Kingdom of Ahasuerus vs. Kingdom of Heaven

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Throughout the book of Esther, the narrative vividly described the power, riches, and politics of the Persian Empire during the reign of Ahasuerus (or Xerxes). Established by conquests and known for political unrest and unpredictable rule, the Persian kingdom offered an earthly monarchal government, temporal wealth, whimsical decisions, violent acts, and privileged class conditions.

Alongside the depiction of the king Ahasuerus’ worldly dominion and grandeur, the account illustrates the unwritten principles of God’s kingdom. What the book of Esther hides, it reveals by contrast without mention of the kingdom of heaven. Contrary to Ahasuerus’ rule, the kingdom of God presents a sovereign king with an immutable nature–the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim 6:15) characterized by His divine, providential rule “sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb 1:3). Having rich mercy and great love for all, He made His kingdom accessible to all people by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph 2:4-10).

Though hidden by name in Esther, the Book points out God’s divine natures: His providence in ordering His salvation plan and immutability in keeping to His promises for redemption by delivering the people of Israel. God is at work, even when He is silent. The God of Israel operated in the background through His providence to fulfill His unchangeable covenant promise (Gen 17:1-8). As a result, Esther reveals He Who is, He Who was, and He Who is to Come (Mal 3:6; cf. Isa 44:6); which in turn, the New Testament ascribes to Jesus with the same title and purpose as God Himself–Jesus, He Who sits on the heavenly throne (1 Tim 1:16; Rev 1:7-8; 4; 22:3-4).

Even though the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven) never ceases, its hiddenness in the book of Esther brings to bear the same in the lives of many believers today. The illusion and self-aggrandizement of wealth, power, and grandeur present in the kingdom of Ahasuerus still can attracts contemporary believers. It tempts believers to change their citizenship from the kingdom of heaven (God) to the kingdom of Ahasuerus (world). Like the lukewarm church of Laodicea, some believers even may reside in two kingdoms with dual citizenship. Christ followers exclusively must inhabit the kingdom of the One who dwells within them.

King Ahasuerus–Jan Paron, 2019

Kingdom of Ahasuerus

Ahasuerus’ vast empire ranged from India to Cush (the Upper Nile Valley region), including 127 provinces. At the peak of his reign, approximately 50 million people lived in the Persian Empire in 480 BC or about 44% of the world’s population. He held the most power of any ruler in that period.

The king possessed abundant riches and prided himself on his acquisitions. Esther 1:1, 3-4 tells that King Ahasuerus displayed them in two feasts. One feast spanned 180 days to allow sufficient time for those of higher rank to view his wealth—military, nobles, and leader—from the 127 provinces in the empire. The other lasted seven days for those present in the palace, the more common people (1:5).

Feast guests at Ahasuerus’ Susa palace reclined on couches of gold and silver, resting on marble pavements with mother-of-pearl, porphyry, and precious stones in the courtyard. They drank from gold vessels, each unique from the other (v. 7). White, green, and blue wall hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings on marble pillars also adorned the area (v. 6).

The palace itself had walls of molded, glazed bricks depicting the spear bearers of the king’s bodyguard. Seated sphinxes and pacing lions lined it, while the splendid thirty six-columned audience hall featured a magnificent raised golden throne (see Esth 5:1). The royal builders brought cedar timbers from Lebanon and ivory of Ethiopia and India.

The riches of the kingdom did not offer wealth to its citizens. Kings of that day determined who would acquire citizenship. Jews lived an exiled life, aliens in a foreign land amid the Great Dispersion across the Persian Empire. Most did not return to decimated Jerusalem and sought opportunity elsewhere in the empire. Migratory streams moved in all directions, Jewish communities living in pagan territories. The fall of the temple causing a spiritual crisis among them, drawing them yet farther from God as the people of Israel floundered without His kingdom. The wealth and power of Ahasuerus (and his gods) tempted the Jews with their loss of faith. Paganized, they resided in an worldly kingdom with values contrary to God’s holiness.

Kingdom of Heaven

While the New Testament does not define the kingdom of heaven in a direct manner, Scripture explains who it is. John the Baptist announced the King would soon appear in the term’s first occurrence: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 3:2). In Luke 17:21, Jesus confirmed His identity when the Pharisees asked Him when the kingdom of God would come, He answered, “For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” The kingdom of heaven was in their midst. Jesus is the kingdom of heaven.

The New Covenant offers a reestablished kingdom of heaven through the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus inaugurated the kingdom in the fullness of time as the Messiah, Israel’s awaited King (Mark 1:15); redeemed the kingdom’s people through His death and resurrection (Col 2:14-15); and returns the kingdom to completion during His final, righteous reign (Dan 7:14; Rev 19:16). No earthly kingdom can compare in greatness to the heavenly kingdom; neither could the earthly match the heavenly grandeur. Preferences and prejudices do not exist in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus, the express image of the invisible God, makes those who follow Him citizens of His kingdom with full benefits. He invites all people and gives equal privileges of citizenship to the riches of His grace (Luke 8:1).

The below table one compares the differences between the kingdom of Ahasuerus to the kingdom of God–one temporal, the other eternal. The kingdom at hand fulfills God’s design for redemption. The hope of Israel lives in Jesus Christ and extends to Gentiles as well.

Table 1. Comparison of the Kingdom of Ahasuerus to the Kingdom of God

Kingdom of Ahasuerus (World)Kingdom of God (Heaven)
Ahasuerus—King (Esth 1:1-2) Jesus—King of kings (1 Tim 6:15)
Ahasuerus—Man Jesus—God robed in flesh (both divine and human) with the full character, personality, and quality of the one God (John 10:30; 15:9-10)
Ahasuerus inherited the kingdom after King Darius’ death Jesus inaugurated His kingdom in the fullness of time as the Messiah, Israel’s awaited King (Mark 1:15); redeemed its people through His death and resurrection (Col 2:14-15); and returns the kingdom to completion during His final, righteous reign (Dan 7:14; Rev 19:16) 
Ahasuerus was king until assassination  Jesus as God existed from eternity, King before the earth began and King after it passes away (Isa 44:6; 48:12; Rev 21:6; 22:13)
Ahasuerus ruled from Ethiopia to India (Esth 1:1) Jesus has all authority over heaven and earth (Matt 28:18) Jesus is the kingdom (Luke 17:21)
Ahasuerus showed his and his kingdom’s greatness by displaying its wealth (Esth 1:4-7) No greater kingdom—God owns everything in all realms through His Word at creation  (Gen 1:2; 2:4; Isa 45:12)
Jews considered aliens, not citizens—the king determined who would be a citizen  Jesus makes those who follow Him citizens of His kingdom with full benefits, He invites all people (Luke 8:1; Phil 3:20-21)
Ahasuerus was the image of power and wealth (Esth 1:4, 8, 11, 22) Jesus is the express image of the invisible God (Phil 2:9-11: Col 1:15), while a servant in His human role “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:25)
Obedience brought temporal reward, disobedience resulted in punishment such as death  Obedience brings rewards in heaven, forgives sin (1 Cor 3:8; Eph 2:4-5; Rev 2:23; 22:12)
Concerned with outward, material beauty (Esth 1:1:4, 6,11; 2:2, 4, 17) Concerned with the heart of inward man (1 Sam 16:7; Matt 5:17-19)
Lived in a palace (Esth 1:2) Lives within those baptized in His Spirit and identified as the One on the throne in heaven (Rev 1:7-8, 11, 17-18; 4:2,8; 5:6; 7:17; 22:3-4)
Displayed his own wealth, power, comfort, and pleasure for the king’s benefit (Esth 1:17) Gives the riches of His grace to kingdom citizens for their benefit transforming His kingdom through redemption (John 18:26)
Ahasuerus acted impulsively and wavered in opinions and actions (Esth 1:22; 3:9; 7:5-6,9) Jesus as God remains unchanging yesterday, today, and tomorrow (Ps 86:15; 119:89; Mal 3:6; John 1:1, 14; 10:30, 38; 14:10-11; Heb 13:8; Jas 1:17)
Ahasuerus gave authority only to the highest ranking in the kingdom, Haman and then Mordecai (Esth 3:10) Jesus delegates His authority to all citizens of His kingdom to operate in His name as His ambassadors (Luke 10:9)
No one could go to Ahasuerus’ inner court and request anything of him unless the king first called for one’s presence and he held out the golden scepter (Esth 4:11) Citizens can place their petition directly to the King at anytime (1 John 5:14-15)

Queen Esther in a Pagan World

Despite the fact that the book of Esther hides God within its text, He very much remained visible through His providential actions. While a pagan land and customs surrounded Queen Esther, the hand of God directed the miracles of the narrative’s events. God always makes Himself available even when one does not seek Him. The contrast between the two kingdoms not only illustrates the sovereignty of God, but also the rich, continuous mercies He offers by grace through Jesus Christ.

Like Esther, the contemporary believer lives as an alien in a foreign and pagan land. The cup of iniquity fills rapidly there, while end-time prophecy comes to completion with each passing day. Queen Esther largely relied on herself and other people to address the events that unfolded in the book of her namesake even though God worked silently. However, just as God gave Esther free will to select the kingdom in which to reside, He does so with His elect. The urgent question in these Last Days for the believer is, which kingdom does one choose–the kingdom of Ahasuerus (world) or kingdom of God (heaven)?

Jan Paron, PhD

July 12, 2019

The Revealed, Providential God

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Though the name of God does not appear overtly in the book of Esther, the Almighty manifested His sovereignty and providence in the narrative’s background. The account makes evident Israel’s providential God. Jehovah, the covenantal name God showed to His people meaning He who will be (Exod 3:13-15; Heb 10:37; Rev 1:8), ordered all that concerned the Jews as a pledge to fulfill their final salvation. He acted in His silence—visible while invisible. How can the reader find the Invisible One’s evidence of providential actions? A close look at His providence reveals He manifested it in numerous manners from event reversals to the fulfillment of pledges.

Queen Esther and Queen Vashti
(Jan Paron, 2019)

Book of Esther: Deliverance of the Jewish People

At the forefront, the book of Esther revolves around the hidden hand of God working through ordinary people to accomplish His will and purpose for His chosen people. Most critically, He used the young Jewish woman Esther in the book bearing her name to shape governmental policy securing the safety of Jews in all 127 Persian provinces, which included the Yehud. God working through her delivered the Jews from Haman’s death edict (Esth 9:20-22) sparing thousands.

Esther narrates the story of God delivering the Jews from Haman’s “edict of death” (9: 20–22). God’s presence need not be overt to be effective. At times, the book feels worldly; however, opulence, kingly power, internal politics nonetheless advance the program of God! God also works from within.

The events in Esther took place 50 years after King Cyrus issued a decree in 538 BC allowing the Judeans’ return to Jerusalem after the fall of Babylon to Persia.[1] Not all exiles went back due to various reasons; rather, many Jewish Diasporas remained in exile as foreigners in the Persian Empire’s capital and its 127 provinces.

Esther did not make known its author. Theologians and historians hold different theories as to its writer ranging from multiple people to the exile Mordecai.[2] Perhaps, the book did not reveal its author since the story kept God hidden within the text. Of the books in the Bible, only Esther does not explicitly mention God by name or title. Instead, God’s hiding invites the reader to find Him in the passages. The name Esther itself may echo the notion of God hiding. The ‘ester (Esther) in the book’s central character seems similar to ‘astir (“I will hide;” Deut 31:18; cf. Ezek 39:23-24); while the Hebrew consonants ‘str appears identical. Jointly, they further reflect God’s hidden nature in the book.[3] Still, God maintains a strong presence in the narrative carrying out His will and purpose for His chosen people.

A canonized book of historical type[4] and post-exilic literature,[5] the writer had a close-up knowledge of Persian customs and culture together with palatial plots and subplots in addition to the Jewish nationalism distinctive. Upon reading the narrative, detailed descriptions emerge throughout Esther portraying a vivid image of the ruling king’s riches, authority, and court politics surrounding the Diaspora Jews’ living conditions. The dating, content, and tone each point to the post-exilic community as the primary audience. No prophets spoke, nor miracles occurred during this period. Thus, the victorious event of deliverance lent hope to the Jewish population and led to the celebration of the Feast of Purim in its commemoration.

The book emphasized several themes. Its focuses include God’s (1) sovereignty in the lives of His people to carry out His will (Ps 115:3; Isa 46:9-11; Dan 4:35; Rom 9:20); (2) providence behind the scenes to order redemptive history; and (3)  faithfulness in keeping His covenantal promises to raise up a deliverer (Moses: Exod 3:10; Joshua: Josh 4:14; Joseph: Gen 50:20, and Jesus: Isa 53:5).

Among these themes, the deliverance of the Jews resides centrally to the narrative. As God interacted with human will, His sovereignty and providence maintained His unchanging faithfulness for salvation. Esther, as one of the Old Testament mediators of deliverance, foreshadowed the Messiah of the New Testament as the ultimate Deliverer in His fulfilled First Coming and future Second Coming.

In reinforcing deliverance’s importance to God’s salvation plan for the Jewish people, Esther parallels other Old Testament exilic accounts. For example, Moses (Exod 3:10, 16-17) and Esther (Esth 5:2) both served as deliverance mediators. Other similarities between the two characters existed, also. Additionally, close family members assisted them: Aaron with Moses (Exod 4:14-15) and Mordecai to Esther (Esth 4:14). Further, both Moses (Exod 3:11) and Esther (Esth 4:11) hesitated to mediate deliverance. They both enjoyed favor as well, Moses from God (Exod 3:21; 11:3; 12:36) and Esther the king or other benefactors (Esth 2:9, 15, 17; 5:2; 8:5).[6]

God’s Providence

Resting on God’s sovereignty as the King over all, divine providence refers to the provisions for His creation He made beforehand. Killen explained providence preserves and purposefully directs what God created in that it excludes fate and chance.[7] While the Jews could not conceive deliverance while in captivity, the Lord had an end and expectation in mind to fulfill for Israel’s future. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (NIV). His thoughts concern our present and future conditions.

Now released by captivity in Assyria and Babylonia, the hand of God displayed itself numerous times in Esther absent of coincidence to complete His foreshadowed end and expectation. He placed His fingerprints in each chapter of the book. For every event, God had a ready provision. While the book does not mention God’s present directly, He promised peace and prosperity restored with a hope and future. He did not forget the Diaspora.

Overview of God’s Providence

Deposing Vashti and Replacing with Esther

          Ahasuerus deposed Vashti as queen because she refused to appear before him wearing her royal crown to show her beauty to the people at the royal banquet (1:11). Esther 1:19c goes on to say, “Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she” (NKJV). So, then arrived Esther on the scene. She was among the beautiful young virgins gathered from the empire (2:3, 8). Esther gained favor initially from Hegai the custodian of the women and all who saw her (vv. 8, 15) and finally, from Ahasuerus over the other virgins in the women’s quarters. He made Esther the queen to replace Vashti (v 17)—Esther, a concealed Jew from the house of Kish and tribe of Benjamin, the daughter of Abihail and niece of Mordecai.

Watching at the Gate and Overhearing the Assassination Plot 

Watching over his charge whom he raised as his daughter, Mordecai paced in front of the women’s quarter to keep an eye on Esther (v. 11). He continued to place himself strategically at the Gate a short distance from the main palace and court structures to monitor her safety even after crowned queen (vv. 19-23). The book referred to him as one of “those of the Gate” (2:2; 3:2). While there, Mordecai overheard assassins discuss plans to kill the king. He reported it to Esther, who in turn notified Ahasuerus. The scribes noted Mordecai’s deed in the book of chronicles in the king’s presence. Did his position at the gate constitute coincidence or fate? God placed him there. God had planted Esther inside the palace and Mordecai outside it.

  וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מָרְדֳּכַ֖י לְהָשִׁ֣יב אֶל־אֶסְתֵּ֑ר אַל־תְּדַמִּ֣י בְנַפְשֵׁ֔ךְ לְהִמָּלֵ֥ט בֵּית־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ מִכָּל־הַיְּהוּדִֽי׃ כִּ֣י אִם־הַחֲרֵ֣שׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי֮ בָּעֵ֣ת הַזֹּאת֒ רֶ֣וַח וְהַצָּלָ֞ה יַעֲמ֤וֹד לַיְּהוּדִים֙ מִמָּק֣וֹם אַחֵ֔ר וְאַ֥תְּ וּבֵית־אָבִ֖יךְ תֹּאבֵ֑דוּ וּמִ֣י יוֹדֵ֔עַ אִם־לְעֵ֣ת כָּזֹ֔את הִגַּ֖עַתְּ לַמַּלְכֽוּת׃

“Mordecai had this message delivered to Esther: ‘Do not imagine that you, of all the Jews, will escape with your life by being in the king’s palace. On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis’” (Esth 4:13-14 Tanakh).  

Coming to the Kingdom for Such a Time as This

Meanwhile, the events leading to the decree for Jewish destruction continued to unfold. Entwined in these affairs, Mordecai became more involved with court matters while keeping his daily watch over Esther at the gate. Now, it came to pass that Ahasuerus promoted Haman over the princes. The king then commanded those within the gate to bow to Haman as he passed through the gates (3:1). However, Mordecai would not bow (vv. 2-3). Being a Jew (and announcing it), the text implies that Mordecai only would worship Jehovah (v. 4). Bowing constituted idolatry. Mordecai’s refusal angered Haman, prompting him to seek the destruction of all Jews in Persia (vv. 5-6). Haman, from a lineage of enemies to the Jews, talked the king into approving a decree that threatened the Diaspora’s destruction (v. 10). Ahasuerus gave Haman his signet ring, and thus, broad power in governmental affairs. But, God! God who knows the end from the beginning already had intervention providentially prepared to counter Haman’s action.

In a pivotal moment, Queen Esther unaware of the decree entered the picture as Mordecai stands in front of the Gate clothed in sackcloth and ashes, mourning over the issuance. She learned of the reason through Hathach, her servant whom she sent to inquire of Mordecai. Esther also learned of her elder cousin’s request to mediate the dire affairs with a plea to Ahasuerus. Through a series of exchanges between Hathach, she hesitated since one only can enter the king’s inner court upon his calling (4:11). Finally, she heeded the request and acknowledged, “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14). She played an essential role in God’s plan for Israel. Take note that Mordecai highlights God’s sovereign and providential natures with his urging, “relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place“ (v. 14a). With or without Esther, victory over the enemy would arise from elsewhere. The Queen once again found favor with Ahasuerus within the inner court, but would not reveal her full request to the king.

Turning the Table

God’s intervention ensued, bringing insomnia upon the king. Ahasuerus could not sleep and had someone read the royal chronicles to him. (6:1). The portion reviewed highlighted Mordecai’s report that thwarted an assassination of the king. Ahasuerus learned that Mordecai’s deed went unrewarded (v. 3). About that same time, Haman visited Ahasuerus early to secure hanging Mordecai on gallows the Agagite constructed (6: 1–6). Calling Haman into the inner court, the king asked what he should do to honor a man. Haman responded, thinking Ahasuerus meant himself. In a reversal surely Haman did not anticipate, Ahasuerus had Haman carry out his very suggestions to honor Mordecai. Haman lead Mordecai in one of the king’s robes on a royal crested horse as he proclaimed, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!” (6:10). So much for executing Mordecai! Little did Haman know the fate awaiting him—God’s underplot to squash Haman’s scheme to kill the Jews.

Thwarting the Adversary

When Queen Esther finally appealed to Ahasuerus for her life and the lives of her people at a banquet, the king indignantly asked who devised the horrible plot. She had found favor with the king once again. She revealed the adversary as Haman (7:6). Meanwhile, the king left the banquet in anger. A terrified Haman stood before Esther pleading for his life. However, Haman fell on the couch where Esther sat. Rabbinical commentary[8] surmised an angel pushed Haman. Nevertheless, Ahasuerus thought Haman was about to assault his queen in addition to his egregious acts against her people. The king hung Haman on the very gallows he earlier built for Mordecai.

Evidence of God’s Providence

Evidence 1: God Directs Reversals

The title God of Reversals well describes the attributes of the divine Unnamed One in the book of Esther. It serves to illustrate the revealed providential God hidden but active throughout the story. Each event that impeded God’s restoration for the Jews at the gathering of the Jews in Yehuda preceded with a reversal. Consider the following table that uncovers 15 reversed events, each turning the outcome towards God’s intended will and purpose for Israel (Table 1: Reversal Events in the book of Esther):

Table 1. Reversal events in the book of Esther

Event Event Reversed
Vashti refused to appear before the king (1:12)Esther appeared before the king (2:15)
Vashti angered the king (1:12; 2:4)Esther delighted the king (2:17-18; 5:2; 6; 7:2; 8:4; 9:14)
Vashti removed as queen (1:19; 2:4)Esther crowned queen (2:17); made policy (8:7; 9:13)
Vashti wronged the king, princes, and all those in the empire (1:16)Ahasuerus made a great feast for Esther called it the Feast of Esther (2:18)
Vashti lost the king’s favor (1:19)Esther gained the king and others’ favor (2:9, 15, 17)
Esther did not reveal her ethnicity (2:10)Esther revealed her nationality (7:3-4)
Mordecai placed himself in front of the courts of the women’s quarters within the king’s gate (2:11; 19)Mordecai because great among the Jews and received by the multitude of his brethren (10:3)
Esther waited to see the king until called by name (2:14)Esther went to see the king without his request and gained
favor (5:20)
Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite above the other princes (3:1)Ahasuerus promoted Mordecai,
the son of Jair of Kish to second to
the king (10:3)
Haman felt Mordecai disrespected him because he would not bowMordecai became the most
respected among Jews (3:10)
Haman sought to destroy all the
Jews in Ahasuerus’ kingdom (3:6)
Esther mediated deliverance of the Jews in Ahasuerus’ kingdom (5:2, 8; 7:3-4; 8:3, 5)
Haman cast pur (a lot) to destroy
the Jews on the 13 Adar (3:7,12)
Jews great warred against their
enemies on 13 Adar (9:1)
Ahasuerus gave his signet ring to Haman (3:10)Ahasuerus gave his signet ring to Mordecai (8:2a)
Haman thought the king would honor him (6:6-9),The king honored Mordecai (6:11-12)
Mordecai tore his clothes and wore sackcloth and ashes (8:15)Ahasuerus dressed Mordecai in his royal robe (6:10)
Haman built gallows to hang Mordecai (5:14)Ahasuerus hung Haman on his own gallows (7:9-10)

God providentially reversed several situations for other biblical figures as it relates to upholding His plan of redemption. He replaced King Saul with King David; changed misfortune to fortune for Ruth and Naomi; scattered and gathered the people of Israel (Jer 29:14); and brought death to life from the first Adam to the final Adam (Rom 5:14) to name a few.

Evidence 2: God Sees the End From the Beginning

God took on the dual roles of the main character and director of the story. Though not overtly mentioned in the story, the essence of His sovereignty played out in each chapter. The reader cannot help but anticipate what God will do next scene by scene. Isaiah 46:10 says “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: He sees the end from the beginning and controls every move towards that end.” God manifested as Jesus Himself has the nature of the beginning and end: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:14). He holds the Big Story in His hand.

Evidence 3: God Providentially Uses Various People for His Purposes

The narrative of Esther contained characters with continues moving parts within and outside the palace. God did not favor one class, gender, or ethnicity to accomplish His providence. Gate watchers, maids, eunuchs, princes, the queen, king, and more play a role in the deliverance of the Diaspora Jews in Persia.

Evidence 4: God Honors Defiant Faith

Esther stood in the face of uncertainty over God’s providence with defiant faith. While the text hides God’s presence in the story, the reader senses it when Esther asked Mordecai to gather all the Jews in Shushan to fast for her for three days as well as she and her maids also would fast. Though going to the king without his approval went contrary to the kingdom’s law and thus warranted execution, Esther displayed an essential act of faith by fasting individually and corporately united in a cry for salvation to their heavenly King. She met the task with spiritual force. In Jer 19:13, the Lord said, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (NKJV). God honored the actions of Esther’s heart when she appeared before the earthly king Ahasuerus.

Evidence 5: God Brings His Will to the Seemingly Impossible

The hand of God demonstrates His will in the face of challenging situations. In the passage for “such a time as this,” the Tanakh uses the word crisis instead of time. A crisis does not disturb God’s plan since He operates in the supernatural with an expected outcome to accomplish His plan.

Evidence 6: God Remembers His Enemies

In Deut 25:19, God said He would blot out the Amalekites (1 Sam 15:17-18). God commanded King Saul to wipe out the Amalek. He took the plunder of the Amalek but kept King Agag alive. Samuel later killed the Amalek king. Haman descended from the house of Agag (1 Chron 4:43), and Esther the house of Kish from Saul (Esth 2:5). Mordecai answered Esther, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esth 4:14). He quite possibly referred Esther back to King Saul and Samuel. Esther had the duty to kill off the enemy of Israel (Exod 17:16) that Saul did not complete. Otherwise, God providentially had another agency available to complete His deliverance for the Jewish Diaspora community.

Conclusion

The turn of events God authoritatively controlled confirms a divine testimony of the covenant-keeping Yahweh with the Jewish people. Through inspired text, Esther demonstrates His preserving redemption for Israel and directing events to deliver His people from annihilation during the reign of Ahasuerus. Regardless of humanity’s actions, He remained faithful to His promises as a providential God.

Jan Paron, PhD,

June 16, 2019

References

Bible Gateway. “Cambyses.” Encyclopedia of the Bible. https://www.biblegateway.com/resources/encyclopedia-of-the-bible/Cambyses

Goitein, S. D. Bible Studies. Tel Aviv: Yavneh Publishing,1957.

Killen, Allen R. “Providence.” Page 1421 in Wycliffe Bible Dictionary. Edited by C. F. Pfeiffer, H. F. Vos, and J. Rea. Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005.

Martin, James, C., Beck, John A., and Hansen, David G. A Visual Guide to Bible Events. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009.

Rydelnik, Michael and Vanlaningham, Michael eds. “Esther.” Moody Bible Commentary. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 682.

Struse, William. “Queen of 127 Provinces.” The 13th Numeration.  http://www.the13thenumeration.com/Blog13/2016/03/19/queen-of-127-provinces/

White Crawford, Sidnie, “Esther,” Society for Biblical Literature, 680.


[1] Sidnie White Crawford, “Esther,” Society for Biblical Literature, 680. The events took place in the early Hellenistic period dated approximately the fourth century BC.

[2] S.D. Goitein, Bible Studies, (Tel Aviv: Yavneh Publishing,1957), 62. Goitein believed an exile wrote Esther while in exile with the intended audience of exiles. Mordecai, as a possible author generates from Jewish tradition based on Esther 9:20.

[3] Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds., “Esther,” in Moody Bible Commentary (Moody Publishers, Chicago, 2014), 682.

[4] In the Hebrew canon the Tanakh, the Writings or Ketûbîm contain Esther.

[5] Post-exilic literature comprises pieces written after the fall of Babylon.

[6] Esther. Moody Bible Commentary, 683.

[7] Allan R. Killen, “Providence,” Wycliffe Bible Dictionary, (eds. Charles F. Pfeiffer, Howard  F. Vos, and John Rea; Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 1421.

[8] Rashi, “Commentary on Esther,” Sefaria. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) wrote his commentary on the Tanakh in Troyes, France approximately 1075-1105 CE. He quoted numerous Midrashim and Talmudic passages.

God’s Immutable Purpose: The Revealed Redemptive Jehovah Titles in the Incarnate Jesus

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Introduction

Jan Paron, PhD|November 14, 2017

          God’s nature does not change due to His immutability: “I am the Lord, I change not (Mal 3:6a KJV; e.g., Num 23:19; Isa 46: 9-11; Jas 1:13). His nature remains unchanged across the dispensations of time grounding itself in the same redemptive purpose with humanity. Thus, the very attributes in God’s titles expressed in the Old Testament manifested themselves in the substance of Jesus Christ in the New (Exod 3:14-15; John 8:56-59).

          The forthcoming essays discuss God’s immutable purpose in the revealed redemptive Jehovah titles in the Incarnate Jesus, as well as overview the progressive revelation of the Name Jehovah. Each will examine the Lord’s revealed redemptive purposes, unchangeable throughout the covenants. They seek to accomplish three goals: (1) explain the doctrine of God’s immutability; (2) exegete the attributes of the seven Jehovah redemptive titles in light of their fulfilled revelation in the person of Jesus Christ; and (3) interpret how the Gospels illustrated the progressive unfolding of God’s immutable nature by means of the seven redemptive titles of Jehovah.

Redemptive Names of God B W

          Revelation denotes an uncovering (Vine, Unger & White, 1996). God progressively uncovers His identity through His Word. For a comprehensive understanding of God’s immutable nature, one finds a portrait of His fullness in the single biblical story from the eyewitness accounts the inspired Gospel authors wrote.

          The key to grasping the progressive manifestation of God’s immutable nature in the Incarnate Jesus comes with examining the compound, redemptive titles of Jehovah in tandem with innertextual and intertextual messianic analyses of Old Testament text and canonized Gospels. To understand the titles’ entirety requires more than relying on the reader’s perspective in front of the text. One also must delve into aspects from the biblical author’s world behind the text and analyze the literary elements of Scripture within the text (Tate, 1997; Paron, 2013). Further, each distinct Gospel emphasis shapes God’s immutable nature into a complete biblical portrait of a covenantal God in His expressed image (character) in the person (substance) of Jesus Christ. The Gospel’s purpose, interpreted events, messianic sayings, covenantal fulfillment, linear prophetic fulfillment, and New Covenant establishment put the paintbrush in the reader’s hand.

Overview: Progressive Revelation of the Name Jehovah

          The name Jehovah in combination with titles, uncovers His immutable, redemptive nature ultimately made visible in Jesus with the Church and then the nation of Israel at the fullness of time when the Church Age ends. In historical Old Testament order (Bullinger, 2007), Scripture shows seven titles expressing His redemptive nature:

  1. Jehovah-jireh (LORD that provides: Gen 22:14; cf. John 1:29; Heb 11:17-19)
  2. Jehovah-rapha (LORD that heals: Exod 15:26; cf.; Jas 5:14)
  3. Jehovah-nissi (LORD my banner, victory: Exod 17:15; cf. 1 Cor 15:57)
  4. Jehovah-shalom (LORD is peace: Judg 6:24; cf. John 14:27)
  5. Jehovah-tsidkenu (LORD our righteousness: Jer 23:6; cf. 1 Cor 1:30)
  6. Jehovah-shammah (LORD is there, the Ever Present One: Ezek 48:35; cf. Matt 28:30)
  7. Jehovah-raah (LORD my shepherd; Ps 23:1; cf. John 10:11)

          In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare posed the question, “What’s in a name?” explaining it does not typify one’s feelings or intent (Insel, 2010). Conversely, a name in the Bible does define a person’s character and nature. Thus, to understand the redemptive nature of Jesus all names reflected in the redemptive titles of Jehovah illustrate the fulfillment, identity, and purpose of God’s salvation plan for humanity in Jesus. Jehovah of the Old Testament shows continuity of His redemptive nature revealed in the incarnated God in Jesus. With the titles Jehovah-jireh, rapha, nissi, shalom, and raah, Jehovah expressed Himself as Jesus to the end of earthly matters. As Jehovah-tsidkenu and shammah, He identified Himself in His final Kingdom reigning in righteousness (Isa 32:1). Thus, Jesus fulfilled the totality of the seven redemptive titles of Jehovah with the I AM: “and all flesh shall know that I Jehovah am thy Savior and thy Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (49:26), therefore, immutable.

References

Bernard, D. (2010). The essentials of oneness theology. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

Bernard, D. (2016). The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Dorset, UK: Deo Publishing.

Bernard, D. (2007). The oneness of God. Florissant, MO: Word Aflame Press.

Bullinger, E. E. (2007). The divine names and titles: In the Old and New Testaments. Bible Students Press.

Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Graves, R. (2009). The God of two testaments. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

Insel, T. (2010, April 19). What’s in a name?. The outlook for borderline personality disorder. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/directors/thomas-insel/blog/2010/whats-in-a-name-the-outlook-for-borderline-personality-disorder.shtml

Kaiser, W. (1995). The Messiah in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Norris, D. (2009). I AM: A Oneness Pentecostal theology. Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic.

Paron, J. (2013, January 19). The three worlds of text. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from https://wordpress.com/post/specs12.wordpress.com/2017

Reeves, Kenneth. (1962). The Godhead, book 1 (Revised) Seventh Printing. St. Louis, MO: Trio Printing Company.

Segraves, D. L. (2008). Reading between the lines. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

Tate, W. R. (1997). Biblical interpretation: An integrated approach. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Thayer, J. T. (2009). Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament (9th ed.) Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 

Vine, W., Unger, M., & White, W. (1996). Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testaments. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

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Doctrine of Immutability

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Jan Paron, PhD|November 13, 2017     

          Malachi 3:6 offers a strong statement about God’s own revelation of His name, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” Lord in Hebrew means Jehovah—The Unchangeable One: He Who is, He Who was, and He Who is to Come (cf. Isa 44:6). The New Testament ascribes this same title and purpose to Jesus (1 Tim 1:16; Rev 1:7-8).

god-is-immutable  Image: shaynageorge

          God’s covenant restoration forms the basis of His name. The Unchangeable One has sought to reconcile His people into covenant with Him across the dispensations of time. Jehovah will fulfill His final covenant promise of crushing the serpent’s head and saving His people (Gen 3:15) to restore them to covenant with Him in His Millennial reign. As the immutable I AM, Jehovah vowed the promise of redemption to His people so “the sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal 3:6b), meaning perish (Brown, Driver, & Briggs, 2006). In an ever-changing world, Jehovah will remain unchangeable into the Everlasting.

Redemptive, Faithful Husband of Israel

          The Prophet Isaiah remarked, “For your husband is your Maker, The Lord of hosts is His name; And your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel, Who is called the God of the whole earth” (Isa 54:5 AMP). The prophets described how God’s redemptive name revealed His unconditional love as the faithful Husband who sought to restore covenantal relationship despite His wife Israel’s adulterous actions.

          In Ezek 16, the prophet told of himself laying on the plywood with a model of Jerusalem on one side of his bed and him naked and facing away from her.  Israel played the harlot as the unfaithful bride to her Husband, putting herself out there to Egyptian, Assyrian, and Chaldean gods with spiritual adultery. Israel even sacrificed her own children and delivered them to the images of men (16: 21). The Prophet Ezekiel in chapter 16 painted a picture of Israel’s idolatry with blunt, graphic descriptors: harlot, fornication, whoredom, whore, whorish woman, abomination, and sin greater than Sodom’s. He cried out, “How weak is thine heart, saith the Lord God, seeing thou doest all these things, the work of an imperious whorish woman;” (v. 30 KJV). Yet, despite Israel breaking the marriage covenant, God kept His divine faithfulness by renewing covenant with her from the days of her youth and make it into an everlasting covenant (v. 60; cf. Gen 17:7-8; Jer 31:31-34).

          In the Book of Hosea, the prophet relayed God’s marital struggles with the wanton, whorish wife Israel. Despite her infidelity, God yearned for a renewed intimacy with His disobedient bride. Hosea described Israel as committing great whoredoms (Hos 2:2), indicating a departing from the Lord. His wife knew Baal (13:2). The God of Israel declared “Yet I am the Lord God from the land of Egypt, and thou shall know no god but me: but there is no savior beside me:” (Hos 13:4). Israel had turned from God by falling from their iniquity and backsliding (14:1).

          God’s showed mercy once again for Israel. Though He once called Israel children of a harlot, He would regather them as future sons of the living God. He likened their number to the sand of the sea that cannot be measured or numbered (Hos 1:10).  Even with Israel’s chronic unfaithfulness, God assured their restored covenant on the day of Jezreel (1: 11; cf. Rev 16:16).

          The unfaithful Israel also caused the Lord to lament in Jeremiah: “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord” (3:20). Once again the ever faithful Husband, the Holy One of Israel, robed Himself in flesh as Jehovah-Savior to redeem the House of Israel fulfilling His promise of a Messiah for His people.

Redemptive, Chosen Son of the Two Covenants

          God made covenants with Abraham and David (Gen 12:2; 2 Sam 7:8). When the Lord placed His expressed image behind Jesus, He revealed the Chosen Son of the two covenants—the descended Son of Abraham and David (Gen 22:17-19; 2 Sam 7:8; cf. Matt 1:1; 17; Luke 1:32; Acts 13:22, 23). God revealed His manifested character as well as His dual fulfillment when He raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him as Lord (Eph 1:16-23). The title Lord attributed to Jesus in His exaltation and biblical expression “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” identified Jesus as the Incarnation of God and Father. Christ blessed us in Him as well as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ blessed us in the person of Jesus who would bring forth a new and better covenant. The expression “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” recognizes Jesus as the Chosen Son of the covenants and the Incarnation of Jehovah, the God of Israel of the two covenants.

Redemptive Word Robed in Flesh

          “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent:” (Num 23:19b). Repent means to change one’s mind. The I AM did not retract His promise of redemption when He revealed His nature in the person of Jesus Christ. Neither did God change His mind about His purpose for humanity when He robed Himself in flesh uniting divinity with humanity incarnated in Jesus. Rather, Jesus embodies all God’s divine (Phil 2:6a; cf. John 1:14d). Bernard explained Jesus’ divines essence “the incarnation of the fullness of God; in His deity He is the Father, Word, and Spirit” (2010, p. 210) while He also took on the nature of man (John 1:14b).

          Revelation 1:7-8 reveals the Lord subject to time through the Incarnation “the Lord which is; which was; and which is to come, the Almighty:”

  • “The Lord which was” revealed the crucified Christ of the Gospels. Christ took on the form of God, the Word in robed in flesh. Jesus’ first birth of a virgin, conceived of the Holy Ghost brought Him forth into time from eternity (Reeves, 1984, Supreme Godhead 11, p. 47).
  • “The Lord which is” expressed the Christ of the Gospels resurrected and exalted to the throne (Rev 3:21). Jesus’ birth out of death “who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead” brought time into eternity (Col 1:18).
  • “The Lord which is to come” will identify Jehovah as Christ as the coming King of kings, also the Son of David (Isa 44:6; Rev 1:7, 8). In the fullness of the appointed time as the supreme and authoritative head over all things in the Church, Jesus will put in subjection all things in every realm under His feet (Eph 1:22 AMP).

          God’s nature does not change due to His immutability (Mal 3:6a; e.g., Num 23:19; Isa 46: 9-11; Jas 1:13). His nature remains unchanged across the dispensations of time grounding itself in the same redemptive purpose with humanity. Time cannot subject God because of immutability, but does through the Incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ for the benefit of humanity’s redemption. Thus, the redemptive, faithful Husband of Israel expressed in the Old Testament manifested Himself in the substance of Jesus Christ in the New as the redemptive chosen Son of the two covenants and redemptive Word robed in flesh (Exod 3:14-15; John 8:56-59).

References

Bernard, D. (2010). The essentials of oneness theology. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

Bernard, D. (2016). The glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Dorset, UK: Deo Publishing.

Bernard, D. (2007). The oneness of God. Florissant, MO: Word Aflame Press.

Bullinger, E. E. (2007). The divine names and titles: In the Old and New Testaments. Bible Students Press.

Carpenter, G. (2012). God’s covenants: A study guide in Bible symbolism. Thomas Nelson, Inc.

Conner, K. & Malvin, K. (1997). The covenants: The key to God’s relationship with Mankind. Portland, OR: Bible Temple Publishing.

Conner, K. (1980). Interpretation: The symbols and types. Portland, OR: Bible Temple Publishing.

Creswell, J. (2009). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Ferguson, E. (2003). Backgrounds of early Christianity (3rd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing.

Graves, R. (2009). The God of two testaments. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

Haney, N. (2004). Daniel’s 70 Weeks. Stockton, CA: Nathaniel Haney Publishers.

Haney, N. (2006). The times of the Gentiles: Biblical prophecy series, volume 4. Stockton, CA: Nathaniel Haney Publishers.

Kaiser, W. (1995). The Messiah in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Keener, D. (2003). The Gospel of John: A commentary, volume one. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Keener, D. (2003). The Gospel of John: A commentary, volume two. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Moltmann, J. The crucified God: A Trinitarian theology of the Cross. 278-299. Sage Publications. doi: 10.1177/002096437202600302

Norris, D. (2009). I AM: A Oneness Pentecostal theology. Hazelwood, MO: WAP Academic.

Paron, J. (2013, January 19). The three worlds of text. [Web blog post]. Retrieved from https://wordpress.com/post/specs12.wordpress.com/2017

Reeves, Kenneth. (1962). The Godhead, Book 1 (Revised) Seventh Printing. St. Louis, MO: Trio Printing Company.

Rydelnik, M. (2010). The Messianic hope. Chicago, IL: Moody Bible Publishers.

Segraves, D. L. (2008). Reading between the lines. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

Tate, W. R. (1997). Biblical interpretation: An integrated approach. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Thayer, J. T. (2009). Thayer’s Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament (9th ed.) Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. 

The New Covenant

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Jesus, the fulfilled Messiah, ushered in the new covenant by His death, resurrection, and ascension. Scripture refers to this covenant as the better covenant, established upon better promises. Jesus mediates the better, new covenant (Heb 8:6). Three questions arise in order to gain a fundamental picture of the new covenant. First, what does the new covenant mean? Second, why does Scripture refer to it as the better covenant? Third, what promises does the new covenant provide to the believer in Christ?

better-covenant-title

New Covenant Meaning

God’s Word first mentions the term covenant in Gen 6:18. Covenant (Hebrew: בְּרִית; bĕriyth) indicates a divine ordinance between God and man (Blue Letter Bible, 2015), a legal relationship that God ordains by an oath to fulfill His specific purpose for humankind because of their frailty. God fulfills His purpose for humanity in covenant (Gen 14:4-6), as well as establishes (Exod 19:5; Deut 17:6) and knows His own people through it (Isa 43:10).

Better Covenant

Israel did not keep the covenant God made with them because of their disobedience. Jeremiah prophesied that God would make a new and different covenant with His people (Jer 31:31). The law with its series of ceremonial ordinances, feasts, holy days, and a tabernacle for worship did not change humanity’s standing with God, thus, He required a better covenant. Unlike the old covenant written on stone tablets that the Israelites repeatedly broke, God would put the new covenant within them and write it in their hearts (31:33). He fulfilled all covenant promises from the new in Jesus the Cornerstone, the Son of God–God in flesh. With this better and new covenant they would know God, He would forgive their iniquities, and remember their sin no more (v. 34).

Better Promises

Now Christ, the Great High Priest, administers a new and better covenant.  With His first coming, Jesus fulfilled what was promised by Jeremiah (Jer 31:34). He legally terminated Moses’ inspired law and made accessible a better covenant with God for all nations. Jesus forever settles humanity’s sin with God and gives them new birth (eternal life; John 3:5,16). New birth provides a new relationship with God that results from the themes of salvation: pardon (1 John 1:9; 2:2); sanctification (Heb 10:10, 2 Tim 2:21); justification (Gal 2:16-17, 3:24); regeneration (Ezek 36:26; Titus 3:5, ), adoption (Gal 4:5-7, Eph 1:5); assurance (1 John 3:19-24, 5:13); mortification (Rom 8:13, Gal 5:24); and glorification (Phil 3:20-21).

Critical to the new covenant, the new covenant gives a superior revelation of God to His people by the removal of their sins. The seven previous covenants did not remit sin. God forgave sin and justified the repentant on the basis of His provision yet to come with the Messiah (Rom 3:25). On the other hand, God forgives all sin on the ground of Jesus’ death and resurrection with the new covenant. Through the new covenant’s ability to put sin away with Christ’s shed blood, it stands as a channel for all covenant  promises and its purposes for fulfillment in His people and creation.

Further, the Prophet Isaiah wrote that God gave His Servant (Jesus, the Messiah) for a covenant to Israel and a light to all nations (Isa 42:8-9). God provided Himself in the person of Jesus Christ (the incarnation; 1 Cor 1:29-30). Scripture prophesied all nations would be blessed through covenant by Abraham’s Seed Christ, thereby fulfilling the covenant God made with Him (Gen 15:1; 22:17-18).

Closing: A New Covenant Reality

The new covenant in Christ restores men and women in their relationship with God through the obedience of faith, repentance, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, and receiving of the Holy Ghost. The power of Christ’s shed blood releases us from sin’s guilt and dominion. All covenants of Scripture progressively flow to fulfillment into the new covenant by Jesus Christ. His calling ordained through prophecy under the old covenant becomes the calling and hope of new testament believers today. This last covenant is an everlasting covenant that fulfills the purposes and promises of God for both His church and humanity.

Pastor Daryl Cox

References

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