrifices (i.e., the Lords Table) (Num 18:2-7 w/2Ch 29:34, 35:10-12) = The sacrifices (“the obligations of the tent of meeting”): 1) can only to handled by the sons of Levi (priests and Levites). Outsiders are not allowed to “come near”, 2) the Levites role ends outside the veil – i.e., they can prepare and distribute the sacrifice but cannot make it (i.e., make atonement for the people).[7]

3.1.2.2. the offerings (e.g., counting the offerings, seeing that the monies are used properly) (1Ch 26:20; 2Ch 31:14).

3.1.2.3. determining justice, right doctrine and direction for the covenant community (e.g., JUDCO) (1Ch 26:29; Neh 8:7-9).

3.1.2.4. worship (e.g., the worship leader sb a deacon) (1Ch 6:1 w/31-33, 16:4, 25:1-3).

3.2. Given Paul and Law’s prohibition against women serving as judges – or determining justice/equity, right doctrine and direction of the covenant community (See 1Co 14:34 w/Deu 19:21) – and the fact that this is the majority and most important portion of the deacon’s role, the office of deacon (like its former iteration) also remains open only to men. Though there a women ministers [women who minister in the church – e.g., Phoebe – Rom 16:1, Euodia and Syntyche – Phi 4:2], there are no women deacons [women in offices of spiritual authority]).

3.3. In keeping with their predecessors there should exist for the new covenant Levite or deacon: 1) a “head” (or high) Levite/deacon who was responsible for managing the others (Neh 12:24), 2) limited periods of service (versus perpetual service as in the case of priests) (Num 8:24-26), 4) a reward for faithful service (Deu 33:8-11 w/1Ti 3:13). 3) a number representative of the congregation (Num 3:12).

3.4. The qualifications for deacons (or new covenant Levites) are not nearly as strict as those for new covenant priests (1Ti 3:1-7 versus 1Ti 3:8-12; e.g., no mention of deacons [like elders] needing to be “above reproach” [approved by legitimate and strict scrutiny], “temperate” [even keeled in his emotions/behavior] “prudent” [wise]). In modern terms the qualifications for deacons can be summarized as: 1) you can’t be a loser, dork, wimp, weirdo or ghetto (8 “dignified”), 2) you can’t be two-faced, a politician, a manipulator, given to flattery or brown-nosing, living for appearances, living a double-life, untrustworthy, insincere or dishonest in what you say (8 “double-tongued”), 3) you can’t be addicted to any unnecessary foreign substances that impede your ability to fulfill your God-given duties (8 “addicted to much wine”), 4) you can’t be open to committing crimes to make money or positions of authority to push your agenda or preferences on others (8 “fond of sordid gain” – 1Ti 6:5), 5) you must be prone to – and possess a reputation of protecting – versus insurrecting or causing division in the church or casting doubt in the minds of others as to the Christian doctrine being taught by her pastors (9 “holding to” = Bold or strong in protecting/possessing [1Co 7:37; Isa 13:8; no cowards or quiet men]; “the mystery of the Faith” = The church and her teachings/gospel [Eph 3:8-10]; “with a clear conscience” = Not prone to or possessing guilt in relation to division/dissension/insurrection [e.g., 2Co 1:12]); 6) you have a track record demonstrating you meet the prior qualifications (10; e.g., cap crimes/EOTC < 1yr after restoration/issued), 7) if you have a wife, she likewise is not a loser, wimp, weirdo, dork or ghetto, nor is she reckless with her tongue saying stupid, baseless stuff that hurts others or an emotional mess or unreliable and disobedient when given a command or task (11), 8) you can’t be sexually immoral (12 “husband of one wife”), 9) your home and children are not a mess (12 “good managers”).

3.4. What all of this means for Christ Covenant Church from a church polity/government perspective: 1) Tim is a deacon (and our head deacon). 2) we need more deacons (a good representation) of our current congregation (i.e., we need to elect 6 more [total of 9 or ~ 10% rep. of the congregation/ ~1/3 of our men]). 3) we have men who meet the qualifications (which now includes single men and those who by 2024, have served one year [versus two for elders] after restoration/EOTC issuance; except for Forrest Stinnett, none of our other men are disqualified due to discipline.). 4) repentance w/respect to women deacons and women in judgment. 5) though laymen and women can serve in other ministries (e.g., worship, offerings, security, etc – See 1Ch 9:2 – there are “temple servants” [Hbr. Netinims]), only the deacons can serve in the sacred roles of the Lord’s Table and JUDCO. 6) men must be re-elected to continue serving (elections every two years; next election in/for 2026). 7) these men ARE NOT ELDERS (and therefore should not be held to that standard). 8) There will be a special ceremony in January (2024) to commission those chosen/confirmed. 9) Because these men will be officers of the church (being deputized w/some authority), we will address them using the honorary title of “officer” (e.g., officer Tim, officer Andrew, officer Robert).

[1] (Exo 28:41) “ordain” = Fill their hand…w/wisdom (to judge – vv29-30) and authority to atone (30:10).

[2] Bishop is the term used in Episcopal churches and other ancient forms of Christendom to refer to their priests/pastors.

[3] “pastor” which means shepherd is the term used by God when speaking about his priests or ordained/anointed leaders (e.g., Num 27:17; Isa 56:11, 63:11, Jer 10:21, 12:10, 22:22, 23:1-4, 25:34-36, 50:6; Eze 34:2-10).

[4] “When the pastor reads and preaches the Word, he symbolizes Christ, the Husband, speaking to His holy Bride (which is, by the way, one of the main reasons why women cannot be pastors; they cannot publicly symbolize Christ the Husband to His Bride, the Church, 1Co 11:2-10, 14:33-38; Eph 5:22-33; 1Ti 2:11-15).” – Jeffrey J. Meyers (The Lord’s Service)

[5] Viewing them as ruling elders yet using 1Ti 3:8-13 to support this theory misses the obvious: Paul’s use of the term “elder” – or teaching on the qualifications for elders ends at verse 7.

[6] The authority of the Levites is therefore by proxy (i.e., only valid/enforceable when it was in agreement w/the priests). We see the same thing in relation to those tribal elders and officers God gave to Moses as additional help (Num 11:16-17).

[7] Unlike the priests, the Levites cannot make atonement (e.g., See the contrast between the Levites and the priests in 1Chr 6:1-48 w/49). As such, only the ordained pastor – or new covenant priest can baptize (the point at which atonement is rec’d/the power of binding and loosing or forgiveness).