Christianity 201

June 26, 2018

Explaining the Phrase, “Spirit of Antichrist”

Today we’re paying a return visit to GotQuestions.org. This is a great site to know about if you’ve… got questions. (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?) Here’s a link to their archive page which categorizes their different topics covered. Today a much-discussed but often mis-used term, the idea of the “spirit of (the) antichrist.”

What is the spirit of the antichrist?

The phrase spirit of the antichrist is found in 1 John 4:2–3:This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

It’s vital to understand the context of John’s statements. A predominant worldview when he wrote this letter suggested that diverse spirits were at work in the world. Many false teachings, mystery religions, spiritual experiences, and variations of Christianity were emerging at the time. The spiritual atmosphere was not unlike the one present in our world today. People entertained countless views regarding truth.

John presented a definitive solution for wading through this variety of beliefs and teachings. He instructed his readers to pay attention and test the spirits: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

But how do we test the spirits? How can we discern which teachers are imparting truth? How do we recognize the spirit of the antichrist?

These “spirits” John spoke of were not merely disembodied, supernatural beings. John taught that a prophet or teacher was the actual mouthpiece for a spirit. Spiritual doctrines are promulgated through human spokespersons. Teachers of truth are filled with the Spirit of God and thus are agents who speak for God. Teachers of falsehood are spreading the “doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1, NASB).

So, the first test relates to theology or doctrine: “Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God” (1 John 2). We can ask, does the content of the person’s teaching acknowledge that Jesus Christ—fully God and fully human—has come in the flesh? If the answer is yes, then we know the Spirit of God inspires that person. If not, his entire teaching ought to be rejected. This particular test was especially apropos in John’s day, as the heresy of Gnosticism was becoming prevalent; Gnosticism taught that Jesus only appeared to have a human body but was not actually a flesh-and-blood person.

Next, John says, “But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist” (1 John 4:3). Anyone who does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Bible presents Him is inspired by the spirit of the antichrist.

The word antichrist means “against Christ.” People who say that Jesus is not from God are controlled by the spirit of the antichrist. Satan opposes Christ, and he desires to deceive people into a false view of who Jesus is. The spirit of the antichrist teaches against Christ. To twist the truth about Jesus Christ is to pervert the gospel. Satan works to spread lies about Christ and keep people in the dark: “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 1:7).

The spirit of the antichrist is the birds that eat the seeds along the path in Jesus’ parable (Mark 4:4, 15). It is “the god of this age” who blinds the minds of unbelievers, keeping them from seeing “the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is “the father of lies(John 8:44). The spirit of the antichrist is “the great dragon . . . who leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:9).

The Bible teaches that the world will eventually produce a world ruler, called “the beast” in Revelation, who will wield great power and demand worship of himself. He will have “a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies” (Revelation 13:5) and is empowered by Satan (verse 2). He is called “the man of lawlessness . . . the man doomed to destruction” in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. This final Antichrist will be the culmination of the evil workings of Satan throughout the centuries. The Antichrist of the end times will embody all the deception and perversion of truth that the spirit of the antichrist has always promoted. Today, “the secret power of lawlessness is already at work” (verse 7). The same spirit that will empower the Antichrist of the last days is currently operating in the world to bring confusion and deception to the issue of Jesus Christ’s person and work. “This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world” (1 John 4:3).

Even given the pervasive influence of the spirit of the antichrist, there is no need to fear. As John reminds us, the Spirit of truth indwells all believers and provides protection from the spirit of the antichrist: “You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

We have some practical ways to distinguish the false spirit of the antichrist from the true Spirit of God: “[False prophets] are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (1 John 4:5–6). Those who are influenced by the spirit of the antichrist are of the world. They have the same values as the world; therefore, the world listens to them. Those who acknowledge Christ have His Spirit of truth, and they embrace the apostles’ message. The gospel the apostles preached is never popular in the world, but it is that very gospel that holds the power to save, through God’s Spirit of truth (Romans 1:16).

The believer’s job is to test the spirits carefully (1 John 4:1). We must be “wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16, ESV). We should not automatically embrace the message of any preacher or teacher simply because of his or her reputation or credentials; rather, we must listen cautiously to their Christology. What they say about Jesus is of utmost importance.

December 9, 2017

Unpacking 666

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for the number is that of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six.– Rev 13:18

Today we’re paying yet another visit to the blog of BibleStudyMagazine.com and a short article on a topic that you’ve probably encountered. You’re encouraged to read this at source, and then take some time to look at other articles on the site. The author is Michael S. Heiser.

666: What Theories Add up?

If there’s one part of the Bible virtually everyone has heard of, it’s 666—the “number of Beast.” And if there’s one thing no one can agree upon, it’s what that number stands for. We find the number in Revelation 13:18: “let the one who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man, and his number is 666.” The wording here is important: John tells readers that the number needs to be “calculated,” which means there must be a hidden meaning behind it. But how do we calculate it?

Calculating Symbolism

One option for solving this biblical riddle is gematria, the idea that numbers have symbolic meaning. While some have called gematria a tool for speculation, it actually derives from an ancient convention in languages like Greek and Hebrew where letters of the alphabet are used to represent numbers.

But gematria is not limited to just Revelation; the New Testament contains several other symbolic figures. The 153 fish of John 21:11 could be interpreted as ancient symbolism for the Church, the body of Christ, and the Old Testament sons of God as analogous to believers in the Church. The Greek word for “dove,” like the dove that descends on Jesus at His baptism, has a numerical value equivalent to the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, thus symbolizing the Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:8).

Calculating 666

When it comes to 666, one gematria explanation is that the number represents Nero Caesar. The Greek Neron Kaisar adds up to 1,005, but when the name is transliterated into the Hebrew letters nrwn qsr, the sum is 666. Nero Caesar also would explain the variant number of the Beast (616) found in some New Testament manuscripts. Transliterating the Latin Nero Caesar into Hebrew, nrw qsr, yields 616, suggesting John may have been thinking of the well-known Nero Redivivus myth when writing about the Beast (i.e., that Nero would rise from the dead to destroy Christians).

The gematria solution presents three major problems: it could be viewed as cheating with the spellings (the usual Hebrew spelling for Caesar is q’st, not qsr, although the qsr form does exist). It assumes that readers knew Hebrew well enough to do the transliteration from Greek back into Hebrew. And, perhaps most tellingly, the early Christian commentators who knew of the Nero Redivivus myth never identified 666 with Nero.

Ancient Sudoku

There is another possibility: 666 is a magic square. From very ancient times, philosophers and mathematicians were fascinated that the numbers 1–36 could be arranged in squares so that each row and diagonal would add up to the same sum (the same principle as modern Sudoku). One magic square has four rows and two diagonals that each add up to 111. The six lines of 111 = 666. Each magic square in ancient Jewish and Greek tradition was also associated with a celestial body. In the case of the 666 square that body was the sun, which was associated with Zeus, the highest god in the Greek pantheon.

Zeus was often associated with Baal and the mythological north (tsaphon) of Canaanite religion. Most relevant to the Beast of Revelation is Baal’s (and Zeus’) title, “lord of heaven” (Baal-shamem). It is possible that the “abomination of desolation” (shiqquts-shamem) in Daniel 9:27 is a play on Baal-shamem, since the Old Testament writers sometimes substituted words that meant “shame” or “abomination” into proper names that formerly contained “Baal” (e.g., Mephibosheth, Ish-Bosheth). This would mean 666 is a symbol for the abominable Baal, the dark lord of the Old Testament world—satanic power in New Testament thinking.


Biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 5

December 4, 2017

Identifying The Spots and Wrinkles

When He cometh, when He cometh,
To make up His jewels,
All His jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and His own

Like the stars of the morning,
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for His crown.

– William Cushing, 1856


Do you hear them coming, brother?—
Thronging up the steeps of light,
Clad in glorious shining garments,
Blood-washed garments, pure and white

’Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb;
’Tis a glorious church without spot or wrinkle,
Washed in the blood of the Lamb.

– Ralph Hudson, 1892


Today we’re back with Patrick Hawthorne who blogs at Serving Grace Ministries. Click the title below to read it at source (with comments) and then click “author’s blog page” to view other articles.

Has the Separation Begun?

A passage that has always troubled me is Ephesians 5:27 which reads,

“…that He (Jesus) might present her (the Church) to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”

While the “what” of the verse is self-explanatory, the “how,” of the verse is not.  How will the Church – the Body of Christ Jesus – be without spot or blemish?  It’s obvious that the Church has some serious issues that need dealing with, but how will the Lord deal with these issues prior to His return?

Lately, the Lord has been revealing things to me about the Church so that I might pray more effectively.  One way was through a vision while in prayer, A Body Out of Alignment. Another way was through the Word, Storm On the Horizon. This latest has come through a conversation with my mom.  As a side note, never discount nor limit the way in which the Holy Spirit may speak to you.

As I was speaking with my mother about this burden to pray and write concerning the Church she said to me, and I paraphrase, “Did you know that the spots and blemishes of the Church are people?”  Of course I asked her to explain.  “Yes,” she said, “Look at 2 Peter 2:13 and you will see that the spots and blemishes are those within the Church who appear to be part of the Body but practice wickedness and deception.”  Naturally, my curiosity was peaked.

At the first opportune moment I went to those verses.  Sure enough 2 Peter 2:12-13 read,

“But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, 13 and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you,

(2 Peter 2:12-13 NKJV underline mine).

The spots and blemishes written of are church members.  These are they who live two lives; one life is in the church and the other is in the world. Suddenly things were making sense.

As I previously wrote, I believe we are in the season of the last of the last days.  I don’t know how much longer till Jesus returns but all indications reveal that we are close.  Could it be that the prophecy of Malachi 3:16-18 may occur prior to His return?  Could it be that the separation of the wheat from the tares within the Church has already begun?  Maybe… Be blessed.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name.17 “They shall be Mine,” says the Lord of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels.  And I will spare them as a man spares his own son who serves him.”18 Then you shall again discern between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.  (Malachi 3:16-18 NKJV underline mine)


Lyrics for When He Cometh and ‘Tis a Glorious Church from TimelessTruths.org

November 24, 2016

Is Peace Possible? Psalm 46 Gives the Answer

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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clarke-dixon-picby Clarke Dixon

Will we ever have peace on earth? If you set out to write a book on the history of the world, by the time you are finished you might rather call it a history of conflict. Likewise a history of conflict is practically a history of the world. In the 1980’s I was fascinated by an encyclopaedia that chronicled all the world’s conflicts since WW2. Unfortunately, there were enough to devote a separate volume for every year. More recent volumes may be thicker.

We may also think that personal peace is an impossibility. Perhaps the enemy is at the gates, whether the enemy be in the form of threats to physical health, mental health, financial health, relationships, or well being in general. Will we ever have peace?

Peace may have seemed like an impossibility to the people in the Psalmist’s day, but the writer of Psalm 46 expresses great hope. Consider the great hope and comfort expressed in how the Psalm begins and ends:

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalms 46:11

What trouble might God’s people in the Psalmist’s day expect? Why might they feel the need for refuge? We can easily forget that Israel in the Old Testament was quite a small nation stuck between some very large and powerful empires. And just as there is a constant moving of, or a desire to move, territorial boundaries today, so in those days the empires would swell and abate with much conflict. Many Biblical scholars think that the sparring of the nations is the upheaval symbolized in the early part of the Psalm:

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult. Psalms 46:2-3

Earth shattering events were always too close for comfort. Who wouldn’t feel stressed stuck as the little guy between several big bullies? Knowing that God, the Creator of the universe, was on your side was a very encouraging thing.

We may be tempted to think here that this Psalm is therefore only for the nation of Israel, and only for those days. However we can note how the hope of the Psalmist in Psalm 46 is reflected by the hope found in the book of Revelation. Consider, for example . . .

  • In verse 4 we have a river.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High. Psalms 46:4

This is actually quite a strange thing as there was no real natural river in Jerusalem. So we are meant to think of God’s supernatural provision of blessing whereas other nations could only boast of their natural provision. There is also a river in Revelation:

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. Revelation 22:1

  • In verse 5 we have the presence of God.

God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns. Psalms 46:5

In Revelation there are many references to the presence of God. Here are two:

I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. Revelation 21:22

But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him;  they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. Revelation 22:3,4

  • In verse 6 we have the nations at war.

The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts. Psalms 46:6

And in Revelation we have good news about the nations:

On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. Revelation 22:1-3

  • In verse 8 we have the notion of God as a destroyer.

Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth. Psalms 46:8

This might seem out of character for God for those who believe that He is so loving He could not hurt a fly. But being a destroyer is completely consistent with a loving and just character. As verse 9 makes clear, he is the destroyer of war itself.

He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire. Psalms 46:9

That God is a great destroyer is a theme of Revelation also. He is the destroyer of death itself.

Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; Revelation 20:14

Also, there is the destruction of empire, from Revelation 19:11 and following, all the way to the destruction of the most evil empire builder of all.

And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10

Psalm 46 points well beyond its own time, in fact it points even beyond our own time as we find its hopeful themes reflected in the Book of Revelation.

Is world peace possible? In Revelation 7:9-10 we see a vision of something that has never been done before:

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice, saying,
“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10

Here we have all different kinds of people standing together. It is a vision of world peace. What seems to us to be impossible right now, with God becomes not just possible, but promised. And as for personal peace, every enemy that threatens us now will be destroyed along with all God’s enemies. What seems to us to be impossible right now, with God becomes not just possible, but promised.

This leads us to verse 10:

“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.” Psalms 46:10

This is to be taken in two ways, and which way you understand it depends on your relationship with God. The word for “be still” is really the word for “cease” or “stop.” If you have picked up your cross to follow Jesus, then be still, cease from your stress and anxiety over everything that threatens you. God’s got your back. The peace that may seem impossible to you right now is not only possible, but promised. But should you be against God, then cease from your striving and conflict, knowing that the Lord is God and not you. In which of these two ways do you take verse 10? Is peace possible for you?

 All scripture references are taken from the NRSV

March 13, 2016

Another Look at Grace and Works

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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•••by Russell Young

Another Look at Grace and Works

The doctrines of “grace” and “works” need another look. One’s comprehension of these doctrines significantly influences his interpretation of the scriptures and their understandings should not be left up to one’s imagination. Some believers sum up “grace” and “works” with the idea that God has done it all; that is, God has gifted them with eternal salvation and they need not participate (understood as “work”) since it is a gift. God’s Word clearly presents the need for “obedience” in order for one to gain eternal salvation. (Hebrews 5:9, Matthew 7:21; Revelation 22:14 (KJV); 2 Thessalonians 1:8) There are other verses that require the believer be to be “led,” (Galatians 5:18; Romans 8:14; John 10:27) and others that required him to “please the Spirit” (Galatians 6:8) or to live in some appropriate manner. The Lord said that his angels “will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:41, NIV) These will be weeded out on the basis of their ‘doing.’

Accepting the common teaching of “grace” as meaning “God’s unmerited favor” being expressed in one’s life, does not necessarily mean that God will unilaterally bring about the “believer’s” eternal salvation. Neither does the phrase, “You are saved by grace,” necessarily infer the “gifting” of eternal salvation as some understand. The gift that God has given to the redeemed is the Holy Spirit who can bring about one’s eternal salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13, Titus 3:5-6) and that through obedience. (Hebrews 5:9)

To put the matter of “works” into meaningful context, the “works” being referred to is the “works of the law.” (Romans 9:32; Galatians 2:16, 3:2, 5, 10 KJV, YLT) Some translators have not included “of the law” in their rendition, confusing the issue.

The law cannot be accomplished by anyone using his own resources. The righteous requirements of the law must be accomplished but require the Holy Spirit’s ministry for that purpose. When the Word of God speaks of salvation as not being accomplished through “works,” it is referring to the “works of the law.” It does not mean that the believer need not be obedient or that he is not required to walk righteously or in the light of Christ. It means that the covenant of the law, “of works”, the Old Covenant cannot bring about one’s eternal salvation. The covenant of the law “kills.” (2 Corinthians 3:6) The work of the law (that which the law produces) cannot satisfy God’s righteous requirements because of man’s sinful nature. (Romans 8:3) That which can bring about one’s eternal salvation is the appropriation of the ministry of the Spirit in order to satisfy the righteous requirements of the law and the Prophets (Romans 8:4), but the Spirit must be obeyed.

The sacrifice of Christ which was an act of grace allowed the believer escape from the consequences of the sinful acts he had committed while under the jurisdiction of the law’s requirements for righteousness. The provision of the New Covenant was an act of grace by God. The provision of the Holy Spirit was a gift of grace by the Father making the believer “competent” to satisfy the New Covenant. (2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Peter 1:3) The ministry of Christ as High Priest is an act of grace. Complete provision was made by Christ for the one who would honour Him through obedience. (Hebrews 5:9) Eternal salvation is NOT a gift of grace but must be worked out through the provision God has made in Christ.

The gift of grace is Christ’s presence in the believer. (Colossians 1:27) He has come to fulfil the law in the believer and for the believer. (Romans 8:4) He does not over-rule the will of man but will allow it to be exercised. Obedience is faith in practice and the faithful will obey their lord/Lord.

It is worth noting that God is going to destroy the world when the time comes because man will have “twisted his instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5 NLT) The NIV reads, “disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.” The accomplishment of instructions, laws, and the covenant is NOT a gift of grace as is often taught; their accomplishment is through the gift of grace (the Holy Spirit) and the believer’s commitment to obedience. There are many who have been led astray, and many who lead believers away from truth, by their misrepresentation of the doctrines of “works” and “grace.” Paul told his readers not to be deceived; they would reap what they sow…receiving either life or destruction. (Galatians 6:7)

The Lord said, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” (Luke 16:1-17, NIV) God’s grace does notabolish” the law (Matthew 5:17) or preclude the need for its righteous requirements to be satisfied. Woe to those whose teaching allows such. His requirements can ONLY be met through obedience to the Spirit.

One’s need and hope for righteousness is being “awaited” (Galatians 5:5) and it comes through his allowance of the Spirit being lived through him. (Romans 8:4) Eternal salvation comes through God’s grace and not by the “works” of the law. However, the believer is to put every effort into obeying the Spirit. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Luke 13:24, NIV) When the Lord encouraged His listeners “to make every effort.” He was requiring just that. They are to hear His voice (the Spirit) and they are to follow. They are to do something. Later in the passage Christ made it clear that it is those who are “evildoers” (v. 27) who will be condemned and cast from Him even though they had walked in His presence…they had not been led or had not put forth the “effort” to walk righteously. The writer of Hebrews offered the same admonition. (Hebrews 4:11) Paul admonished the Philippians “to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12, NIV)

When Paul spoke of being saved by grace, he identified that grace as creating a product having been accomplished through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (God’s “workmanship”, Ephesians 2:10, NIV), the product of one’s transformation. The expression of God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit makes one a suitable offering for God. (Romans 15:16)

July 4, 2014

The Pattern of Nations

Ezekiel 7:1 NIV The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, this is what the Sovereign Lord says to the land of Israel:

“‘The end! The end has come
    upon the four corners of the land!
The end is now upon you,
    and I will unleash my anger against you.
I will judge you according to your conduct
    and repay you for all your detestable practices.
I will not look on you with pity;
    I will not spare you.
I will surely repay you for your conduct
    and for the detestable practices among you.

At one of my other blogs, Thinking Out Loud, posts tend to be more topical. Not surprisingly for the 4th of July today, we looked at the question, Is America in Bible Prophecy.  Several of the responses we found online dealt with two recurring themes: Judgment, and what was called “the pattern of nations.”  You can read that post here.  For C201 readers, I want to look at one of the lists of scriptures dealing with judgment:

Jewish scholars and many good Christian theologians tend to think of prophecy in terms of biblical “pattern.” For instance, nations fall into patterns of behavior which results in God’s judgment again and again. These are clearly outlined in Scripture.  This is from the blog Remnant Report. A link to the full article follows.

Patterns of Behaviors

In terms of pattern there is no question that almost all nations including America fit into biblical prophecy. For example, Deuteronomy 28 & 29 lists the blessings of following God’s law and the consequences of disobeying it. Hosea 4 and Ezekiel 7 are two books which also list patterns of disobedience and God’s judgment. We might include Isaiah chapter 5 to feature consequences of disobedience, too. This one mentions large, beautiful houses sitting empty due to God’s judgment.

Ouch, America! …Empty houses, indeed!

A Case of Pattern – American Upheavals

In Ezekiel chapter 7 we find a clear example of pattern by God punishing a nation for its wickedness and pride. Does this sound like America today?

– The economy is destroyed. Citizens are warned not to rejoice over “bargains” or sellers to grieve over losses, because all will fail (v. 12-13).

Epidemics and diseases will kill and sicken many (v. 15).

– Citizens will be ashamed and mourn what has become of them (v. 18).

– The nation’s currency is destroyed and not even gold or silver will save them (v. 19).

– Citizens will become sick of its wealth and they will be robbed of all their valuables (v. 20-22).

Foreigners will swoop in to claim all the riches (v. 20-22).

– Ruthless immigrants will occupy citizen’s homes and homes will be lost, mansions empty (v. 24-25). (see also Isaiah 5:9)

– There will be terrorism, disaster after disaster, and calamity after calamity (v. 25-26).

– People will seek out religious leaders & advice, but there is no word from God (v. 26b-27).

– It’s payback time. What the evil citizens & rulers have done to others will be done to them (v. 27).
___________________________________________

In fact, I think you could make a good case for America suffering this kind of judgment at God’s Hands today. The pattern fits, doesn’t it?

[…read the entire article here…]

Go deeper: Here is another article on the same subject; be sure to also follow the links at the Thinking Out Loud piece.

February 25, 2014

The Crown of Life

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:18 pm
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James 1 11-12

Men and women pursue Bible study differently and so from time to time I try to seek out writers in that vast community sometimes called “mommy bloggers” so that we have both male and female perspectives represented here.

This week I came across Jessica Herbst who blogs at Simplify This Life. You’re encouraged to visit her blog and look around, starting with reading today’s post at source where it appeared as Crown of Life, part of a series in the book of James. Jessica is also the source of today’s awesome graphic from James chapter 1.


For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:11-12

Moving on … in study and in prayer, I’ve felt a need to explore this crown of life. In reading verse 12 we see that this is given to the person who perseveres in trials, who stands through testing. Even going back to the earlier verses in James 1 – who considers it pure joy whenever facing trials of many kinds, who lets perseverance be made mature and complete, who doesn’t lack anything, who seeks Christ when lacking so that He may give what is needed, who believes and doesn’t doubt, who lives humbly – this is who receives the crown of life.

I’ve read that this could also be considered the martyrs crown, that only those who lay down their lives standing firm on the gospel receive this crown. I would need to go and study in depth the original language to see that for certain. I don’t discount that it could be the case, especially when looking into the related verse found in Revelation.

What I am fairly sure of is that this crown of life is a reward (from the Greek, stephanos.) It isn’t the gift of eternal life — eternal life in Christ is given freely to all who confess Him as Lord and Savior. That’s it. There is no fine print to read, no “act now” conditions. When we decide to follow Jesus, when we see that through his broken and bleeding body there is forgiveness for all of sin, when we see that this way is the only way, the only truth, that is where we find eternal life. This crown of life seems to me to clearly be something else, something more.

We see through the New Testament that crowns will be given to believers when we finally reach Jesus at the judgement (bema) seat. Now, this judgement seat isn’t about condemnation. This judgement seat is only for believers (at least that’s how I understand it… I’m not Bible scholar… I should probably ask my husband to read over this before I publish it!) This is where we will fall at Jesus’ beautiful feet, where He will say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” This is where He will show me where, through faith, I persevered and loved Him fully, loved His people, and answered the call. I think this is also where He’ll show me where I didn’t do those things. Where I didn’t persevere. Where I gave up, gave in… where I leaned on my own strength and understanding rather than seeking Him first. Because honestly, I’ve fallen short and I know — ashamed as I am — I know that I’ll have to answer for that. But I don’t think that is where the focus will rest. Yes, I believe He’ll call it to account, but I think the focus will rest in these crowns. Crowns of rejoicing for those who answer to the call of sharing the gospel and leading the lost to Christ. Crowns that are given for those who stand firm in their faith, incorruptible, for the sake of the gospel. Crowns of righteousness, for those who live according to the Word of God. Crowns of glory for those who teach and preach – the overseers who shepherd God’s people. And crowns of life for those who persevere through trial, temptation, and persecution.

So what does this all mean? How do I apply this? Are we justified by faith or works? (James will challenge this again in the book!)

These works that earn these crowns, they aren’t about me. They aren’t about how decorated I’ll be, how honored I’ll be. Because really, no matter the number of crowns that may or may not be placed on each bowed head, the only honorable mention will be Jesus.

BUT… as a follower of Christ, as someone who has made Him Lord over my life, who has accepted Him as Savior and Lord, these things should just happen. Loving Him. Standing firm. Sharing the gospel. Reaching the lost. Living according to His Word. Persevering. It should just happen naturally and selflessly in the life of every believer.

Life happens. I get caught in a tangled mess of me and myself and my flesh. And I battle this and that. BATTLE. It’s in these times that I must believe and not doubt. It’s in these times that I should not back down, that I shouldn’t turn away. That I should stand firm and hold fast, hold tight. And sometimes… sometimes I don’t keep focused on Christ. My knees wobble and I loosen my hold. And there goes a crown. But sometimes… sometimes I do hold tight and I do stand firm.

Oh Lord, may I surrender these struggles into Your hands. May I stand firm and hold fast, hold tight. May a live a life worthy of these precious rewards, rewards that I can not fully understand on this side of heaven. May I live to see Your glory in it all. Not that MY reward would be my focus, but that YOU would be glorified above all else. Forgive me where I waiver. Steady my knees, illuminate that solid ground. For You. Always for You.

Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere. An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading. You are greatly encouraged to check out further articles by authors who resonate with you.

January 13, 2014

There Will Be No Sea in Heaven

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. ~ Rev.21:1

This article is from popular Biblical writer R. C. Sproul. I have heard teaching previously about the aquaphobia (fear of water) that characterized people in the times and places where scripture originates. It is actually helpful to understanding a number of Bible passages and narratives. To read this at source, click this link.

Scripture often speaks of the entire creation awaiting the final act of redemption. To destroy something completely and to replace it with something utterly new is not an act of redemption. To redeem something is to save that which is in imminent danger of being lost. The renovation may be radical. It may involve a violent conflagration of purging, but the purifying act ultimately redeems rather than annihilates. The new heaven and the new earth will be purified. There will be no room for evil in the new order.

A hint of the quality of the new heaven and new earth is found in the somewhat cryptic words, “Also there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1). For people who have a love for the seashore and all that it represents in terms of beauty and recreation, it may seem strange to contemplate a new earth without any sea. But to the ancient Jew, it was a different matter. In Jewish literature, the sea was often used as a symbol for that which was ominous, sinister, and threatening. Earlier in the Revelation of John, we see the Beast emerging from the sea (Rev. 13). Likewise, in ancient Semitic mythology, there is frequent reference to the primordial sea monster that represents the shadowy chaos. The Babylonian goddess Tiamat is a case in point.

In Jewish thought, the river, the stream, or the spring functioned as the positive symbol of goodness. This was natural in a desert habitat where a stream was life itself. If we look at a relief map of Palestine, we see how crucial to the life of the land is the Jordan River. It cuts like a ribbon through the heart of an arid and parched land, connecting the Sea of Galilee in the north with the Dead Sea in the south.

The Mediterranean coast of western Palestine is marked by rocky shoals and jutting mountains. The ancient Hebrews did not develop a sea trade because the terrain was not suitable for much shipping. The sea represented trouble to them. It was from the Mediterranean that violent storms arose.

We see this contrasting imagery in Psalm 46. The psalmist writes: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling” (vv. 1–3). Then he adds, “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (v. 4).

I live in central Florida. Our area is sometimes described as “the lightning capital of America.” The summer months bring severe electrical storms. My grandchildren are frequently frightened by what they call the “booming.” The loud thunderclaps are not a part of what they would envision heaven to include.

But the Jews feared other problems from the sea besides turbulent storms. Their traditional archrivals, marauders who beset them countless times, were a seacoast nation. The Philistines came from the direction of the sea.

The Jew looked to a new world where all the evils symbolized by the sea would be absent. The new earth will have water. It will have a river. It will have life-giving streams. But there will be no sea there.

This excerpt is taken from Surprised by Suffering by R.C. Sproul.

Bonus reading: At the end of the article there is also a link to this related piece.  Click to read Creation Freed From Decay.

“Creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption” (vv. 20–21).Romans 8:18–25

In our study of the biblical theme of creation, we saw yesterday that what seems to be chaotic is actually under the control of our sovereign Lord (Job 38). The presence of such “chaos,” however, is not God’s ultimate design for His universe. He subdued the raging waters when He took what was unproductive and made it into an environment suitable for plant, animal, and human life (Gen. 1:1–2:3). The fact that nature can be a danger to us today is due to the curse this environment suffered when our first parents fell (3:17–19). Our creator is sovereign over the chaos, but this chaos is not the ideal, biblically speaking. Instead, Scripture looks forward to a new heavens and earth that will no longer pose any threat to His people.

The prophet Isaiah is the first one to speak directly of a new heavens and earth (Isa. 65:17–25), but it is the New Testament that explains how the renewal of creation will come about. Today’s passage tells us that all will finally be set right in the day that “the revealing of the sons of God” occurs (Rom. 8:19–21). Paul is talking about that final day when Jesus will return to finish what He started and vindicate His people, separating the sheep from the goats to show to the world those whom He has purchased with His own blood (Matt. 25:31–46). This is the day for which the entire creation is longing, for it will be on that day that the effects of the curse will be totally removed from the creation (Rom. 8:22–25). Christ has already done all the work necessary to cancel the curse (Gal. 3:13–14), but the Holy Spirit has not yet applied the benefits He won for His creation to the fullest. Sin’s power is broken but its presence remains to war with us until the day of the “redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23).

Jesus came not only to save us spiritually but also to redeem our physical bodies and, indeed, to redeem creation itself. He loves the world that He created (Gen. 1:31; John 3:16), and He is unwilling to let it fall by the wayside. Proof of this is seen in His promise to resurrect all those who are in Christ to live forever in God’s presence in the manner in which we were designed — spiritual and physical creatures. Likewise, the earth will be transformed and made new so that we will be able to look on the world and understand clearly the Lord’s goodness and glory in all things, which is why He created everything in the first place (Col. 1:16).

Coram Deo

Non-Christian environmentalism can be really a form of nature worship that elevates the creature over the Creator. Christians are to be good stewards of creation and look not to misuse it because they know the damage that pollution and other such things create makes it harder for others to see the glory of our Lord. We care for our own little corner of God’s world so that His glory can be seen readily in it.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 30:1–10

Both articles reproduced with blanket permission from the source.  From Ligonier Ministries, the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. All rights reserved. Website: www.ligonier.org

December 22, 2013

Understanding Different Literary Forms in Scripture

Today’s thoughts are from the Bible In One Year (BiOY) page of Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) in England, the original home of The Alpha Course as taught by Nicky Gumbel, who also authored these thoughts.  What follows is excerpts, click through to read in full.

How to Read and Understand the Bible

How do we interpret the Bible and understand what it says about what we should believe and how we should live? In interpreting the Bible there are three main questions we need to ask:

  • What does it actually say? The Old Testament is written in Hebrew (and Aramaic), and the New Testament in Greek, but we are fortunate to have access to excellent translations. Obviously it can help if we can read it in the original language, but generally we can be confident that most modern translations are trustworthy and accurate. As we read we need to be asking what it actually says. It can be helpful to use extra notes, or compare different translations, to help us understand it better.
  • What does it mean? In order to answer this question we have to ask: What sort of literature is it? Is it historical writing? Poetry? Prophecy? Apocalyptic? Law? Wisdom? Gospel? The passages for today are each different types of literature, and therefore we read them in different ways.Next, we need to ask what it meant to the person who first wrote it and to those who first read or heard it. Then ask, ‘Has anything happened subsequently to alter our understanding of the text?’ For example, what difference does the coming of Jesus make to our understanding of Old Testament passages?
  • How does this apply to our lives? If we ignore this question, then our Bible reading becomes a mere intellectual exercise. Once we have worked out what it says and means, we must think through how it applies to our daily living.

Each day’s readings at BiOY involve three passages, you’ll have to click through to read these in full. There are also prayers at the end of each section. Again, click through to read.

In these passages, we see three different types of literature (poetic, apocalyptic and historical). We also see at least three ways in which to relate to God in our daily life.

1. Be real with God (poetry)

Psalm 144:9–15

God wants us to be real with him. The psalms are not prayers from nice people using polite language. They are often raw, earthy and rough. They are an honest, true and personal response to God. They are written in the language of poetry. We interpret poetry differently to prose…

Comparison is something that we often use in daily speech. It also comprises almost all the language of theology. When two things are compared it does not mean they are alike in all respects. Usually there is some intended point of comparison on which we are asked to concentrate.

The language of Psalm 144:12 is an example of such language: ‘Make our sons in their prime like sturdy oak trees, Our daughters as shapely and bright as fields of wildflowers’ (MSG)

…the psalmist inspires us to worship (v.9). He speaks of his longing for God’s blessing on his family, his work and the security of his nation. He ends, ‘Blessed are the people of whom this is true; blessed are the people whose God is the Lord’ (v.15).

2. Make a difference by your prayers (apocalyptic)

Revelation 8:1–9:12

Apocalyptic literature is the literature of dreams and visions, of divine mysteries and the end of history. It is full of symbols that need to be decoded. In it we are given glimpses of things that are often at the very limits of human understanding, and the complicated and fantastic imagery can help us begin to grasp things that are beyond comprehension.

Apocalyptic literature is notoriously difficult to interpret. Within the Bible it is found in several places – especially the books of Daniel and Revelation. Typically, the reading from the apocalyptic writing for today is not easy to understand. It appears to be Christ calling the world to repentance and his warning of the coming judgment…

…We live in the time between the first and the second coming of Christ. We see evidence of much of what is written about in these chapters happening in our world. Our response should be prayer and repentance.

3. Fulfill God’s purpose for your life (history)

Ezra 1:1–2:67

God has a purpose for your life. You are called to do something special for him. The book of Ezra shows us that even when it is God’s plan, there will be plenty of opposition and resistance. But God is with you (1:3) and God’s plans will ultimately succeed.

In the book of Ezra we find ourselves in the more familiar territory of history. The historical books of the Bible are not simply records of what happened, they also provide interpretations of the events they describe. Historical writing was seen as a prophetic activity, both recording the facts and explaining or revealing how God was at work through the events that are described.

The opening verse of Ezra is an excellent example of this bringing together of fact and interpretation: ‘In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing’ (v.1).

Contemporary inscriptions show that Cyrus king of Persia allowed other captive nations to return home as well, so we are on firm historical ground here. At the same time the writer explains the significance of these events. He highlights how they fulfilled the earlier prophecy of Jeremiah that the exile would last approximately seventy years (Jeremiah 25:12 and 29:10).

This is not just a lesson in ancient history; it is a revelation of God. It shows us God’s faithfulness to his people, it reminds us that he is a saving God, and it demonstrates how he is in command and control of history.

Before the judgment: ‘Heaven fell quiet – complete silence for about half an hour’ (8:1, MSG). During this period of trembling suspense all of heaven is silenced, possibly symbolizing the opportunity for the prayers of God’s people to be presented to and heard by God.

…We each have a unique purpose for our lives. We have different projects, depending on our different jobs and passions and giftings, but our underlying motives should be the same – a concern for God’s glory and God’s people. God will fulfill his purpose for you.

September 18, 2013

Things That Are Shaken

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“See that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused Him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject Him who warns from heaven. At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ This phrase, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe”  Hebrews 12:25-28 ESV

Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God.  Revelation 3:2 NASB

The first verse above was the key verse yesterday at Daily Encouragement. The writers focused on the great ‘shaking’ that is taking place in the world, particularly in the United States, and the overall moral decay in America.

What struck me however was the distinction between “things that are shaken” and “things that cannot be shaken.” For some reason, I was reminded of the above verse in Revelation. The Voice translates this as:

Wake up from your death-sleep, and strengthen what remains of the life you have been given that is in danger of death…

with the sections in italics representing additions to the text for clarity.  The NIV has

Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die…

Matthew Henry says of this:

(1.) He advises them to be upon their watch. The cause of their sinful deadness and declension was that they had let down their watch. Whenever we are off our watch, we lose ground, and therefore must return to our watchfulness against sin, and Satan, and whatever is destructive to the life and power of godliness.

(2.) To strengthen the things that remain, and that are ready to die. Some understand this of persons; there were some few who had retained their integrity, but they were in danger of declining with the rest. It is a difficult thing to keep up to the life and power of godliness ourselves, when we see a universal deadness and declension prevailing round about us. Or it may be understood of practices, as it follows: I have not found thy works perfect before God, not filled up; there is something wanting in them; there is the shell, but not the kernel; there is the carcase, but not the soul—the shadow, but not the substance. The inward thing is wanting, thy works are hollow and empty; prayers are not filled up with holy desires, alms-deeds not filled up with true charity, sabbaths not filled up with suitable devotion of soul to God; there are not inward affections suitable to outward acts and expressions. Now when the spirit is wanting the form cannot long subsist.

Returning to our original consideration, the verse in Hebrews, The Voice — again adding explanatory content within the verse, a practice some may be uncomfortable with — has:

…those things that can be shaken will be removed and taken away, namely, the first creation. As a result, those things that remain cannot be shaken…

This reminds me of Matthew 24:35:

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will certainly not pass away. (CEB)

which is paralleled in Mark 13:31

Earth and sky will pass away, but what I have told you will never pass away! (Phillips)

and Luke 21:33

The sky and the earth won’t last forever, but my words will.

Commenting on the Hebrews passage, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones preached:

…Wait a minute, says some one, what about the earth round and about us? What about the Beacons, the great mountains and the valleys and the rivers, surely these are durable and certain? Are they? Let off your hydrogen bombs and they will soon have vanished. As the Bible has prophesied centuries ago, ‘the elements shall melt with a fervent heat’ (2 Peter 3:10). Even creation is not durable; everything is being shaken. Man himself who has been worshipping himself, what is he? According to scientists he is nothing but chemistry and physics, he is nothing but a bundle of sensations. All our kingdoms are collapsing before our eyes. They can all be hurt, they can all be moved and yet men bank on them. They laugh at religion, they ignore the Bible, they do not believe in God. These are the kingdoms they believe in and yet they are collapsing before our very eyes. That is the message of the Bible.

But why do they collapse? Why is all that I have been saying been so true? And this man tells us. The certainty you see with all these kingdoms is that they are made. ‘And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made,’ These are man-made kingdoms and the tragedy of man is that he is too small to be a kingdom builder. Man is finite, he is limited, he is small. This is the final folly of man, that he thinks he knows everything. He thinks he can encompass the whole cosmos with his little mind. How small he is, he is finite, he is limited, he lacks the capacity to see things as a whole. He only sees little sectors of reality. Things that are made-man!

Yes, but even worse than that, according to the Bible, man is not only finite, man is also sinful-and this is what bedevils all his great efforts. Every one of us is sinful. What does that mean? It means that we are selfish. it means that we are self-centred. It means that we are subjects of jealousy and envy and malice and spite and hatred. We want things for ourselves – let the other man get on with it. This is in the heart of man, everything he touches, everything he makes therefore has got the seed of decay in it. That is why our Lord said: ‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal’ [Matthew 6:19-20]. But man keeps on doing this and everything collapses. Why? Moth and rust, this element of evil. You cannot trust anybody. You may think that you have got a man who will fight with you to the end-he will desert you at the very moment that you need him most of all. He is a false friend, he lets you down. You see it in the political parties and everywhere else, they all seem to be carrying a dagger in their hip pockets and they are attacking one another. No man trusts anybody, why? We are all sinners, we are all selfish, we are in no condition to build empires…

To read the full sermon transcript, click here.

The verse in II Peter 3:10 is:

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare (NIV)

The Message follows with verse 11:

Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life?

And so we close with the words of Jesus in the parable of the fig tree in Luke 21:28 (NCV):

When these things begin to happen, look up and hold your heads high, because the time when God will free you is near!”

March 1, 2013

I Was a Stranger

Our scripture reading today is on video, or you can turn to Matthew 25:31-46.

At Bible Gateway (above link) the IVP New Testament Commentary begins:

This final parable in Jesus’ final sermon in Matthew brings home the reality of judgment. As the missionaries from Matthew’s churches spread the good news of the kingdom both among fellow Jews and among Gentiles, they faced hostility as well as welcome. This parable brings together some themes from the rest of the Gospel: Christ, like the kingdom, had been present in a hidden way (compare chap. 13), and one’s response to his agents represented one’s response to him (chap. 10).

…Which leads me to this excellent commentary at the blog, Reading Acts:

But is this a parable? Not in the normal sense of a parable, it is more of an apocalyptic prophecy with parabolic elements. The story is usually treated as a parable, despite the fact it is not a story drawn from everyday life. As an apocalyptic prophecy, the Sheep and Goats is an interpretation and re-application of themes from the Hebrew Bible to a new situation.

Clearly the “Son of Man” is not a symbol, Jesus is identifying himself as the one who will be doing the final judgement. There is, however, a shift from Son of Man to “the King” in verse 34. The King in this parable is not necessarily a metaphor for Jesus but an actual title of Jesus that he will have at that time. That Jesus sees himself as the central character in this parable helps us to read the previous parables – Jesus is the bridegroom in 25:1-12 and he is the king who went away in 25: 14-30.

The Sheep and the Goats are metaphorical elements that parallel the Wise and foolish virgins and the productive and unproductive servants in the parable of the talents. The elements of the judgement are not to be taken as metaphors, what the sheep do and what the goats do not do should be understood as a part of the judgement that they are facing at the end of the age. The wise virgin and prepared servant are more or less like the Sheep, the foolish virgin and the unprepared servant are more or less like the goats.

It is probably best to see this as a prophetic or apocalyptic parable using the metaphor of the separation of sheep and goats to indicate that at the end of the age the nations will be separated and judged. The basis of that judgement will be the treatment of the “least of these brothers of mine.” This prophecy may be based on several passages from the Hebrew Bible. For example, Ezekiel 34:11-17 describes Israel as a flock in need of a true shepherd. It is quite possible that the Sheep and Goats of Matthew 25 is an allusion to  Ezekiel 34:16: “As for you, my flock, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats.” (Joel 3:12 has a similar metaphor).

Like any of the parables, this story must be read in the context of the first listeners. The shocking end of the parables of the kingdom is that those that thought they were getting into the kingdom are not going to be there, and those that were on the outside do get in. The ruling Jews thought that they were going to be in the kingdom, in fact, they were the “keepers of the kingdom of God.” Yet when Messiah came, they did not recognize him. They never really had much of a chance to since they were not caring for the poor and the needy as they ought. Jesus is very critical of the Pharisees who liked their fine things, or the people giving in the temple and mocking the widow and her mites.

On the other hand, the underclass probably did not think of themselves are serious candidates for the first to get into the kingdom. They were told repeatedly that they were the unclean, “sinners and tax-collectors.” Yet they will enter the kingdom, and those that were accepting and caring for this underclass, as Jesus was, will enter as well.  Jesus demonstrated throughout his ministry this kind of grace by eating with sinners, now he is welcoming people into his kingdom who showed the same grace to other “least of these brothers.”

~Phillip J. Long

Reading Acts is one of those incredible online “finds” that often greet me when I’m preparing things here.  Since we borrowed a hefty chunk of material from it today, I want to doubly encourage you to drop by and read more great Bible commentary at source.

 

 

February 18, 2013

End Times Prophecy in Matthew’s Gospel

Matthew 3 (NLT): 11 “I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 12 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.”

When we think prophecy, we think often of Bible books like Revelation and Daniel; but Matthew’s gospel records many of the end-times prophetic words of Jesus. The passage above contains imagery that is foreign to us, and even the NLT (above) uses terminology that is foreign to urban dwellers in the 21st century. Our featured writer today breaks this down for us with related scriptures and commentary. (You’ll see references to Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament.) He also uses the KJV as a base text, but in this case all the texts are challenging because of the agrarian imagery. You’re encouraged to click through to Don Costello’s blog, Theophobic*.  This is a great example of how to exegete a passage; how to do a thorough study on a single verse.


Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire. ~ Matthew 3:12

1. “Whose fan is in his hand…”

a. The “his” of this phrase is the Holy Ghost of the previous verse, the fan is in his hand.

  • 1). Matthew 3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:

b. fan [4425 * ptyon][Thayer: a winnowing shovel.]

  •  1). Brethren NT Commentary: “A light, broad shovel with which grain was thrown against the wind to clear it of chaff. The breadth of the shovel had the effect of spreading the grain into the air, that the air might more thoroughly separate the chaff from the grain. This illustrates the thoroughness of the separation that God will make between the good and the bad.”
  •  2). Albert Barnes NT Commentary:  “The word used here and rendered “fan” means a winnowing shovel instead. It was used for throwing the grain, after it was threshed, into the air, so that the chaff might be driven away by the wind. This mode of separating the grain from the chaff is still practiced in the East.”
  •  3). When the Holy Ghost came into the earth he came in a mighty rushing wind. 4). In this dispensation the Holy Ghost will blow upon our lives, he will speak to us in our hearts through the Scriptures and in prayer, he will move upon us to be obedient to the word and be more conformed to the image of Christ, to get rid of the chaff in our lives.
    • a). Acts 2:2-4 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
    • b). John 3:8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.

2. “…and he will thoroughly purge his floor,

a. purge [1245 * diakatharizo][Thayer: to cleanse thoroughly.]

b. floor [257 * halon][Thayer: a ground plot or threshing floor, i.e. a place in the field made hard after the harvest by a roller, where grain was threshed out.]

c. The purging is the work of the Holy Ghost in our lives. In this dispensation the Holy Ghost will blow upon our lives, he will speak to us in our hearts through the Scriptures and in prayer, he will move upon us to be obedient to the word and be more conformed to the image of Christ, to get rid of the chaff in our lives.

3. “…and gather his wheat into the garner…”

  •  a. This is the harvesting process. What a privilege, to be harvested and gathered into his garner.

4. “…but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

a. Jesus spoke of those in his kingdom who instead of responding to the work of the Holy Ghost would continue to offend and work iniquity; he spoke of their end.

  •  1). Matthew 13:41, 42 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

b. In the book of Isaiah we get a picture of those who do not make the harvest and those who do.

  • 1). Isaiah 33:11-16 Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you. And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire. Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.

c. We need to seek his face so he can speak to our hearts and we can in the power of the Holy Ghost in the grace of God yield our lives in obedience, throwing off the chaff so we may be gathered into his garner, Heaven.


*The name “theophobic” comes from a combination of two Greek words, “phobia” which is the Greek word for fear and “theo” which is the Greek word for God. I instantly thought of the phrase “God fearers” in the book of Acts and thought of “theophobia”.

June 19, 2012

Now Versus Then

This appeared earlier this week at the blog at Blue Letter Bible, an online Bible search engine, where it was titled, As-He-Is vs. As-He-Was.

  1. As He is. He is walking in majesty in the midst of the Churches. “…who walks among the seven golden lampstands” (Revelation 2:1).
    As He was. He was seen in humiliation, and in the midst of two thieves, crucified. “There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them” (John 19:18).
  2. As He is. He is seen in garments of glory, representing the glory of His person. …clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest” (Revelation 1:13).
    As He was. He was stripped of His garments, and made a spectacle to men, demons, and angels. “When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts” (John 19:23).
  3. As He is. His eyes are as flames of fire―reminding us of His all-seeingness. “His eyes were like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14).
    As He was. Those eyes lost their brightness in death, and closed under the load of sin. “…and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).
  4. As He is. His feet are as burning and polished brass―telling us of His durability and deity. “his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace” (Revelation 1:15).
    As He was. Those feet were nailed to the Cross. “See my hands and my feet…” (Luke 24:39).
  5. As He is. His voice is as the sound of many waters, reminding us of the power of His word. “his voice was like the roar of many waters” (Revelation 1:15).
    As He was. His voice was hushed in death. “…they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead…” (John 19:33).
  6. As He is. His hand is mighty to hold, and to help us. “In his right hand he held seven stars” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. Those hands were pierced, and nailed to the accursed tree. “…they have pierced my hands and fee…” (Psalm 22:16).
  7. As He is. Out of His mouth, goes a sharp two-edged sword―telling us of His power to destroy His enemies. “…from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword…” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. He opened not His mouth, but was smitten by the officer over the mouth. “…so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).
  8. As He is. His face is as the sun shining in his strength. “his face was like the sun shining in full strength” (Revelation 1:16).
    As He was. That face was marred, spit on, the hair plucked from, and the rude hand of man insulted. “As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance…” (Isaiah52:14).

May 2, 2012

David Jeremiah Quotations

David Jeremiah is a popular TV and radio Bible teacher. His program and the name of his ministry is Turning Point.  He is currently the senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.


“My study of prophecy convinces me that God intends knowledge of future events to help us ‘occupy’ with a sense of urgency until the Lord returns.”


“If ever there was a small book to be studied on how to walk by faith, it is the record in Hebrews 11 of those in the Old Testament who lived and died by faith. There was Abel, who made a presentation to God by faith, and Enoch who demonstrated the possibilities of walking by faith. Noah’s walk was the performance of faith, and Abraham’s long walk with God revealed the progress of faith. Sarah waited on a child and demonstrated the patience of faith, and Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph clung to the promise of faith in the future. Moses is our model of the persuasion of faith, and Joshua and Rahab the perils of faith. Many others too numerous to name are said to have paid the ultimate price for faith.


“The only Jesus that unbelievers ever see on this earth is the one reflected in those who already know Him. By mirroring Christ, we should be ready to turn any conversation or meeting with an unbeliever into a divine encounter.”


“No verse in the Bible better expresses the passion we should have for life than Colossians 3:23-24: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” In these two verses we find four handles by which passion may be seized on a daily basis: the scope, strength, secret, and source of passion. This passage can become a Passion Principle for you as you go “from Accomplishment to Zeal” every day.”


“Do we approach God from a beggar’s perspective or as His cherished child? If we have any difficulty seeing Him as our loving Father, we need to ask Him to help us develop a healthy Father/child relationship.”


“How often have we prayed something like, “O Lord, be with cousin Billy now in a special way”? Have we stopped to consider what it is we’re requesting? Imagine that you are a parent who is preparing to leave your children with a babysitter. Would you dream of saying, “O Betsy, I ask you now that you would be with my children in a special way?” No way. You would say, “Betsy, the kids need to be in bed by 9 pm. They can have one snack before their baths, and please make sure they finish their homework. You can reach us at this number if there’s any problem. Any questions before we go?” We are very specific with our requests and instructions for our babysitters. We want them to know specifics. It should be no different with prayer.”


“It’s not going to happen through technology or our intellectual abilities but only through prayer. When we pray, God works. We believe God blesses churches that bless missions.”


“If you have put your faith in Christ and have spent significant time in the Word of God, the tough times can be like a magnet that draws you to the Lord Jesus. Nothing is going to happen – ever – that will catch Jesus Christ by surprise. He is able to help His children work through anything, and not a single thing is going to happen in the future that can change that fact.”


Sources: Preach The GospelChristian Quotes, Think Exist, Quote Idea, Good Reads.


See also David Jeremiah’s website for daily devotionals.  Here’s a sample from today:

As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. ~Psalm 42:1

      Recommended Reading Acts 5:1-11

Ananias and his wife Sapphira lacked what we all should strive for — personal integrity and a desire for God that surpasses love for material possessions. Deliberately setting out to deceive Peter and the apostles, this calculating couple pretended devotion to God by lying about their generous financial gift to the church. Their judgment? Their very lives.

Maybe you’re thinking you can’t relate to this Bible story. You don’t lie about your tithe to the church. Maybe you don’t try to impress your pastor and elders with the amount you give each month. But do you ever lie to the Holy Spirit? Do you pretend to be devoted to God to impress your family, friends, or church? Hypocrisy is insincere. It’s presenting an appearance of commitment that’s not true.

Ananias and Sapphira committed a sin unto death (1 John 5:16). The undertakers might be busy in our churches today if we were judged for the motives of our hearts. When you serve the church — teaching, singing, serving in a leadership role — are you putting God to the test? It’s risky business to fake spirituality. Make your heart’s desire for God and God alone.

It is not the being seen of men that is wrong, but doing these things for the purpose of being seen of men. The problem with the hypocrite is his motivation.  ~Augustine

April 24, 2012

Bowing Knees, Confessing Tongues

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Today’s post is from Carley Evans’ blog Grace Partakers, where it appeared under the title, Every Tongue, Every Knee.

11 It is written:    “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me;
   every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

Jesus tells us the truth. One day — “as He lives” — every individual who ever existed will bow to Him and give God praise. Now I can see every person kneeling in humility before God, but imagining every one praising God is not as easy. I’ve heard such vile, foul statements made against Him in my time here on earth that imagining those same persons speaking words of praise is difficult.

Think of Hitler or Stalin or Manson speaking words of praise to God, and you may have some appreciation for what I am saying. Praises from such men are incongruous with their personalities.

So, what happens? What changes? Do their hearts change at the judgment? Do they become like Job who said to the Lord, “I know that Thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withheld from Thee. Who is he who hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered that which I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech Thee, and I will speak; I will demand of Thee, and declare Thou unto me. I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6, KJV)

Will persons such as Kim Jong-il and Saddam Hussein suddenly recognize God and “abhor” themselves? Will they see God and “repent in dust and ashes?” As they bend their knees and fall on their faces, will their mouths open in songs of praise?

Amazing!

~Carley Evans

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