Reading Revelation (Part 2): The constraints

POST OVERVIEW. The second in a series of posts about ways to read the book of Revelation that make it less confusing and intimidating. This post discusses the constraints that are on Revelation which limit its possible interpretations. (Also, see previous post #568 which was on the purposes of the book of Revelation.)

INTRODUCTION. Reading the book of Revelation is a challenging task for any disciple of Jesus. The visions the apostle John relates to us in Revelation are strange and spectacular, and trying to make sense of the visions and then put them into some coherent picture is difficult work. But, while acknowledging the difficulties involved, I believe the challenge of understanding the book of Revelation is eased considerably when we understand how to read the book. In these posts I hope to offer some principles for approaching Revelation that will make the book much less intimidating.

CONSTRAINTS ON REVELATION

Having discussed the purposes of Revelation in our previous post (#568), we now turn our attention to the constraints that are placed on this last book of the Bible. It is probably unusual to think about a biblical book as being “constrained.” Of course, in a sense all sixty-six books of the Bible are constrained, because they all must harmonize with each other and agree with each other, particular in terms of doctrine. In that sense, each successive book of the Bible is more “constrained” than the one before it. But Revelation is constrained not only by the fact that it is the last book of the Bible and must harmonize with the sixty-five books that preceded it, but also because the book functions as a summary and a conclusion to the entire story line of the Bible, tying up loose ends and filling in blanks to make the entire scriptural masterpiece complete. This places constraints on Revelation that restrict (“constrain”) the way we can interpret the contents of the book, as we will see.

Some readers seem to approach Revelation as if it existed independent of the rest of Scripture and is filled with wild new ideas and events never before encountered in the Bible and disconnected from the rest of the God-breathed books which precede it. This approach, however, is exactly the opposite of what is the case. A significant portion of Revelation consists of quotes of previous Scripture or of obvious allusions to characters and events and prophecies from the Old Testament. Revelation could serve as a final exam, testing disciples of Jesus to see how well they know their Bibles. “Can you recognize the allusions to the Old Testament in this chapter (whatever chapter that is)? Having recognized the allusions, can you identify their Old Testament reference? Book, chapter, and verse?” And this characteristic of Revelation, that it is packed with Old Testament allusions, is the very thing that “constrains” Revelation in what it can say.

Let me try to give an example. Consider the concept of the last day. Revelation is constrained in its teaching about the last day. Why? Because the last day, “the day of the LORD,” “that day,” the day of judgment, etc. has been part of biblical revelation, in explicit prophecy or in implicit “types,” in virtually every book of the Bible. The flood in Genesis 6-8 foreshadows the last day. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 foreshadows the last day. In uncountable places in the Old Testament the last day is mentioned or implied. Then finally in Malachi 4, the last chapter in the Old Testament, the prophet teaches more about the last day. “For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace,” says the LORD of hosts (Malachi 4:1). In the New Testament, Jesus talks about the last day many times during His earthly ministry, and Paul and Peter and John and the author of Hebrews also write about the last day in their inspired writings. So, when John receives his visions in Revelation, the events of the last day and the characters involved in the last day are very well known and our interpretations of these visions is constrained by all the writing about the last day that preceded them.

SUMMARY. So, when reading Revelation, remember that this last book of the Bible is constrained by its requirement to harmonize with all the inspired writing that has preceded it. Therefore, it is best to read the book with an eye to seeing which previous events are being concluded here. “Armageddon,” foreshadowed in Ezekiel 38-39, is concluded in Revelation 16, 19, and 20. The evil man (antichrist), whom we meet in Daniel 7, 8, 9, and 11, and in the man of lawlessness of 2 Thessalonians 2, is consummated and concluded in the beast of Revelation 13. The persecution of the church, sent out as “sheep in the midst of wolves” (Matt. 10:16), is culminated in the tribulation we see in Revelation 6:9, 20:4, 11:7, 13:7, etc. Most significantly, the return of the Lord Jesus in power and glory, mentioned and implied many times throughout the Scriptures, is completed in the Rider on the white horse in Revelation 19:11-16. Remember, Revelation is constrained, so we read the book with the eye for seeking conclusions and consummations.

SDG                 rmb                 9/10/2022                   #569

The binding of Satan, Part 2 (Revelation 20:1-3)

POST OVERVIEW. There are two places in the Bible that teach about the binding of Satan, in Matthew 12:29 and in Revelation 20:1-3. In post #566, we looked at Matthew 12:29. This post will be a study of Revelation 20:1-3.  

Our purpose in these two posts is to discover what the Scripture teaches us about the binding of Satan, implicit in Matthew 12:29 and explicit in Revelation 20:1-3. In post #566, we looked at Matthew 12:29 and discovered that this verse teaches us that Jesus is going to bind Satan so that Satan’s kingdom can be plundered, and that “plundering” will be accomplished through the church’s proclamation of the gospel. But Matthew 12:29 also left us with questions. Exactly when will Jesus bind Satan? And how will this binding take place? What does that actually look like? To answer these questions, we now turn to our second “binding” passage, Revelation 20:1-3.

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.

We will start our study by identifying the characters involved. In Rev. 20:2 we see the dragon, and we know that the dragon is Satan. There is also “an angel coming down from heaven.” Although John uses “angel” to describe this being, this “angel” is none other than the resurrected Lord Jesus. Why do I say that this “angel” is Jesus?

  • First, we observe that the angel is holding the key to the abyss in his hand. In Revelation, the only one who has keys is Jesus. He has “the keys of death and of Hades” (1:18), and here he also has the key to the abyss where he is going to put Satan for a thousand years.
  • But also notice the power and authority of this unnamed “angel.” Whereas Michael the archangel did not dare pronounce a judgment against the devil (Jude 9), this angel has the power to throw Satan around like a ragdoll. He “laid hold of the dragon (Satan) and bound him for a thousand years; and he threw him into the abyss and shut it and sealed it over him so that he would not deceive the nations any longer” (20:2-3). During all of this, the dragon (Satan) is powerless to resist. The only one who can throw Satan around like this is the Lord Jesus. This angel, then, is Jesus.

Thus, the characters in this scene in Rev. 20:1-3 are Satan and the Lord Jesus, and the action performed is that Jesus binds Satan. Notice this is the exact same situation that we encountered in our study of Matthew 12:29, where we had the strong man (Satan) and Jesus as the characters and the action was that Jesus bound the strong man. We remember from Matt. 12:29 that Jesus binds the strong man so that He can plunder his kingdom. Thus, by logical deduction, we can say that Jesus will bind Satan in the abyss so that He can plunder his kingdom.

WHEN IS SATAN BOUND?

But can we also determine when Jesus is going to bind Satan? I think we can.

First, from Rev. 20:2 we observe that the dragon (Satan) is bound at the beginning of the thousand years.

Also, from Matt. 12:29, we know that someone (in this case, Jesus) “first binds the strong man (Satan), and then he will plunder his house.” So the sequence goes, “First we bind him, then we plunder him.” From this verse and from ordinary reasoning, we can conclude that, immediately after the strong man (Satan) is bound, the plundering of the strong man’s house (Satan’s kingdom) begins.

Since, from Rev. 20:2 we know that Satan is bound at the beginning of the thousand years, and from Matt. 12:29 we know that, when Satan is bound, the plundering of his kingdom begins, we can logically conclude that the plundering of Satan’s kingdom begins at the beginning of the thousand years.

Now the question is, “When does Satan’s kingdom begin to be plundered?” If we can answer this question, we will have discovered both when Satan is bound and when the thousand years begins. But the answer to this question is obvious: Satan’s kingdom began to be plundered the moment the commissioned church (Matthew 28:19-20) began to proclaim the gospel of salvation so that lost sinners could be saved. Thus, we now know that Satan was bound at the very beginning of the gospel age (~AD 32) and, since, from Rev. 20:2, Satan was bound to begin the thousand years, we know that “the thousand years” began in ~AD 32.

DOES THIS FIT THE BIBLICAL RECORD?

So far, so good. But could this have actually occurred? That is, does the Scripture allow the possibility that the resurrected Jesus bound Satan in the abyss in ~AD 32? Yes, the Scripture does allow for this occurrence.

Recall that the resurrected Lord Jesus ascended to heaven in Acts 1:9. Then in Rev. 5:6ff, the victorious Lamb arrives in heaven to the praises of the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders and to the praises of myriads of angels. He begins to break the seven seals of the book, and from that point until His glorious return (Rev. 19:11-16) He is seated in heaven at the Father’s right hand (Psalm 110:1). So, when would there be a time when Jesus could bind Satan in the abyss?

After the resurrected Lord leaves His disciples on earth (Acts 1:9), but before He arrives in heaven as the victorious Lamb (Rev. 5:6), He is seen “coming down from heaven, holding the key to the abyss” (Rev. 20:1). It is at this time, while He is ascending to heaven, that He binds Satan in the abyss for the thousand years. After binding Satan, Jesus ascends to heaven.

This scenario agrees with the biblical text and provides a reasonable explanation for the events surrounding the binding of Satan.

SDG                 rmb                 9/9/2022                     #567

John 6:31-68 – Part 3: Eating the living bread (6:45-58)

INTRODUCTION. This third part of an in-depth study of John 6:31-68 is a continuation of post #523 and post #529 and focuses on the crucial teaching in John 6:45-58.

[NOTE: This part of the study is longer than the other parts because the concepts presented here are complex and are not easily explained in a few words. I feel that the additional reading will be rewarded by greater understanding of this beautiful passage. RMB]

OVERVIEW OF THE PASSAGE. This passage (6:45-58) is the heart of this section of Scripture (6:31-68) and contains important teaching about how Jesus, the bread from heaven, provides life to His people. The passage is also crucial in giving us a vivid analogy of what it means to believe in Jesus, teaching us figuratively to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

KEY CONCEPTS covered in this passage include:

  • believing in Jesus
  • eternal life/live forever/not die
  • the bread of life/the living bread that came down out of heaven
  • eating the flesh and drinking the blood of the Son of Man (Jesus)
  • being raised up on the last day.

The main DIFFICULTY of this passage consists in correctly understanding what Jesus means when He instructs His disciples to “eat My flesh and drink My blood” (6:53-56).

REVIEW. The first part of John 6 tells of Jesus feeding the five thousand with five small loaves and two fish. The amazed crowd follows Jesus to Capernaum where they seek more bread and another miraculous sign. Jesus declares that the manna from Moses is not the true bread out of heaven, but that He is the bread of life.

In strong teaching from John 6:37-6:44 (see post #523 and #529), Jesus makes clear God’s sovereignty in salvation as He teaches the people that:

  • The Father has already given a people to the Son (election; see Eph. 1:4, etc.)
  • All those given to the Son will certainly come to the Son for eternal life. (predestination; see Romans 8:29-30)
  • Jesus will raise up all His people in glorious resurrection on the last day
  • By His providence and effectual calling, the Father draws people to Jesus

THE TEACHING OF JOHN 6:45-58

The passage is best understood by understanding WHO JESUS IS, then by seeing WHAT JESUS OFFERS, and finally by discovering HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS.

WHO JESUS IS. Jesus uses direct statements and the metaphor of bread to make His identity unambiguously clear. First, He says, “I am the bread of life” (6:48). This is a repetition of 6:35, when He also said that those who come to Him will never hunger or thirst. What Jesus means by His metaphor may not be clear, but this much is clear: Jesus is the bread of life.

Next, He says twice that He is “the (living) bread that came down out of heaven” (6:50, 51). Here, Jesus is contrasting Himself with the manna that the children of Israel ate in the Exodus. They ate that manna (“bread from heaven”) and they died (6:49), but Jesus is the “true bread out of heaven” (6:32). Jesus is the bread of life and, “if anyone eats of this (living) bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Jesus is the living bread that gives eternal life.

Finally, notice that Jesus is the bread that came down out of heaven sent by the Father. “The living Father sent Me” (6:57), and Jesus has come from heaven to give life to the world. Since He came down out of heaven and was sent by God the Father, Jesus is divine.

SUMMARY. From this passage, we see that Jesus is God in the flesh, the living bread sent by the Father from heaven to give eternal life to the world.

WHAT JESUS OFFERS. As the bread of life and the living bread that came out of heaven, what does Jesus offer the people? From the passage we see, first, “one may eat of it (the bread) and not die” (6:50). As strong as this verse is, Jesus states the truth even more clearly in the next verse: “If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (6:51). Eat of Jesus and you will not die but will live forever. Of course, we need to determine what it means to metaphorically eat of Jesus as the living bread, but at this point we see that Jesus is offering people the opportunity to live forever. (NOTE: “Live forever” is the same as “have eternal life.”)

A few verses later, Jesus again declares His offer of eternal life and connects this eternal life with participation in the resurrection on the last day. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (6:54). Once again, we are confronted with the need to understand Jesus’ metaphor about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, but what He offers us is in plain view. He offers eternal life and a resurrection.

SUMMARY. Jesus offers His hearers the opportunity to not die, but to live forever, to have eternal life, and to be raised up on the last day (in glorious resurrection).

HOW TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS. We see the incarnate Son of God offering the people eternal life and declaring to them that He Himself will raise them up on the last day. This spectacular offer is available to all who hear His voice, but obtaining it is not automatic. We have already seen that Jesus imposes conditions on His offer and it is only those who satisfy Jesus’ conditions who will obtain the eternal life that He offers.

This, then, becomes the critical issue. Every person must first identify and then satisfy Jesus’ conditions before they obtain the eternal life He offers.

TO OBTAIN WHAT JESUS OFFERS, YOU MUST SATISFY HIS CONDITIONS. Our first task, then, is to identify Jesus’ conditions. In this passage, when we were discovering what Jesus was offering, we also heard Him state His conditions.

ONE SET OF CONDITIONS.

“If anyone eats of this bread (Jesus)                                                  he will live forever.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      has eternal life.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                          I will raise him up on the last day.”

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood                                      abides in Me, and I in him.”

Here, then, is one set of conditions that must be met to obtain eternal life.

ANOTHER SET OF CONDITIONS? We also need to notice, however, that Jesus has talked about another condition for obtaining eternal life. In fact, in the gospel of John, the major message of the book is that anyone can receive eternal life by believing in Jesus. John 3:16, perhaps the most famous verse in the Bible, declares that whoever believes in the Son (Jesus) will have eternal life. According to John 20:31, the whole reason for the gospel of John is “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” In this very passage that we are studying, Jesus repeatedly tells men and women how to obtain all the blessings that He offers. “He who comes to Me will not hunger and he who believes in Me will not thirst” (6:35). “Everyone who believes in the Son will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day” (6:40). “He who believes has eternal life” (6:47). Throughout the gospel of John, the one who believes in Jesus has eternal life.

So, is Jesus now imposing another condition for obtaining salvation?

ONLY ONE CONDITION. When we compare side-by-side two verses from this passage, we will see that there is, in fact, only one condition that separates the sinner from salvation.

Everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” – John 6:40

He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:54

As we compare these two verses, we notice, first, that the results of the sinner’s action in 6:40 (“believes in the Son”) are exactly the same as the results of the sinner’s action in 6:54 (“eats My flesh and drinks My blood”). In both cases, the sinner’s action yields eternal life and a resurrection on the last day.

Next, we observe that John 6:40 falls within a section of teaching where Jesus is speaking in literal terms. That is, when Jesus speaks of “beholding the Son” and “believing in the Son,” we observe that Jesus is speaking literally.

By contrast, in John 6:54, Jesus is speaking metaphorically about Himself as the bread of life. The Lord has established His identity as “the bread of life” (6:48), as “the bread that comes down out of heaven” (6:50), and as “the living bread that came down out of heaven” (6:51). Jesus has thus made clear that He is now speaking figuratively about Himself as bread. Therefore, in this context, the Lord speaks about how to obtain eternal life in figurative terms.

Jesus intentionally parallels these two verses to teach that “believing in the Son” should be understood metaphorically as “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.” Throughout His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus has been proclaiming that anyone who believes in Him will obtain eternal life. “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him (Jesus) whom He (the Father) has sent” (John 6:29). Here, then, the Lord is giving a vivid picture, an illustration of what believing in Him means.

What we see is that “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” is actually an explanation and an intensification of “believing in the Son.” Imagine a person who is there in Capernaum listening to Jesus teach or imagine someone who is reading John 6 in our own day. This person is convinced that believing in Jesus is the only way to eternal life and the only way to be saved, but then they ask the question, “What does it actually mean to ‘believe in Jesus’? Can you give me an illustration of what that looks like?” The Lord Jesus answers that question by saying, in effect, “Believing in Me is like eating My flesh and drinking My blood (6:53-56).”

EATING HIS FLESH AND DRINKING HIS BLOOD. For the disciple of Jesus, believing in Him is a matter of life and death. If the disciple cannot eat of Jesus and cannot drink of Jesus, then he will die of hunger and thirst. Communion with Jesus is the disciple’s means of survival. When Job considered his relationship with the LORD, he said, “I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12). This gives a taste of what it means for the disciple of Christ to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

The Lord Jesus Himself, when tested by the devil after forty days without food, declared, “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). For the follower of Jesus, Jesus is more to be desired than food that will sustain our physical life.

David had the attitude of “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” when he wrote,

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water. – Psalm 63:1

David’s soul thirsts for the LORD and his flesh hungers for Him, not literally but figuratively, as a thirsty man would yearn for water in the middle of the desert.

To believe in Jesus means to receive Him and embrace Him without reservation as a starving man would consume a loaf of bread. The believer eats and drinks all of Jesus in all His incarnate deity to satisfy his sinful soul. And the one who eats Jesus’ flesh and drinks Jesus’ blood is the one whom Jesus will certainly not cast out.

CONCLUSION

From this study of John 6:45-58 we have seen that Jesus, as the metaphorical bread of life, has been sent by the Father to earth to offer eternal life to the world, and that everyone who believes in Jesus will receive eternal life and will be raised up by Jesus at the resurrection on the last day. Jesus uses the metaphor of “eating My flesh and drinking My blood” to help His disciples understand the depth and the intensity of true saving faith.

SDG                 rmb                 7/5/2022                     #551

Psalm 110 – The return of the conquering King

INTRODUCTION. A detailed interpretation of Psalm 110 which acknowledges the mysteries of the psalm from an Old Testament perspective and reveals the true meaning of the psalm in light of the Incarnation and the soon-coming return of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So opaque were the mysteries of Psalm 110 that Hebrew scholars wrote virtually no commentaries on this psalm. Not only was the imagery within the psalm very difficult to understand, but the events that are taking place and even the characters involved were beyond the grasp of a scholar from the Old Testament era. Not long before His crucifixion, Jesus the Messiah questions the Pharisees about the meaning of Psalm 110:1 and receives only confused silence in reply. For, indeed, if our teaching is restricted to the Old Testament texts and our thinking is limited to an old covenant frame of reference, the psalm is virtually impossible to interpret. Here is the text of the psalm (from NASB):

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”
The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying,
“Rule in the midst of Your enemies.”
Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power;
In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew.

The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind,
“You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”
The Lord is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.
He will judge among the nations, He will fill them with corpses,
He will shatter the chief men over a broad country.
He will drink from the brook by the wayside; Therefore He will lift up His head.

Yes, with an Old Testament mindset, the psalm’s mysteries are unsolvable. But Christ has now removed our old covenant veil. Now Christ has come in His humble first advent, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, to accomplish His work of redemption by dying on the cross for His people and He has been raised from the dead to prove that His atonement was accepted by the Father. So, we now preach Christ crucified and proclaim Christ raised from the dead, but we also declare that Christ will return in power and glory to reward the righteous and judge the unrighteous.

So, as we read Psalm 110 through the lens of the New Testament, we see that this psalm gives us a picture of what must soon take place when Christ returns at the end of the age. When we understand the context of this psalm, the beauty and the power of these prophecies come through like thunder.

The rest of this post, then, will be a meditation on Psalm 110.

BASIC FACTS. Psalm 110 was written by David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit about a thousand years before Jesus Christ appeared in the flesh.

110:1. The English translation can inadvertently hide the text of the original Hebrew. “The LORD says to my Lord” translates the Hebrew, “YHWH says to my Adonai.” YHWH (the LORD) is the name of the covenant-keeping God. This name is the most holy word that can be spoken by a Hebrew. Adonai (the Lord) is also a name for the God of the Hebrews, but this name could be spoken without great fear of judgment. But what this verse presents to the Old Testament Hebrew reader is a total mystery, since God is speaking to God. But how can God speak to God? For Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “The LORD (YHWH) is our God, the LORD is one!” But if God is one, how does He appear here in Psalm 110:1 as two?

Now, however, after Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, it has been revealed that our God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Knowing this, we can understand that, in this verse, God the Father (YHWH) is speaking to God the Son (Adonai), and He tells Him to “sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

This phrase may still not make sense until we consider when this conversation between YHWH and Adonai takes place. For this exchange between God the Father and Jesus Christ, God the Son, occurs after Jesus has accomplished His work of redemption on the cross and has ascended back to heaven (John 19:30; Acts 1:9; Rev. 5:6-14). So, here in this verse, God the Father (YHWH) is welcoming God the Son (Adonai) back into heaven and back to His seat at the Father’s right hand. The Father tells Jesus the Son to wait “until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”

This last phrase looks forward to the end of the age when the glorified Lord Jesus will come from heaven on the last day (Rev. 19:11-16) to judge the unrighteous (Rev. 19:21).

The first verse of the psalm, then, sets the stage of the psalm by showing us the victorious Jesus Christ awaiting the Father’s command for Him to return to judge the earth.

110:2. Now the Father’s command is issued. In 110:1, the Son was at the Father’s right hand awaiting the Father’s command for Him to return, and this is that command. To paraphrase, the Father tells the Son, “Go, My Son! You are the King. Stretch forth Your scepter (symbol of the King’s power and authority) from Zion (the place of the King’s rule; see Psalm 2:6) and vanquish Your enemies!” With the Father’s command, the Son prepares for His glorious return.

110:3. In this context, “Your people” must refer to the saints of the Lord Jesus. To put this in theological terms, “Your people” includes all the elect of all time. So, Jesus is returning with all of His people, but notice His people are “in holy array.” This speaks of the fact that His return occurs after the resurrection. The saints have been glorified in the resurrection (1 Thess. 4:14-17; 1 Cor. 15:50-55) and are now “in holy array” as they “volunteer freely” (joyfully join with the Lord Jesus as He returns to earth in judgment) “in the day of Your power.” (See also 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:14; Rev. 14:1-5; 19:14). Thus all the glorified saints accompany King Jesus as He returns to judge the earth.

110:4. This verse serves as a parenthesis, taking us from the last day all the way back to eternity past when we hear the Father’s oath to the Son, saying, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Here is another passage that exceeds old covenant theology, for according to the Law, the priesthood began with the anointing of Aaron and continued through Aaron’s descendants until no later than AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed. But Psalm 110:4 teaches that the priesthood of Melchizedek has always existed and the Lord Jesus has always been a priest forever according to that order. So, this verse establishes that the warrior King is also a priest forever.

This means that Jesus’ priesthood existed in eternity past long before the Aaronic priesthood began. Indeed, Jesus’ priesthood was established even long before Melchizedek appeared as a priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18-20). Thus the Aaronic priesthood functioned as a temporary “type,” pointing forward to the permanent and eternal priesthood of the Son of God (Hebrews 7-10).

110:5-6. Having turned aside for a verse to declare the eternal priesthood of the Son, the psalmist now returns to the last day and to the terrifying judgment of the unrighteous by the warrior King. Jesus is returning with His glorified saints to judge the earth (Rev. 6:12-17; 19:11-21), and there will be no place to hide. These two verses are clear and need no comment.

110:7. After the dramatic action of the rest of the psalm, this last verse presents a curious conclusion. What is the significance of the warrior King “drinking from the brook by the wayside” and “lifting up His head?” But when we consider this for a moment, the message of this verse is revealed to be simple and yet very profound.

Up until this point in the psalm it would be possible to see the Lord (Adonai) as only divine. The Hebrew scholar who lived under the old covenant would have understood Adonai to be God, even if he could not understand what this psalm was teaching about how the LORD (YHWH) and the Lord (Adonai) related to one another. And so, the Old Testament Hebrew would have seen Adonai as being God but would never have conceived of Adonai as also being human, and, up until 110:7, that would have been a valid understanding of the psalm. So the scholar might conclude something like, “Somehow the Lord (Adonai) is going to come at the end and is going to pour out God’s wrath on the unrighteous.”

But the simple words of 110:7 throw that interpretation out the window, for “He will drink from the brook by the wayside.” Observe that this “He” of 110:7 is the same “He” of 110:5 and 110:6, which we have decided must be the Lord (Adonai). But how does Adonai “drink from the brook” and “lift up His head”? These are things that humans do, but the Lord, as God, does not drink from brooks and He does not have a physical head to lift up. Or does He?

The solution to this conundrum is stunning. If the Lord (Adonai) drinks from the brook by the wayside and lifts up His head, it must mean that somehow the Lord has become a Man. Somehow the Lord, who is God and who is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek and who is seated at the LORD’s right hand and who will come on the last day to judge the nations; the Lord is somehow both God and Man. Yes, the Lord is both God and Man and His name is the Lord Jesus Christ.

CONCLUSION

From an Old Testament mindset, Psalm 110 was a murky collection of mysteries. It was not possible for the Old Testament Hebrew to understand David’s inspired writing because God had not revealed enough in His word to untangle the knots.

But now that Christ has been revealed and has died, has been raised and has ascended, and now that God has given us His full revelation in a completed Bible, we can see that, almost a millennium before Christ appeared and at least three millennia before He returned, the Holy Spirit inspired David to give us a veiled preview of that final awesome day.

SDG                 rmb                 6/24/2022                   #547

John 6:31-65 – Part 2: The Father draws him (6:41-44)

INTRODUCTION. An in-depth Bible study on John 6:31-65 in several parts. This section of the gospel of John is important for several reasons. In these verses, Jesus gives some of His clearest teaching about the sovereignty of God in salvation, from initial choosing to final glorification. Also, Jesus here instructs us about the timing of the resurrection, that it will occur on the last day. Thirdly, in this passage, Jesus teaches using different metaphors and analogies to explain what it means to believe in Him and so helps the reader have multiple readings of the same concepts. This second part of the study is a continuation of Post #523 on 4/29/2022 and will cover John 6:41-44.

In this short passage (John 6:41-44), Jesus continues His teaching about who He is. He is the bread of life that came down out of heaven sent by God the Father so that whoever believes in Him will have eternal life and will be raised up on the last day. This is a bit much for these unbelieving Jews to grasp, so they grumble.

John 6:41-42. Since the Jews continued to believe that Jesus was a mere man, simply the human son of Joseph and Mary, they grumbled at the arrogance of His saying, “I have come down out of heaven.”

6:43-44. Jesus continues His previous teaching about God’s sovereignty in salvation and about the last day (6:44). Before going on to explain 6:44, however, I wanted to review what we  covered in John 6:35-40.

REVIEW

  • In the previous section (6:35-40), we were introduced to two key phrases: those who “come to Me” (6:35, 37 (2)) and those whom the Father has given to the Son (6:37, 39), and we saw that these two phrases describe exactly the same group of people.
  • From John 6:35, we also saw that those who “come to Jesus” are the same group of people who “believe in Jesus.”
  • We also recall that John 6:39 taught us that “all the Father has given to [the Son] (i.e., all those chosen in Christ before the world began; Ephesians 1:4), these the Son will “raise up on the last day.” That is, all those given by the Father to the Son before the foundation of the world will surely be resurrected (glorified) on the last day (see Romans 8:29-30; 1 John 3:1-2). In other words, we see that God ordained the beginning and the end of salvation, and everything in between. God the Father began salvation by giving the elect to the Son in eternity past, and the Son will end salvation by raising up all the elect on the last day.
  • Finally in 6:40, Jesus again states the connection between believing in Him and having eternal life (previously stated in John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24), and we see that everyone who believes in Jesus has eternal life. So there is a 1:1 correspondence between believing in Jesus and having eternal life. And from this verse there is also a 1:1 correspondence between believing in Jesus and being raised up on the last day. So, everyone who believes in Jesus will be resurrected (glorified) on the last day. [NOTE: It is obvious from this passage that the resurrection occurs on The Last Day. Literally, on The Last Day.]
  • In John 6:40, Jesus also teaches us that eternal life is not the same thing as having a glorified body or even the same thing as being in heaven. Eternal life begins when a person believes in Jesus. This is clearly stated in John 3:36, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life.” But we know that Jesus will not raise up believers until The Last Day. Therefore, all believers will spend some time having eternal life in our fallen bodies, and all believers will spend eternity having eternal life in our glorified bodies, and most believers will spend some time having eternal life as disembodied souls in heaven awaiting the resurrection.

Having reviewed Jesus’ previous teaching on God’s sovereignty in salvation and the certainty of the last day, we return to John 6:44 to discover what Jesus adds to His lesson.

No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:44

6:44. Jesus introduces us to another necessary part of our salvation. We have learned that it is necessary for us to come to Jesus to be saved, but here we read that not all have the ability to come to Jesus. “No one can come to Me (unless).” In the original Greek, the verb translated “can” speaks of ability. A possible paraphrase of this verse might be, “Everyone is unable to come to Me (unless).” A man may want to fly through the air like a bird, but he is physically unable to do that. He cannot fly. Just so, Jesus is saying that you cannot come to Him unless the Father does something first. Also, as the verse reads in the text, it appears that the “rule” is that a person is unable to come to Jesus, and that the “unless” speaks of the exception to the rule. That is, most cannot, but a few can. But regardless of whether those that come are the exception or the rule, Jesus is definitely teaching that, unless the Father draws the unsaved person, that person cannot come to Jesus for salvation. In other words, that person’s eternal salvation depends entirely on the Father’s action.

The question that must follow is, “Whom does the Father draw?” Is His choice arbitrary, just a random selection? Or is it based on the goodness of the people who are drawn, that they are the ones who are more righteous and holier than the rest? But of course Jesus’ teaching already makes clear those whom the Father will draw. The Father will draw those whom He has given to the Son so that these can (are able to) come to Jesus, and these will believe in Him for eternal life. Those who are drawn to Him and who come to Him and who believe in Him, He will certainly not cast out (6:37c), but “I will raise Him up on the last day” (6:44).

SUMMARY SO FAR

This is a good point to stop and try to summarize what Jesus has taught so far in this passage. In eternity past, the Father has given some people to Son. In time, the Father draws those whom He has given to the Son, and those whom the Father draws will come to Jesus and will believe in Jesus. Those who believe in Jesus have eternal life and they will be raised up (resurrected, glorified) by Jesus on the last day.

SDG                 rmb                 5/12/2022                   #529

John 6:31-65 – Part 1: Come to Me, believe in Me (v. 31-40)

INTRODUCTION. A Bible study on John 6:31-65 in several parts giving insight into the metaphors and analogies Jesus uses with the crowd to explain what it means to believe in Him. This is the first part of the study, John 6:31-40.

OVERVIEW. As our passage opens, Jesus has just fed the five thousand from “five barley loaves and two fish (6:9). The Lord created food from heaven to feed the five thousand in order to make clear to the crowd that He was the bread that came down out of heaven, but the people are spiritually blind. They understand Christ’s metaphors literally and thus become confused and even disgusted. We want to be sure, as we go through this story, that we are not likewise confused by Jesus’ analogies and metaphors, but instead are encouraged to draw closer to Him and to enjoy Him more.

JESUS IS THE BREAD FROM HEAVEN. One of the main messages that we should receive from this passage is that Jesus is the bread that the Father has sent from heaven. Jesus says this many times and in many ways to make unambiguously clear that He is the bread of life (6:35, 48) and that, by believing in Him, you will be satisfied. Eat Him, and you will have life. The Father has sent Him from heaven to be the bread of life for the world. Jesus did not just show up one day and start making outrageous claims. Rather, Jesus was sent by the Father to the world to accomplish a specific mission (17:4; 19:30). So, Jesus = bread from heaven. This is the message. Let’s see how Jesus communicates this.

6:32. “My Father gives you the true bread out of heaven.” Jesus is the true bread from heaven and has been given by the Father.

6:33. “The bread of God (from heaven) gives life to the world.” Jesus gives life.

6:35a. “I am the bread of life.” Can’t get much clearer than that!

HE WHO COMES TO ME, HE WHO BELIEVES IN ME. Jesus now shifts slightly from proclaiming to teaching. In 6:35b – 6:47, Jesus teaches about the significance of His being the bread of life. For the value of bread is not merely beholding the bread or acknowledging that bread exists, but the value of bread comes from eating the bread. Bread cannot sustain life unless it is eaten. Just so, Jesus will not give you life unless you come to Him and believe in Him.

6:35b. “He who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.” Jesus now introduces these two critical phrases, “he who comes to Me” and “he who believes in Me.” The two phrases mean essentially the same thing. The one who comes to Jesus comes to Him because they believe in Him, and the one who believes in Him has first come to Him. Thus, they are equivalent expressions and mean “to trust in Christ savingly.”

6:37a. Here Jesus speaks of God’s election of those He will save. “All that the Father gives Me” makes clear that the Father is the One who initiates salvation. The people who come to Jesus for salvation come, not because they personally have made a decision, but because the Father has given them to the Son. And whom does the Father give to the Son? The Father gives to the Son those “the Father chose in Christ before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4).

6:37b. “will come to Me.” Jesus now moves from God’s election, those whom the Father chose for salvation, to God’s certain calling. The math in this verse is clear: If the Father has “given you to the Son” (chosen you for salvation), you will (definitely, irresistibly) come to Jesus for salvation. Or again, if you have been given to Jesus, you will certainly (eventually, before you physically die) believe in Jesus. That is simply what these words mean. Jesus is not here speaking about possibilities but about divine certainties. Those who are chosen will be saved.

6:37c. “and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out.” Having declared God’s sovereignty in salvation in His election and in His calling (see above), Jesus now tells us that, once a person has come to Christ (that is, once they have believed in or trusted in Christ), they will never be “cast out.” That is, those whom the Father has given to the Son are given forever. These are saved, and they will never be lost. (See John 10:27-30 for another strong statement of this doctrinal truth.)

6:38a. Jesus now returns to His essential message in the gospel of John, but here He leaves out the bread. “I have come down from heaven.” Jesus again makes a clear declarative statement about His origin. There is no ambiguity. You either believe what He said or you don’t, but there is nothing to be misunderstood. Simply put, Jesus came from heaven.

THE WILL OF THE FATHER

6:38b. Now another central theme in the gospel is voiced, namely that Jesus came to do the will of the Father. “not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” Notice again that Jesus was sent from heaven, and the One who sent Him was the Father. Jesus, as God the Son, has submitted His will to the will of God the Father. Jesus has been sent to accomplish the will (or possibly “mission”) of the Father who sent Him.

6:39. And what is the will of Him who sent Jesus? It is explicitly stated in this verse. “Of all that He (the Father) has given Me (see 6:37a) I lose nothing (see 6:37c) but raise it (or “them”) up on the last day.” Much theology is packed into this verse. First, the Lord affirms that He will certainly not let anyone who has come to Him be lost. This is not only a statement that gives the believer security in their salvation, but it is also a statement of Jesus’ deity, for He is claiming the power to guarantee that no one who comes to Him for salvation will ever be lost. How can He make such an outrageous claim? He can do so without arrogance and with complete confidence because He is God.

TEACHING ABOUT THE END OF THE AGE

But second, there is much here about the end of the age. Notice that Jesus says He will be there on the last day. This is another testament to His deity. The Man who is here making statements to this crowd about being the bread of life will also be the One who will raise up in glorious resurrection all those who believed in Him throughout the ages. Jesus is God, and He will be there on the last day of human history to speak to those who are in the tombs, and “all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth” (John 5:29). So, the message is that, on the last day, Jesus will personally raise up all those who have come to Him. He will lose nothing.

Notice also that there is certainly coming a last day. Many people live as if things will just keep going along like this forever and there will not be a day of reckoning when God will judge the living and the dead, but that is foolish. There is coming a last day when the resurrection will occur and the final judgment will take place. God will surely render recompense to the unrighteous for their sins and will finally redeem the righteous. It will be an awesome day. I know where I will be on that last day. How ‘bout you?

6:40. This verse parallels 6:39 and says essentially the same thing in different words. This is a common occurrence in John’s gospel. Jesus will say the same thing several different ways in order to make the message unmistakably clear. This teaching method also allows us to see that there is more than one way to state a theological truth.

Phrase in John 6:39Phrase in John 6:40
the will of Him who sent Methe will of My Father
all that He has given Meeveryone who beholds the Son and believes in Him
I lose nothing **will have eternal life **
I raise it (them) up on the last dayI Myself will raise him up on the last day
** not exactly parallel, but similar

Now we can see how this teaching method helps us understand phrases in this passage and in other passages in John. Below I lay these ideas out explicitly.

  • “Him who sent Me (Jesus)” = “My Father”
  • “all that” = “everyone who”
  • The person given by the Father to the Son (Jesus) = The person “who believes in Him” Every person given by the Father to the Son will believe in the Son.
  • This is not an exact parallel, but “I lose nothing” tells of the believer’s eternal security and “will have eternal life” also gives assurance, because an eternal life that can be lost is obviously not eternal
  • “I raise it (them) up on the last day” = “I Myself will raise him up on the last day”

This study is taking more time than I thought, but it is an edifying experience, so I will cut off this part here at the end of John 6:40 and pick it up with John 6:41 with the next post.

SDG                 rmb                 4/29/2022                   #523

The 42 months* of Revelation: a crucial end times concept

INTRODUCTION. The book of Revelation is the source of almost all of the Bible’s teaching about the 42 months*. (NOTE: The 42 months* is the name that I give to the time period of forty-two months’ duration that falls between the “thousand years” and the Last Day in the Bible’s end times timeline. It is figurative in duration, meaning that the 42 months* lasts approximately three-and-a-half years. The 42 months* appears five times in Revelation 11-13 in three expressions: forty-two months, time and times and half a time, and 1,260 days.) This post explores how to grasp the concept of the 42 months* and thus how to gain a better understanding of Revelation and the flow of the end times.

THE FLOW OF THE LAST DAYS

First, it is necessary to grasp the flow of the last days. (Much of this material is better understood by referring to my book on the end times called The Last Act of the Drama, available from Amazon.) Because of much well-intentioned but incorrect teaching on the end times in general and on the book of Revelation specifically, many (most?) Bible students are confused by both. To remedy that situation takes some work, but that work begins by understanding the general flow of the last days.

The three recognizable components of the last days are the “thousand years,” the 42 months*, and the Last Day, also known as “the day of the LORD” and “that day.” The “thousand years” (Rev. 20:1-6) begins with Christ’s ascension (Acts 1:9) and is the time when Christ’s church is gathered in as the gospel is proclaimed. This “relatively literal” time period (not literally one thousand years, but rather a very long time) ends with the release of Satan from the abyss (Revelation 20:3, 7). This begins the period of the 42 months*, which is a period of intense eschatological activity that prepares the world for the return of Jesus. Whereas the purpose of the “thousand years” was the ingathering of the elect into the church, the purpose of the 42 months* is to purify and cleanse the gathered church by persecution. The duration of the 42 months* is also “relatively literal,” meaning that it is not a long time like a thousand years, but is rather only a few years, probably less than a decade. The 42 months* ends when the forces of wickedness under the leadership of the beast attempt to annihilate the church at Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). This initiates the Last Day. The events of the Last Day are relatively easy to discern from the Scriptures. Once the Resurrection, the return of Christ, and the temporal destruction of all the unrighteous occur, The wicked are then judged finally and forever at the Great White Throne. This ushers in the new heaven and the new earth when time is no more and the righteous are forever with the Lord in heaven (Rev. 7:9).

THE LAST DAY IN SCRIPTURE

The Last Day (“that day”, “the day of the LORD”) is presented literally and figuratively in many places in the Bible, in both Old Testament and New. The final presentation of the Last Day in Revelation (19:11-21, etc.) serves mainly to fill in the final blanks and to put the last threads in the tapestry and to paint the last paint-by-number voids so that the whole effect is felt.

THE “THOUSAND YEARS” IN SCRIPTURE

The “thousand years” is the normal state of most of the time between Christ’s ascension and His Second Coming. This is the long time of the great ingathering of those who have been chosen for salvation (Ephesians 1:4), the time when the church rides out with the bow of the gospel, conquering and to conquer (Rev. 6:1-2). The Great Commission has been issued by the King (Matthew 28:19-20) and Jesus has also defined the church’s task (Acts 1:8), so that the work is clear. Most of the Bible’s instruction is intended for this “thousand years” as the church is built up and sanctified through the ordinary means of grace.

BUT THE 42 MONTHS* . . .

In contrast with the “thousand years” and the Last Day, the 42 months* are rarely mentioned in the Scriptures and when these events do appear, they are often not recognized due to a poor understanding of the teaching about the 42 months* in Revelation. For example, if the believer does not understand Armageddon from Revelation 16, 19, and 20, then he will not perceive that Ezekiel 38 and 39 foreshadow that event. Another example is the beast who rises from the sea in Revelation 13. If you do not understand the events of Revelation 13, then you will not see that the figures presented in Daniel 7, 8, 9, and 11 are types of the beast and thus foreshadow his activity.

So, to repeat, the book of Revelation contains almost all the Bible’s teaching on the 42 months*. But unless the Bible student grasps that the 42 months* exists as a distinct time period of the end times and unless the student has a general idea of the events of the 42 months*, the book of Revelation is likely to be very confusing.

HOW TO GAIN AN ACCURATE VIEW

The question, then, is, “How is the Bible student to gain an accurate understanding of the end times as presented in the Bible?” In my opinion, this involves a two-step process.

The first step is the more difficult and involves setting aside one’s current understanding of end times and of the book of Revelation. Of course, “your current understanding” is the result of years of Bible reading and so is hard to relinquish, but it is flaws in your current understanding that have produced your confusion about these passages. Rather than trying to correct your current view, the easiest thing to do is to set aside the whole thing for the moment and explore an entirely different view.

The second step is easier, but is not easy, and that is to carefully read through my book on the end times, The Last Act of the Drama. Starting with definitions of key end-times concepts, the book establishes a foundation for how to view the flow of the end times and then explores many key passages to show how the pieces fit together and form a beautiful and integrated whole. Special attention is given to the interpretation of Revelation so that the Bible student can confidently explain what the major passages mean and can see the sequence of their occurrence. Thus, the end times events are made clear.

SDG                 rmb                 2/21/2022                   #491

A study in baptism based on Romans 6:4

INTRODUCTION: One of the clearest verses on the doctrine of baptism is Romans 6:4. Paul’s unambiguous teaching here declares the purpose and the meaning of baptism. This article studies this verse.

Baptism is a New Testament ordinance given to us by the Lord Jesus Himself. At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:15) in the Jordan River, and at the end of His first advent, He commanded His church to baptize His disciples in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). But while Jesus modeled baptism and commanded baptism, we are going to turn to Paul’s teaching in Romans 6:4 to learn about the purpose and the meaning of baptism.

Therefore, we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. – Romans 6:4

The purpose of the ordinance of baptism is to mark the beginning of the believer’s new walk of holiness as he now walks with Jesus. The old life of sin has been buried with Jesus in the waters of baptism, “so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”

In baptism, the believer publicly declares their commitment to forsake their old life of sin and godlessness by repentance from sin, and vows by faith to live for Jesus Christ as they strive for holiness. Baptism is the outward illustration of an inward transformation. Water baptism pictures the realities of Romans 10:9, and of 1 John 1:9, and of Matthew 22:37.

Romans 10:9 – In biblical baptism, the believer publicly confesses with their mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord of their life, and they declare their faith in Christ and in His resurrection. Thus, baptism is for those who can confess their submission to Christ and their faith in Him.

1 John 1:9 – Water baptism is the occasion of the believer’s public confession of their sin and of their willfully turning away from their sin.

Matthew 22:37 – Water baptism marks the believer’s intention to love the Lord his God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love his neighbor as himself. His love for the Lord will henceforth be manifested in obedience to all the Lord commanded us.

Both for Christ and for the believer, there is a death and burial, and there is a resurrection from the dead. Paul’s analogy is beautifully pictured in the waters of baptism. The analogy is understood by the paradigm, “As Christ physically, so the believer figuratively and spiritually.” As Christ physically died and was buried to mark His vanquishing of sin, so the believer figuratively and spiritually dies and is buried in the baptismal waters to mark their relinquishing of sin. The posture of the believer being pushed back into the water is significant because it pictures the believer’s weakness and helplessness, and their surrender to the Lordship of Christ. Then, as Christ was physically raised from the dead in glorious resurrection, never to die again, so the believer is spiritually raised to walk in newness of life, never to be condemned again. As Christ was physically raised by the power of the Father (Ephesians 1:19-20), so the believer is raised from the water by with the help (“power”) of the pastor.

As Christ confessed His intentions (Mark 10:45; John 10:11, 15, 17, 18; Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19) and consequently submitted to His physical death, so in baptism the believer confesses their intentions (Romans 10:9; 1 John 1:9; etc.) and then submits to burial into the water.

Thus, it is clear that believer’s baptism is what Christ commanded for His church.

SDG                 rmb                 12/27/2021                 #476

The Muslim view of the crucifixion of Jesus

INTRODUCTION: Several groups have invented their own versions of the crucifixion of Jesus and how it “really” happened. In this post I want to explore the Muslim view that Jesus did not die on the crucifixion, but Judas was crucified in His place. Is that possible?

NOTE: My purpose in these blogs is to seriously consider alternative views. As such, I am not intentionally portraying any of these views falsely or as caricatures. I apologize in advance if what I present here is not consistent with the real alternative idea. Let me know if I have inaccurately presented a view and I will endeavor to correct it. rmb

THE MUSLIM VIEW

The Muslims do not believe that Jesus was crucified at all. Rather, they believe that the person who appeared as Jesus was actually Judas. Yes, that’s right, the Muslim account of the crucifixion says that Judas was crucified at Calvary, not Jesus. Is this possible? Could Judas have been the one crucified instead of Jesus?

THE INSURMOUNTABLE DIFFICULTY: The first and greatest difficulty with the Muslim view is that it contradicts every foundational teaching in the New Testament about Jesus. Every book of the New Testament insists on or necessarily assumes not only that Jesus was crucified, but also that He rose from the dead in glorious resurrection, ascended into heaven where He is ruling and reigning now, and is going to return at the end of the age to judge the living and the dead. The suggestion that Jesus was not crucified on the cross of Calvary renders the entire Bible as the most intricately and miraculously fabricated lie imaginable. No. The indisputable historical fact is that the Man that we know as Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem as a criminal by the Roman authorities around AD 30. Considering other problems with the Muslim view will only be done after unapologetically stating that the basic Muslim premise that Jesus was not crucified is in error.

CLAIM: “It was Judas, not Jesus, who was crucified.”

PROBLEMS WITH THIS CLAIM (not in any order):

  • Judas was the person who led the soldiers into the Garden of Gethsemane when they arrested Jesus (Matthew 26:47-50). Judas specifically identifies Jesus to the soldiers by betraying Him with a kiss (26:48-50). Why would the soldiers crucify Judas instead of Jesus when they knew Judas and Jesus had been clearly identified?
  • Judas was known to the chief priests in Jerusalem (see Matthew 26:14). The chief priests hired Judas to betray Jesus to them. Why would the chief priests crucify Judas instead of Jesus? Jesus was the Man they wanted dead, not Judas.
  • The gospel of Matthew describes exactly how Judas died (Matthew 27:3-5), so there is no doubt that Judas was not the one who was crucified. (NOTE: Again, it is clear from this text that the chief priests and the elders knew Judas well and would never have crucified him instead of Jesus.)
  • Jesus made three clear predictions of His upcoming crucifixion during His earthly ministry well before there was any possibility of crucifixion (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19), and these predictions were fulfilled by His crucifixion. Jesus declared that He would give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). He predicted that He would lay His life down for His sheep (John 10:11-18). All these predictions required His crucifixion.
  • Jesus was crucified in public and in broad daylight. All the crucifixion accounts attest to this. There was no possibility of mistaken identity. It was certainly Jesus who was on the cross.
  • His executioners were trained Roman soldiers whose job it was to crucify Jesus. They could not have been mistaken about whom they nailed to the cross.
  • Also, His executioners had already scourged Him and mocked Him (Matthew 27:26-31), so they knew for certain that this Man was Jesus, not Judas. (Also, by this time, Judas has already hung himself (Matthew 27:3-5).)
  • Jesus spoke throughout His trial and continued speaking while He was on the cross, even up to His last breath. The human voice is unique and instantly recognizable, and virtually everyone in the crowd around the cross had heard Jesus’ voice when He had been teaching in the temple in the days prior to His crucifixion. It was certainly Jesus whom they heard speaking from the cross, not Judas. The people heard Jesus’ voice when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46).
  • More regarding His face and His voice: Jesus’ ministry lasted for about three years, so tens of thousands of people knew His face and His voice. Both the face of a person and the sound of their voice is unique to them. Both are instantly distinguishable and cannot be duplicated. The thousands of people who had heard Jesus and had seen Jesus knew that it was Jesus, not Judas on that cross.
  • His disciples who had been with Him day and night for three years saw Him die and testified that it was Jesus whom they saw die.
  • From the time that Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane until He was finally sealed into the tomb after He died, Jesus was always in the presence of other people, and usually was surrounded by people who were hostile to Him and were eager to see Him crucified. The Muslims suggest that at some point Jesus and Judas swapped places, but there was never an opportunity for that to happen. (And we must remember that Judas hung himself shortly after he betrayed Jesus (Matthew 27:3-5).)
  • Why would Judas willingly switch places with a Man who was destined to be crucified, a Man whom he himself had that very night betrayed to the Roman guards? In other words, why would Judas betray Jesus to His enemies and then take Jesus’ place on the cross? I cannot conceive of any answer to those questions.
  • God’s plan of salvation as revealed in the gospel requires that the Messiah offer His life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of His people. Jesus’ death was required.
  • The chief priests and the elders were with Jesus throughout His passion, and they made sure that it was Jesus who was on trial and that it was Jesus who was crucified. The chief priests did not create their plot to kill Jesus and then somehow have the wrong guy crucified. No, the chief priests were sure that Jesus was crucified.

That’s enough for starters. If there are some Muslim scholars out there who can explain or give answers to these questions and issues, I welcome your comments. More tomorrow.

SDG                 rmb                 12/3/2021                   #464

The two witnesses and Christ’s ministry – Part 2

This is the second post on the interpretation of Revelation 11:3-12 about the two witnesses. Yesterday (Nov. 1), I presented an exegesis of this passage that revealed the meaning of the events at the end of the age. In this post, I want to demonstrate how the persecution of these “two witnesses” (the faithful church) at the end of the age parallels the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry.

PARALLELS BETWEEN THE FAITHFUL CHURCH AND THE MINISTRY OF JESUS

In Revelation 11:3-6

The two witnesses, representing the faithful church, “will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth” (Rev. 11:3). Notice first that the duration of their prophesying is about three and a half years. Second, the expression “clothed in sackcloth” speaks about the pain and the difficulty of their ministry. The church will prophesy at the end of the age[i] in the face of persecution and opposition. The world will be actively antagonistic to their message and will hate the witnesses (see Rev. 11:10).

From His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist to His ascension to heaven following His resurrection, the duration of Jesus’ earthly ministry was about three years. Also, from His rejection at Nazareth to His opposition by the Pharisees and religious leaders to His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion, Jesus’ ministry was conducted in the face of persecution and opposition. The world hated Jesus (John 15:18) and was actively antagonistic to His message.

In Revelation 11:7

When the two witnesses, representing the faithful church, “have finished their testimony” (see Acts 1:8; Matthew 24:14), “the beast will make war with them and overcome them (see Rev. 13:7; 16:14; 20:8) and kill them.” When the faithful church has accomplished the mission given to her by her King, then the beast will be allowed to overcome and kill the church.

When Jesus had accomplished the work of redemption that the Father had given Him to do (John 17:4), when His time had come (see John 12:23; 13:1), only then were Jesus’ enemies allowed to rise up against Him and kill Him.

In Revelation 11:9

After the two witnesses (the faithful church) are killed, “those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days” (11:9).

After Jesus died on the cross, He was buried and “the Son of Man was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).

In Revelation 11:10

When the dead bodies of the two witnesses lie in the street, “those who dwell on the earth rejoice over them and celebrate.” The world is glad to finally be rid of the faithful church.

Speaking of His death, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice” (John 16:20).

In Revelation 11:11

After the defeat at the hands of the beast, the faithful church will be resurrected in glory. “But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet.” As was explained in the earlier post, this is the Resurrection at the end of the age.

As is proclaimed many times in the New Testament as the main message of the New Testament, after three days, Jesus was raised from the dead in His glorious resurrection.

In Revelation 11:12

After their Resurrection, the faithful church ascends from the earth to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thess. 4:17). “And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” Then they went up into heaven in the cloud” (Rev. 11:12).

Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven while His disciples watched. “And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9).

SUMMARY

What we have seen in this exploration of Revelation 11:3-12 is that the ministry of the faithful church at the end of the age, “the two witnesses” of this passage, unfolds in a very similar way to the earthly ministry of Jesus the Messiah. The ministries of both face opposition and hostility. Thinly veiled hatred from the world eventually erupts in violence and destruction. Christ is crucified, while the faithful church is annihilated, and the world rejoices in apparent victory. Then comes the Resurrection and the ascension, and defeat of the Messiah and of His church is immediately turned into victory.

SDG                 rmb                 11/02/2021                 #450