Revelation and How It Relates to Prophecy

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Throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, prophecy exists as a means of God’s communication of future events and revelation of Himself to humanity. In other words, from the beginning of recorded humanity and after the glorification of Jesus, God inspired various authors of Scripture to boldly proclaim or write prophecies throughout human experience to foretell future events. God provides both natural revelation and spiritual revelation for those seeking a better understanding of prophecy. Natural revelation helps most Christian believers and non-followers of the Lord understand basic concepts about God such as the existence of an omnipotent Creator, life with design, and natural law. However, some messages in prophecy require special or spiritual revelation for divinely inspired insight and knowledge in order for the understanding to be revealed. God gives special revelation to Spirit-filled believers to identify Old Testament prophecies about Jesus’ life, including His miraculous birth and earthly ministry. The New Testament fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies prove Jesus manifested God’s plan of redemption for humanity.

Revelation: Meaning and Types 

Revelation derives from the Greek word ἀποκαλύπτω, transliterated as apokalyptō and means an uncovering (Vine, 1996). God’s divine revelation unveils something previously hidden in Scripture. Specifically, it discloses the previously unknown (Elwell, 2001). Further, God discloses to humanity that which He chooses to communicate and reveal about Himself. The exchange between Peter and Jesus exemplifies this. Jesus had questioned Peter about His own identity (Matt 16:15 KJV). When Peter responded Jesus was the “Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:15), Jesus told Peter “flesh and blood hath not revealed this unto him, but the Father which is in heaven” (v. 17). God providentially uncovered truth according to His will, purpose, and timing (Martin, 1964).

How did God reveal the previously hidden? He used multiple means in which He progressively revealed His divine salvation plan from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The inspired authors of Scripture presented God’s revealed communication in the biblical canon through agents (prophets), witness (Incarnation), redemptive events (birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ), signs, miracles, and wonders (Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and cast out unclean spirits from many who demon possessed). Knight and Ray (2012) expanded this further noting God revealed Himself by making personal appearances; manifesting Himself in the form of a human being or an angel; appearing in a cloud, fire, or bright light; or using phenomenon from nature and the universe. Further, He appeared in visions and dreams. God did not limit His manner of revelatory communication.

The various means of revelatory communication can be categorized into two types, natural and spiritual revelation. Both forms of revelation point towards the fact there is a God full of wisdom, power, order, and majesty. However, natural revelation comes short of revealing the redemptive work of Christ.

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Revelation: Natural Understanding

Some philosophers and historians categorize atheism as the rejection of a belief in the existence of God (Wikipedia, 2014). If a believer would share the goodness of God and belief in Christ with an atheist, questions may surface such as “If you say that God is good, why did my mother die at a young age, or why is there so much evil in the world?” Could these questions actually reveal an inner struggle with God’s nature, rather than His existence? The Bible explains that by observing the natural world, God has instilled in every man a knowledge He exists. However, some have become vain in their imaginations and have had their foolish hearts darkened. In Rom 1:19-21, Paul declared to the Roman church:

Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations and their foolish heart was darkened. 

God has placed in us all an intuitive knowledge that He is the supreme and all knowledgeable God. Some have chosen to reject this knowledge of God and to embrace an unthankful spirit. Being unthankful goes against the spirit of humility and is a sign that self is exalted above God. Instead of retaining God in their knowledge, these individuals have chosen to allow their minds to ponder on wicked and idolatrous imaginations. This leads to a person having a hardened heart against the truth. God has given everyone a freedom of choice. If a person continues to persist in this rebellion against the truth and conviction of God, according to Rom 1:24, He will give that person up to his own heart’s lust (Wommack, 1995).

Unfortunately, even after some people receive a natural revelation and accept that creation speaks of the deity of God and His power, they still worship the “universe” instead of the Savior. Yet, all revelation, both spiritual and natural, comes from God. But His set apart people have spiritual revelation from His Spirit’s infilling that reveals all truth previously hidden in Scripture. Nevertheless, God’s elect people yearn to obtain the spiritual revelation. This occurs as a result of the Spirit’s infilling.

Spiritual Revelation: Prophecy’s Language of Redemption

          Spiritual revelation (or special revelation) emanates through prophecy.  Prophecy derives from the Greek transliteration propheteia, which means to speak forth the mind and counsel of God (Vine, 1996). The Old Testament provides many scriptures that foretell Jesus’ deity and first coming. Several Old Testament books, such as Genesis, Isaiah, Psalms, and Zachariah, include prophecies about the events of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. The New Testament contains numerous prophecies coming to pass, spoken hundreds of years before the advent of Jesus, during His earthly reign.

For instance, the prophet Isaiah declared, “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a Virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isa 7:14). According to this particular Old Testament scripture, Isaiah clearly prophesied the birth of the Messiah one sees fulfilled in the New Testament in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit impregnated (came upon) Mary, a virgin (Luke 1:35), which is the first messianic fulfillment sign. Quoting Isa 7:14, Matthew gave his account of the miracle birth with the statement, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt 1:23). The name Immanuel/Emmanuel has significance. For through salvation and relationship with the Lord, God always remains with us. When His people call on the name Jesus, He redeems us from every trouble, sickness, and worry.

Additionally, Isaiah prophetically proclaimed God would progressively reveal Himself as Jesus (the Savior) in “behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; He will come and save you. Then the eyes of blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isa 35:4b-6c). Further, Jesus fulfilled this Old Testament prophecy through His earthly ministry in Luke 7. After ministering to a group of people, including some of John the Baptist’s disciples, Jesus told them “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached. And blessed is he, whosoever shall be not be offended in me” (7:22b-23).

A third Old Testament prophecy about the future coming of Jesus is in Genesis, which chronicles the beginning of humanity. After Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and attempted to hide from God, He disclosed His plan of redemption for humanity directly to the serpent, which of course, symbolized the devil. Approximately 2,500 years later, during the time of Moses, God revealed the story of Adam and Eve (the beginning of humankind), their initial innocence, their being tricked by the serpent, their consequential disfellowship with God, and His plan of redemption for humanity. As such, under divine inspiration, Moses wrote the Words of God “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” (Gen 3:15). Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia fulfills Gen 3:15 with “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal 4:4). God Himself entered the world through the womb of Mary and the miracle birth of Jesus to redeem humanity from its sins. 

Conclusion 

God’s infinite wisdom, mercy, grace, and love provided everyone with an opportunity to experience natural revelation so they know of His existence.  However, in order to walk in fellowship with Him, one must take it a step further and receive His spiritual revelation. Spiritual revelation allows a person to understand and receive the many prophetic messages that speak of Christ’s redemptive work and how it ties in together to unveil His majestic plan. When Christ followers think of how God masterfully orchestrated natural and spiritual revelations to achieve His purpose for redemption through Jesus, it humbles His beloved people. Psalm 8:3-4 beautifully depicts God’s grand plan as King David declared, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained; What is man that thou are mindful of him?; and the son of man that thou visitest him?” All in all, the God of all creation made it possible for humanity to know Him through both natural and spiritual revelation. Of these two types of revelation, any human being has access to natural while only Spirit-filled believers have spiritual. From an intimate relationship with God through the Holy Spirit, He reveals Himself and prophecies about Jesus to spiritually-minded people who desire to maintain fellowship and communion with the Lord and grow in the knowledge and understanding of the Bible.                                                                                                   

References  

  • Martin, W. C. (1964). Layman’s bible encyclopedia with historical references.  Nashville, TN: The Southwestern Company.
  • Theology Website. (n.d.).  Systematic theology study helps: Bibliography. Retrieved from http://www.theologywebsite.com/systheo/bibliology2.shtml.
  • Vine, W.E. (1996). Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
  • Wikipedia. Atheism. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athiesm.
  • Wommack, A. (1995). Life for today study bible and commentary the Romans edition. Andrew Wommack Ministries, Inc.

Ricardo and Dorith Johnson | December 1, 2014

The Revealed Christ

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Scripture reveals the identity of Jesus Christ during the seven periods of His life. A purpose of redemption arises within each from announcements of prophetic fulfillment and select events. Collectively, the events led to Jesus’ death and resurrection for all as well as the witness of the almighty God living among humans. Furthermore, each period’s fulfilled Old Testament prophecies progressively came to fruition with humanity’s redemption in Christ. Those who examine them in light of God’s revelation in Christ along with the distinct events of His life will witness the unfolding of His divine purpose. Using biblical prophecy, this article seeks to reveal the identity, life, and purpose of Jesus through their fulfillment; examine the periods of His life to uncover the spiritual truths behind them; and establish the integrity of God’s Word for the world today.

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Period of Preparation

“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, (23) Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matt 1:22-23 KJV).

The Period of Preparation began with the virgin birth of Christ and ended with His baptism. His baptism signaled God’s public revelation and divine anointing of Jesus as His beloved Son to Israel in the wilderness (Matt 3:16; Mark 1:11; Luke 3:22).

God’s awaited declaration of the Messiah’s arrival pinnacles this 30-year period of events. Matthew introduced Christ as Emmanuel at His birth explaining “God is with us” (Matt 1:23). After John baptized Jesus, God made public from heaven “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:16-17).

Scripture calls God the Father, Emmanuel (God with us), in the person of Christ. Initially, God lived with humans in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Now, He lives in us through the outpouring of His Holy Spirit.  

Chronological Events of the Period   

  • Christ conceived and born of a virgin (Matt 1:18-25)
  • John the Baptist birthed 3 months prior to Jesus’ (Luke 1:57-65)
  • Angels announced Christ’s birth (Luke 2:10-13)
  • King Herod attempted to slay the Messiah (Matt 2:16-18)
  • Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with the Christ child by divine order (Matt 2:13-15)
  • Mary kept all sayings regarding her child in her heart until fulfillment (Luke 2:19,51)
  • Jesus attended the Jewish feasts yearly with His parents (Luke 2:41)
  • Jesus grew up with a love for God’s Word (Luke 2:41-52)
  • Though divine, Jesus was subject to His parents (Luke 2:52)
  • Jesus continually matured in spirit, filled with wisdom and grace upon Him (Luke 2:40)

Period of Obscurity

“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Overlapping with the previous, the Period of Obscurity began with John the Baptist in the wilderness and ended with his death. The period focused on preparation but at a different level with two important truths: conversion and discipleship.

Upon the period’s opening, John the Baptist called the nation of Israel to repentance. His ministry sought to ready the people of Israel for Jehovah’s coming as the Messiah, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). In another event, Jesus, although God in flesh, experienced temptation for 40 days prior to His ministry. He passed through the wilderness temptations, spiritually strong and prepared for ministry. Jesus then sought out His first disciples to whom He revealed Himself through Scripture (1:35-46).

This period also covered Jesus’ first year of ministry launched in Cana of Galilee and highlighted by the many miracles He performed, which manifested His glory (2:11). He arose from obscurity with miracles and teachings unlike others before Him. He declared Himself no ordinary prophet, but more. This period ended when Herod apprehended John the Baptist, making way for Christ’s Galilean ministry the following year.

Chronological Events of the Period 

  • John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God and Lamb of God (John 1:34,36)
  • Satan tempted Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1-13)
  • Jesus revealed Himself to His first disciples using Scripture (John 1:35-51)
  • Jesus performed His first miracle in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11)
  • Jesus cleansed the temple at Jerusalem for the first time (John 2:13-22)
  • Jesus performed many miracles at Jerusalem during the Passover feast (John 2:23-25)
  • Jesus ministered to Nicodemus one night about new birth (John 3:21)
  • Jesus ministered to the woman of Samaria and other Samaritans, revealing Himself to them through the Scriptures (John 4:5-42)
  • Jesus performed His second miracle in Cana healing the nobleman’s son (John 4:46-54)

Period of Popularity   

Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; (13) And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in he borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: (14) That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, (15) The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; (16) The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. (17) From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:12-17).

Jesus’ 2nd year of ministry began in the region of Galilee when He dwelt in Capernaum following John the Baptist’s imprisonment. The Messiah’s Galilean ministry fulfilled prophecy from Isa 9:1-2, namely, the great light shining in the region of Galilee and the surrounding Zabulon, Naphtali, Jordan, and other areas.

Why did the Prophet Isaiah call it a great light? Israel’s Messiah-King had arrived, though born about thirty years earlier: The very Wonderful, Counselor, mighty God, everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). Jesus characterizes the great light. God chose Galilee to reveal Himself and display His power to the nation. The Messiah’s light shined on those who sat in darkness and in the region of the shadow of death. Jehovah God of Israel stood ready to deliver His people from their sinful lifestyles and afflictions.

Jesus healed all manner of afflictions, forgave sin, cast out demons, preached, and taught great sermons until John the Baptist’s death. However, the nation of Israel failed to receive Jesus as Messiah, which resulted in rebuke and judgment for those cities who witnessed the glory of God in Jesus Christ (Matt 11).

Chronological Events of the Period

  • Jesus healed and delivered (Matt 4:21-25) Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to serve with Him in ministry (Luke 5:1-11)
  • Christ taught the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5)
  • Jesus raised the widow’s son in the city of Nain (Luke 7:11-17)
  • Jesus taught Kingdom parables (Matt 18: 23-35; 20:1-16; 21:33-43; 22:1-14; 24:45-51; 25: 1-1-13; 14-30; and Luke 15:3-32)
  • Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Luke 8:40-42, 49-56) 

Period of Intense Opposition

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, (21) And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. (28) And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,” (Luke 4:18, 21, 28).

Although Jesus’ ministry produced mounting popularity throughout and beyond Israel, it also drew a growing opposition of unbelief, uncertainty, and hatred eventually leading to His crucifixion. Jesus’ clash with Jewish tradition along with His messianic and divine claims, became the basis for His eventual rejection.

During Jesus’ 1st year of ministry, He did many miracles at the Passover feast in Jerusalem. Many Galileans there commemorated the feast also. Upon witnessing His miracles, the Galileans believed Him to be the Messiah, and took this testimony with them as they returned home. For this reason, many Galileans sought Him out and experienced Christ for themselves increasing His fame (John 4:45).

Shortly after His start, Jesus visited His hometown of Nazareth. During the synagogue service He declared Himself the Messiah, the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. The whole congregation became enraged, which led them to seek His execution then but to no avail. Though God stood in their midst with confirmation, in ignorance, Jesus’ hometown did not receive Him. While the nation stood in unbelief, those who demonstrated faith saw and experienced His mighty works. This event marked a critical manifestation of messianic rejection early in Jesus’ ministry.

In another instance of opposition, Jesus drew conflict with the Jews at the Passover feast when He zealously drove out those who used God’s house as a means of personal gain. Despite His ministry producing true faith in many Jews concerning His identity, Jesus did not allow them to make Him their King. He came to die for the sins of the world. His time to reign as King awaited future fulfillment (John 2:13-25). The mounting opposition had to continue for humanity’s redemption to occur.

Chronological Events of the Period

  • Jesus made provision for He and His disciples on the Sabbath (Matt 12:1-8)
  • The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub (Matt 12:24)
  • Scribes and Pharisees demanded a sign from Jesus of His messianic claims (Matt 12:38-42)
  • Jesus healed a withered hand (Luke 6:6-11), man with dropsy (14:1-6) and deformed woman on the Sabbath (13:10-17)
  • Jesus claimed to be God; the Jews sought to kill Him (John 10:30-38)

Period of Persecution

“And being let go, they went to their own company, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said unto them. (24) And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: (25)  Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? (26) The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. (27) For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, (28) For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done” (Act 4:23-28).

The prior period escalated to the Period of Persecution (Greek: to pursue intently). It led to His eventual death. Jesus’ teachings clashed with rabbinic and Jewish interpretations of God’s word. Additionally, His miraculous acts continuously confirmed His claim to be the Son of God. So much so, anyone who confessed Him as Messiah was be put to death. The religious order of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, political order, lawyers, and Herodians rejected this obvious truth. Scripture says on occasion they sought to arrest and put Jesus to death. Luke recorded one account when Jesus, as an invited guest in one of the chief Pharisee’s home, healed a man with dropsy on the Sabbath. Using the man’s healing as a teaching tool, Jesus attempted to disclose their erroneous interpretation of the Sabbath but to no avail (Luke 14:1-6).

During His 3rd year of ministry, Jesus experienced continued and increased attempts on His life. These attempts had more to do with claims to be God than Jewish interpretation of Scripture (John 7-12). Without relent, the Jews led by their religious leaders pursued Jesus’ death. Acts 4 and Ps 2 prophetically recorded Israel and the nations (Rome) rising up against Jehovah and His Anointed (Hebrew: Christ). Here, the incarnation of Jehovah God in Christ receives ultimate rejection. But, Ps 2:8 declared the rejected Christ’s resurrection. God ordained Christ’s rejection with a greater purpose than Israel’s reason for killing Him. Using Israel’s hatred for Jesus and their eventual rejection, God made salvation available to everyone through the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Chronological Events of the Period 

  • Peter’s confession (Matt 16:13-17)
  • Jesus healed an impotent man on the Sabbath (John 5:1-20)
  • People divided in their opinions about Jesus (John 7:40-53)
  • Official threats made against any who confessed Jesus as Christ (John 9:17-25)
  • Jesus declared Himself to be the great I Am; the Jews sought to stone Him (John 8:54-59)
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead; the Jews wanted to kill Jesus and Lazarus (John 11)

Passion Week

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (4)Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. (5) But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (6) All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (10) Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand” (Isa 53:3-6, 10). 

The prophetic purpose of Jesus’ coming and life came down to His final week. The preceding periods of His life converged upon this week of Passover, Nisan the 14th (Exod 12:6-15). Scripture, covenants, and dispensations awaited the sacrifice of the Lamb of God to deal with humanity’s sin and usher in a New Covenant era of grace. For over 3 years, many  loved and believed in Jesus, but the nation of Israel as a whole stood in unbelief and indecisiveness over His identity. Jesus continued to teach and perform miracles even through the spectacle of His death, but it produced no change in the hardness of Israel’s heart.

Jesus began this week with a final offer of Himself to Israel as King by riding into Jerusalem upon a donkey and its colt in fulfillment of the prophet Zechariah’s prediction (Zech 9:9). As the multitude who accompanied Him cried “Hosanna to the son of David: blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord,” the citizens of Jerusalem cried out “Who is this?” How did the multitude respond? They said, “This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee” (Matt 21:1-11). The multitude of followers who sang His praise saw Him as no more than a prophet. They beheld an anointed man of God who could be their Messiah but not God. They carried a flawed understanding of the Son of David. They believed Jesus to be their promised Messiah-King but not Jehovah their Lord (Matt 22:41-46). The Pharisees later persuaded many of them to put Jesus to death. Many of Israel’s political leaders believed in Jesus as the Messiah, but did not confess it openly for the Pharisees drove the opposition against Him.

This week further witnessed some of Jesus’ greatest teachings along with the promise of a second coming. He declared great revelations of His deity and silenced His opposition including rebuking the Pharisees (Matt 22:15-33; 23). On the eve of His arrest, He healed Malchus’ ear that Peter severed (24:29-31). Finally, His enemies apprehended Him on the feast day of Passover so God could make Jesus’ soul an offering for sin through death.

The prophet Isaiah wrote Jesus died for the transgression of God’s people (Isa 53:1-11). The prophet further revealed Christ’s death as a substitutionary act for everyone. It ended the need for the sacrifices required by the Law and opened the door for God’s enduring mercy promised to the repentant. His death for sin made it possible to abolish its dominion over humanity. And His final cry from the cross made the outpouring of the Holy Ghost possible and ended the dispensation of the Law.  

Chronological Events of this Period 

  • Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt 21:1-11)
  • Jesus cleansed the temple for the second time (Matt 21:12-17)
  • Jesus cursed of the barren fig tree (Matt 21:18-22)
  • Jesus taught the parable of the two sons (Matt 21:28-32); householder (21:33-46), marriage feast (22:1-14)
  • Jesus silenced His opposition (Matt 22:15-46)
  • Jesus taught against the Pharisees (Matt 23)
  • Jesus instructed the disciples on end times and His second coming (Matt 24-25)
  • Jesus and His disciples ate the last supper together (Matt 26:26-29)
  • Jesus taught and washed feet on the eve of His crucifixion (Matt 13-16)
  • Judas betrayed Christ (Matt 26:14-16)
  • Multitude from the chief priests and elders arrested (Matt 26:47,50; John 18:12) and a crowd comprised of the High Priest, religious leaders, political leaders, Jews, Romans, and Gentiles took part in Jesus Christ’s crucifixion (Matt 26-27; Acts 4:26-28)
  • Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead (Matt 28)

Resurrection Appearances: 40 Days  

“I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes” (Hos 13:14).

This seventh and final period concludes the events of the Passion week, for the prophets not only foretold the death of the Messiah but His resurrection. God declared through the prophet Hosea that He would personally redeem His people from death and destroy it as a continual plague (Hos 13:14). Jehovah made Himself the ransom to abolish death’s reign over humanity. Being the incarnation of Jehovah, Jesus’ death paid the price for everyone’s rebellion against God. Isaiah made another prediction regarding Christ’s resurrection. He initially stated His soul, in death, would be an offering for sin, but the Messiah Himself shall prolong His days (Isa 53:10). Here, the prophet revealed the Messiah will raise Himself from the dead. This gives a decisive testimony to Jesus being both God and man in one person, a witness acknowledged by Thomas, 8 days following His resurrection (John 20:28).

The Jews in unbelief challenged Christ to deliver Himself from the cross if they were to believe, but for the time it went unanswered. In His death, Jesus left them with three undeniable signs. These events gave witness against their unbelief in Jesus as the Messiah, established the fact of His resurrection, and laid a powerful foundation for the proclamation of the Gospel.

With the first sign, Matthew recorded a great earthquake occurring when Jesus died. Divinely powerful and selective, it opened the graves of many saints of the Old Testament. They arose from death immediately after Jesus and showed themselves alive to the people of Jerusalem for the duration of the 40 days following His resurrection (Matt 27:50-53).

Upon the next sign, Scripture records the supernatural tearing of a heavy veil, 60 feet long and 30 inches wide, covering the entrance to the most holy place of the temple immediately following Jesus’ death (Matt 27:51). Expounded later by the epistle to the Hebrews, this indicated the divine termination of the temple system given by Moses. Men and women from all nations now can access the presence of God by faith in who Jesus is and His shed blood (Heb 10:19-22).

The final sign reverberated throughout the Roman empire. Angels appeared early that morning on the first day of the week and rolled away the stone to the empty tomb. Though the Roman authorities attempted to suppress it, a powerful testimony remained before them (Matt 28:1-4, 11-12). Jesus died under Roman power, but this angelic visitation to remove the stone guarded by soldiers demonstrated His resurrection and the superiority of His power to Rome.

During the 40 days Jesus gave personal witness of His resurrection to His followers on divers occasions. He left signs to Israel, but gave proofs along with scriptural exposition to His disciples. The latter proofs with exposition prepared His disciples to experience the outpouring of the Spirit, birth of His church, and proclamation of the Gospel. This period ended with Christ’s triumphant ascension to heaven. He took with Him resurrected saints and the spirits of those who did not rise, for His death was the price of their redemption. Furthermore, His ascension gave the promise of His return. His Church continues to proclaim His Word until then.

In summary, this period concludes the prophetic fulfillment concerning the life of Jesus Christ. It confirmed His resurrection with many infallible proofs and gave full scriptural exposition for all the events of His life. It further gave promise of the baptism of the Holy Ghost and the Lord’s return. Christ’s resurrection ultimately fulfilled those things spoken by the prophets. Prior to His departure, Jesus opened His disciples’ understanding to see these things in Scripture revealing His identity and purpose for coming  (Luke 24:45).

Chronological Events of the Period  

  • Women visited the empty tomb (Matt 28:1-10; Mark:16:1-8; Luke 24:1-11)
  • Peter and John saw the empty tomb (Luke 24:12; John 20:1-10)
  • Guard reported on the resurrection events to the Jewish chief priests (Matt 28:11-12)
  • Jesus’ appeared to Mary Magdalene (Mark 28:9-10; John 20:11-18); the other women (Matt 28:9-10); two disciples on the way to Emmaus (Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35); Simon Peter (Luke 24:33-35; 1 Cor 15:5); disciples without Thomas (Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25); Thomas and the disciples (John 20:26-31; 1 Cor 15:5); seven disciples on the Sea of Galilee (John 21); five hundred in Galilee (Matt 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; 1 Cor 15:6); and James, the brother of Jesus (1 Cor 15:7)
  • Jesus appeared to the disciples with another commission (Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8)
  • Jesus made His last appearance on Olivet and ascended into heaven (Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-12)     

Conclusion

Collectively, these seven periods reveal the essential importance of prophecy. They prophetically reveal God’s identity and purpose in Christ, His sovereign rule over creation, His people’s lives, and the integrity of His Word. Prophecies remain to be fulfilled, but they pertain to Christ’s second coming. Until then the Lord seeks to fulfill the purpose for which He died and rose, the salvation of humankind.

Pastor Daryl Cox, August 8, 2016

Image from Pequea Church

 

 

Thinking About Theology

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How does theology connect to the Bible? Theology relates to the study of God originating from two Greek words, theos and logos. Theos translates from Greek as God, and logos as study. One can learn more about theology by examining its Latin derivation. Regarding the derivative McMahan explained “Latin textbooks use the word theologia to refer to the “knowledge of God and what God reveals to man about Himself and the world in which He lives” (1998, ¶ 3).

 Joshua Harris suggested, “Theology shapes the way we think and live” (2010). His point lends well to thinking about theology. But, what constitutes theology? Theology possesses three qualities: it brings understanding about God; provides a body of reference for study; and serves as a framework for life experiences (See Figure 1). Together, these three qualities create a platform upon which believers can unlock truth about the Gospel. Take a closer look at the qualities to learn how theology’s nature informs one’s thinking.

Figure 1. Three Qualities of Christian Theology

Theology Chart

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2013

Language That Communicates Who God Is

Theology forms a language of sorts, a dialect associated with a unique subset of culture. Cultures such as academic discipline, corporate business, and people depend on language as a means of expression to cross communicate. Further, people use language as a way to make sense of their inner thoughts and world around them.

The theology of God as a language communicates Christian tenets of faith. It reveals God’s identity and attributes in one Bible of two testaments. In the richness of its scriptural language, one finds foretold prophecy of the Messiah in the Old Testament and its fulfillment through Jesus Christ in the New. The Bible also progressively reveals Who God is with His ultimate and highest name as Jesus in relation to a believer’s own character. Upon study of the Bible, the Holy Spirit teaches through His inspired Word how to lead a sanctified life.

Theology Linked to Reflection

So then, what is theological reflection? With theological reflection, the believer seeks God’s presence through Scripture: discipleship in spiritual growth and formation, comfort from challenges, direction with daily choices or actions, clarity in purpose, and solutions in ministry. Theological reflection requires formulating thoughts based on conception of a particular action, testing against God’s Word, revision or validation of thought, support based on Scripture, and application.

One can view theological reflection as a process that creates faith connections. In the absence of faith connection, one traverses a spiritual journey without a compass. Life experiences from the Christian call, as Debeer and O’Connell stated, “invite reflection” (2002, p.1). Wearing the mind of Christ, His followers view and translate the world around them from their individual and collective faith connections. Abigail Johnson posed questions that take the believer deeper into reflection. She (2006) wrote,

Theological reflection is simply wondering about God’s activity in our lives. Where is God present? What is God calling us to do? By taking time to ask questions about what happens to us—seeing our experiences through the lens of faith—we become clearer about our connection to God. We all ask questions about relationships, our work, our children, our government, and our situation in life. We all reflect, wonder, analyze, think, assess, and discuss with friends as ways of trying to understand our life. Theological reflection simply refocuses all that thinking to encourage a stronger sense of relationship with God, asking, “Where does God fit into the picture?”

Body of Reference for Study

The Bible is God’s inerrant, authoritative Word. God speaks to believers, individually and communally, through His Word. Also, by means of the Bible, He calls them to come close and, by faith, experience the fullness of Christ Jesus in their hearts. “Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong” (Eph 3:17-19 NLT). A theology expounds on God’s redemptive love for His beloved and His purpose for their lives. One might view theology in terms of the art form of faithful persuasion. Reflection pushes an individual deeper into vertical fellowship with God by prayer and meditation on His Word, as well as strengthens the Body with horizontal edification through growth from collective study and application in spiritual formation. It enhances personal spiritual maturity enabling the Body to better view the world with a developed hermeneutical filter and consistent biblical worldview. And to leaders, it provides a foundation to guide church growth and renewal practices.

Writing a Theology

Writing a theology initially may appear intimidating to a student of the Word. However, the following tips based on my own experiences should ease the writer into the theological reflection process.

  1. Pray first for direction, knowledge, and wisdom. Stay closely connected to God and let Him guide you. Without the Holy Spirit leading the process, writing may depend on one’s own intellect. Start early. Give God time to reveal direction to you.
  2. Before researching a topic, think about its scope of research, intended audience, and presentation format. Seek to produce a narrow body of knowledge reflecting depth and thorough coverage, rather than broad spectrum and surface information.
  3. Write a clear research question to avoid wandering off track and losing time. Even with an assigned topic, the writer needs a research question to maintain focus.
  4. Organize the content. Some people follow a regimented outline, while others shape content during the writing process. Yet for a select group, they work off a mental image.
  5. Carefully gather your scriptures and fully exegete their text. This means moving beyond a simple word study and concordance definition to using various hermeneutical principles.
  6. Look at examples of theologies from other authors. Review their clarity of presentation, structure, and dissemination of information. Most importantly ask the question, Does the content found itself on biblical truth?
  7. Don’t forget to add your citations as you go along. If you think you’ll remember, you’re mistaken.
  8. Last, but most critical, connect reflections to calling and faith. A theology does not present a mere summary, rather a cohesive whole that integrates orthodoxy (right doctrine and study), orthopathy (right emotions and thinking), and orthopraxy (right practice with an end in sight).

Thinking About Theology

Thoughtful theology should make one hungry to learn about God’s Word, desirous to probe it, and eager to apply it in life. Its importance affects the very heart of God’s mission for the sent Church, serving as His hands and feet among the lost and hurting in a fallen world. Van Rheenan placed high value on thinking about theology in missional praxis. His (2015) missional helix begins with theological reflection “examining theologies which focus and form our perspectives of culture and the practice of ministry…” In the absence of theological reflection, the helix spiral with its other elements of cultural analysis, historical perspective, and strategy formation stand incomplete in their analytical interrelationship. So too, must the Body of Christ continually embed reflection into daily life and integrate it into everyday ministry– always seeking application of biblical truth as salt and light.

References

  • Harris, J. (2010). Dug down deep: Unearthing what I believe and why it matters. Colorado, CO: Multnomah Books.
  • Johnson, A. (2006, August). Theologic Reflection in Small Groups. Alban Institute, Alban Weekly. August 14, 2006, No. 108.
  • MacMahon, M. (1998). The evangelical post-modern church. Retrieved from http://www.apuritansmind.com/historical-theology/the-evangelical-post-modern-church-by-dr-c-matthew-McMahon/
  • O’Connell-Killen, P. & De Beer, J. (2002). The art of theological reflection. New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing.
  • Van Rheenen, G. (2015, August). The missional helix: An overview. Retrieved from http://www.missiology.org/the-missional-helix-an-overview/.
  • Yaghjian, L. Writing theology well: A rhetoric for theological and biblical writers. New York, NY: Continuum.

The Beatitudes: A Servant’s Character in Christ

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Matthew wrote his gospel from a Jewish perspective addressing Jewish Christians during a time of great conflict over their identity after the second temple destruction. While they accepted Jesus as the Messiah, they still lived within the Jewish community and followed its traditions though different from Israel. The gospel author sought to reframe their new identity within the Christ community aligned to the nature and character of Jesus, King of Israel. This new identity also pertains to contemporary Christians. As Card wrote for this purpose “Jesus, tell me who you are, so I know who I am” (2013, Chapter 1, Section 2, para 8). Since Christ Himself embodied each trait, so too must His servants reflect His identity through their nature as salt of the earth and light to the world. The Beatitudes characterize servant citizenship in the Kingdom of heaven in their fellowship with God (vertical relationship) and all people (horizontal relationship) they encounter comprising their ideal heart character. To lead as servants of the Lord, believers in Christ then must surrender their former citizenship and take on the nature of the new with the eight Beatitude traits. Thus, what Kingdom characteristics should its members reflect for the ideal heart character as servants?

Beatitudes.Red.White

Kingdom Citizenship: Ideal Heart Character

The Beatitudes describe the ideal heart character for every citizen in the Kingdom of heaven. The heart character is critical to Christian character. While “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7c). The Lord  judges and values what lies on the inside, not the outside. Jesus taught eight beatitudes (5:3-10) as part of His Sermon on the Mount with the ninth explaining the one prior to it (vv. 10-11): Poor in spirit  (v. 3); mourners  (v. 4); meek (v. 5); hungry (v. 6); merciful (v. 7); pure (v. 8); peacemakers (v. 9); and persecuted (v. 10). Each beatitude functions in an if…then format based on the Old Testament (Ps 1:1) and Greek literary forms (Keener, p. 165). In Matt 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you” (KJV). Thus, if believers seek His Kingdom and righteous first, then they receive His spiritual provisions. Thus, a blessing accompanies each beatitude Jesus pronounced for people who display it.

The biblical definition of the blessed (Greek: makários) does not connect to any worldly means or sense rather to God’s favor and salvation from His approval (Matt 5:3 AMP). In other words, the blessed receive God’s provisions (favor) and grace (benefits) because they obeyed the “Lord’s inbirthings of faith” (Strong, 2015). Jesus taught a new type of blessing, which ran contrary to ancient Middle Eastern culture. Society in His day believed only the elite, wealthy, and powerful–those whose worldly riches and power raised them above the lower class–gained makários. Jesus proposed a new standard for living with blessings only found in His Kingdom. Consider this story to understand Beatitude blessings. A rabbi told his pupil, “‘In olden days there were men who saw the face of God.His student asked, ‘Why don’t they any more?’ The rabbi replied, ‘Because, nowadays no one stoops so low.'” (Stoffregen, n.d.). God gives His blessings to those who stoop low to seek Him, as opposed to those who desire gain through their own might and wealth. In Rom 12:2, Scripture directs believers not to be “conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. With a renewed mind and in-birthings of faith, the Holy Spirit transforms the believer’s character to live out Kingdom actions: poor in spirit, mourners, meek, hungry and thirsty after righteousness, merciful, poor, peacemaker, and persecuted.

Jesus conveyed the Beatitudes in passive grammatical construction, a Semitic-fashioned Greek tense, indicating a divinely completed action. Only God delivers these blessings as rewards in the new heaven. He gave nine “Blessed are” promises (Matt 5:3a-11a) originating from God through Christ as Kingdom in cause and effect terms. For every mentioned action (vv. 3-11) a disciple of Christ takes, God fulfills it with an eschatological promise. Jesus bookended the beatitudes in verses three and ten with the overarching now promise (present passive tense) of “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (NIV)–as Keener called them, kingdom-time blessings (Keener, p. 165). Then, He followed the Beatitudes in verses four through nine with the specific then promises (future passive tense): “they will be comforted” (5:4 NIV); “they will inherit the earth” (5:5); “they will be filled” (5:6); “they will be mercied” (5:7); “they will see God” (5:8); and “they will be called sons of God” (5:9).

The Beatitudes relate to relationship within the fellowship of believers, directly linking to God’s Kingdom. They build upon each other: vertically in a relationship between the disciples and their Master Jesus–poor in spirit to mourner to meek to hungry and thirsty (vv. 3-6)–and horizontally between the disciples and other people–merciful to pure to peacemaker to persecuted (vv. 7-10). The virtue of humility undergirds the Beatitudes.

Poor

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3 KJV). When first thinking about the meaning of the poor, a lack of material goods comes to mind. Likewise, poor in spirit reflects an emptying out of oneself for a total dependency on God. At the most fundamental level, Jesus became poor to save humankind from sin. Once people accept Him as Lord and Savior, the richness of the kingdom of heaven blesses them with an inner condition resulting from the work of God. As the opposite of a proud or haughty spirit (PBC, p. 1884), humbling oneself before God requires dependency on Him (v. 3b). A person poor in spirit impoverishes oneself to gain the riches of spiritual wealth and prosperity that comes from God’s sustenance. Inward spiritual humility and a circumcised heart shapes an outward impoverished state. The external display of piety from rituals does not produce an impoverished demeanor (Lev 26:41-42). Through an impoverished state believers have the kingdom of heaven, the dwelling place of the saved steeped in the richness of grace.

Greatness in leadership results from relying on God and living out His ways in their entirety for blessings of spiritual prosperity. This does not mean that the road will come easy. God will push a leader to the limits while journeying it, but won’t let one’s clothes wear out or feet blister. He will make a leader go hungry, only to feed the leader with the Word (Deut 8:2-7).

Mourners

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (Matt 5:4). Mourners bear spiritual sadness. They recognize themselves as weak (Ps 6:2). Those who mourn do so over their own sin and losses as well as the world’s wickedness and suffering. Jesus blesses them with His comfort over their confession of weakness in sin. Jesus, the fulfilled Messiah, changes the grieving state of a mourner through His atonement of our sin from beauty instead of ashes, oil of joy instead of mourning, garment of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit (Isa 61:3). He turns mourners into “trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified” for uprightness, justice, and right standing (v. 61:3b; cf. 2 Cor 7:10). Mourners also grieve over what grieves God. When they mourn for the sins of the lost, God comforts them with His compassion.

Meek

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth: (Matt 5:5). The meek seek the Lord (Ps 22:6; 69:32) and live out His will (Matt 26:39). The meek bondservant shows gentleness and humility (Gal 5:22) giving gentle correction for the truth of Scripture and patience when wronged (2 Tim 2:25). The Greeks used the word meek, praus, to describe “a wild animal who had been tamed and made gentle” (Forest, 1999, p. 49). To the Jews, a meek (Hebrew: anaw) person described one aligned in relationship with God, welcoming obedience to the Law. The meek make choices and exercise power from a divine rather than worldly reference point. Since God’s Spirit rules their heart, they have the inner strength to obey Him.

When a person inherits something, it indicates a handing down of a valued belonging. Jesus promised the meek would inherit the earth. God “adorns the humble with victory” (Isa 29:19). The humble (or meek) have God’s adornment of victory. This beatitude demonstrates a victory of both physical and spiritual promise of the Kingdom. Believers have spiritual citizenship in the Kingdom of heaven now and yet to come. Thus, the meek not only inherit the blessings of heaven, but also share in the Kingdom of God upon earth. The author of Ps 37:11 confirms this same, and expands upon the meek by noting they delight themselves in peace: “But the meek [in the end] shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

Hungry and Thirsty

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled” (Matt 5:6). Those who hunger for God, long for Him in a spiritual sense. In Ps 42:1, the psalmist compares the deer panting for the water brooks to the soul panting after the living God (Ps 42:1-2). As a deer searched for water when thirsting in dry places, needing refreshment, or wanting shelter from danger to meet its basic need, so too the hungry look to God (Gill, 1746-63). To the hungry comes sustenance from the Word of the Lord–the Gospel of salvation (Amos 8:12; Luke 1:53). Those who feel full, suggests origination from their self-sufficiency, and they will hunger (Luke 6:25). Jesus satisfies both hunger and thirst as the Bread of Life. People who go to Him will never hunger, and believe in Him will never thirst (John 6:35). Through this bread, His flesh, He gave life to the world (John 6:51). The hungry who taste of His bread, live forever. Jesus invited the thirsty to come to Him and drink: “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38).

Merciful

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matt 5:7). The Hebrew word for mercy, khesed, provides a first glimpse of the Beatitudes’ intent. It means tenderheartedness, kindness, graciousness, loving kindness, and self-giving unconditional love. It describes God’s defining attribute in the Old Testament (Exod 20:6; Deut 5:10; Num 14:18-19; Ps 25:10) and asks for His help (Ps 51:1). In the case of the beatitude mercy (Greek: eleos), the action presents itself in a horizontal relationship showing one who sighs, groans, moans, sobs, and laments for others conditions. Servants also will pardon them, just as Christ pardons those who seek His mercy: “And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matt 6:12). Jesus highlighted its importance in the parable of the Good Samaritan. When Christ asked, “Which of the three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who was beaten by robbers,” the man answered, “The one who showed mercy on him.” Jesus responded to him, “Go and do the same” (Luke 10:29-37). In Jas 3:17, Scripture illustrates the merciful show compassion. Jesus will show mercy to those who showed mercy to the least for Him (Matt 25:40) in a reciprocal action. He called us to become people living the mercy of God, to love others without judgment, and forgive without bounds. In the final judgment of the nations, Jesus stressed six merciful actions that the faithful servant must accomplish for a blessed life: To minister by feeding the hungry; giving drink to the thirsty; welcoming the stranger; clothing the naked; visiting the sick and imprisoned. Believers live according to the one living God, rich in grace and who by grace “quickened us to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6-7).

Pure

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt 5:8). The pure walk with biblical integrity and obedience to truth, abstaining from passions of the flesh (1 Pet 1:22; 2:11). They seek God for a steadfast spirit (Ps 24:4; 51:10) because they depend on Him in His righteousness. God calls His children to righteousness (or holiness) leading to a pure heart (Prov 22:11; Matt 5:8). “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14b KJV). The children of God must draw continually near to Him at the throne of His grace since sin runs in opposition to a pure heart. “Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded” (Jas 4:8).

To the pure, the Lord will give righteousness from His salvation through Jesus. “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7b NIV). In Ps 24:3, David posed the questions, “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place?”(KJV). Then, scripture in Matt 5:8 answered these questions with the response the pure will see God. The two questions from Ps 24:3 relate to those who will have the qualifications for fellowship with the fulfilled Messiah in His holy place as He reigns on His hill at the spiritual Mount Zion, “the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem” (literally, Zion is Jerusalem in this context; cf. Heb 12:22; Rev 14:1; Segraves, 2007).

Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matt 5:9). The peacemaker (Greek: eirénopoios), an adjective descriptor, occurs once in the New Testament. It means “pacifist, loving peace” (Thayer, 2009, p. 188). To view eiréopoios from a peace-loving standpoint elicits a topical dimension void of its spiritual significance. Anyone can serve as a peacemaker, but not every peacemaker can call oneself a son of God. So, what precondition does God require of peacemakers so “they will be called sons of God” (5:9b)? Christian peacemakers conform to God’s will in thought and deed through His righteousness. He imparts heavenly wisdom–pure and undefiled–to the sanctified. In turn, His Spirit’s purity of wisdom inwardly manifests the outward nature of peace. Heavenly wisdom does not exhibit “jealousy (envy), contention (rivalry and selfish ambition), confusion (unrest, disharmony, rebellion) or evil and vile practices (Jas 3:16 AMP). Internally, peacemakers think on whatsoever holds true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praise so that the God of peace guards their heart and mind (Phil 4:8 AMP). Externally, they endeavor to keep unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3 KJV).

“When believers in Christ submit to His Spirit’s leading for peace with themselves and others, peacemaking actions produce a harvest of righteousness namely, “concord, agreement, and harmony between individuals, with undisturbedness, in a peaceful mind free from fears and agitating passions and moral conflicts” (5:18b). God is peace (Phil 4:7). The peace of God through Christ Jesus guards believers’ hearts and minds (Col 3:15) against earthly bitter, envying, and strife (Jas 3:14). When believers enter and live in the peace of Christ as peacemakers (Eph 4:7c) “they will be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9b NIV).

Persecuted

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:10). The structure of the Beatitudes swings full circle in this verse to “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (vv. 3; 10), both promises. Jesus emphasized the persecuted must rejoice highlighting expanded linkage with the continuity of the prophets (vv.11-12). Rather than praise from the world for the sake of His righteousness, believers should expect persecution in the same manner as Jesus (John 15:20). The opposition pursued Him with hatred. Luke 6:22 described the Pharisees reviling Jesus to the point of being “filled with madness” (or rage) as they conspired of what they might do to Him (KJV). In reference to signs of the end (v. 10), Jesus told His disciples people will seize (12), betray (16), and kill some of them for their association with His name.

Despite tribulation, tried faith (Jas 1:2-5), and suffering , the persecuted should stand like conquerors and testify about Him (14). As God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, Christ followers must reflect the light of the progressively revealed God in flesh for His glory and majesty (2 Cor 4:6). The power of God from the indwelt Comforter will bear witness of Himself (John 15:27 AMP). Their reward is victory from Him who loved us. Though people will revile and passionately despise the people of God for their stance as servants in the Kingdom,

neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:37 KJV).

The love of God in Christ Jesus always remains in His beloved.

Servants of the Lord should view testings of faith from persecution as building of Christian endurance, which leads to spiritual maturity and inner peace. “Let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing” (Jas 1:4 AMP).

The lesser becomes greater in Christ Jesus with rewards those in power cannot attain on their own. In short, the persecuted servants gain much from Kingdom of heaven benefits indwelt during their earthly walk and carried over into eternity. The blessings provide Jesus’ presence, strength, and perfection creating character not found in this world and receiving a crown of glory in heaven.

New Citizenship: For Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:” (Matt 5:1 KJV). Before taking on citizenship in the Kingdom of heaven, servants must surrender their worldly passport by abandoning their former identity and yielding to the new. Christian discipleship requires citizenship in a new kingdom–life in the Kingdom of heaven. Disciples must commit their hearts to God’s Kingdom of heaven. The question remains, can you abandon your old ways and follow Him for a beatitudes nature?

References

  • Beale, G. K. & Carson, D. A. (Eds.). (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Bible Hub. (2015). Pneuma. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/greek/4487.htm
  • Card, M. (2013). Matthew: The Gospel of identity. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Books.
  • Evans, C. Matthew. (2012). New Cambridge Bible commentary. Cambridge, MA: New Cambridge Bible Commentary.
  • Harrington, D. (2007). Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Matthew. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
  • Keener, C. (1999). A commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Cambridge, MA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Segraves, D. (2007). The Messiah in the Psalms. Hazelwood, MO: WA Press.
  • Thayer, J. (2009). Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
  • Turner, D. (2012). Matthew: Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Jan Paron, PhD | October 27, 2015
Professor of Urban Ministerial Leadership
All Nations Leadership Institute

The Ascension of Jesus Christ: Forty Days

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For 40 days following His crucifixion, Jesus appeared to His followers alive from the dead. While they could not come to grips with His recent and senseless death, He revealed Himself alive beginning an exclusive ministry lasting until His ascension to heaven. On more than one occasion, He confirmed His resurrection with infallible proofs demonstrating its reality and power (Acts 1:3 KJV). Jesus moved His followers from the spectacle of His death to a life of power and ministry with confirmation, revelation, instruction, and commission. His followers’ post-resurrection experiences with Him prepared them for His departure, outpouring of the Holy Ghost, formation of His church, and proclamation of the Gospel (1:8). Prior to His ascension, Jesus addressed issues prohibiting the apostles outreach with the Gospel: their abandonment of Him on the eve of His death, fear of a subsequent execution at the hands of the Jews, significance of His death, and His death’s relationship to the Old Testament. Christ transformed His followers into a powerful group of witnesses who would turn this world upside down. By transforming His followers, Jesus exemplifies true ministry through life-changing encounters that give revelation of His identity and will. It provides a new place and purpose in His Kingdom for all who come to Him.

(Jan Paron, ©2015)

Confirmation 

Jesus eliminated the hopelessness and fears of His followers by imparting peace to them, confirming His resurrection, reaffirming their apostolic calling, and speaking to things of the Kingdom of God  (John 20:19; Acts 1.3). Their fears of an impending execution vanished. Not only His apostles, but family, and many friends and associates who witnessed His crucifixion, beheld Him alive throughout this period (1 Cor 15:1-8). Additionally, He explained how His death and resurrection changed the relationship dynamic between God’s Kingdom and humanity. Scripture proclaims two phases of God’s kingdom: one in which Christ rules all earth’s nations in resurrection glory (messianic; Rev 11:15) and another wherein He redeems humanity from sin and death through His shed blood, restoring them to a new relationship with God by rebirth (redemptive; Luke 24:46; John 3:5; Col 1:12-14).

Jesus acknowledged this new covenant relationship to Mary Magdalene just as He was about to ascend to the Father’s presence with His blood. This ascension occurred prior to His first appearing to the disciples (John 20:17). He was ascending to their God and Father to obtain humanity’s eternal redemption as sons (20:27) [1]. God in Christ now becomes a believer’s God and Father by new birth. God making Himself in the likeness of men reveals the significance of this ascension (John 1:14; 2 Cor 5:19). As Scripture’s central truth, God in Christ unites its more advanced truths revealing salvation’s manifold dimensions. This was not His ascension to God’s right hand, but His human priestly entrance into God’s presence with His shed blood to remove sin and obtain redemptive rights to everyone for whom He died (Heb 1:3-4; 9:11-12). As God  is omnipresent [2] both in heaven and manifest (incarnate) in Christ, Jesus with His own blood sprinkles God’s throne to purge humanity’s sin from His presence making it a throne of grace for all (Heb 4:16; 1 Pet 1:2). Based on humanity’s response to the Gospel, this becomes a life application. Furthermore, God’s omnipresent Spirit, both in Christ and upon heaven’s throne, received His blood sacrifice for sin allowing Jesus to claim everyone as children by His Spirit (Rom 8:9; Heb 2:10-15). From the union of God and Christ (man) by incarnation [3], Jesus through Scripture now calls all believers both His children and brethren [4].

Revelation

Next, Scripture says Jesus presented His followers with infallible proofs–undeniable and unmistakable signs. These proofs removed all doubts Jesus still was dead. Initially, the disciples did not accept the testimonies of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary mother of James the less, Salome, Cleopas, and one other. The disciples’ mistaken disbelief in His resurrection changed when they beheld Him resurrected. Eight days following His initial appearing to His disciples, Jesus returned and allowed Thomas to touch and examine His physical body. With renewed faith, he called Jesus Lord and God (John 20:27-28). Jesus’ resurrection established His earlier claims to be the Son of God with certainty, also it served as the confession and foundation of His church (Rom 1:3-4). Jesus affirmed Thomas’ faith, because he just as the other disciples, saw Jesus. Those who believe Scripture’s witness will receive His blessing–eternal life by His indwelling Holy Spirit. By resurrection, Jesus conclusively showed He was Lord and God of all abolishing sin and death’s power over humanity thereby demonstrating His ability to forgive and deliver all from every bondage of sin and its consequences. His resurrection alone proves the superiority of His Gospel preached by the apostles.

Examination and Rededication

Then, Jesus appeared again to the disciples and commissioned them to preach. This time He gave them the key to fulfill His commission–follow Him. Christ transforms those who follow Him so they can mentor others in discipleship (John 21:1-19). Christ’s calling and way of life brings maturity and fulfillment of God’s purpose to His followers lives. It teaches them to relate to God and man properly.

 Prior to starting His Galilean ministry, Christ told Peter and His brother Andrew to “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matt. 4:19). For three and a half years they saw Christ’s miracles, heard His teachings, received apostolic appointment, and on private occasions witnessed signs above those seen by the populace. On this post-resurrection occasion, as Peter and seven other disciples fished into the morning, Jesus standing upon the shore questions their expedition’s result. Unaware to Whom they were speaking they answer Him no. Jesus instructs them to cast their net on the other side leading to a great catch. At this moment, they recognize the stranger as Jesus. He then questions Peter’s loyalty during a fellowship breakfast at the shore, “Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?” (John 21:15-19).  Peter considered each question in light of his abandonment and three denials on the night of His arrest. Answering with affirmation, he qualified each response saying “Lord thou knowest that I love thee.” Grief stricken, Peter responded a third time “Lord thou knowest all things.” Considering his love for Christ and knowing Jesus was no longer dead, Peter’s heart filled with grief (Greek: sadness). Peter then understood Christ’s love for him, personal failure and responsibility to feed Christ’s people.

In wake of failure, believers must consider their love for Christ, which leads to rededication of their lives to Him. Repentance and confession result in a cleansed spirit and refreshed walk with God. His calling exceeds human failures, and His death ensures its fulfillment. Jesus’ attitude towards Peter reaffirms His preeminent calling over His followers lives and fruitlessness of life without Him. Peter and his colleagues received a renewed purpose with Christ. Only this time, He was going to live and work in them by His Spirit. With knowledge and understanding, a church’s ministry leads its converts to maturity and closer fellowship with Christ. True ministry proclaims and expounds God’s Word to all producing mature believers who will impact this world for Him.

Salvation

Remembering His love for Jesus allowed Peter and the other disciples to move beyond their failings in Gethsemane to walk with Christ. His death was the answer for their failure, and His resurrection changed their future. Christ’s blood removes all humanity’s sin upon repentance through water baptism in Jesus name. So, what constitutes true ministry? First, true ministry leads its recipients to receive salvation (Acts 2:38). Repentance results in receiving the Holy Ghost and transformation. When filled and renewed by the Holy Ghost, believers will carry out God’s will with dedication (2 Cor 5:17-21). Second, ministry reminds believers of their new identity in Christ along with their purpose and responsibility to fulfill it. Believers must ever be mindful of this privilege. Being filled with the Spirit establishes a new covenant relationship with God allowing Him to will and do of His good pleasure through them (Phil 2:13). Third, God working in His people to fulfill His goodness towards humanity exemplifies ministry. His heart seeks to reach the lost through believers. Those who make themselves available to God will find themselves used by God.

Remembrance

Finally, Jesus brought His disciples to a place of examination, reconsideration, and remembrance to prepare them for ministry ahead. His question, “lovest thou me?” calls for self-examination for if His followers love Him, then repentance and rededication likely will follow. Peter knew he loved Jesus. He only needed reminder and redirection. Following the disciples’ baptism with the Spirit, they changed their world for Christ. Do you love Jesus? When believers make the choice of repentance and recommitment, they can live for God with power and dedication.

Closing

A transforming encounter with Jesus Christ births a new relationship with God and gives a new direction for life with dedication. Christ’s filled His 40-day ministry to His disciples with signs, instruction, and commission preparing them to preach the gospel. These signs were of a different nature. They were acts beyond healing and deliverance that established His resurrection and identity. As followers of Christ, they received experiences and teachings with Him beyond what the multitudes experienced. Discipleship blessings enrich our relationship with God while multitude blessings meet needs. While physical blessings are great, seeking and knowing Jesus brings blessedness and purpose. When the disciples renewed their faith in Him, Jesus strengthened them in knowing He was Christ, the Almighty God in flesh. This essential knowledge flowed throughout apostolic teaching and preaching. It made His crucifixion along with its disgrace glorious and powerful. Today, Christ’s death and resurrection stands as God’s ability to save to all who believe His message of salvation. New Testament ministry becomes effective by its proclamation and worship of Jesus Christ. Using New Testament ministry, God transitions both His people and the lost from life shaking events to Christ changing moments and dedication.

Pastor Daryl Cox | October 8, 2015
Professor of Theology
All Nations Leadership Institute

Endnotes

[1] On the Jewish feast day of atonement, following the death of the chosen goat, the high priest entered the holy of holies sprinkling the mercy-seat with its blood renewing the relationship between Jehovah and Israel. During this time, no one ministered in the tabernacle. If someone interrupted or touched the high priest, it rendered his sacrifice ineffective. This explains Christ’s words to Mary in not touching him (Lev 16:17).

[2] Omnipresent indicates God’s ability to be present everywhere at once as a result of His spiritual nature (1 Kgs 8:27; Ps 139:7-8; Jer 23:24).

[3] The Incarnation explains the act whereby God assumed human form as Jesus Christ(John 1:14; Phil 2:6-9).

[4] Christ’s death was a redemptive intercession for everyone. It became active when He entered God’s presence and purged sin with His own blood to remit sin at baptism and the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. This act continues as intercession for both saints and sinners today (Heb 7:25).

References

  • Bernard, D. (1984). New birth. Florissant, MO: Word Aflame Press.
  • Bernard, D. (1983). Oneness of God. Florissant, MO: Word Aflame Press.
  • Kenyon, E. W. (1999) Bible in light of our redemption. Lynnwood, WA: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society.
  • Kenyon, E. W. (1998). From the cross to the throne. Lynnwood, WA: Kenyon’s Gospel Publishing Society.

Daryl Cox
All Nations Leadership Institute
October 8, 2015

If Any Man Will Come After Me

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“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt 16:24 KJV).

Jan Paron|November 27, 2014

What does it mean to come after Jesus? Jesus’ identity needs uncovering before answering this question. In Matt 16, Jesus asked His disciples “Whom do men say that the Son of man am?” (16:13). His disciples gave various responses that others said, but none correct. So, Jesus asked the question again, “But whom say ye that I am?” (v. 15). Only Peter recognized Jesus’ true character and nature as “the Christ, Son of the living God” (v. 16b). The Christ reveals a title for God’s end-time purpose that Jesus will fulfill as the One who leads His people to final victory and judgment of the wicked (Apostolic Study Bible Commentary, 2014). Son of the living God describes Jesus’ nature or character. While a virgin birthed Jesus during the time of the law, God’s Spirit begat Him (Matt 1:18, 20; Luke 13:5; Gal 4:4; cf. Ps 2:7; Heb 1:5). Jesus was fully human and fully divine–Equal to God in His nature, character, and likeness as the image of the invisible God (Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; 2:9). Thus, Jesus is God Himself manifested in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16). Because God embodied Himself in Jesus, the believer has access to grace of salvation.

A Christ follower has to do one’s part in fellowship with Jesus, the Christ, Son of the living God. To come after Him (Matt 16:34), means to follow in the most committed sense as His disciple (Thayer, 2009). A person has to “deny himself” (v. 34b) and leave any worldly interests behind. Taking up the cross requires self-sacrifice, selflessness, and suffering for His sake. It calls for raising Jesus above all else. The beauty of self-denial in taking up the cross comes with eternal life and future reward of the Son of Man’s return in His glory (Matt 16:25, 27).

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2014

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2014

References
  • Bernard, D. (1994). The oneness view of Jesus Christ. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.
  • Thayer, J. (1999). Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publisher.

Can You Come Unto Jesus?

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,” (Matt 5:1-2 KJV).

Jan Paron|November 16, 2014

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2014

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2014

Matthew in his gospel vividly describes the events leading to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.–Jesus had left Nazareth and settled in Galilee at Capernaum. From this region, He gathered His disciples who reflected the microcosm of the multitudes Jesus served (4:18). And, the disciples followed Him. Jesus then traveled throughout Galilee and taught in the Jewish synagogues, preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, and healed all manners of sickness and disease among the people (vv. 23-25). As news spread about Him throughout Syria, people brought Jesus their sick, possessed, lunatick, and palsey (v. 24). He healed them (v. 24). Multitudes came from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond Jordan. And, they too followed Him.

Seeing the mountain, Jesus preaches the gospel of the Kingdom with His first of five teachings on the character for the salt of the earth and light of the world (5:13-14). Scripture shows five actions Jesus took at this time: He saw the multitudes, went into a mountain, sat down on the mountain, opened His mouth, and then taught His disciples (vv. 1-2).  When  ancient Jewish teachers sat, they had something important to teach their disciples. But first, their pupils had to be present for the lesson. The same held true with Jesus. He sat on the mountain and began His teachings once “his disciples came unto him” (v. 1). The phrase came unto him means to draw near with the reason being for the disciple to hear Jesus teach (Thayers, 2009). Presumably, the gathered multitudes did likewise.

Jesus makes His guidance available through Scripture and His Spirit. He sits ever-present on the Kingdom mountain ready to teach His disciples. But, this takes action on the part of believers in Christ. They must draw near to hear. This gives pause to reflect on the question, Can you come unto Him?

Prayer for Salt and Light

Heavenly Father, I honor you as the Great Light to those who once sat in darkness. I humbly ask You to help Your children live according to the Kingdom at hand with a character that reflects salt of the earth and light of the world. I stand before You to lay down that which leads me and others astray from You, O Jesus. Purge us of self-centered barriers that prevent Your beloved from drawing near to you. Let us come unto to You and seek Your voice to learn of the Kingdom lifestyle. We lift You up, son of David, son of Abraham–JESUS, Who saved Your people from their sins. I give You all praise and say this prayer in the name of Jesus, Amen.

From the Journeying Through the Beatitudes series. Part 2.

Journeying Through the Beatitudes: A Servant’s Character in Christ

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Matthew addressed Jewish Christians from their perspective in his gospel. He wrote it during a time of great conflict over their identity after the second temple destruction. Even though they accepted Jesus as the Messiah, they still lived within the Jewish community and followed its traditions while different from Israel. The gospel author sought to reframe their new identity within the Christ community aligned to the nature and character of Jesus, King of Israel. This new identity pertains to contemporary Christians as well.–As Card wrote for this purpose “Jesus, tell me who you are, so I know who I am” (2013, Chapter 1, Section 2, para 8). Since Christ Himself embodied each trait, so too must His servants reflect His identity through their nature as salt of the earth and light to the world. These traits embody servant citizenship in the Kingdom of heaven in their fellowship with God (vertical relationship) and all people (horizontal relationship) they encounter. To lead as servants of the Lord they must surrender their former membership and take on the nature of the new.

Jan Paron/November 10, 2014

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2014

Jan Paron, All Rights Reserved 2014

Kingdom Citizenship: Ideal Heart Character

The Beatitudes describe the ideal heart character for every citizen in the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus taught eight beatitudes (5:3-10) as part of His Sermon on the Mount, with the ninth explaining the one prior to it (vv. 10-11): Poor in spirit (v. 3); mourners (v. 4); meek (v. 5); hungry (v. 6); merciful (v. 7); pure (v. 8); peacemakers (v. 9); and persecuted (v. 10). Each beatitude functions in an if…then format based on the Old Testament (Ps 1:1) and Greek literary forms (Keener, p. 165). In Matt 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things will be added unto you” (KJV). Thus, if believers seek His Kingdom and righteous first, then they receive His spiritual provisions. Thus, a blessing accompanies each beatitude Jesus pronounced for people who display it.

The biblical definition of the blessed (Greek: makários) does not connect to any worldly means or sense rather to God’s favor and salvation from His approval (Matt 5:3 AMP). In other words, the blessed receive God’s provisions (favor) and grace (benefits) because they obeyed the “Lord’s inbirthings of faith” (Strong, 2011). Jesus taught a new type of blessing that ran contrary to ancient Middle Eastern culture. Society in His day believed that makários came to elite, wealthy, and powerful.–People whose riches and power raised them above worldly associated with the lower class. Jesus proposed a new standard for living with received blessings only found in His Kingdom. Consider this story to understand Beatitude blessings. A rabbi told his pupil, ‘In olden days there were men who saw the face of God.’ His student asked, “Why don’t they any more?” The rabbi replied, “Because, nowadays no one stoops so low.'” (Stoffregen, n.d.). God gives His blessings to those who stoop low to seek Him, as opposed those who desire gain through their own might and wealth. In Rom 12:2, Scripture directs believers not to be “conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. With a renewed mind and inbirthings of faith, the Holy Spirit transforms the believer’s character to live out Kingdom actions: poor in spirit, mourners, meek, hungry and thirsty after righteousness, merciful, poor, peacemaker, and persecuted.

Jesus conveyed the Beatitudes in passive grammatical construction, a Semitic-fashioned Greek tense, indicating a divinely completed action. Only God delivers these blessings as rewards in the new heaven. Jesus gave nine “Blessed are” promises (Matt 5:3a-11a) originating from God through Christ as Kingdom in cause and effect terms. For every mentioned action (vv. 3-11) that a disciple of Christ takes, God fulfills it with an eschatological promise. Jesus bookended the Beatitudes in verses three and ten with the overarching now promise (present passive tense) of “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (NIV)–as Keener called them, kingdom-time blessings (Keener, p. 165). Then, He followed the Beatitudes in verses four through nine with the specific then promises (future passive tense): “they will be comforted” (5:4 NIV); “they will inherit the earth” (5:5); “they will be filled” (5:6); “they will be mercied” (5:7); “they will see God” (5:8); and “they will be called sons of God” (5:9).

The Beatitudes relate to relationship within the fellowship of believers, directly linking to God’s Kingdom. They build upon each other: vertically in a relationship between the disciples and their Master Jesus–poor in spirit to mourner to meek to hungry and thirsty (vv. 3-6)–and horizontally between the disciples and other people–merciful to pure to peacemaker to persecuted (vv. 7-10). The virtue of humility undergirds the Beatitudes.

A Closer Look: Journeying Through the Beatitudes

To understand the Beatitudes requires one not only to learn their meaning, but also to reach deep inside introspectively.–Studying Matt 5, meditating on each scripture passage, and listening for the voice of God for direction. This writer did just that in journal form in a very personal  manner to look at the very nature and character of salt of the earth and light to the world.  

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:” (Matt 5:1 KJV). Will you come to Jesus and learn of Him? Each week you can read about the Beatitudes in a mixed media format that combines scripture art journaling and narrative. Please join this devotional series called Journeying Through the Beatitudes: “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:3,10).

References

  • Beale, G. K. & Carson, D. A. (Eds.). (2007). Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.
  • Card, M. (2013). Matthew: The Gospel of Identity. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.
  • Evans, C. Matthew. New Cambridge Bible Contemporary. Cambridge, MA: New Cambridge Bible Commentary.
  • Forest, J. (1999). The ladder of the Beatitudes. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.
  • Harrington, D. (2007). Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Matthew. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.
  • Keener, C. (1999). A commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Cambridge, MA: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
  • Segraves, D. (2007). The Messiah in the Psalms. Hazelwood, MO: WA Press.
  • Stoffregen, B. (n.d.) Matthew 5:1-12 Exegetical Notes. Cross Marks Christian Resources.

Seven Overcoming Statements

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So much focuses on what God will do now, but the greatest rewards come when believers complete the journey as overcomers from the power of God. Pain and suffering occur in life even if they believe in Jesus Christ. Humankind confronts obstacles from the first cry during birth to the parting breath at death. Christ followers can do things that may stop some situations from happening, but cannot end them all. God does deliver and give strength to go through challenges with trust and reliance on Him. By trusting God, believers can overcome a problem. Although God provides great blessings and rewards, He also gives seven promises to His beloved who overcome all situations to the end of their physical journey.

Phil Bradley/September 15, 2014

Background

The Lord Jesus directed John the Revelator to write to the angel[1] of seven churches in Asia Minor, namely Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea (Rev 2-3). When the Lord addressed each of these churches, He either commended or rebuked them for their actions. He told five out of the seven to repent.[2] After Jesus had addressed each church, He provided guidelines to overcome for every member in the community of believers.

The phrase “he or (him) that overcometh” occurs seven times in Rev two and three after the Lord Jesus gave instructions to the Asia Minor churches (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, and 21). These form the overcoming statements. With each, He gave something great in return for the person who overcomes. This article discusses these seven overcoming statements.

Before examining the actual statements, one should look at the various aspects of overcoming. First, what does it mean to overcome (Greek: nikaō; νικάω)? The term means “properly, conquer (overcome), to carry off the victory, come off victorious” (Thayer, pp. 425-446) Moreover, the verb implies a battle (Pulpit Commentary, 1985). Next, what does a believer overcome? Though the overcome statements do not answer this, anything that might destroy a believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ gives the best response. Finally, how do believers overcome? Revelation 12:11 tells how to overcome the devil: “And they overcame by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (KJV).

Another dimension of overcoming begs attention. Revelation 12:11 uncovered additional information about overcoming according to three main parts. One part related, “And they overcame by the blood of the Lamb” (12:11a). No one can defeat the devil or overcome the stain and grip of sin without the blood of Jesus, which He shed on the cross at Calvary. Without the blood of Jesus, the other two parts cannot happen. A second indicated, “and by the word of their testimony” (v. 11b). This part referred to more than giving a testimony at church. God gave humans the opportunity for forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, but everyone needs to receive this gift of forgiveness. A true testimony comes when people put their faith in Jesus and experience what He does for others and them. Psalm 66:16 stressed these facts, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” The last reads, “and they did not love their lives unto the death” (Rev 12:11c). A critical passage, it emphasizes that believers should examine their hearts and ask, “Do I love Jesus this much?” Believers increasingly face ridicule in the U.S. Professing your faith holds life and death decisions in many countries like Iran, North Korea, and Nigeria. Regardless of where believers live, they must love Jesus this much. They will not get to where they need in relationship with God consumed by the worries and cares of life. Leaders in the body of Christ have an additional burden. They not only need to persevere and overcome themselves, but remember that what they do greatly affects what other believers will do during their persecution.

Overcomers

Overcoming Statement 1

“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7b).

When reading the account of Adam and Eve (especially Gen 3:22), it seems the two never ate from the tree of life. It begs the question, “Why?” At first glance, it seems that Adam and Eve only made one decision in relation to eating from this tree. Since they probably knew of it, consequently, they made two decisions. Therefore, another decision Adam and Eve considered was should they eat from the tree of life. God did not forbid them. Then, why did they not eat from it? The Bible does not say. Pursuing this question, people might ponder these thoughts. First, since Adam and Eve never experienced death, they did not know the fear and pain it brings. As a result, they had no motivation to act. Second, Adam and Eve probably just put it off for another day because they did not comprehend death. When people put off or make no decision (like giving their heart to God), this means they made a decision. Leaders in the Body of Christ need to convey the message never to wait to make a decision for Christ.

What does this mean for those who overcome? When experiencing the fear and pain of death, God will restore the human race to paradise. When believers see the tree of life, “which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (a literal place; cf. Rev 22:2), they will not have to be told twice to eat of it. What Adam and Eve did not take advantage of in the garden, God will offer to those who overcome.

Overcoming Statement 2

“He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death” (Rev 2:11b).

To understand the second death, the first warrants discussion. With respect to the first death, this generation will die if the rapture does not come. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ has the promise of eternal life, while the non-believer does not. Scripture in Rev 20:11-15, explained the second death. Simply stated, people who do not have their name in the Book of Life will go to the lake of fire.

Many do not want to talk about hell. Its reality still exists and necessitates a topic for discussion. Jesus talked quite a bit about hell. So too, must believers. Some people view God as cruel because they believe that He sends humans to hell. God loves us, and He does not want to see anyone go there (2 Pet 3:9). To prevent this, God manifested Himself in the flesh (Jesus), and then died on the cross to redeem humankind. When people repent and turn to Him, they need not worry about the second death. Humans send themselves to the lake of fire when they reject Him, not God.

Overcoming Statement 3

“To him that overcometh will I give to eat of hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” (Rev 2:17).

Hidden Manna

Jesus will give the hidden manna to those who overcome. God gave manna to the children of Israel to eat while in the wilderness for 40 years during Moses’ leadership. Moses spoke of manna in Exod 16:15, “This is bread which the LORD hath given you to eat.” Now connecting this to Jesus, He said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:48), and similarly, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat this bread, he shall live for ever” (6:51). The manna that Jesus will give is Himself, and thus, believers can live forever with Him.

The Book of Revelation taught about the hidden manna. God knew humankind would fall into sin, and He already planned the remedy. Revelation 13:8b supports this idea referring to “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” The New Testament described God’s action as a mystery (Greek: mystērion, μυστήριον), meaning “hidden thing, secret, mystery” (Thayer, 2009, p. 420). Paul discussed the mystery in Eph 3:9. He wrote, “And to make men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” He also addressed it in Col 1:26, “Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is manifest to his saints.”

With this information, the work of God through Jesus Christ was hidden from humankind with glimpse given to the prophets. For many people, the truth of Jesus Christ remains hidden because their minds are void of the truth (2 Cor 4:4). A person cannot say, “Jesus is Lord” without the Holy Spirit revealing it (1 Cor 12:3). All believers, especially leaders, need to tell people Jesus is Lord, but only the Holy Spirit can truly make someone believe. Those who overcome get to partake of the hidden manna and have eternal life.

White Stone

The next thing Jesus talked about in this verse was the white stone. He “will give him (overcomers) a white stone” (Rev 2:17b). One explanation of the white stone argued, “The white stone speaks of the custom of casting such a stone into a voter’s urn with the name of a candidate, indicating the approval of the one who cast it” (Feinberg, 1994, p. 2662). Jesus chooses people who overcome. It does not get any better than the Lord Jesus selecting His people!

New Name

The third part in this verse reads “in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it” (v. 17c). God changed the names of various individuals in both testaments, such as Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, and Simon to Peter. The changes regarded things God did and was going to do in the lives of these individuals. God has a new name for believers, which will reflect specifically what He did in each of the overcomer’s lives. Every name (other than Jesus) has baggage of past wrongs attached to it. The new name comes from a clean slate, and gloriously connects to the Savior.

Overcoming Statement Four

“And he that overcometh, and keepeth my words unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations; And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as received of the Father. And I will give him the morning star” (Rev 2:26-28).

Power Over the Nations

It seems many Christians have the idea that when they pass from this life into the next, heaven just will function as an eternal church service or chill time. All believers have a purpose, an important job God wants them to do. When Adam was in the Garden of Eden, he had jobs to do. God commanded Adam to “replenish the earth and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen 1:28). Additionally, Adam had to dress and keep the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:15). Just as God gave Adam responsibilities, He will give overcomers the same. The Lord will give responsibilities to overcomers based on the faithfulness of their assignments in this life (Matt 25:14-30). All believers, but especially leaders in the Body of Christ must remember that labor for the Lord effects not just this life, but that to come.

What will overcomers do? When Jesus returns, He will reign a thousand years. During that time, He will bind the devil in the bottomless pit (Rev 20:2-3). Upon the Lord Jesus’ return, believers will return with Him (Rev 19:15 and Jude 14). Just as He will return bodily form, likewise believers will the same. Physical bodies need a physical earth. As Christ reigns on earth, believers will reign with Him (2 Tim 2:12; Rev 1:5; 5:9; 20:6).

Rule With a Rod of Iron

People may ask over whom overcomers will reign. Simply stated, Jesus will reign over the physically alive who did not take the mark of the beast (Rev 13:16-18). These overcomers will reign with the Lord Jesus over forthcoming generations of offspring. After a thousand years, the devil will return (released from the bottomless pit) to deceive the earth’s inhabitants. Perhaps, God lets it happen to test the people of the earth’s faith in Him because most (at least) never experienced the devil’s influence. In the end, God has the victory (Rev 20:9-10).

Give Him the Morning Star

Now, what does it mean when Jesus stated, “And I will give him the morning star” (2:28)? Feinberg noted, “The morning star is the promise of being with Christ before the day breaks; it is the promise of the rapture. Israel awaits the Sun of righteousness (1994, p. 2662; cf. Mal 4:2); the church looks for the Morning Star (cf. Rev 22:16). Believers need to desire the Morning Star to rise in their hearts (2 Pet 1:19 NKJV).

Overcoming Statement 5

“He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (Rev 3:5).

Clothed in White Raiment

First, this passage tells that God will clothe overcomers “in white raiment” (3:5b KJV). The color white symbolizes purity and righteousness in Scripture (Bible Basic, n.d.). Only the blood of Jesus makes them pure and righteous. In regards to righteousness, 2 Cor 6:21 stated, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” The Lord will clothe overcomers (bride of Christ) in a special wardrobe. Revelation 19:8 stated, “And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.” Other versions, such as the NASB, translate righteousness as righteous acts.

Name in the Book of Life

The Lord further promises that He will not “blot out his name out of the book of life” (Rev 3:5b). Having one’s name in the Book of Life holds great importance for the believer and only occurs through the blood of Jesus. God will cast those names not in the Book of Life, into the lake of fire at the Great White Throne of Judgment (20:15). Leaders must have the focus of leading people to salvation, so others have their name in the Book of Life.

I Will Confess His Name

In the last part of the verse Jesus said, “but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels” (3:5c). Jesus communicated this in the Gospels with, “him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven” (Matt 10:32). Further, He said, “him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8). In both these statements, Jesus will confess only after a person confesses before men about Him (Matt 10:32, Father and Luke 12:8, angels). The word confess (Greek: homologeō; ὁμολογέω) means, “properly, to voice the same conclusion; i.e.,  agree (“confess”); to profess (confess) because in full agreement; to align with (endorse)” (HELPS Word-Studies, n.d.). A person who overcomes will confess Jesus before men. In fact, Rom 10:9 tells that believers have to confess Him for their salvation. How wonderful that the Lord Jesus supports people upon confessing Him!

Overcoming Statement 6

“Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name” (Rev 3:12).

A Pillar in the Temple

What does it mean when Jesus said, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God?” This statement does not suggest that person will stand in place holding up a building for eternity. “A pillar is constantly used as a figure of strength and durability” (Feinberg, 1994, p. 2664; cf., Jer 1:18; Gal 2:9). A robustly constructed pillar holds up a building. When believers overcome in this life, God rewards them with a position of prominence build upon the foundation, which is Jesus Christ.

Go No More Out

The Lord Jesus told the overcomer “he shall go no more out” (Rev 3:12a). Most believers (if not all) at some point feel that God is far away. Leaders especially can feel this way because of personal and ministry issues. Sadly, far too many stories of pastors committing suicide exist. Overcomes will not experience the feeling of not being in God’s presence anymore because they will be with Him forevermore. They never encounter loneliness again for, “there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain (21:4).

Name of the City of My God

Now, looking at the Lord writing the name of God and the name of the city of God on those who overcomes points to another aspect (3:12 b). Though the context of this passage remains unknown, it will identify the person as an overcomer of God. The devil has a counterfeit to it with the mark of the beast (13:16-18). Some will choose the mark of the beast, showing their alliance to the anti-Christ.

Write Upon Him a New Name

Jesus stated that He, “will write upon him my new name” (3:12d) In Scripture, God revealed names and titles of Himself, such as I AM THAT I AM and YHWH (or YHVH). In the New Testament, revealed Himself as Yeshua (or Jesus), which indicates, “name which is above every name” (Phil 2:9). God hid His name (Jesus) throughout history until Gabriel revealed it to Mary and then Joseph. Some Christians might believe they know all about God, but they do not. God will disclose a new name, which He will make known something else about Him that they do not know.

Overcoming Statement 7

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and sit down with my Father in his throne” (Rev 3:21).

Sit With Me on the Throne

Christians must understand the importance of the promise of sitting with the Lord Jesus on His throne (3:21), rather than how they all fit on it. People who sit on thrones might hold positions of royalty and honor. First Peter 2:9 named believers a “royal priesthood.” Further, God made us kings (Rev 1:6). Moreover, Scripture calls us “joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17). Through God’s grace, overcomers gain the great honor of sitting on the throne with Him!

An interesting point: Some people, including this writer, believe the 24 elders will consist of the raptured believers (Rev 4). First, the term “church” or “churches” does not appear between Rev 3 to 22:16. The believers in chapter seven will come out of the tribulation. Then, the 24 elders will wear white raiment and have crowns (Rev 4:4), the very same items given to believers. Additionally, Rev 11:16 stated that the 24 elders “sat before God on their seats.” To have a seat that close to the throne of God shows great honor. The closeness of God and His people here truly fulfills what Jesus prayed in John 17:21b, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”

Close

Some concluding thoughts about overcoming come to mind with, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev 4:20). Some people believe that this verse only pertains to believers since chapters two and three deal with seven different churches. This thought does not hold true because this verse specified, “if any man” and “any man” means all (believers and non-believers). If people read this article and have not given their life to God, they should repent and turn to Him. This article told of the great rewards for believers, who overcome and finished their journey. The rewards that God has for overcomers cannot be comprehended because of their greatness (1 Cor 2:9).

All believers (both individuals and churches) need to examine their hearts (2 Cor 13:5). Of the seven churches from Rev 2 and 3, Jesus told five to repent. Today, Jesus knocks on the hearts of believers and churches. Too often believers and churches do not open the door for Him. We need a great repentance for the sins in the Body of Christ. It is only after repentance that a great revival in the Body of Christ will occur.

Of utmost importance to ministry, leaders in the Body of Christ must open the door when Jesus knocks. When the leaders do not, it affects others who do not open the door in their hearts. God will judge the leaders for leading the flock astray (Matt 23).

After the instructions Jesus gave each church in Revelation two and three, even after telling five of those churches to repent, He gave a promise for overcomers. If believers sin and fall away from God, they have a promise from God. In 1 John 1:9 Scripture said, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Ending this article, a very important event will happen whether people think it will or not–the return of Jesus. The Lord said in Rev 22:12, “And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.” The last part of Rev 22:20 stated, “Even so, come, Lord.

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Rev 22:21).

Endnotes

[1]Thayer’s Lexicon defines an angel as a minister, presiding presbyter, or bishop.
[2]Many people (including this writer) believe these churches and the order of mention indicate the seven periods of the Church Age. The article will not focus on this subject.

References

  • Bible Basic. (n.d.) Colours in the Bible. Retrieved http://www.biblebasic.co.uk/colours/col15
  • Bible Hub. (n.d.). Confess. HELPS word-studies. Retrieved from http:///www.biblehub.com/greek/3670htm
  • Bible Hub. (2014). Revelation 12:17 commentary. Retrieved from http://biblehub.com/commentaries/revelation/2-17.htm
  • Feinberg, C. (1994). Revelation. The KJV parallel Bible commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
  • Plummer, A. (1985). Peter I-III, John, Jude, Revelation, XXII: Vol. 2. The Pulpit Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers: Peabody MA.
  • Thayer, J. (2009). Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.